US Government Turns Its Back on Citizens in Israel. Young Couples Troubled

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is am flag mix.jpgBy Aharon Yosef Rubin: The US State Department has made it nearly impossible for young families with newborn babies to leave Israel.

Until now, the procedure for citizens in Israel to receive a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (the equivalent of a birth certificate) and passport entailed going to the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem or the Embassy in Tel Aviv, waiting on line for several hours, paying $65.00 (in addition to the $82 for a first-time passport), and waiting 2-4 weeks for the CRBA and passport to arrive. However, on August 6, 2007, the State Department switched the procedure. Now, in order to apply for a CRBA and passport, one must make an appointment on the State Department website.

There are several issues with this change. The first is that Kn”h, there are many Americans having babies here in Israel, and soon after this system was implemented, all of the available appointments were booked. Secondly, the website states that two appointments per child are needed, one for a CRBA and one for a passport, when in fact, only one appointment is necessary. This caused the system to be completely booked faster than necessary. A third problem was created as a result of the first two problems: Many couples plan to travel to the United States for Pesach, but are expecting a baby before then. Because they do not know
exactly when the baby will be born, they make several appointments on different dates, hoping to apply for a passport at the earliest possible date.

Boruch Hashem, some yungerlite in Yerushalayim created a G’ma”ch to assist people with these problems. This G’ma”ch, known as “The Consulate Appointment G’ma”ch”, advertised locally informing people that only one appointment was needed, and requesting those with extra appointments to please donate them to people in need. The response was overwhelming. Emails started piling in by the dozens, with people donating extra appointments, people desperate for appointments, and people that just needed information about the whole procedure. The G’ma”ch worked with these people, canceling the extra appointments online, and immediately
re-booking them on behalf of those in need.

Agudath Israel of America also got involved, putting direct pressure on the State Department to ease the hardship of these young families. After a lot of heavy pressure from the Agudah, the Jerusalem Consulate opened up appointments between the months of June 2008 and January 2009 (until now, it was only possible to make appointments two to four months in advance). This did not help the pressing matter of lack of pre-Pesach appointments, but the G’ma”ch advertised that anyone expecting a child should make an appointment immediately for when the baby is due, to avoid future problems. After further pressure from the Agudah, several appointments in February, March, and April opened up, but were all reserved within a few days.

Then, this week, the latest blow was delivered by the State Department. As of this past Monday, any appointment cancelled on the website is not opened up again on the website, making it impossible to transfer an appointment from one person to another. This brought the G’ma”ch’s work to a grinding halt.

Today, the G’ma”ch met with several members of the Agudah who are here in Yerushalayim for the annual Yarchei Kallah. The Agudah hopes to meet with Richard H. Jones, the US ambassador to Israel within the next day to further push this issue. The Agudah is also urging all Jewish US Citizens to contact their Senators and Congressmen and urge them to work on this issue (to find out the number of your local Congressman, call (202) 224-3121; for your senators call (202) 224-3121). These calls are taken seriously, and can strongly influence this situation.

In addition to calling Senators and Congressmen, US Citizens in Israel are requested to “bombard” the embassy and consulate with phone calls and emails requesting that this situation be rectified (Embassy email: amctelaviv@state.gov, phone: 03-519-7551; Consulate email: jerusalemACS@state.gov, phone: 02-628-7137, 02-622-7219, and 02-622-7250).

Furthermore, anyone in need of advice or assistance regarding the consulate or embassy is welcome to email the G’ma”ch at consulate@spetnik.com


33 COMMENTS

  1. Its a huge problem for Americans here in Israel. The reason behind it is that the consulate in Jerusalem is really here to service the Arabs not the Jews. It is essentially the US embassy to Palestine. Anyone who has been there can attest to this, from the gross conditions, to the equally gross ‘cousins’ who work there.

    The best option always was to travel to the US embassy in Tel Aviv, which is a very decent place.

    However, they have recently cracked down, telling you that you cant do it there if you live in Jerusalem. The best option is to do it there, and not let them know that you are a Jerusalem resident.

  2. Agudah and Arza are correct. Pressure on Members of Congress and the State Department is the only way to solve this problem. Perhaps Agudah can urge the Ambassador to instruct the Consular Service officers to overlook the technicalities of Consular jurisdiction (or change the juridictional boundries) and permit Jersalemites to process in Tel Aviv for passport issuance and all consular services.

  3. Thank you YW for this important post. Thank you Agudah for all the work you are doing here. Americans in any other country are treated by Americans ‘the American way’. Not here, though.

