Gefilte Fish Out of Water


Accounting Woes

Some financial dramz the past two weeks.

First I got that crazy letter from the Israel Tax Authority, saying i owed 3900 shekels ($768) and that they were authorized to bust into my house and take whatever they wanted, approximating that value.  That was last month, and after changing my underwear I called my accountant, who explained to me he’d already dealt with the matter and there was nothing to worry about.

All income in Israel is subject to a 16% Value Added Tax.  But my main two clients are American, and income from them is exempt from this tax.  However, my accountant had failed to file paperwork with the Israel Tax Authority declaring this income.  Even if I don’t owe anything on it, I still have to report it.  Anyway, he dealt with it, and the problem was solved.  Or, so I thought.

The next weird thing to happen was I got two more receipt-type things in the mail.  I asked two separate Israeli friends to look at them for me, since of course they were all in Hebrew.  Both my friends were confused by them – because they said “amount paid,” “you do not owe anything at this time and “refund” on them.  We had no idea what they really were. 

Thinking they could be refunds from my 2009 Israeli taxes, I checked my bank account.  No, they were not refunds, as there were no corresponding deposits there.  But, I was surprised to find a 1,700 withrawl from my account, and a 55 shekel fee, since I didn’t have enough funds in my account to cover that check.

WTF

I called my account to fire ask him what this was about.  It seems his daughter, who was handling my account, had written a check on my behalf for that amount to pay three months of my national health insurance.  (She was able to do this, b/c she convinced me earlier to sign and send her three blank checks, so they could pay taxes and such for me with less delay.)

I wasn’t comfortable with the blank check thing, but grudingly gave her three (instead of the seven she’d asked for).  But, hello! – I expected her to call me and confirm that I had the funds in my account before she wrote any checks on my behalf.  She didn’t, and this is what caused the problem.

Then, I got a big fat check one from of my Israeli clients that I deposited into my account.  I checked a day or so later to make sure those funds were available in my account – and I was SHOCKED to see that while, yeah – they had been deposited, they had also been frozen by the government, who was trying to reclaim the 3900 shekels they said I owed from last month – that my accountant had said he had dealt with!

Double-You Tee Eff !!!

I changed my shorts again, and called my accountant back.  He explained how someone from his office would call the Israel Tax Authority later that day and clear it up for me.  His office called later the same day to say they had spoken with the Israeli Tax Authority and cleared up the matter.  The Authority had promised to contact my bank and get the funds  unfrozen.  But I had two big automatic withdrawls coming up in two days – for my cell phone and gym membership, and if it wasn’t cleared up by then, I was going to be overdrawn in my account again.  I went to the bank and asked them to delay these withdrawls for a few days, but they said they couldn’t help.  They recommended I call Isracard, which is sort of like a credit card company, but….well, if you don’t live here it’s sort of hard to explain.  But they’re sort of like a credit card company, who consolidates automatic-withdrawls and processing them together.  If anyone would have the power to delay this withdrawl it was them.  Only they said the best they could do was roll it into my April payment with interest (about 60 shekels interest).  Fine.  At least I wouldn’t be overdrawn now.  I was really proud of handling that part myself.

One day passed – funds still frozen.  Two days passed – funds still frozen.  After three days and the funds were still unfrozen, I called my accountant back.  He said he had called the Authority again and they said they would clear things up with my bank.  He also said he had now done everything he could, and if I wanted to use my energy more wisely, I would talk to my bank or the Israel Tax Authority directly.

Yikes.  I started with my bank.  They were nice, but also said they couldn’t help.  I told them my accountant said he had received a letter from the Israel Tax Authority saying I owed nothing and the funds should be unfrozen, and we could call him up and have it faxed right over.  My bank said they needed an original letter from the Authority, not a fax from my accountant.  Grrr.  

I decided to hightail it over to the Tax Authority.  It was around noon on Thursday.  A lot of times, government offices close around noon or 1pm, and they’re definitely not open on Fridays.  So, like, the window to deal with this before the weekend was crashing down on me hard.  I punched the addy into my BlackBerry’s Google Maps, took my dog home, mounted my bike, and rode like the wind.

