The Israeli Bureaucracy

(Continued from The Move to Israel Page)

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Post 13

My day of bureaucracy is not as straight forward as you might think. In order to receive my rights from the Absorption Ministry, I need to have already opened my bank account, but in order to open my bank account, I already need my permanent ID and absorption ID and before I get a phone I need both, but I only need one to sign up for Hebrew lessons. It is weird that in the Jewish religion there is no hell, because the Israeli government created a perfect 10the circle for Dante’s Inferno with the absorption process.

I find out that Ester is also up due to our new “friend,” the rooster, and we decide that we should get an early start on struggling through Israel bureaucracy. We decided that this process would be a lot easier to go through together than apart – and this way if one of us begins to falter and doubt our life decision after a few hours of Israeli bureaucracy then we would have the other for support. As we have been told to come prepared for long and frustrating waits, we bring some food, water, reading material and toilet paper – which always a necessity in Israel. (We actually looked like we were more ready for a hike than for paperwork.) The one recommendation that everyone had given us regarding the Internal Ministry was to get there as early as possible and some even suggested camping out in front of the doors like we were going to some rock concert in the early 1990’s. The major reason that it is necessary to get to the ministry as early as possible is because they close their doors at 12:00 PM on the dot and sometimes earlier. This does not mean that the ministry is closed; it just means it has reached its capacity for the day. In fact, when the doors close there are hundreds of people waiting inside the ministry waiting in line, hoping that they will be seen by the end of the day. The last person in the doors will most likely not be seen until around 5:00 PM, if he is seen at all.

We jump on the bus, despite promising everyone back home that we won’t ride buses. I figured that if they really wanted me to take taxis everywhere, then they should have offered to pay for them. Not to mention, that we weren’t even willing to pay full price for our bus tickets, as we asked the bus driver for minor tickets, so we could save three shekels (approximately $.75) – this is another good tactic for saving money for poor immigrants. Because both Ester and I look about six to seven years younger than we actually are, we didn’t have any problem getting minor tickets, but we were willing to put up a fight if necessary. We figured that the more experience we got at fighting the quicker we would improve and the more prepared we would be. We also asked the bus driver to tell us when we would need to get off for the Internal Ministry. In response the bus driver simply looked at us with an expression of pity and nodded. However, Ester and I were too excited about becoming real Israeli citizens that we were not even the least amount concerned about the challenges that lay ahead of us. At that time we made a pact that no matter what happened we would look at the whole process as part of the experience of becoming Israeli. After all, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” – only later did we find out that Israelis have a continuation of this a saying that is unfortunately very fitting for the country – “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and what does kill you makes your mother stronger.

After standing in isle of the stuffy, crowded and smelly bus in traffic for way too long, some seats finally opened up and we sat down. Just as we were adjusting our bags on our laps, the bus driver abruptly yelled out that this was the stop for the Internal Ministry, in the same tone that we had reached the gates of hell. We excitedly got of the bus, not paying any heed to the tone in bus driver’s voice and began heading towards the Internal Ministry. As we were walking towards the Ministry we see a large mob of people and we are both wondering what had happened. At first we think there might have been a fight, or that maybe someone is hurt and as we get closer and start hearing people screaming we get nervous that maybe there was a terror attack and people are panicking. However, when we get closer, we realize that the mob in front of us is actually the line of people trying to get into the Internal Ministry. Both Ester and I are in shock, we expected that it would be tough, but we didn’t think it would be like running with the bulls in Spain. Both Ester and I are short, skinny, small young women and we could barely speak Hebrew and much less yell in Hebrew . . . and if you are not yelling in Hebrew, then you might as well not waste the energy talking. Looking at the mob, we knew we would not be successful at trying to push through everyone and we began contemplating what would be the better option, simply sitting down on the pavement and become homeless nomads or to begin searching for the cheapest plane tickets back to U.S.



  1. Thank you for writing this blog. I am seriously thinking of my own Aliyah, but I was wondering how I can find out how the process REALLY is. That is, until I found your blog.
    Well done.
    London, Ontario, Canada. [with a niece in Minnesota!]

    • i made alliah but in the north in tiberias, and although the beurocratic officials (usually russian) are not forthcoming in information, i found the process easier and more simple in tiberias, as there is not the quantity of applicants. so move to the north till you finished all you need to!

