A Google search of “Israeli bureaucracy” brings up phrases such as “struggle”, “coping”, and “what have I done to deserve this?” Ok, I made the last one up. But talk to any native Israeli or immigrant and you’re bound to hear stories of not just long lines, but decisions void of logic made at the whim of the particular clerk you get at any given time. With this in mind and sense of humor by my side, I decided to brave the Tel Aviv municipality building recently in pursuit of one of my aliyah benefits.

Located in Rabin Square, the iriya building is home to Tel Aviv’s city council. For those of you who don’t speak Hebrew, “iriya” is loosely translated as “in exactly what year did this building look nice???”
  • I walk into the office which houses services related to arnona (municipality tax), water, among other things. The closest thing I can compare it to in America is the DMV. Who’s excited to go now? That’s sort of like someone describing your blind date as “the closest thing to Leona Helmsley.”
  • A quick look around reveals a surprisingly high degree of organization. Colored signs detailing each department hang from the ceiling, TV screens display the next number, and a woman sits by the door handing you your lucky number. Jesus, what’s the interview like for that job?

Interviewer: “Ehhhh…how are you at extending your arm while holding a small piece of paper.”
Candidate: “Zzzzzz……”
Interviewer: “You’re hired!”

  • In the middle of the floor is a sign for sheirut atzmi, self-service. You can even make or apply for IDs of some kind. I’m using Shaq’s picture and naming myself McLovin.
  • My number is 159א. The screen shows 109. Fasten your seat belts.
  • “nah nah NAH NAH! nah NAH! nah NAH! nah nah NAH NAH! nah nah NAH NAH! nah NAH! MY ARNONA!” (They can’t all be winners, folks. I have an hour to kill.) On that note, I’d like to revise my rankings of worst 3 Israeli names. Osnat, Dudu, and Moran…meet Arnona, Shilshula, and Chumusia. (If they’re not names, they should be.)
  • I’m used to government offices issuing licenses and passports. This one deals with Easy Park and water…where do I go for my falafel discount?
  • The guy sitting next to me is talking on his bluetooth. Seriously, where do we go from here? Chopping off your friend’s ear and walking around talking into it?
  • Of course the government workers in Israel are hot…eat your heart out, DMV. Is anyone surprised? I just sent that mesage in an SMS to my buddy Tal accompanied by the word “shwing”. If this were 1992, that would have been funny.
  • Time to take a walk. I approach the number-giving woman and ask “When is it not busy here?” She replies, “8-9…b’seder. Acharei (after)? Balagan! (chaos)” I love that word. I always imagine barn doors opening and farm animals running amok with clowns and noisemakers.
  • (Yawn) This is boring. Where’s the yelling, dammit? I’m not leaving till I witness at least one confrontation. I pick up the customer evaluation “how are we doing?” form. The top says “your opinion is important to us.” Yes, and I have a bridge in Tehran to sell you. What do you think they do with these forms? Start the Lag B’Omer fires? Fold them up and put them in the Kotel? After a hard 8 hour day, do the workers go out for a Goldstar and exclaim “Dudu, look! Dees guy said deh wait was too lohng. BAAAAA HA HA HA HA!!!!!“, slapping each other on the backs and stomping their feet?
Shouldn’t the numbers go right to left?
I guess it’s gonna end up in the trash anyway.
  • It’s been an hour and we’re at 154א. Can you feel the tension mounting???
  • 156! I’m just waiting to hear what necessary documentation I’m missing…like 2 passport pictures and a urine sample.
  • 157…
  • What? They just went back to 156. What, am I watching “Memento“?
  • 159! As I approach the woman, I’m desperately trying not to crack up laughing, waiting for the adventure to begin. She looks at my lease and doesn’t see my name on it. I pull out the sublease addendum. If she says no, I won’t even be able to fight. I’m just gonna start laughing.
  • And then it happens…”Here eez deh proh-blem.” Oh, dear G-d. There’s a problem and she’s right. My lease, which both my roommates have signed and are bound to, has expired and neither the landlord nor they bothered to do anything about it even before I moved in. Seriously? I signed the addendum with my name on it…call me crazy but it didn’t occur to me that the lease might not be valid. I suppose I could have tried to read it in Hebrew. After that, I could have also tried landing on the sun.

B’seder, whaddya gonna do? After having my landlord make a new lease, I returned to the iriya shortly thereafter and dealt with it. Not so bad, all in all. I usually make sure to speak poor Hebrew and look homely, sort of the equivalent of the woman batting her eyelashes at the cop who pulls her over. Not that anyone finds it attractive, but I figure it can’t hurt, right? And when you’re at a government office, you probably need all the help you can get.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take a number. I’ll probably need something done six months from now.

*Serenity Now

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