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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

"Ah, there's always a catch"

This is a companion piece to my post at The Muqata.

Elchonon mentioned how easy it was for him to change his status. This reminded me of a story that happened to me about ten years ago.

I had always heard of the saying “Catch-22”, but I had never actually been in a situation which involved a “Catch-22”. The phrase “Catch-22”, has been brought into the English language from a novel by Joseph Heller called “Catch-22”. In the book, the main character is a pilot in the American Air Force. According to the Air Force rule book, in order for a pilot to be discharged from the service and never have to fly again, he would have to be insane. If a pilot were to claim that he was insane, then he couldn’t be discharged because what crazy person would claim that he was crazy. Therefore, he couldn’t be discharged because he couldn’t be crazy if he claimed that he was.

Ten year ago, I discovered my own personal “Catch-22”. In the four years proceeding I had been in Israel on three types of visas. The first was a regular tourist visa which in Israel is known as “B-2”. The second was a working tourist visa known as “B-1”. And the third was an “A-2”, which is a student visa. I was issued the “A-2” visa when I volunteered to join the Israeli Army. At the same time, I was given a fake Israeli identification number to be used only for army purposes.

After I finished my year and a half army service, I found out that a newly released soldier gets free health insurance for one year. Obviously, I went to go sign up. I also knew that in order to get a “B-1” visa, I would have to prove that I was covered by health insurance. At the first health insurance agency that I went to, Meuchedet, they informed me that even though I was a newly released soldier, I still wasn’t a citizen, so I couldn’t have free insurance. They told me that the price for a tourist was 400NIS a month and six month’s must be paid in advance. I obviously wasn’t planning on spending that kind of money, so I left and decided to go to a private insurance agency that wasn’t part of the government.

On my way to the private insurance company, I decided to try a different Israeli health agency, Maccabi thinking that perhaps they wouldn’t care if I wasn’t a citizen as long as I was a newly released soldier. After explaining my situation to them, they informed me that they would check with their main branch. After waiting close to an hour, they told me that the response from their main branch was that I could get the free insurance, but I had to visit Bituach Leumi (the Israeli equivalent of an American Social Security agency) to get a fake Israeli identity number because the number I received from the army was only to be used for army purposes.

The following day I went to Bituach Leumi and was informed that since I was, at the time, in the country on a “B-2” visa, I couldn’t get the fake identity number. The only way for a tourist to get a fake identity number would be if he was in the country on an “A-2” visa. I told them that I had an “A-2” visa since that was what was stamped in my passport. They said that I could use the unexpired “A-2”, but while on an “A-2” one is forbidden to work. So now I was caught in the net of a “Catch-22”. In order to work I needed to be covered by health insurance, but in order to get a fake identity number I needed to be on an “A-2” visa with which it is forbidden to work.

In the end, the story did have a happy ending. I decided not to pursue the health insurance, but after three weeks I received a health insurance card in the mail that stated that I was now covered by Maccabi.

I, of course, am very grateful that in this country there are many times where the right and the left hands don’t really know what the other is doing and it is sometimes, possible to slip through the cracks of bureaucracy.


The possibility that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.
– Abraham Lincoln


At 8:31 PM, January 17, 2006, Blogger Litvshe said...

Beyond Rangoon.
Google is your friend.

At 6:16 PM, January 23, 2006, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

That is a hell of a story.

At 7:51 PM, January 25, 2006, Blogger Jerusalemcop said...

I hope the beaurocracy here has gotten better in the 10 yrs since this happened.


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