  2. My husband and I are making Aliyah within the next 2 years and have been wondering what steps should we be planning right now? We have 3 children who will be coming with us (of course)..Also, how is the living situation in Israel? Tv; water both cold and hot, heating in the homes/apartments; job market for RN’s? If you can supply that information it would be GREAT! LOve your site. Thanks!

    • Did you end up making aliyah? If so how did it go?

  3. I read such horror stories about the Israeli Bureaucracy .. YES it is a horror if you fall into the hands of someone who has no idea what they are doing or is just having a bad day.

    That being said, I am not sure what advise people are given before they arrive in Israel but there are simple ways around it all.

    One, open a bank account using your non-israeli passport. It will be as a foreign resident and takes the same amount of time as opening a bank account for an Israeli citizen. Later, you can change it over. This way you have a “no” for ID purposes and when you go to Bituach Leumi and Misrad Ha’Klita you already have a bank account and they can begin processing you for Sal Klita payments.

    Two, you should fill out forms in your country of origin, asking Misrad Ha’Pnim for residency status. This can take 3 months for a proper reply but this way you will already have a file open, with all your details in Israel with both Misrad Ha’Klita and Ha’Pnim.

    I did this when making Aliya from Australia and on my second day in Israel I went straight to Misrad Ha’Pnim, papers already filled out while in Australia, passport sized photos ready, no appointment necessary (I did have to wait about 2 hours for my no.) and got my ID card then and there. My third day in the morning went to Klita and got my Oleh booklet. Bituach Leumi was more stressful but at the end of the week 1, I finished everything.

    Hope you all have the good fortune I had when first arriving.

    • Can you only get such easy (ish!) citizenship if you are Jewish, because I’ve read that it is very hard if you are not, and they restrict the numbers of non-Jewish or Messianic Jews who are allowed in?

      • Messianic Jews are not considered Jews under the law of return. non-Jews are only allowed citizenship under certain conditions, such as, if they are the spouse of a Jew.

  4. Its been a while since you wrote all this stuff, but I have a suggestion:
    Is-Really Bureaucrazy? (must have the ?)

    PS You have brought me so much laughter; I wonder how your klita is going after all this time?

  5. How is it going? Its been a while since you wrote…
    I made aliyah in 2006 and although I didn’t find the bureaucratic part that difficult I do find that sometimes I still have issues with the mentality here and making friends like I did in the USA>

  6. Would love to hear more! Are you still writing?
    My husband is Jewish and this may be on the horizon for us one day. Thank you for creating such an insightful blog x

  7. I am Jewish and my spouse is Catholic. We are common law. We want to move to Israel.
    A) how long does it take to get the actual passport of Israel ? Will my spouse have to go through a different process ?
    B) I understand the law states we must be married. Can we get married and leave for Israel right away ? or is it best to wait after the ceremony.

    • I am not sure if common law marriage is recognized for allowing a non-Jewish spouse to move to Israel. However, it will not be immediate. Bureaucracy in Israel very much slows things down and if Israel does not accept common law marriages, you will have to be married before your wife can get her passport. This means it can’t be immediate. Also, keep in mind – nothing in Israel is ever immediate.

  8. Well, I lived in Israel for 18 years and:
    a. you don’t need a permanent ID to open a bank account, you just need the Teudat Ole which you got the minute you set foot in Ben Gurion. And you will get the account opened on the spot.
    b. to buy a phone and a sim card in Israel you just need cash. That’s it.
    c. the Absorption Rights is done in one day and usually people get it done on the second day they come to Israel.
    You really should not misguide people, the Israeli services are much more efficient than the UK or USA ones.

  9. […] sweet innocent land I inhabited six months ago, before I had encountered the twisted Kafkaesque nightmare that is the Israeli bureaucracy. It would be an omen of things to […]

  10. I have to say I agree with some of the other comments on here. Jerusalem is balagan me’od! My wife, before she got her visa to come to the states, made aliyah and settled in the negev. We went to the misrad Ha’pnim there and yes a small crowd, but plenty of seats and rather efficient, really.

  11. Hi I liked what you said about “it’s like running with bulls”
    .You missed the part mentioning going in a bus , you have to push to get in and if you don’t your not gonna go nowhere!!!

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