The Ministry of the Interior in Israel is called Misrad Hapnim. I have heard horror stories about people trying to deal with the Misrad Hapnim.Tales of sorrow, woe, frustration, and anger. Like any other government agency, Misrad Hapnim is a zoo. It lacks signage explaining which line is for what and when you try to call ahead of time to get information, no one answers the phone. Imagine a DMV except much, much bigger – and in Hebrew.
I had my first run-in with the Misrad Hapnim today as I tried to extend my student visa.
Let me back up a little. It recently came to my attention that my student visa, good for one year, expires on June 5th. Conveniently, (NOT!) my program officially ends on June 22nd. “What happens if I just don’t renew?” I wondered to myself. And after ten minutes of Google-ing to find an answer, it was clear that not renewing is a terrible idea (see: fines, fees, bureaucracy, and potentially being barred from returning). So, passport, paperwork, and photo in hand, I set out for Misrad Hapnim.
First, there is apparently one (1, singular) woman in the Tel Aviv Misrad Hapnim office who deals with visas. This one (1, singular) woman only works on Sundays and Thursdays from 8:30AM – 12:00PM. Must be nice. So, today, being a Thursday, I got to Misrad Hapnim at exactly 9:00AM, ready to repeat over and over, “Atah midaber Anglit, oolai?” (“Do you speak English, maybe?”).
I eased through the first security check point; smiled and thanked the guard at the second; and was “kindly” directed to an unmoving line in front of a window that said “INFORMATION” by the third. Then, just as I was started to relax into the idea that I would indeed be leaving with a new visa today, I was approached by a man in uniform. He asked me what I was doing there. I took out my documents and explained my purpose for coming. Then, in extremely broken English (mostly Hebrew) he informed me that “no one here to do this today. You must come back on Monday.”
What??? But I was explicitly told that this woman only works on Sundays and Thursdays! “Yes, but no here now. You come Monday.” But, I’m not going to come all the way back on a Monday if she’s not here…will she be here??? “Sunday is holiday. You come Monday.” But, I work on Mondays! Can I come next Thursday? “No. Not this Sunday. Next week Sunday.” What about Thursday? “You come Monday.”
Five minutes of beating my head against the wall later, I was walking out the door, resolved that I need to try to come again on Monday, despite my belief that this woman won’t be there.
Then, in an effort to salvage the day, I decided to try and walk home. After all, Google Maps in my phone said it would only be about a 20 minute walk down a major road with one left turn. No problem! So, I start to walk. And I walk. And I walk. And I walk. Eventually, I look up at a street sign and I have no idea where I am. I try to look it up on my phone to get directions from my current location, and Google Maps can’t find this intersection anywhere in Tel Aviv. I shrug it off and keep walking assuming I am going in the right direction and my turn is coming up.
As my surroundings get more and more industrial, I stop and look around again. Then, it hits me. I’m no longer in Tel Aviv, I’m in Ramat Gan. I’ve walked waaaaaaay too far. Hailing a cab, I figure I can’t be that far off from where I need to be and it should only be a 5 minute cab ride, but with the sun beating down and my feet starting to hurt, it is worth it.
25 minutes later, the cab rolls up in front of my apartment. Google Maps was totally off on this one.
So, one idea was confirmed today and one new lesson was learned:
1. When something seems too clear, it is.
2. Despite what Google Maps says, it’s not actually possible to walk home from Misrad Hapnim.
Today can be summed up by a run-in I had with a motorcyclist asking me for directions while I was walking home. This man stops me and asks if I know where number 148 is (in Hebrew). I shrug and say, “no, sorry” (in English). He says “oh! You speak English? This is number 136 and that is number 154 so, 148 should be here but this is Israel and they put a building construction site here and I can’t see the numbers of the existing building behind the fence! Welcome to Israel!” He yelled in frustration as he sped off. Welcome to Israel, indeed!