One cool thing was – the more time I spend riding the city streets on my bicycle, the more I coming to learn Tel Aviv.  Like, here, I had arrived at my destination, which was somewhere I had been before.  But I arrived from a different direction, so I was able to sort of get a better sense of how this part of the city connects with that part of it, and so on.  Yay, me.  (You take your Yays where you can when dealing w/ Israeli beaurocracy.) 

I didn’t know if they’d be open or not, because this being Israel, no one was answering the main office number there, and the hours were not listed on the website.  But things went my way, because I found this place, and they were open, and they were nice, and they confirmed the problem was resolved and gave me an original letter to prove it that I could take back to the bank to unfreeze the funds.

Now, I had to peddle like a mofo to make it back to the bank to deliver the letter before they closed for the weekend.  And – I made it there in time, too!  So – with a lot of help from a lot of parties – I really showed up for myself and did my part to get this cleared up.  And my bank said that in less than a week, the funds should be available to me once again.  Just in time for my moving costs, etc.

Damn, boy, I am proud of myself!

Advertisements


Pants Crap
February 13, 2010, 3:35 pm
Filed under: Official Immigrant Stuff | Tags: ,

I came home from a morning walk this week and found this notice in my mailbox.  I knew it was from a government office, but could tell it wasn’t from the office of Bituach Leumi (health insurance + social security), nor was it from my insurance company.  I pay rent directly to my landlord, so I knew it wasn’t that.  I guess it could’ve been Pete’s dog license from the city (which I never received), but I didn’t think it was that either.  I could recognize the sign for New Israeli Shekel followed buy the numbers 3874, though, and….let’s just say I didn’t have a good feeling about this.

I had no option but to type letter-by-letter, phrases from the notice into Google Translate, which was very cumbersome.  I confirmed that the 3874 was a BIG-ASS fine, which the government was saying I had to pay immediately.  Say it with me now, people:

WTF !!!

I brought it with me to the dog park, hoping my friend Oren would be there and could read it.  He wasn’t, but I wound up asking this nice dog walker I had seen before.  She took a look at it and explained to me – It’s from the Israeli IRS.  They say if you don’t pay them 3874 shekels [$1047!!!] immediately, they can break into your home and take whatever they want.

[there’s no bigger font, people – or I would double the size]

F ! ! !

Welcome to Israel, she said apologetically, and left with her dogs.

Then, Oren did show up.  I showed him the notice and told him what the dog walker said about it.  Ha! he scoffed.  I’m sure it doesn’t say they can break into your place and take whatever they want. I handed it to him, and he looked it over.  Yeah, it pretty much says they can break into your place and take whatever they want, Scott.

[Um, this is the part where I crapped my pants.]  No, I didn’t – not literally or figuratively.  I had a hunch what had caused this.  I am a freelancer in Israel.  I have two employers.  Both are American firms.  That means I am exempt from paying a 17% tax on that income.  (If they were Israeli employers, I would have billed for and received a separate check with each paycheck for this 17% amount, which I would then give to the government.)  But because my employers are based in the U.S., I am exempt from this.

Although it appeared that the Israeli IRS had not gotten the message about my employers being American, and they thought I was delinquent.  Instead of crapping my pants, I did the next best thing – called my friend Anna.  She let me give her the whole story.  I was not panicking, b/c I was sure I didn’t owe this money – but I was disturbed by the whole “we can bust into your place and take whatever we want” aspect of the notice, and I was afraid we weren’t going to straighten it out soon enough, and I’d come home with my computer repossessed.

Anna calmly reminded me how slow and inept the beaurocracy is, and surely no one would be busting into my place for at least the next year.  It’s just paperwork, she assured me.  The system dictates that this is the form they have to send you, but trust me – no one has the intention of actually busting into your place and doing this.

