Well, it happened.
I logged into my Bank Hapoalim account a couple days ago to see if my monthly new immigrant payment had arrived on its usual day, and sure enough, the money was not there. As I had been warned, when I left the country last month for friend’s wedding, I taking a risk that my automatic Sal HaKlita installments would stop – even if I had only left the country for a matter of three days. I knew that I could easily get the payments restarted again, but I would now have to pay monthly visits to the office and claim each check, to reassure them that yes, in fact, I am still here.
Irked by my newest bureaucratic battle, I called the Misrad HaKlita (Absorption Minstry) office Wednesday to schedule an appointment with my immigration counselor, and the receptionist instructed me to write a letter detailing the special nature of my situation. Perhaps the ministry management would be able to reverse the decision, and I could return to receiving automatic payments, she said. But she wasn’t guaranteeing anything.
Good thing she didn’t.
Anyway, I spent a good 40 minutes Wednesday night drafting a letter to plead my case, which included an explanation about how I had left the country to attend the wedding of not simply a best friend, but a friend who was the primary influence behind my first visit to Israel three and a half years ago. Without her encouragement, I wrote, I would never be here in Israel today. For this and a multitude of other normal human being reasons, it was incredibly important for me to attend her wedding, and I should not be punished for my decision.
I handed the beautifully written letter to my counselor yesterday, and while she took it, I don’t think she even glanced at it once. She told me that although she’d deliver the letter to the managers, there was almost no way that they could reverse the computer’s decision about the automatic payments. I would therefore have to visit her each month, until my final installment in May.
Meanwhile, the computer wasn’t even showing a record that I had ever reentered the country at all – a problem that was quickly solved by presenting my stamped US Passport.
So I signed a paper to receive this month’s payment – my counselor, who clearly felt bad for me, said she’d issue it urgently – and we scheduled appointments for the next two months. There was nothing else she could do, and I appreciate the fact that she was nice to me about it. At least the payments are still direct deposit, so really, all I have to do is show my face in her office once each month.
In the end, my counselor reminded me, I have to remember that I am still getting a sizeable gift each month from the Israeli government, and just because I have to now come to the office to claim said gift, I should still be happy that I am able to receive this present. She said I should consider the entire last two months a gift – the fact that I have work in Israel, the fact that I got to attend one of my best friend’s weddings nonetheless and of course, the fact that I get this money from the government.
And she’s absolutely right.
Yes, I have ulpan every morning and luckily, lots of things on my plate, but a half hour of my time once a month is not actually going to disturb my busy routine.
The one thing I can’t completely come to terms with, however, is the idea that just because I left the country briefly during my first couple months here, the government of Israel no longer trusts me to remain here, as any other citizen would. I now need to prove to them each month that I’m still here, I’m still an Israeli. I guess it makes sense, considering people do like to take money and run – so how can they trust that I will be different? Without integrity, I suppose people have no problem conning entire governments, let alone other people.
But rest assured folks, in case there was any doubt, Sharon Udasin is not planning to scam the Israeli government.