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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How to turn $25 to $500 overnight in Israel and get out of the country

I am compiling a list of things that are less expensive here.  Granted it's a pretty short list but cell phone plans are on it.  You can get unlimited international calling, texting and 3GB of data (I won't pretend I know how much that is) for $25/month.  So you can spend hours making all types of elaborate plans with your friends on the phone--you just might hesitate to drive to the final destination (gas not being on the aforementioned list).

All that is theory, of course.  There have been some billing issues with our cell phone company which somehow charged us about 20 times the amount.  Michael called and spoke with them and they said they would credit us but when I got this month's bill we haven't been credited and we've been charged another, additional amount that is sky high.  So before calling the cell phone company I called our American credit card company.

Wow.  They were so incredibly friendly.  At the end of the call the rep told me that I was a valued customer and then asked if there was anything else he could do.  If he hesitated when I asked him just to stay on the phone another few minutes and speak politely to me, I couldn't tell.   OK, I haven't gotten that desperate.

Next I called our cell phone company.  It's true that I have been practicing my Hebrew more but I wanted to make sure we get our money so I chose the option "for English push 4".  I don't really know what happens if you press the "for Spanish push two" button in America, I've always just assumed you get someone who speaks Spanish.   After I pressed "4" I got an agent who must not have done too well in the company ulpan that I'm guessing they offer for their "English speaking" employees.  The conversation was pretty much in Hebrew with the exception of  "hold on a second", "just a minute" and "we'll call you back".   I have to hand it to him though, he did a really good job with those.  Actually, later in the evening someone who spoke English did call me back and while he didn't tell me I was a valued customer, it was kind of like talking to your cousin to get your bill fixed.

After ulpan today, I went back to the Ministry of the Interior to get my temporary passport.  This is where I learned that I have not yet been in Israel for 3 consecutive months.  First I stood outside with about 20 other people until the office opened.  I was fascinated that everyone took their proper place without cutting.  It helped that a woman with a rather "type A" personality kept everyone honest.  Got in, got my number and waited only a few moments to be called.  The agent switched to English when she heard my accent.  Her English was flawless.  Apparently learned from watching TV--maybe I need to be watching a little more "Kofiko"  (again not that desperate--though a lot of the TV here is supposed to be pretty good).  She noted that I had not yet filled out the form and then entered my identity into the computer and printed out a completely filled out form in about 30 seconds.  The form probably would have taken me at least 20 minutes to complete.   I gave her my photos, double checked everything.  It was just about that point that she noticed I had left the country in August.  (My trip back to work).

"Who gave you permission to leave?" she wanted to know.   I told her I had simply travelled on my US passport but will need the temporary passport to travel in December.

Her:   "But you can't get a temporary passport unless you've been in the country for 3 consecutive months."
Me:  "What if I had to leave tomorrow?"
Her:  "Just come back and we'll give you the permission slip."

She really was very nice but my head started to hurt thinking about how this worked.  I have to return at the end of November to get my temporary passport unless for some reason I have to leave the country between now and then in which case they will just hand me a permission paper.  If you can explain it to me--go for it.

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