I emailed my accountant right away, and the next morning went into the office and scanned & emailed a copy of the notice to him pronto.  He emailed back a short while later to say Oh, yeah, Nina from my office dealt with this last week.  You had never filled out paperwork documenting that your employers are American, so they didn’t know.  It’s all been taken care of now.  You can disregard the notice.

That’s what I pay him the big bucks for.  🙂  Yay.



Getting Driver’s License – Parts 7 & 8 – Victory !!!
February 13, 2010, 2:56 pm
Filed under: Official Immigrant Stuff | Tags: ,

When we last left off in the getting-your-Israeli-driver’s-license nightmare saga, I had taken & passed my driver’s test (yay!), but arrived too late the next day to pick up my temporary license (boo).

I did go back the next morning like I planned, but – not sure how this happened again – the morning really got away from me again, and I’d be cutting it close if I left at 11:30 a.m. (the joint closes @ 12:30 p.m.).  Still, even with a local bus route to Holon, I should barely have enough time to get inside the door by 12:30 p.m., so I said my prayers and headed for the bus stop.

The good news was: I did in fact make it – with about 5 minutes to spare (I watched them lock the door from the inside at 12:30 p.m.)  Phew!  The bad news? I didn’t realize I had to wait in the main line for all the windows.  I took a number (#418), and they were only on #384.  Crap, this could be a really long wait, I thought.

You see, my driving instructor, Elie, told me I would go to the Oleh Chadash (new immigrant) office in the Ministry of Licensing to pick up the temporary license.  Turns out, there ain’t no “Oleh Chadash office.”  #FAIL  I called Yoda Jeremy to see how he handled this part, and the told me his instructor received the temp license for him, and all he had to do was meet up w/ the instructor to get it (w/ no wait).  I called Elie back.  He was useless; sweet…but useless.

Where was I?  Oh yeah,…crap.  I still had social media work a.m. work to do and aim for a dog park trip w/ Petey before my main job started at 2pm.  Wasn’t looking good, but I guess the bright side was: the next, right action was pretty simple – WAIT.

Luckily, the line actually did move quickly.  I got up to the window and mangled a request in Hebrew before switching into English.  Uh-oh, the woman behind the counter is like, You’re supposed to get that from your instructor. He’s supposed to have it.

!!!

I was  like, No !!! (to myself), but then she’s like, You want me to print another copy? and she presses one button, and out comes my temp license.

🙂  🙂  🙂

Almost there, Scotty….almost there….

The next day I went to my local post office.  In Israel, the post office is more than just for mailing stuff and receiving packages.  It’s like a point-of-entry place into the beaurocracy for the public.  Like, I registered for my government health insurance at the post office (doesn’t everybody?).

So, I paid the clerk 406 shekels ($110), and she ran my temp license through a scanner.  This puts my license into the system and alerts the government that they need to mail me my permanent license.  I’m supposed to have it in “two weeks” (which is one week from now), so let’s see.

Meanwhile, Jeremy only had to pay 398 shekels – WTF, is that b/c he’s Canadian ???   Who cares –

I’m finished – I completed all the steps, am still standing, and can expect my effin’ Israeli driver’s license in one more week.



Getting Driver’s License – Parts 5, 6 & 6.5
February 6, 2010, 8:00 pm
Filed under: Official Immigrant Stuff | Tags:

On Wednesday I took and passed my driving test!  Yay, me.  After your first year here, it gets a lot harder to convert a foreign license, so even though I don’t plan on doing a lot of driving (or buying a car) here, I wanted to get this done. 

So, that’s it, huh?  The whole beaurocratic process is finito?  That wasn’t so bad.  HaHaHaHa, Silly wabbit – this is Israel !   No, it ain’t over  yet…   But first, let’s recap my big day:

After the instructor Avi (who only had a stick shift car) gave my paperwork to Elie (who has automatic), Elie set up everything for me – contacted the official driving peeps and got me my appointment.  Wednesday at 1:40 p.m. 

I was kinda nervous, leading up to Wednesday.  OK, not really nervous, but was there anything I should be doing to prepare?  No, I know how to drive already.  I guess I was just worried about all the instructions (left…right…stop) being given to me in Hebrew.

