Though I was born and raised in the United States, I’m a dual American/Israeli citizen. I stopped by the Israeli consulate this morning to renew my passport for the fourth time in less than ten years. That’s because the last two times, they inexplicably extended my current passport for a year instead of actually renewing it. This consisted of pasting an extremely forged-looking document onto the second to last page, so that at first glance it still looked to foreign border agents as though my passport was expired, and I had to point the extension out to them while praying they wouldn’t accuse me of fraud and/or send me back to where I came from.
So this time I made sure to ask whether I could get a brand new ten-year passport as per the terms I had read online. I was told that while I was finally eligible for a new passbook, it would only be valid for three years. This seemed completely arbitrary to me, but I learned it’s because the last time I visited Israel was seven years ago, and my passport cannot extend ten years beyond that date.
Now, I don’t know whether this is customary practice in other countries. It may well be de rigueur around the world. But it struck me as a quintessentially Jewish thing to do: punishing me for not doting enough on my mother (country).
It is almost as if Israel is telling me, “You don’t call, you don’t write.* Oh, but you want something from me? First come for a visit, then we’ll talk.”
The day I return to Israel I become eligible for a ten-year passport. Until then, I’m in the doghouse. As annoying as this is in a practical sense, I can’t help but enjoy the appropriateness of this policy for a people who have perfected the guilt trip.
[Photo: Baigal Byamba]