Welcome, Tourist, to Israeli Frustrations

This is the sad story of how my cousin, my wife and I tried, and failed, to change the ownership of a used car.  As with all good stories, it stared with the best of intentions.  My wife and I intend to make Aliyah from Ottawa, Canada, to Modi’in in a few months.  We’ve got the apartment, the fridge, the stove, the washing machine and the pots, the pans and the cutlery.  We’re in Modi’in for a couple of months on a pre-Aliyah trip.

We found out that our cousin in Holon was trading in her three-year-old, low mileage, car for a new one.  Great, we’ll buy the car so that when we arrive we’ll have a car ready and waiting for us.  That’s when the trouble started.  We don’t have enough money with us so we’ll have to get it from Ottawa.  We arranged for the transfer through a transfer services agency and then spoke to our bank in Ottawa.  “Please”, we said, “we’d like some of our money to pay for what will be our car”.  “No way” said our Ottawa bank advisor (whose job description says he is to help us).  “How come?” we said.  “Well, you have to be here in person to be able to make a money transfer” said the bank advisor.  “But you know us” we said.  “That is of no importance” said the bank advisor “you must be here in person”.  No way out of that roadblock.  “Bye, bye car” we said to our cousin.

In talking about this to our eldest son he said “I have the money, I’ll loan it to you”.  “Hello car again” we said to our cousin.  Wonderful, the money was duly transferred in a most efficient manner.

Off now to the Modi’in Post Office to make arrangements for the ownership transfer.  We talked with a couple of lovely people who unfortunately said “Sorry, because you’re tourists we can’t do the transfer”.  “Who can do the transfer?” we said.  “The Transportation Ministry” the Post Office people said.

In talking with our cousin she said the Transportation Ministry head office in Holon would be the best place to do the transfer.  So early one Sunday morning we drove to head office, got our number, met our cousin and waited for a good two and a half hours.  We saw the whole gamut of Holon society walk past us as we were sitting waiting.  Most interesting; how on earth did such genetic diversity enter in to the tribe?  We left that question unanswered.

All of a sudden our number was up (in a manner of speaking).  Off the three of us went to see the clerk behind the glass barrier.  “We’re here from Ottawa, Canada, and we’ve bought my cousin’s car and would like to change the ownership” we said, full of enthusiasm.  “I need to see a twelve-digit number on the visa stamp in your passport before I can do the transfer” said the clerk.  “We don’t get stamps on our passports anymore, that little slip of paper with a nine-digit number is our entry visa” we said.  “Sorry” said the clerk “I need to have a 12-digit number on the visa stamp in your passport”.  “Please call a supervisor” we said.  The supervisor came, looked at the three of us very seriously, looked at out passports, our visa slips of paper and our cousin’s Teudat Zeut and said “I need to have a 12-digit number on the visa stamp in your passport before I can do the transfer”.  We’ve heard that line somewhere before.  Realizing we were not getting anywhere we left the office.

OK, so now we have to get an old fashioned physical visa stamp in the innovation nation.  Where to go?  Our youngest son said the Ramle office of the Population and Immigration Ministry was the place to go.

Monday, we had an ad hoc advisory committee meeting over lunch.  Initially my wife was going to have a supermarket shopping lesson with two Israeli friends.  However, after the shopping lesson discussion over lunch centered on our car problem.  The conclusion: try to get the visa and also a second Transport Ministry opinion.

Tuesday morning we went to Ramle.  We waited patiently in line, talked with the information desk and were told that the visa section was only open early in the morning.  We were too late for today, come back early on Thursday morning, the office is not open on Wednesday.  Well, now it’s beginning to sound like Harry Belafonte with a hole in his bucket.

Wednesday, we went to Ramle (again) to the Transportation Ministry to see if the ownership transfer could be done there.  No luck, Holon is the only place where this can be done.  We went back to Holon to for the suggested second opinion.  We waited the regulation two and a half hours, watched society walk by and got our second opinion.  Unfortunately, second opinion was the same as first opinion.  At least the Transportation Ministry is consistent.  We did ask for a written explanation of what was required.  The answer from the clerk was “I am not going to tell the Visa department how to do their job.”

Thursday morning we were back in Ramle bright and early, second in line.  We talked with the visa clerk who was very helpful and very confused.  “Why would anybody need a physical visa stamp?” she said.  We didn’t know; she didn’t know.  Bottom line: there is no visa stamp.  The entry slip is our visa.  No car ownership change.

At this point we admitted defeat.  The bureaucracy had won despite our best efforts.  In the end, our youngest son took ownership of the car.  We’ll get the ownership back after we’ve made Aliyah, got our Teudah Zeut and visited our friendly Modi’in Post Office.

Memo to Transportation Ministry: please update your car ownership transfer procedures for tourists like us.  Todah rabah.

About the Author
Roger Keen is a retired Canadian civil servant currently living in Ottawa, Ontario. He and his wife will be making Aliyah early in 2018. They will be living in Modi’in close to their family.
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