I showed up around 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday and waited in line at the little post office they have outside the Ministry of Licenses.  This was so I could pay 60 shekels to get some piece of paper I needed to give Elie in order for him to give me my lesson.  Then Elie and I had my lesson.  Good thing, too.  Because my driving habits are really ingrained, and it turns out they do things a little differently in Israel.  Like, you’re not allowed to turn your head around at all; you have to use your mirrors for everything.  Well, when I learned to drive, it was really driven into me (sorry) the importance of checking your blind spot.  Dont trust your mirrors – see it with your own eyes.  And, so when I was merging onto the expressway or making a turn, I could not help myself from turning my head around.  Over and over, Elie had to remind me not to do this.  And it was because we drove around together for 90 minutes first that I was finally able to stop myself from doing that.

Also, you know, I learned to drive, ahem 24 years ago.  I don’t exactly put my hands at ten and two o’clock on the wheel anymore.  Elie had to keep reminding me to use two hands and turn the wheel in that one-over-the-other method instead of, you know, underhanding it with my right hand while I txt with my left.  And of course, he kept saying, Liat, liat (slowly, slowly).  Apparently, my inclination was to go a little above the speed limit.

Anyway, the actual test was a piece of cake compared to the lesson before it.  I had a very nice & friendly instructor, and I had heard stories and been prepared for a much more stoic and formal sort of person.  The driving exam was under :20 minutes, and I swear it felt like it could have been :15.  There was no parallel parking, and I only had to go on the highway for like two seconds.  BTW, the day cost me $450 shekels (about $121) – 150 shex for the lesson and 300 for the test.

So, did I pass?  I already told you I did.  But – this being Israel – you don’t find that out right away.  Elie would call me with the news the next day, and assuming I passed, I’d have to come by and pick up the certificate or diploma or whatever it is – and then mail it into the government and pay another 450-something shekel fee. 

Actually, Elie called later that same day to give me the good news.  It really did feel great.  Next day I went back to the Ministry (remember, this is a half hour local bus route away in Holon, a town south of Tel Aviv), but I had a teensy bit of concern, b/c I’ve always gone there in the mornings, and this was around noon when I was heading over.  I took my lesson and test around the same time the day before, so I should be OK…but I had a nagging worry that they could be closed.

And they were.  Should have called or checked online, but that’s not always a piece of cake if an English translation isn’t available.  When your day is  scheduled to within an inch of your life, as mine permanently are, this really sucks.

.בסדר  I’ll go back tomorrow morning and inch closer to completion.



Getting Driver’s License – Part 4.5
January 30, 2010, 4:20 pm
Filed under: Official Immigrant Stuff | Tags:

After working so hard to get my green form, I was a little nervous about leaving it behind with the woman behind the counter, who told me I had to have a doctor sign-off that the medications I take don’t make me a menace behind the wheel.   She said I’d get a call to come pick it up in a week, but T.I.I. (This is Israel, meaning anything can happen here), and there was no phone number for this one window that handles driver’s licenses at the Ministry of Licensing, and even if there were – the voicemail system would all be in Hebrew, and well….you can see why I was reluctant to fork it over.

But I did, and yay – I got a call this week that the form was ready for me to come pick up.  So, I did, and then I called Avi, the driving instructor I met last time at the Ministry with Jeremy.  He met me in the parking lot and took my green form and told me he’d schedule my lesson and road test.  It was funny, he actually showed up as the passenger in his own car, while another student was having a lesson with him, and told me to get in.  So, there I am talking with Avi while some other guy is practicing his driving.  And then before they drop me off at the bus stop for me to go back to Tel Aviv, I think to say to Avi, “This is for an automatic [transmission], right?”  Avi’s like Automatic?  No, my car is stick shift.  You need automatic? No big deal, he told me he’d give my form to another instructor, Elie, who has an automatic car and would call me with news of my appointment time for my lesson and road test.

