Beth G. Kopin
Inches to Metric: Zionism Through Design

Inches to metric: To be or not to be (an Israeli American), that is the question? #3

This is part three of my series on becoming an Israeli citizen. To read prior posts click “My Blog” link on the top header, then scroll down…

The quirkiest/most annoying request…

Gathering required documents to become an Israeli citizen is daunting. Some are challenging others annoying…Most irksome request? A list of dates entering and leaving Israel from the previous seven years. We typically go four times a year. We use a travel agent for long haul flights. She has a back door number to airline agents when issues arise. Our agent/friend has gotten us out of more trouble than you can imagine. Why am I bringing this up? With the push of a button our entire ticket history was produced. Seemed silly, Israel has all the data recorded!…For inquiries about our “angel agent”, ask for Orit Keren,

Ironic/awkward request

I’ve spoken with many people who have gotten second passports. US and Canadian citizens are getting Israeli and or European passports, some Israelis are getting European passports. When you apply for a European passport you are required to show documentation proving your ancestry (from whichever country you are applying). The applicant is invoking the “right of return,” an international law guaranteeing the right to return to their country of origin. I’m not an expert…Each country has their own requirements.

Israel follows the “right of return principle,” uniquely. Our roots go back to biblical days. By allowing any Jewish person to become Israeli by stating shared ancestry is remarkable. In doing so Israel is making a powerful statement to the world and world Jewry. Israel requires proof of Judaism. A letter written from a reputable rabbi declaring the applicant to be Jewish, is good enough in most instances.

The proof of Judaism requirement took my breath away. It’s an ironic/funny feeling if someone asks “Are you Jewish?” It is usually associated as antisemitic sentiment. We (Jews) were forced to wear a yellow Star of David during the Holocaust years, it’s hard to shake that eerie feeling. It’s wired into our DNA. On a positive note…I came across a picture of Billy Joel in concert, proudly wearing the distinctive yellow star. He flipped the meaning, declaring himself to be an incredibly proud Jew. Huge shout out to Billy Joel!

Billy Joel wears a jacket with the Star of david during the encore of his 43rd sold out show at Madison Square Garden. Getty Images

The scariest part

One of the scariest/intimidating parts of the process was needing/getting an interview from the Jewish Agency. I requested an appointment. We did not hear back, we got nervous. Thankfully we have friends who know people…We asked a friend in Israel to send an email to a friend in the states who knows the Jewish Agency folk in Chicago. Within hours we had an interview date. I was in Jerusalem, my husband Chicago (we were coached before our interview, highly recommended). We met on Zoom. Afterwards my husband confessed he was terrified. Anyone who knows him will laugh, he can handle a great deal. When you really want something you are vulnerable, scared. The interviewer was just doing her job.

The final piece…

The Jewish Agency needs to process all the original (hard to come by) documents including US passport, by scanning everything into their system, before issuing the coveted Aliyah visa. Send them to your local Jewish Agency, (ours Chicago Loop.) Prior to this we scanned everything into the NBN (Nefeh B’Nefesh) system.
I checked the NBN site. All the Jewish agency addresses are listed. I was excited to see the main Jerusalem office is literally up the block from our apartment. I called and asked if I could hand deliver the documents to be scanned. They said yes but could not give a date, when I next arrived in Israel I should call and see if they are available. I was relieved. The thought of  sending all the documents through the mail was scary. We were in Israel before final submission for the Aliyah visa. I brought all the documents with us on the plane, packed them in my cabin suitcase. They never left my side.
I called to see if I could come by, they said yes. I walked up the block to the campus. A kind soul let me through the gate. This campus was filled with office buildings. Finding the correct building and office, hysterical, no one seemed to know where it was. Finally I rang the bell. I saw people inside, no one answered. I went full Israeli and walked to a bank of windows, jumping up and down. Someone opened the door. I got the documents scanned into their system.

The Aliyah visa

We dodged sending the passports first round, second time couldn’t be avoided. The Aliyah visa needs to be glued into the US passport. We returned to Chicago. I sent our passports registered mail to the Chicago Jewish Agency. It’s a very vulnerable feeling when you do not have your passport. We travel often and felt confined for the few weeks until they were returned. With bated breath we waited to get the coveted Aliyah visa (only valid for six months) before booking our Aliyah flight. While waiting we realized we needed to refresh our background check (valid for six months). We needed to request a new Apostille from DC, it took longer than we hoped and our time to go to Israel arrived. Timing is crucial. We went anyway, shennanigans…

Cultural winds have shifted

We had it really good in North America, until Oct 7. The two most stable/open societies in the world, the US and Israel, are now a bit chaotic and some people are feeling unhinged. We live in a safe bubble, not the case for all Jews in North America today. It was thrilling when I would hear heroic stories of Jews in deep distress from the other side of the globe being secretly airlifted to Israel. Some Jews in North America are considering leaving or becoming dual citizens from fear, unfathomable…No matter the reason, I love seeing people make Aliyah, become Israeli. Bottom line, thank G-D for Israel. We need a safe haven. We are a people of The Book. We are now written into this amazing chapter, the story of the Eternal Jewish People and Israel…

To be continued…Keep your eye on the prize!

View of the Old City from our neighborhood park Haas Promenade (Tayelet) Photo credit Beth Kopin
About the Author
Beth Kopin is a trained interior architectural designer from the US. She has experience in the design/construction world that spans thirty years, and works and lives in both Chicago and Arnona, Jerusalem. She commutes regularly between the two cities. She brings her work ethic, training and US standards to Israel. Beth has surrounded herself with extremely talented trades. Her design team developed a way to CAD (computer aided design) plans in both US and metric standards. This enables both the US born clients (some of which live in Israel, some as second homes), and Israeli trades to better understand the plans, ensuring a more fluid communication. She is able to help bridge the gap of cultural differences, manage expectations, relate often confusing metric standards, as well as all the basic elements of designing a beautiful and functional home.,
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