December 16, 2012

Merry Christmas! Love, The Israeli Government

I haven't really gone into detail here about that visa complications that go along with being a gentile in Israel, have I? Last year when I came here to study, I applied for (and was granted) a one-year student visa. But that expired when my program ended, and currently I'm in the country (legally) on a tourist visa. Tourist visas  are issued at passport control when you land in the airport (unless you are suspicious) and are valid for three months.

My plan after returning from my trip home this summer was to spend those three months pulling together the documents required to apply for my 'girlfriend visa'. Yes, that's right. If I were Jewish I could just decide I wanted to be Israeli and apply for citizenship. But I'm not, which complicates things for me a bit. It complicates a LOT of things for me actually, but we're gonna focus on the citizenship/immigration side of things for now. Anyway, it turns out that if you're a non-Jew dating an Israeli, and you live together and want to stay here, the Israeli government will let you apply for permanent residence. You just have to prove that you are a real couple. So, I'm applying for a girlfriend visa with Itzik. It's a little complicated, full of bureaucracy, and the instructions are all in Hebrew so figuring out the do's and don'ts of the process has proven arduous.

The long and short of this is that my tourist visa expired last Tuesday. The week prior Itzik and I spent a lot of time waiting in the Ministry of the Interior only to be told in the end that there was ONE document which was insufficient and in order to actually submit the application I would need to procure additional (internationally certified) documents from the US government. Shoot. Me.

That takes time. And time was something we didn't have. What to do???

My only option (besides just staying in the country illegally and hoping they wouldn't notice) was to exit the country and come back in to procure a new three-month tourist visa. Sometimes people will just take a bus south to Jordan and visit Petra for a day, but considering the recent war and the fact that Itzik can't go to Jordan with an Israeli passport... I wasn't so keen on that idea. So...Itzik and I flew to Berlin last Saturday. I know, right? What? It was a whirlwind. One second I was crying cause I was scared of being deported, and the next moment I was in a hotel in Europe with my boyfriend looking at snow falling softly outside my window. My life is the worst.

Not really. It's the best.

At first I was stressed about it- travelling is expensive and I am not really in a place in my life where I have tons of expendable cash. But, Itzik calmly reminded me that you save money for emergencies, and this situation qualified. The truth of the matter is that Itzik and I have been together for about nine months, I moved in with him pretty much after two, for a month this summer I was in America, and I've been finishing my MA and trying to find work. To say things have been intense for us would be an understatement. We love each other, and we're both happy to be together, but (individually and as a couple) we needed some R & R. It wasn't gonna happen, though, unless something forced it to happen...thank you Israeli immigration balagan.

I have no idea how to pronounce this properly. Or any German words, really.

So, what followed was an unexpected week in Berlin- touring, museum-ing, sleeping, eating, drinking, laughing, and shivering (winter in Germany is COLD!!). Itzik had an introduction to a white Christmas, efficient public transportation ("subways are amazing, you can get to the other side of the city in 20 minutes!"), and had his fill of bratwurst and beer. I soaked in the Christmas spirit (l've really missed Christmas), did a little shopping, stopped at every Dunkin' Donuts we saw, and was reminded why I moved to the Middle East (I really hate being cold). We explored a new city together, and spent some stress-free, quality time with one another. It really was JUST what the doctor ordered.

I want to go to there.

I might not speak German, but I'm fluent in Dunkin.

Berlin's Modern Art museum

Three guesses where the latte is from.

Of course, I was the one to insist on going to the Jewish History museum.

One of the many Christmas markets in Berlin- spiced wine, gift vendors, bratwurst...amazing.

I want to take a moment and publicly state how wonderful my boyfriend is. On top of the whole spontaneous-trip-to-Europe thing, Itzik weathered what is possibly the most horrible activity in all of boyfriend-dom (especially if you're my boyfriend)...jeans shopping. I cried. I laughed. I cried more. I was my most insane self. And he didn't even flinch. He just held my hand, told me I'm beautiful, and waited outside of countless fitting rooms with all of our bags until I found the perfect pair. Then he told me to get two. Cause he's just that amazing. I love him so much.

He's all mine. WINNING.

So now we are back, refreshed (better dressed) and ready to move forward to wherever the winds may blow (also, we're happy that the winds in Israel are a little warmer than in Berlin...)

Here are a few more pictures from the trip as a reward for reading all of that mushy stuff (this is for you, Mary...)

Itzik playing modern-artist at the museum.

Inside the Jewish History museum.

What it's all about.

Stairway to...?

They have Claire's!

Urban art.

So, in sum, I would like to thank the Israeli government for making paperwork that is so confusing it takes several tries to finally get it right. Happy Christmukah to everyone!!!