  4. Simple solution, get an Israeli passport.

    You are living there,

    Your kids are born there,

    You ride government subsidized buses,

    You are protected by their army, police and emergency services,

    And you better believe that if (G-d Forbid) Jews become persecuted in any other region of the world all of the sudden everyone is going to become big Israel fans.

    You can get you CRBA and passport later and travel on an Israeli passport.

    Leshana Habah Beyerushalaim Ha’benuya (As tourists?)

  5. The new system has undoubtedly caused problems but this story does not tell the whole truth.

    I understand from several US citizens / avreichim in Yerushalayim that appointments are available for sale. Some enetrprising fellow, a heimishe unfortunately, quickly worked out that there is an opportunity to make money here, and started doing just that. The price is NIS 200 / $50. Enough to make some money, after all one appointment a day provides a tax free income of $1000 a month, but not too much to drive the customers away. It is easy to scream at the US authorities but sometimes we are our worst enemies! BTW the Consulate in Jerusalem know what is going on. They are in no hurry to clean out our stable though.

  6. you are totally wrong. it is clearly stated on the website that you need only one appointment. If you don’t know how to read, don’t blame the government!

    Bombarding the embassy seems very Jewish, right? It’s posts like this that make us look bad.

  7. As with everything else in this world everyone reacts differently to every situation. It is wonderful that this article talks about the wonderful gmach and the chesed that people do, but there are others that took advantage of this situation. There is a bachur who booked himself tons and tons of appointments and for a fee of about $80 he will transfer the appointment to someone who needs it!! The agudah should contact this bachur and force him to hand over all his appointments to the gmach!!!

  8. Excellent point, 4., but then you’d never be able to get a US visa in time. I wonder if this isn’t happening in the Canada, Mexico, or the UAE, although I bet there aren’t quite as many births there.

  9. As cynical as I can be at times, I never saw that coming,

    Typical! Some genius hocker is booking up the roster and selling the spots. I love it.

    Always ready to cry persecution and always playing the victim, it’s stories like this that blur the line between news source and blog at yeshivaworld.

    If Yeshivaworld considers itself a news outlet of any fashion then its time to take action and pull this inaccurate and provocative story, along with all the contact information for the impending chilul hashem, and post a correction.

  10. aziaziamps – your “lishana habaa biyrushalayim habinuya (as tourists?)” line is offensive.

    A) While there are many shitos out there, pashut pshat is, by definition, that when Yerushalayim is rebuilt (binuya), we will all be living there under Moshiach Tzidkeinu, and not as tourists.

    B) To make a mockery of a universal yearning for the zman haGiulah just because of various attitudes towards Zionism and its State, seems very low, and almost paradoxical, to me.

    The previous few comments, about people making money off this, are quite disturbing.

    I don’t know the whole story so I can’t judge anyone, but it sounds like people taking advantage of fellow Jews in need.

    IF slots were readily available, it’s one thing to be a “facilitated enroller” for people who can’t book online or for whatever other reason, and charge a minimal fee ($10-$20); it’s quite another to book tens or hundreds of slots solely to make money. But since there are no slots left, what right do these people have to hold on to the slots and create problems for people? The slots, presumably, are intended to be booked by individuals for their own use, not to be resold.

    That’s probably why the embassy decided not to re-release the slots once they’re cancelled: because they caught on to this seeming chilul Hashem, so now people can’t resell them, and the gmach is a casualty of people’s seeming insensitivity.

  11. I was there this week. First of all the security detail switched, most of them are not our “cousins”, they were real nice with very good “american” service, we were actually shocked at how pleasant it was and I wrote the consulate thanking them for the change. there are though some ppl that help make the problem worse. I can undrstand why someone expecting a baby will book 2 appointments, but not why they cannot be bothered to cancel the one they are not using. What about the couple who booked themselves 8 appointments and did not bother writing downt the booking number or dates so there went 8 appointments. I think people that are not thinking about others make the problem worse.

  12. Not to give the US Department of State any more credit than it deserves, but it seems that some accomodation has been made, in the form of requiring only one visit to obtain both the consular birth record and the passport. I live in Canada and was required to make two seperate visits. The embassy here does not accept appointments, though. You just show up and wait.

  13. to aziazamps:

    My children can’t get Israeli passports because they are not Israeli citizens. Both my wife and I are only American citizens and our children are only Americans.

    It doesn’t solve the problem–and besides–why would I want to make my children citizens of “Israel”??