Same deal, re: worrying about leaving my green form “in the cloud.”  But I did, and Eli called this week, too.

Wednesday, I take my driving test to get my Israeli license!



Getting Driver’s License – Parts 3 & 4
January 16, 2010, 11:03 am
Filed under: Friends, Official Immigrant Stuff | Tags: ,

"Ministry of Licensing"

First, quick whine that I totes had a better lead pic for this post – of me being cute & smiling holding my paperwork in front of the processing window, wearing my “fashion risk” retro glasses, which always get props and I’m not often photographed in – [whew! mouthful], but I accidentally deleted it by mistake.  #FAIL

Anyway, so we’re back to the continuing saga of Israeli bureaucracy and how it relates to getting one’s driver’s license here.

Part 3 actually happened a couple of weeks ago.  I took my official green form to my primary care physician, so he could complete and sign off on the medical portion of it.  I take some prescription meds, and he asked me one question regarding these – Do you ever get sleepy during the day? I’m like, Well, sometimes I like to take a midday naps, but no, it’s not like I’ve got narcolepsy and pass out during a game of yahtzee or anything. He wrote some shiz on there, signed it and that was it.

My friend Yoda Jeremy was also in the same boat as me, so we coordinated and went to do Part 4 together.  That was surprisingly painless.  I visited a bunch of websites, found out the exact branch of the licensing place we had to go that was closest to us and even coordinated our bus route.  At 7:30 a.m. Jeremy and I met at my office so we could make photocopies of our American & Canadian licenses (my boo is from Toronto), and we walked over to Dizengoff to take the # 1 or # 2 (whichever one came first) to the Misrad HaRishuey (Ministry of Licensing).  Both of them stopped exactly at our destination.

We were both armed with:

  1. Official Green Form (with eyesight test filled in by optometrist and medical part filled in by doctor).
  2. Teudat Oleh (proof we are new immigrants, in Israel for less than one year – otherwise, we’d have to take a written exam, too – that’s the whole reason I’m taking care of this now. I don’t really plan to drive a lot, but this process would be even harder if I waited, so I’m just getting the license to have it.
  3. Teudat Zehut (official government I.D.)
  4. Foreign Passport
  5. Valid foreign driver’s license
  6. Photocopy of same

Except – uh-uh, Israel…not so fast.  I know how you work.  I’m not shlepping out on this bus at the crack of dawn (really just to a suburb south of Tel Aviv called Holon, not far at all; and more like 7:30 a.m. – but who’s counting), only get to the window and be asked, But where’s [such & such document]? I’ve been burned before, and so this time, I took extra precautions, and also brought my Israeli passport, which wasn’t even on the list and a stool sample.

So, we get there, and Jeremy cracks up when he sees this area outside where all the people are on motor scooters taking their tests to get licenses for them.  He’s like, LOL, they actually take tests so they can all drive like maniacs !?!

We go inside, and realize that is not just the Israeli equivalent of the DMV; it’s for lots of other kinds of license, too.  The driver’s license window is window # 8.  We go up and take numbers, then sit down.  They were on, like, # 514 and we had #s 524 & 525, so we had a little while to wait, but not too long.

Just enough, in fact, for us to sort of check in with each other and reassess how we’re doing, becoming established in Israel after both being here nearly a year; what we think is ahead for us next year, our fears, what is working out, what isn’t, yada yada yada.  I snap some BBery pics for G-Fish, and Jeremy gets a little nervous about my doing so.

Our turn comes, and we go up together.  Jeremy goes first, forks over his docs, the lady punches some shiz into a computer, and he gets his green form back with the official stamp he needs to go on to Step 5.

My turn.  I do the same thing, lady does the same procedure, it’s all going very smoothly and then –

Roadblock.  She tells me, Yours, we have to keep for one week.  You take some medications, and a doctor must look at this form and initial it. Nice redundant step in the bureaucracy, Israel!  A doctor has already signed off on this once, and now you’re going to have a doctor sit with me and ask me about/verify what’s on the form…no, you’re just gonna have him sign his initials next to the other doctor’s , without having even met me or anything.  Masterful redundancy, Israel, gotta hand it to you!

