Mark Frank

God Forbid

I had to drive down to the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv in order for them to witness my signature. It was family business and time was of the essence.

The papers to be signed had arrived on a Monday but with no specification as to what sort of identify papers to present for the witnessing. This made me edgy because from previous experience I know that sometimes in dealings with the embassy you need to bring two classes of documentation and corresponding notarized translations.

That morning I sifted through the various types of certification in my possession, accumulated over the years. I discovered that I didn’t have an English translation of the Change of Name Certificate for an amendment I’d made to my Jewish name in Israel. If I stayed on this trajectory I was likely to lose a precious week getting a notarized translation, not to mention driving down to Tel Aviv for nothing.

So I rang up the embassy to ask what documentation I should bring. The official was typically brusque about it. It’s not their job to answer that sort of question. Neither are they authorized. God forbid. “Ask whoever’s sending you,” was the reply.

Then I had an idea. My Israeli passport has both my Israeli name and a misspelled version of my Jewish name as it appears in my Australian passport, so maybe I could get the licensing authority to amend my international driver’s license in the same fashion. It might save me a week of translating procedure, as well as a hefty notary’s fee. It was worth a shot. There was little to lose and everything to gain.

I’ll save you most of the details. They agreed. But the thing is that in going to the licensing authority I discovered that I’d misplaced my regular plastic driver’s license. And an international license has to be presented together with a local license in order to be valid. I rushed home trying to find the plastic one but to no avail; and I had to be on my way almost immediately for my booked appointment at the embassy.

So off I went. Luckily the licencing authority clerk had issued me with a temporary paper license, but as I drove I worried about the near empty petrol tank and then about which route to take inside of Tel Aviv, especially as my cell phone battery was running low. I passed on the petrol station at Shar Hagai gambling on there being no traffic jams. “Early afternoon,” I figured. All in all I had pretty good odds.

As I sped in to the coastal plain it dawned on me that it was a petty fortuitous set of circumstances that I didn’t have a translation of the name change documentation, because this had made me get my international driving license amended. And if it weren’t for that I would have only discovered my misplacing my regular driver’s license once I was already at the appointment and that would have been a major faux pas. Now I had the international license with me. In retrospect I figured that this was more than blind luck; too many links in the chain for it to be mere circumstance. Was the finger of god making itself evident?

I got to the embassy on time besides traffic banking up near the turnoff. I even found a parking lot just where I was hoping to. Maybe it was time to review my advancing atheism?

The consulate official was in his public service ethics mode on this shift and I didn’t even have to wait ‘til the appointed time to sign the paper. No one even got agro when I signed on the wrong line on the only original copy of the document, even when I joked that I had been waiting all along for Murphy’s Law to chip in. What’s more they settled for my Australian passport as the sole identification paper. I hadn’t even needed a driving license or any other identity document.

So as I drove back up the freeway towards the international mail delivery service hoping they hadn’t closed early, my virgin international driving licence beside me, pristine and unopened to the adulterating air, I reflected on the finger of god that was turning into an invisible disappearing hand. If anything, all that mad running around on this morning had served no particular purpose. This seemed a judicious moment to review my newly waning faith.

In my mind’s eye I saw god, somewhat bemused, looking down at me. “Nietzsche is dead,” he announced in his reedy sound of silence, “and I’ve given you ample proof that I don’t exist.”

“Shloymale ben Yacov, I give you: randomness, contradictions, dualities and felt tensions. Try some compassion and leave me out of it.”

About the Author
Aged in oak and astringent, I was born and raised in Australia and made Aliya in 1984. Due to "divine intervention" I was gainfully employed as a lawyer within the security forces; accounting for more than 20 years of tectonic shift. Raised in the 60's of the anti-war moratoriums and maturing in post Rabin Israel I have developed an eye for detail and capacity for romantic dilettantism.
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