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:
2. Be sleepless.
3. Call the police and say it's an emergency.
4. Go to the office in the middle of the night.
If only the photo machines had been working………….