Anyway, so no big deal, she’ll call me back this coming week (I hope).

Jeremy proceeds to Step 5.  There’s all these shisters driving instructors that hang outside the Misrad (ministry).  We call this one guy Raffi that my friend Johnny (who’s been through this last year) used, but Jeremy says there’s really loud music playing in the background and he can’t deal, and so we hang up.  He sees a guy approaching us holding a bunch of the green forms and just asks him, Are you a driving instructor? He is.  His name’s Avi.  Jeremy and he exchange numbers, he takes Jeremy’s green form, and says he’ll call next week and give him an appointment time for his driving test.

We had heard that these vultures instructors insist you take a driving lesson from them first and that you’re supposed to say yes.  (Then, when you take your driving exam, it has to be in the same instructor’s car, for whatever reason.)  Then, they offer you a second “mini-lesson” for the same day as your exam, and you’re supposed to decline it.  Well, Avi was slightly less vulturistic than the rest I guess, b/c when we asked about this, he’s like, Nah! You don’t have to take a lesson!  Look, if you want one, we can do it, but…. Just to be safe (since, look – this is a different country, and there might be some nuances or tips it’d be good to get from someone who knows before you actually have your test), Jeremy makes an appointment for a lesson the same day as his test.

That’s kinda it.  He takes his test on Wednesday.  I’m still waiting to hear back from the Misrad Lady.  I’m optimistic that I will.  It’s kinda Classic Israel that I did everything right and still got an unexpected surprise/delay that added an extra step into things.  But I’m just rolling with it.  It made for a better post anyway.



Getting Driver’s License – parts 1 & 2
December 26, 2009, 3:35 pm
Filed under: Official Immigrant Stuff, Struggles | Tags:

I don’t know why,  but beaurocracy is beyond rampant in Israel.  I haven’t written anything about “official immigrant stuff” in months – and thank God, because there’s been no reason to.  Once I got my Teudat Zehut (official state I.D. card) and health insurance and passport, there’s just been no need to involve myself with that beaurocratic nightmare.

Here’s the thing about Israel.  The quality of life is aMazInG !!!  There’s such an emphasis on enjoyment – from food to café culture to celebrations.  There’s so much natural beauty – the Mediterranean, tree-lined streets, blossoms everywhere.  The men are astonishing looking.

Like I said, the quality of life is AmaZiNg….as long as you don’t have to do anything “OFFICIAL.”  OMG, you guys, you have no idea.  You want to wipe you butt in Israel, and it’s: get a form from the Butt Ministry, then take that to your proctologist, then go to the exfoliologist, then take four passport sized photos of your butt and stand on your head for five minutes while singing “Don’t Cry For Me Agentina” (backwards), then wait four weeks and finally you get your Butt Wiping Certificate and you can go ahead and wipe that (by now, dry & crusted) shiz off.

Not exaggerating guys.

So, if you just don’t have to do a lot of “official shit,” or you have an Israeli spouse to help you, or you just “go rogue” and never do anything legal, you can really enjoy the Good Life here in Israel. *le sigh*

So it’s been a while since I had to do anything official.  But now I’ve decided I want to get my Israeli driver’s license.  In your first year, Israel will grant you one if you have a valid license from another country.  But if you wait beyond this period, there’s like double the beauroshiz, so I decided the time to act was now.

I heard the gajillion six or seven step process begins by going to your eye doctor for an exam.  So, I made an appointment and last week had my eyes examined.  The good news is, my eyes are fine.  The bad news is, in Israel eye care is divided into optometrists (who unlike in America, are not doctors; they are basically eyeglass store owners merely certified to determine your prescription in order to sell you glasses) and opthamologists, who are Doctors.  For the purpose of getting your driver’s license, you actually have to visit a shister optometrist, have him check your eyes, and fill out a section of a special form.  Ah…, the form.  Where do you get this alleged “form.”  Ha, ha, ha.  You could drive south to a town called Holon, where there is some special center.  Or, there are all of two stores in Tel Aviv, who are licensed to distribute the forms.

