Perhaps even more annoying is that any person applying for a US passport who was born in Jerusalem will not have "Israel" listed under city/country of birth on their US passport.
Since the "Muqata" blog gets daily hits from the US State Department, (what are they thinking??) I thought it would be useful for all to hear about my trip to the US embassy to renew passports for the kids and get a "Consular Report of Birth of US Citizen Born Abroad" for our youngest.
Of course, we could (and should) go to the US Consulate in "Eastern" Jerusalem, but its not a fun place to drag a gaggle of kids, and they aren't that nice there either. Officially, any resident of the West Bank needs to go to the Consulate in Jerusalem for citizen services, but we manage to go to Tel Aviv instead -- its closer, nicer, and despite the craziness, the embassy workers are (for the most part) nicer people.
Plus - at the Jerusalem consulate, any document than needs to be photocopied costs $1 per copy and we would have had to pay at least $25 for the amount of copies we needed on Friday (at the embassy, its free.) Consular Reports, Marriage Certificate, previous passports, you name it -- it had to be photocopied.
We knew it was going to be a crazy day when we walked down the narrow corridor to the US Citizen Services room and a woman was coming towards us in the opposite direction. We didn't know her, but she took one look at the Muqata family and gave us the dire message: "You have never seen it as crazy as it is today..." A few steps more and we saw it. The room was jammed pack. Every seat was taken, the number counter was at 121 and we quickly grabbed a number...lucky us, 198.
So the Mrs. takes one look at the crowd and wonders if it's really worth it to renew passports...
The room is filled with a mix of American Israelis...some tourists...and the numbers progress at a snail's pace. I start filling in the paperwork for the passport renewals. More paperwork, more forms, check the social security numbers...
Announcement: "Ladies and Gentleman: There is a US federal law called the "Privacy Act" which requires that the people at the customer service windows be entitled to their privacy. We will shut down all customer service transactions till the area near the windows is clear."
A minute goes by...."We will not continue to serve ANYONE till the area is clear"
Don't they know they are dealing with Jews...and Israelis?
Two minutes go by and the windows resume service.
The counter beeps...
Even Israel's Misrad Hapnim is better than this...it used to be worse, but has now far surpassed America in terms of professional and quick service.
And then...I make a critical decision...I decide to go to window #5 to ask a question.
Everyone is entitled to go to window #5, uncalled, to ask a question -- and I decided to ask them an unrelated question to the paperwork I was filling out, yet connected to my own unique super secret passport situation (which cannot be elaborated here).
Announcement: If you need to ask a question, you can go to window #5. If you are here for social security or federal benefits, its too late. Their window closed at 11 AM. Have a nice day!
The assistant consul was perplexed by my question and needed to think about it for a few minutes...after all...when a guy named Jameel asks a question, you can't simply brush him off.
And then I saw it!
Crumpled up on the side of the window...hidden from view from all but the most curious of people, was a small slip of paper. Carefully picking it up I realized what it was...
More valuable than a golden lottery ticket to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory!
More dear than a ticket to a front row seat at a Bruce Springsteen concert.
Being the good settler-citizen than I try to be, I announced to everyone around me, "Did anyone lose their number, does everyone have their number?"
Apparently, someone took a number before they realized that window #5 doesn't NEED a number - you can just show up -- and left it there...
I rushed back to the Mrs. and showed her my treasure -- and the bidding started -- who would get OUR number of 198 (or the 175 my son found).
We could have sold it on ebay for a fortune. As we were gave our "old" number to the people next us, number 164 was called! Our lucky day! Rushing forward with the number, we presented our paperwork...and spent the next thirty minutes dealing with a very polite embassy worker.
The people at the window to the right of me had a big problem; they didn't have all the necessary documentation. They were very annoyed and started yelling and cursing the poor embassy worker. I was embarrassed that my kids even witnessed such a poor display of manners.
I seriously urge anyone going to the US embassy to read every single single bit of information on the US Embassy in Tel-Aviv website. (Heck, maybe if I give them a link, they'll give me one as well?)
- Citizen Services are closed the last Friday of every month.
- If you want to register your child as an American born in Israel, you need to provide a LOT of proof that you are an American citizen who lived in the US for 10 years before you were 18. That means...report cards from elementary school, library cards, diplomas...all sorts of stuff you never imagined needing once you finished college...
- Bring with you every document known to mankind...birth certificates, marriage license, change of name forms, social security cards...better you bring it and don't need it, than wait on line for hours, only to find out you forgot something.
In any event - we thanked the vice consul, told them what a great job they were doing...and after 3 hours and $575 poorer...we were done.
Oh yeah...Israeli passports only cost 75 NIS...heck of a lot cheaper.
Eretz Yisrael. Living the Dream!