As I sit in the Misrad Hapnim (Ministry of Interior) waiting room I cannot help but look around at the crowd, listen to the low roar and think, wow, this is really the melting pot of Israel.
Young and old, Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, a mix of national origins and yet all of us are Israeli. I fix my gaze at this young family in booth 18. A curly-haired mom sits there with her ducklings gathered near her feet. The dad stands behind her, as if to ensure the children don’t run away. They talk to the kippah-clad clerk, laying out all the necessary paperwork needed to obtain passports for each family member.
“Are they going on a summer trip? It’s already mid-August!” I think to myself. Seems a bit late to take care of such an errand. “Maybe they’ve had enough and are planning their escape to better pastures.” Anything is possible.
I look to booth 20 and I see an elderly man sitting down while a younger women speaks to the clerk in front of him. I can tell she’s translating from Hebrew to Arabic. I assume she’s his granddaughter. “Do they feel out of place here? Are they comfortable in a room that has a majority of Jews in it?” I wonder to myself, but am happy they’ve come to claim their rights as citizens.
An French couple sits in the seats in front of me, engaging in a video call on speaker. It seems like a pretty jovial conversation, possibly a celebration of a birthday. In a room filled with chatter and business matters, they sing to their friends and laugh. I watch from behind, wondering if I’m amused or overwhelmed by this extra noise pollution. They finish the call quickly and I put my headphones on.
I stare down at my phone, trying to lessen my sense of overwhelm, when suddenly piece of paper floats by my feet. I look up and see one of the ducklings from before, sitting on the ground in front me, coloring in a notebook with her pastels. Her wild curly hair is a stark contrast to her suddenly calm demeanor. I realize I am more impressed with her mom who had the forethought to bring three notebooks and different coloring utensils to a chaotic place like this. A mother always knows her kids best.
Staring at the TV monitors above me, I note for the hundredth time that my ticket with the number A196 is worlds away from the current A161 customer. I sigh and look over at my husband, who is deep into his YouTube videos, and notice that everyone around me is looking down at their phones.
“I should have brought a snack,” I think. “At least there’s air conditioning.” I distract myself with the people at the booths in front me and wonder to myself what brought them here and where they plan to go. I hope it’s peaceful there.