Ein Gedi Botanic Garden

Ein Gedi Botanic Garden
Seek the serenity of a Judean Desert sky in Autumn at the Ein Gedi Botanic Garden

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Midnight Rider

It's 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night and I've had a hard day and still have a long night ahead of me, because my husband is leaving for the airport at 3:30 a.m. to make an 8:15 a.m. flight to Los Angeles.

He appears at the door to my office, where I am still slaving away at the keyboard, wild-eyed. "I can't find my Israeli passport!" he says in a panicky voice.

I figure he has misplaced it, a not uncommon phenomenon in our household. And so I search, the kids (who are still up because Abba is LEAVING) join in and we tear the house apart.

No passport. We look up the regulations online at the Nefesh b'Nefesh all-things-anyone-ever-wants-to-know-about-surviving-the-insanity-of-Israeli-red-tape website, and to our horror we see that even though we were immediately given our identity cards (teudat zehut) we had to actually APPLY for the Israeli passport, which my husband never did. It didn't occur to me that it was ever an issue, because I already had one and so did the kids, by virtue of the fact that I was already a citizen before we got here.

Now we are frantic. But he has his documents proving citizenship and date of immigration (teudat oleh and teudat zehut) and his American passport and we decide it will be okay, until Rabbi Tauber calls.

In almost 20 years Rabbi Avraham Tauber has never missed. He has an uncanny instinct and calls within minutes of any major crisis. This is no exception.

It is now after midnight and I quickly explain the problem. "You can't leave the country without an Israeli passport," he informs me. "Call the Border Police at the airport. They will deal with it."

So I call them, and they give me the number for the Interior Ministry (which deals with passports and other official documents). A nice lady answers the phone and I again explain the problem. Thank G-d she understands English as well as Hebrew, though I detect a faint Russian accent. Even better. She will understand immigrant issues, first hand, I think.

And I am right. The Israeli system has second-guessed its citizenry and this time we luck out and get someone nice. "Don't worry about a thing," she tells me, "just tell him to get here an hour earlier and bring two passport photos. We'll take it from there. The price will be double because it's on the spot (she considerately does not mention the fact that it is the middle of the night) but he will have his passport." I ask how he is supposed to get passport photos at this hour. "Oh, that's no problem,'" she says airily. "There are photo machines on the ground floor."

Boy, these folks think of everything.

So my husband prepares to leave, his friend (this is truly friendship) cuts his nap short and arrives earlier and after six false starts in which my husband returns for various items, they leave.

I don't get the rest of the story until he is boarding the plane.

"I arrived at the terminal and went directly to the photo machines," he tells me nonchalantly, "and they are both out of order." This sounds like a bad movie. "Then I go up to the Interior Ministry office anyway, because I figure I may as well. And that was a good thing, because they also have a Plan C, if Plans A and B don't work out."

Now I am curious. What is Plan C?

"This was the best deal of all," he tells me. "The man in the office there said not to worry, and just wrote me out a temporary document letting me leave and re-enter the country. AND IT WAS FREE, BECAUSE I DIDN'T GET A PASSPORT!!!"

This is probably the most streamlined bit of Israeli red tape that I have ever encountered.

Now I know the trick: all you have to do to get something done here in Israel is:
1. Panic.
2. Be sleepless.
3. Call the police and say it's an emergency.
4. Go to the office in the middle of the night.
5. PRAY.

If only the photo machines had been working………….

Cooked Goose for Thanksgiving in Arad

It's that time of year again………

It was October and I thought I would get a jump on the annual tussle to get a turkey in Arad.

Since this year we began to order our meat from Kfar Chabad with the rest of the (Lubavitcher) community – and here it is brought in by truck only once a month – I realized I had to tell our meat guy I needed a turkey, a WHOLE turkey, for November.

He was very understanding, because Eli Bardugo knows Americans. He knows about this weird holiday in which they eat turkeys and he was perfectly willing to order me one, even though they "don’t usually come that way." He even said it wouldn't be a problem, because he orders directly from the schlock house itself.

I got a call from him right on time letting me know that my turkey was going to be delivered early, with the rest of the meat order, but "don't worry because it is exactly as you ordered, at least 9 or 10 kilos." Wonderful! I was overjoyed.

And then falls the axe.

"There's just one small thing. They have to send it cut in half….it'll be split with the top divided from the bottom. But don't worry" he adds brightly, "it will be a whole turkey."

No. I knew it was too good to be true. I blow up immediately, in Hebrew and in English, and I refuse to accept the turkey. Half an hour's effort to convince me that this is okay, and that the pieces will fit together just fine, seamlessly in fact, is useless. I am still screaming.

The man with the turkey says they have to cut it, he's not sure why, says Bardugo apologetically, and this is what they call a whole turkey. I scream some more about mentally compromised individuals who cannot understand their own language and the definition of the very basic word, WHOLE.

Bardugo is at this point promising to call the turkey guy and call me back, which he does.

The turkey guy is now promising to SEW THE TURKEY BACK TOGETHER AGAIN WITH SPECIAL THREAD. "Don't worry, you'll never know the difference," Bardugo assures me. "They are very good at this, and it will be just like a new, whole turkey."

Now I am really screaming, in Hebrew and English, A LOT of English, about how I don't need a turkey jigsaw puzzle, how the turkey guy is not a seamstress and how I am NOT going to pay for a cut up turkey. Period.

Bardugo is rolling at this point. I am glad he has a sense of humor, because I am shrieking.

He finally gives me the cell phone number of the turkey guy, Shimmin, who he says is very nice so I shouldn't scream at him too much. But it is best if I talk directly to him so we can straighten this out.

I call.

"I don't see what the difference is," says this nice man Shimmin. "We'll sew it up. With special thread even. It's not as if it will be in pieces." I tell him I don't CARE if he doesn't see what the difference is, I SEE THE DIFFERENCE and since I am the one paying for it, what I think counts. "I am not buying this turkey," I say to him.

"Then I have no turkey for you," he shoots back. "We did all the shechting for this week already, and I did this specially." I inform him that I appreciate his special treatment and NOT his cutting up of my whole turkey. And I repeat that I will not pay for this turkey, I don't care if he won't send a turkey, that I have been able in the past to get whole turkeys from Tnuva glatt before we started buying from Lubavitch and so I know they exist, and when they have feathers on them they are also whole, as far as I know. They do not walk around in pieces.

"I do not see the difficulty here," I say to him. "Take the stupid turkey off the line and DO NOT CUT IT. It is just that simple. I am saving you work," I tell him. "What is the problem here??!!"

He finally agrees that he will do this for the next shechting but I should talk to Bardugo to set up when to get the turkey and find a way to get it here. Probably not next week, maybe the week after.

I call Bardugo back and update him. He is still laughing about my dedication to this turkey. But good-natured man that he is, he promises to find a way to bring my turkey to Arad from Kfar Chabad after it is wrested from the knife-wielding hands of Shimmin. Maybe not next week. Maybe the week after, and he knows we are cutting it close (no pun intended) because Thanksgiving is right around then. I say I don't care, we will celebrate Thanksgiving late this year, BUT I WANT A WHOLE TURKEY.

He reassures me that I will have a whole turkey.

I hope I do because if I don't Shimmin's goose is cooked.