Room 124

by Brian on January 7, 2010

in Only in Israel,Travel

Israeli bureaucratic institutions have been slowly but surely modernizing over recent years. You can get in and out of the infamous Interior Ministry in less than a day…and you don’t have to line up at 8:00 AM just to shove your way in through the heavily guarded front door.

The health funds now have computerized kiosks that print out the name of the doctor, his or her room number and the time of your appointment; a flat screen monitor tells you when it’s your turn.

Ditto with the banks and the post office where you can now kick your feet up and relax while you wait for your number to flash.

The tide of advancement, however, has apparently not yet washed over the shores of the Education Ministry which, naturally, is exactly where I had to be recently. I had been considering taking a government-run tour guiding course and, to be admitted, I needed to have my non-Israeli Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree diplomas officially “approved.”

The Education Ministry’s building is a formidable mass; a wide arching wall of concrete with identical small window slats all facing towards a forlorn courtyard. Once inside, a spiral staircase winds its way to “Room 124″ – a tiny cubicle of an office where a lone clerk sits to satisfy the academic supplicants’ demands.

There is no brightly-lit waiting room, just a scattering of chairs along the walls and up against the staircase railing. To the Ministry’s credit, there is an old-fashioned paper number dispenser; when I first made aliyah 15 years ago, you just plopped yourself down and asked “who’s last?” A fight would inevitably ensue when someone arrived late and claimed that he or she was “here earlier” and was “after” some naive looking stranger who quickly disavowed any knowledge of the presumptuous intruder.

There were 17 people ahead of me – a true melting pot of Israeli immigrant society. I heard smatterings of foreign tongues – Russian, Arabic, French, Spanish, and of course English.

When my turn finally came – after an hour and a half wait – I braced myself for an abrupt confrontation with Israeli officialdom. To my surprise, my clerk was a bundle of buoyancy. When she started speaking to me in English rather than Hebrew, I asked where she was from. “Albania.”

What a pleasant turn of events: the woman in charge of the immigrants was an immigrant herself. As my forms were duly stamped, we traded travel stories. She told me that you can fly to Turkey and rent a car to drive to Albania by way of Bulgaria and Macedonia.

Given this week’s distressing news about the tourism training industry in Israel, maybe I should think about leading such Mediterranean road trips. After all, I now have the stamp of approval from the Ministry of Education.

This article was originally posted on the Israelity blog.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 rachel January 8, 2010 at 5:24 am

LOVE! the new layout.

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