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? #5

Memorial wreaths placed at a site in our neighborhood, representing different branches of Israeli security.
Memorial wreath representing different branches of Israeli security.

Part five of my series on becoming an Israeli American. To read more of the series see header above, click My Blog.

Next steps

Having our TZ Teudat Zehut, (identity number) was crucial. Now “the list”… We bought a phone to start using our six month free Sim card (very important). All administrative items require a code sent to your phone to confirm transactions and appointments.

Case holding all our new Israeli cards. Photo courtesy Beth Kopin


We had our mortgage with Bank of Jerusalem. After becoming citizens we needed full retail banking, they informed us they don’t offer it, too much trouble!…We had to find a new bank.

Every bank has issues/quirks but many of our friends used Bank Hapoalim. We tried  making an appointment (during our stay) with our local branch, all were full. We found an opening across town. While driving over it started to rain. As we walked in the computers went down and we were told to come back. While discussing our options, the rain stopped and the computers came back up! We are now customers. Note, all transactions occur through the branch where you register. Luckily most things are done online.

Health Insurance Plan

We questioned the need to sign up for the Israeli health plan. We are still working, have great health coverage in the US and are Medicare qualified, uh… A friend who became a dual citizen (years ago) turned it down and is now unable to register for a health plan. You have a window of time to set up critical services.

We made an appointment at the local Maccabi health clinic. While driving over it began to rain (again), the computer went down as we walked in. Could it be in this “high tech nation” computers go down when it rains? We drove across town to another clinic, the rain stopped. We signed up for Maccabi Plus.

Drivers License

Once you become a citizen you are required to get an Israeli license within your first year. Eligibility had been passing a written rules of the road test in Hebrew, and a harrowing driving test. Driving was almost the deal breaker to becoming Israeli. Then Israel lightened the requirement to an eye test and proof of good driving record from the US. No more hurdles (not so fast)!

Where does one get an eye exam? We located an authorized eyeglass shop which offers “the eye exam” in a mall in industrial Talpiyot, Jerusalem. Finding the store was tricky, it was nestled in the lowest level of the mall tucked into a corner. The test was quick. We were given a printed and an online certificate.

Getting a drivers license appointment at the equivalent of the DMV, was surprisingly easy. Finding the building, parking, correct office, waiting in line… that was the challenge. We were sent to four different desks, each clerk saying they did not deal with new Olim (Israeli citizens). After much whispering we were sent to the correct clerk.

Both of our US licenses were recently expired. We were told to bring them with our renewed ones as proof of good driving record. US licenses are valid for four years.  Israel needs to see five years of good driving records, who knew?  We had a bit of grace, it was five years from date to date, mine expired in December and was renewed in January so it counted as the following year. Best to bring your printed five year record from the US DMV when applying for an Israeli license.

We were given temporary licenses. The DMV office told us the official licenses would be delivered. I waited (at the appointed time), but the messenger never came. On line, it said we were not home. Huh? The site gave an address where the cards would be held. We found a tiny dusty hole in the wall which sold Lotto tickets. We asked the owner about our cards, gave our identity numbers and presto our drivers license cards appeared. We were stunned. That is all for now…

Our recent visit

Passover is the holiday celebrating freedom and redemption. The holidays immediately following Passover are Yom Ha Zikaron and Yom Ha Atzmaut, a two day sequence (Memorial day/Independence day). Clustering the holidays then linking the two days is brilliant, remembering those lost in order to properly appreciate the sacrifices it takes to live freely.

We make an effort to be in Israel for Memorial Day/Independence Day, it’s a visceral reminder of why we love and continue to advocate for Israel as we do. This year was different. The war is raging on our borders. We are literally fighting for our survival. There is not a soul in Israel that is not affected by the ongoing battle for freedom and safety. Each time someone goes off to serve… we wonder will they return, and when? All dread the morning report of who died in battle, the status of the hostages…A friend summed up life now, they are exhausted and feel like they are living “Russian Roulette”.

Watch an extraordinary video… (click on the link)                                                        Five for Fighting, “We Are Not Ok”.                                               

Memorials were intense, celebrations subdued. We heard stories, hugged and cried. We thanked countless souls newly released from active duty, with unspeakable gratitude. We carry a deep knowing. Without them there is no Israel.

A neighborhood ceremony for Yom Ha Zikaron, the background shows hanging cards representing those lost in battle from our neighborhood, while active reservists newly released united in song.
Photo courtesy Beth Kopin

We are Israeli!

We became Israeli to help support Israel. Be part of the story. Stand with our Israeli brothers and sisters. Become stronger advocates/ambassadors. What is remarkable? There is a resilience and acceptance of duty in Israel unlike anything I’ve ever experienced/witnessed. Ironically it is Israel which gives us the confidence to move onward with eternal hope. No matter what is going on with the rest of the world there is no place safer or more comforting than being in Israel…Each step, setting up life solidifies our connection to our ancestral home. For more information see Nefesh B’ Nefesh,  The series continues…Am Yisroel Chai!

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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