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Immigrating to Israel without The Law of Return: Part 6

December 8, 2010

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

This week marked the end of my year-long journey toward legal Israeli resident status. After my first appointment back in January I never thought this day would arrive, but here it is. The Israeli government finally issued me a real, official, fantastic תעודת זהות (teudat zehut, I.D. card):

Tedudat zehut / Israel I.D. card

Of course, my I.D. has a brownish background rather than greenish. I’ve been told many Arabs have this color I.D., as it signifies residence rather than citizenship. Also, if you look closely at the bottom left of the example I.D. above, you can see יהודי (yehudi, Jewish) written as הלאום (ha’leum, the nationality) of the card holder. For most people in Israel, this would read either “Jewish” or “Arab.” On my card, and on all new cards being issued these days, this field now appears as a series of asterisks. Mine would say “American” if it were displayed since I don’t fit into either of the previously mentioned popular categories. The government still requires everyone to disclose this information, but it’s no longer advertised.

This attempt at privacy was circumvented for many years, as just above one’s nationality is one’s birthday. In order to signify religion (or “nationality,” whatever), Jews’ birthdays were displayed according to the Hebrew calendar, and everyone else got a Gregorian date. This has also recently changed to give everyone both. It seems I was born in the month of אדר (Adar) rather than שבט (Shvat), which is way more fun to say. But I can live with that; either one beats the very unattractive “February.”

Getting this document took a little longer than two hours, though they had told us it could take as long as three. The clerk we’ve been working with all year asked for the documents we had carefully prepared. It took more than an hour for her to check them off the list, fill out the paperwork by hand, and then manually input everything into the computer. She acknowledged the futility of the comical redundancy but said that’s the way the Ministry of the Interior requires that it be done. If they would computerize it, she said, she could literally work at least twice as quickly and they would free up the massive amount of space all the paperwork requires. At one point she opened the floor-to-ceiling cupboard next to her desk to take out a form, and the shelves inside were stuffed full of bundles of white paper crammed inside wrinkled plastic sleeves. Everything was folded and bent and crammed in every which way without labels or any semblance of organization, but I guess that’s the way it works.

After all the paperwork was filled out and re-filled out on the computer, my husband and I were separated for questioning once again. This time the questions lasted significantly longer and we were mostly about how we spent our time, what we do on weekends, where we go, who we see, right down to the latest movie we had watched together. As I was sitting in the lobby while waiting to be questioned, I glimpsed the inside of one of the storage rooms as another clerk went inside and carelessly left the door wide open. It was filled with metal shelves stuffed full of cheap, bright cardboard folders overflowing with loose papers. Each folder, about four inches thick and held together with a big elastic band, was labeled with a hand-written number that was illegible more often than not. Most folders were tattered, torn, bent, or otherwise abused. I couldn’t tear my eyes away.

Once again the lady signed off on our separate testimonies and the process continued. I had to fill in another visa extension document to upgrade my passport to A5 rather than B1 status, as well as another document that was in Hebrew on one side and Russian on the other (I guess English didn’t make the cut). Then we waited until the computer decided it felt like letting the lady print the new page for my passport and re-entry permit, she went off to print my I.D. card in another place, and that was the end of it.


My status is now officially “temporary resident” and will remain as such for the next four years. I am now eligible for national health care, and regular benefits including a significant reduction in my income taxes (I think). After four years with this status I can decide whether I want to be a permanent resident or a citizen. Until then, I have to go to the Misrad ha’Pnim (Ministry of the Interior) once a year and provide evidence that my marriage is still legitimate, I am still supporting myself or being supported, and that I am still legally living in my house. As great as the clerk working on my case is, I couldn’t be happier to know I won’t be seeing her or talking to her for a long time!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

17 Comments leave one →
  1. Kimberly permalink
    December 8, 2010 11:59 pm


  2. Taly permalink
    December 9, 2010 7:06 am

    What wonderful news, Katie — congratulations!

    • December 9, 2010 11:00 pm

      Thanks, Taly! Just in time to go home for Christmas too. I’m hoping my teudat zehut means no more invasive third degree at the hands of Israeli security at the airport (fingers crossed).

  3. December 9, 2010 9:11 am

    Congrats Katie! Sof sof! I go back after the first of the year for my initial interview…ugh.

  4. Tomas permalink
    December 9, 2010 9:51 am


    I’m a bit surprised at the questioning part. I never remember that happening to me, maybe we were lucky. I remember being lucky enough to get a friend of the family as clerk while we were still connected to the Tel Aviv office when I got my residency, she might have optimized that part.