  14. Please let everyone know this persons name that is selling appointments. I would like the world to know what type of a person he is. Let his future shadchanim know about his character.
    Please also let us know so we can informt the consulate and embassy so they revoke all of his appointments. Please do not spout the usual Lashon Hara so I cant tell you non sense, this person is evil and must be dealt with.

  15. This in not OUR problem even if the bochur is one of US. At most US consulates the appointment system is managed by an outside contractor who (perhaps with the consulate’s cooperation) is in a position to control an appointment resale market. They can and should create safeguards against this type of activity.

    An infant traveling on an Israeli passport still needs a visa which I would assume also requires an appointment. What is likely bothering aziaziamps is that American parents are opting out of Israeli citizenship for their children born there.

    By the way, technically a US citizen requires a US passport to enter the US, although I doubt anyone will bother an infant about that.

  16. “bombard” the embassy and consulate

    Now thats what I call carefully chosen words. In a public forum, you’re asking the veld to be aggressive & abusing. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are laws against posting such statements. For your own sake change your loshon.

  17. Unfortunately the concept of coercion “The agudah should contact this bachur and force him to hand over all his appointments to the gmach!!!” is one that we hear too much of in the Haredi world. Force people to only have kosher phones, stop them having access to the Internet, etc. etc. The list is endless. What is needed is more solid chinuch. What this bochur is doing is to cause harm to his fellow Yidden. Until and unless people like him internalize that is a no-no, everyone else can talk about force and control as much as they like, it will not help. Until blocks of appointments were snapped up by one of anash, the system was working very well. Don’t blame the US Government because we have beheimas in our midst.

  18. I don’t know where this yeshiva bochur story came from – my friend was given the number of a married lady to call and buy an appointment from – and I’m not 100% sure that she was American.
    Either way, selling appointments is completely illegal, which is why the gemach started so that desperate people would have someone else to turn to and not give these appointment-sellers any business.

    There is no reason to make the thousands of Americans in Israel suffer because one person was selling appointments. I know people who want to go to America for simchos – weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc. but they are being punished by the American government and not allowed into the US with their children – although they did nothing wrong. What about the people who r”l have to go to America for emergency medical treatment for their newborns and who will now be unable to get a passport to go?

    The Yeshiva World has definitely brought up a valid problem and anyone who cares about their fellow brethren should do whatever they can to try to change the situation.

  19. Seems the way this bochur works is that he makes tons of appointments and when you pay him he will give you the appointment information, which you then cancel – that slot will immediately become vacant and you can then quickly grab it and book it in your name. he says to do it in middle of the night when the chances of someone else taking it are very slim. since the system now does not allow immediate rebooking this bochur has lost his “parnasah” at the expensse of the gmach also!

  20. I didn’t know about a bachur, but I personally spoke to a couple in the 03 area that were selling appointments. It made me sick as soon as I figured out what was going on, booking ahead and then selling what no one could get anymore. I don’t think the rest of us are responsible for the poor judgement of someone else, even if he’s one of “ours”. Now that the embassy apparently caught him (how long did he think it would take???), I think “we” should concentrate on getting them to circumvent the flipping appointments but I don’t see where the embassy deserves such heavy-handed blame. BTW, to renew a passport you can get an appointment within a week. It’s only the new ones that have this problem… someone really knew how to feed on ppl’s desperation for cash.

    PS. If there are medical reasons to fly, you can always call the embassy and request a rush appointment… I believe they will accomodate as long as you have the reservations and probably something from the dr to prove it.

    Either way, if you write to the embassy, concentrate on polite suggestions rather than harrassment… they tried to make everyone’s life easier I believe by doing appointments, and though it would’ve been prudent to foresee and preempt the appt-selling, I don’t think it’s worth our while to dart them over that lapse.

    Whoever said the embassy site clearly says one appt only – I believe that’s new. When I looked a while ago I remember seeing that you needed two.

    And yes, anyone that is double-booking, please be considerate and keep it to two instead of 8… keep the rest of us in mind!

  21. # 4
    As an American living in eretz yisroel with dual citizenship, i’d like to clarify the issue. As mentioned, if you are an American citizen you can’t enter the US without an American passport. You’d also need a visa to enter the US with an Israeli passport. For a visa you also need the embassy.
    the problem needs to be fixed. there is no other way.

