Two weeks ago I had an appointment to receive a studnet visa. It ended a long quest involving the US Passport Agency, the Israeli Embassy in NYC, border control, long holds on the phone, frustration, mitzvot, and finally tranquility and justification. Let’s begin.
It was a snowy day four days before NFTY Convetion 2007, and I came to the abrubt realization that my passport was expiring in March 2008, a full 3 months before I would be culminating my “Year in Israel” at HUC. Flustered, I went to the post office and opted for the “expidited” passport renewal service so that I would have my passport in two weeks. Four and half weeks later it arrived, two days before my flight leaving me no time to go to get a student visa before I left the US.
At border control in Israel, I had to explain why I didn’t have a student visa and promised to obtain one promptly.
Insert laziness, forgetfullness, and confusion.
After calling many times and waiting on line for 20 minutes, I finally was able to make an appointment to obtain a student visa. “Can I have the earliest appt.?” I ask. “How about september 15th,” she says. “Any thing earlier?” I ask. “How about September 2nd,” she replies. “I would really prefer earlier if you have one,” I utter. “How about August 21st,” she responds. It was like haggling over a cup in the Arab Shuk.
I gathered all of my 14 documents proving that I was Jewish and attending HUC, and went especiaily early. I filled out many forms that were overdue while waiting (see insertion above), and then someone approached me who was illiterate to help fill out her form. She was fluent in Russian, Hebrew, and French, but needed me to fill out her basic information on the form. It was quite the powerful experience helping someone write their own name.
From there, I entered into the room where I was to aquire my visa. (I speak in passive only because I did not aquire a visa, I was clearly given a visa.) The lady was very rude, quite “Israeli”, until I handed her the letter stating that I am a student and HUC. Oh, she proclaimed, I think that what you are doing is great. I just think it’s horrible that I had to sit up top and not see my son become a bar mitzvah. Alas, Progressive Judaism moves forward one person at a time.
Money exchanged hands, I received a visa, and left – now legally living in HaEretz