    I just renewed my residency in November in Kfar Saba as I do every year and you should count yourself very lucky to have a clerk that at least realizes that the system is crazy. Mine, unfortunately, is a total and complete by-the-book moronic lunatic who takes pleasure in the petty power she has over people depending on her to upgrade their status. You would actually think you are talking to Judge Dredd when things like this happens.

    Two years ago:
    Dredd: I see your marriage certificate is in Swedish and not in English, we need it translated so we can verify it.
    My wife: But your embassy in Sweden has approved our marriage based on that document, our legal status as approved by Israel is that we are married, why do you need it?
    Dredd: But we need it, please fix.

    One year ago:
    Dredd: I see here that the translation was done in Sweden, we cannot validate that it is correct
    My wife: But it is sealed with an apostille by a legal notary
    Dredd: But we cannot verify that the notary is correct
    My wife: Sweden and Israel have both signed the convention that requires that they recognize documents sealed by apostilles as this is the only way for countries to share documents. Your office is actually breaking this convention if you do not recognize this seal.
    Dredd: Hmm.. I have to talk to my manager
    Dredd: Okay, it works for now, but we would prefer it to be translated by someone in Israel
    My wife: *generally cursing the woman nicely, telling her how much of a fuss it was to get that translated in the first place and how much it cost and telling her to stuff it*

    This year:
    Dredd: We lost the translated document, can you fix a new one…

    Well, lets just say that they at least are aware of themselves losing it so no way in hell we are fixing a new one. That’s just one of the moronic things she requires. I won’t get started on the written letters from friends and ‘developed’ pictures that they require together 200 other documents every year. The annual humiliation and insanity in that office is beyond anything I would ever think was possible. I hope you’ll get better experiences in Misrad Hapnim.

    • December 9, 2010 10:54 pm

      Tomas, that’s awful! Do you remember how long it took from your first meeting until they approved you for residency? The reason it took almost a year for me is because every time i brought a document, they either contradicted what they told me over the phone, claimed I misunderstood what they had asked for, or said the regulations had changed in the meantime and they now wanted something else. This was further complicated by the fact that they refuse to write things down in order to be held accountable. I think the whole process is designed to drag out for at least several months in order to ensure you’ll stay in Israel despite the humiliation and stay married despite the hardship.

      We’re so lucky to have our clerk. We started working with her this summer, which is when the process actually started moving forward, finally. The clerk in the office next to us sounds like your clerk, as the woman she was working with literally had a panic attack while screaming and crying that she couldn’t get all the original documents again because the office had lost them for the second time. It was terrible.

      • Tomas permalink
        December 11, 2010 11:40 pm

        We had some problems to start with because we first registered in the Rehovot office and then shortly after moved to Tel Aviv. Then they refused to deal with us in Tel Aviv because our file was still in Rehovot, and Rehovot didn’t care about us because we no longer lived there, and my tourist visa was very close to expire. We then got lucky and one of my wife’s co-workers has a mother that worked for Misrad Hapnim in Tel Aviv and she helped us out.

        I don’t really remember how long it took. We mostly had issues with that stupid transfer from Rehovot but getting the initial temporary residency was not too difficult in terms of documents. Me and my wife has suppressed most of it though. Moving to Kfar Saba went much smoother and they had no problems requesting our files from Tel Aviv.

        In Kfar Saba we get a list every year on which documents to give but there always are some issues as the one described above. And they want the same bunch of papers + a little more every year. They are still not over the fact that Sweden does not have a fancy birth certificate, just a boring proof of existence from the tax agency in Sweden which serves the same purpose. But after having told them 20 times “this IS a birth certificate” I think they got it. It is more difficult for them to accept that it is not physically possible to get a note from the Swedish government telling if I ever have been married before I married my current wife. In Sweden you are either married or you are single, there is no paper stating that you are divorced or how many times you have been married, a concept which is deeply suspicious for our clerk.

        Not sure this helps, I can only suggest that you make sure in good time that you get your collection of papers and personal photos before going there every year so you don’t notice the day before a meeting with them that something is missing.

  5. December 9, 2010 2:29 pm

    Mazel tov or omedetou Katie!!!
    What a relief it must be.

    And it shocked me too how much official papers are handwritten here in high tech Israel!


  1. Immigrating to Israel without The Law of Return: Part 1 « From 外人 to גוי
  2. Immigrating to Israel without the Law of Return: Part 3 « From 外人 to גוי
  3. Immigrating to Israel without The Law of Return: Part 2 « From 外人 to גוי
  4. Immigrating to Israel without the Law of Return: Part 4 « From 外人 to גוי
  5. Immigrating to Israel without the Law of Return: Part 5 « From 外人 to גוי
  6. Immigrating to Israel without the Law of Return: Part 7 « From 外人 to גוי

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