My friend Eric, who’s been here a few years already, asked his boyfriend Moosh at work where in Tel Aviv I could pick us this form.  Moosh said there is a store “Memsi” where I could get it, and he told me it’s in Dizengoff Center, which is right in the center of town (duh).  Great!  I could easily go there on my bike an pick it up.  I set aside an hour one morning to do it this week.

Let me see, "Memsi" "Memsi" "Memsi"...maybe it's this way...no, I think over here...oh, i have to go to the information desk and ask? Where is that?... Where, again?

So, I do this…but it turns out Memsi moved locations two years ago.  Thanks for nothing, Moosh. I’m told the street name and given a general vicinity of where it is, and left to my own devices.  I call from this special information phone in the mall that gives you an English operator.  She’s never heard of this street, because I’ve already forgotten the Hebrew name, and she doesn’t understand the English translation (I was told in English it means “Train Street,” so I kept telling her that, and she’s like, What?)

So I text my friend (and former therapist, back in New York – for real, guys) Eitan, who really comes to my rescue.  First, because he calls me immediately.  Second, because he gives me great directions.  (Thanks, Eitan !!)  And, I’m off!  I sail down King George and Alenby on my bike until I get to Yehuda Halevi.  I get off the bike and walk the rest, taking off my headphones and carefully paying attention.  I overshoot the store, but not by much and get directed back the way I came.  And there it is – Memsi !!

And…they don’t have the license anymore.  It rotates, the guy tells me.  He thinks it’s this place “Optica Balisima,” which is right across from the Cinematheque, a location I totally know and was, in fact, nearby a few hours earlier.  But he’s not sure, so he gives me a special phone number (*5678) to call the Ministry of Transportation and confirm who has the license currently.  Yeah, good luck with that, I think;  1-800 numbers and automatic voice attendants are the kiss of death for non Hebrew-fluent Anglos in Israel.  There’s always a “for English, press four” prompt, and while it may give a recorded spiel in English after pressing it, you are always transferred to a real person….(wait for it)….who answers the line in Hebrew.  You can wing it with your limited Hebrew skills, but if you’re trying to take care of something and you really need to understand, of course you want the English option, so you ask if they speak English, and even though they totally do, because everyone speaks English in this country  (…imagine if every movie and TV show you ever saw was in Swahili…guess what, you’d speak Swahili), they say in Hebrew that they will transfer you to someone else who speaks English, but whoever picks up speaks to you again in Hebrew, and this process can go on for like nine people, until hell freezes over and you finally get someone willing to speak to you in English.  So, no thanks, I think, and I set out for Optica Balisima.

It’s a short ride, and I guess the one bonus of this minor wild goose chase is that for the first time I go cross-town in a certain way and realize how where I just was is connected to another part of town I already know; a deeper sense of orientation about my city falls into place.  I come upon where the store should be and with trepidation I look up…and….it’s right where it should be!

Praise the Lord.  Go inside, get my pic taken.  Hate my crazy eyes and take another one.  Looks better.  Get eyes examined and pay 40 shekels.  Done!  step two of like seven parts. Seriously.

Next I’m supposed to take this form to my primary care physician and have him sign off on it that I’m not at risk for dropping dead behind the wheel.  Then, the real fun begins.  I’ll need a ride to this ministry joint in Holon and turn the form in…and pay like 100 shekels to these shady guys with driver test cars behind the place and take a mandatory lesson.  Then, you get offered another lesson and you’re supposed to decline it.  Then, you’ll get an appointment for your on-the-road exam, which you must take in this same shady guy’s car, and he’ll try and sell you a mini lesson immediately before the test, and you’re supposed to agree to it.

*le sigh*, for real – I just sighed after writing that.

But for the moment I was victorious, and I celebrated with a bagel sandwich from Tal Bagels, which was right next door and I’d never been to.  You guys, Y-U-M !!!

Eat me.