  22. Hey 14

    You are 100 percent correct.
    Why make you children citizens of “Israel”? Keeping them out of the army will be more difficult.Besides you get health care at a minimal charge, you get the infrastructure for water and electricity in your home and roads to travel on all built by the “kofrim”. Why contribute when you can suck things out of the country. My children were the fools when they lay in the mud and rain keeping you alive, or when they were in sherut leumi helping the old and the special needs children. How fortunate we have six days between shabbatot so you can spend three days winding down from the previous one and spending the next three getting ready for the next one, while fools like myself put in 10 hours of labor daily that we pay taxes on to keep you going.

  23. HaKatan- you clearly missed the point of my comment, dash on a sprinkle of sarcasm and consider the topic and perhaps you will see that a Halachik study of the days of Moshiach is not necessary. If it’s so important to be home for Pesach have the baby in Brooklyn.

    yobwej- if your child is born in Israel then that child is an Israeli citizen, unless, you go out of your way to make sure they are not, and thanks for displaying the attitude I was referring to with your “and besides–why would I want to make my children citizens of “Israel”??”

    IsraeliYid- logic would suggest that a child born in ISRAEL that has not yet received a CRBA and a US passport is not a US citizen. So why, and I am really asking you a question because you may know something I don’t, would they be denied entry to the US as an infant born abroad traveling with their parent? Oh and by the way, Armchair Zionsit, uhhh WRONG Israeli/America Dual Citizen.

    mutche- Is it a fact that an Israeli born child to Americans MUST have American paperwork? I would think not.

    cowdoc- good comment, thank heavens, I was starting to think all was lost.

    THE POINT here is this attitude of take, take, take, that is even more nauseating when combined with the overly dramatic flip out when you don’t get your way. Nebach, the poor young couple persecuted by the US government because they can’t get a passport in 24 hours while 6,000 miles away from the USA. It’s a passport, not a slice of pizza. Harassing the embassy to get your way is just another lousy response from this growing subculture of brats. (The same subculture that creates people who book appointments to sell them)

    And yes, I do think there is far too much using of the State of Israel going on. If you are so apposed to it and the concept of becoming a citizen then wait in galus for moshiach, cuz your cloggin up the lines at Massov Schwarma.

    Shalom

  24. aziaziamps you are completely wrong in your response. A baby cannot enter a plane without a PASSPORT. Get it?? It can be American or Israeli or whateve country wants to issue it, but it’s gotta be from SOMEWHERE. If it is Israeli issued, he needs special paperwork to enter the US as a non citizen and this is a lengthy procedure (it’s called a visa). If the passport is a US issued one, he can enter freely with his parents as a US citizen.

  25. We had to call a congressmans office a few months ago to be allowed to combine the appointments. So it is new that you can do it at one time.Many countries are having the same problem.
    aziaziamps- you are right that the children do not have to be US citizens, however the backlog for visas is worse than for passports. Also just how do you propose my granddaughter,an infant, with an Israeli citizen with a visa get through the foreign passport line by herself. Her mom would have to go on the US citizen line.

  26. midwest observer wrote “By the way, technically a US citizen requires a US passport to enter the US, although I doubt anyone will bother an infant about that. ”

    Midwest guy, you are completely wrong. You’ve obviously never flown overseas. “technically???” try telling that to the passport control guy. Any breathing human needs a passport to enter the US. Homeland security fellows made us hold up each kid to be compared to his passport picture. “Technically???” And if the passport is not American he needs a visa, which can take months, plus interviews at the embassy, in advance of the trip.

  27. aziazamps – your information is out of date. I spoke to the Israeli interior ministry and they told me that as of recently, Israeli ciizenship is only given to a child born to foreign parents if they specifically request it.
    Also, it IS completely illegal for an american citizen to travel into the US on any other passport – the same rule applies in israel for israelis.

  28. #26,
    to enter the US you need either:
    for citizens: US paperwork that you are a citizen
    for non citizens: an entry visa
    either way you have to go through the consulate.

  29. To Cowdoc:

    why am I a parasite. I am simply a 35 year old US citizen who was blessed with an opportunity to come with my wife here for 2 years and learn (for our shana rishona). All our money that we live on was saved from before we were married. I also learn in a kollel with no stipend.

    So the bottom line is–I am far from a parasite here–I am spending lots of $$$ supporting the economy, yes I have Health Insurance from the Israeli govt but it’s 100% legit and a benefit of being a “student” here. I AM AN AMERICAN–not an Israeli–I have no desire for my children to serve in this army or to be hassled should they ever come back here to learn, visit etc…when they are older. BTW–I spent 4 years in the US Army defending the country of my citizenship so you could spend your Pesach’s in Miami and build your 6 bedroom expansion on your house!