Monday, August 23, 2010

Beurocratic Snafus or Discrimination???

I have to say that thanks in large part to the help of Nefesh B'Nefesh, the paper work/beurocratic component of our current adventure has been surprisingly smooth.

There were some minor exceptions to this rule. We needed to pull together all the documents relating to conversions, adoptions, religious weddings, domestic partnership (in NY and NJ), civil union, and finally - our Connecticut wedding (done last month - on the third or fourth day of our most recent trip to New Jersey). We also needed apostiles (internationally recognized governemnt certifications that documents are legitimate) for each of these documents and so we (mostly Ian) were running around until the day before we left gathering documents and apositiles (including requiring a judge to issue a court order to open Eli's adoption records so that the original court order ordering his adoption could be checked!)

The payoff - in theory - is that we get recognized as a married couple by the Israeli governement and of course - both get listed as our kids parents, and get all the necessary legal documents on this side. This is a big payoff so it was worth jumping through all the hoops. We are still wating to confirm that this will actually happen. We received some documents at the airport - including a Teudat Oleh (immigration certificate that allows us to receive all the immigration rights granted to new Olim/ new immigrants)... now - if I understand correctly - this is normally given as one booklet (it looks like a passport) per family, but since the Israeli computer system does not know what to do with same-sex couples - it could not be issued - so we received one booklet for Daniel and the 3 kids, (listing me as married) but Ian received a separate official looking document in lieu of a teudat Oleh - also listing him as married, but not necessarily linked up to ours. OK - we could probably live with this as we were assured that it would be adjusted once we get our permanent ID cards (from the interior ministry) and go to the absorption ministry to begin processing the rest of out immigration benefits. ...

Then we try to carefully follow the steps recommended by Nefesh B'Nefesh - so the next hurdle is medical insurance. (Yay Israel for having National medical insurance at reasonable rates and free for us for the first year as new immigrants... though we will pay for an upgrade to "gold status" but compared to US rates the cost is laughable!). OK - it is a beurocracy heavy country so we need to take the insurance vouchers we received at the airport and then go to the post office to choose which insurance company we want it processed through (we are choosing Macabbi for now, perhaps another blog post will discuss insurance options)... Then we need to take the form from the post office to the offices of the insurance company to officially sign up...

This brings us to our first real problem.... The kids' and my insurance is processed fine, but the temporary immigration document issued to Ian (because the computer system did not know how to process gay families) was not acceptable to the clerk at the post office or her supervisor. We are there for about an hour - but despite the fact that they try to call all sorts of officials at the absorption ministry and elsewhere - they say their hands are tied. We call Nefesh B'Nefesh (we left the number at home so I called my mom - who did not have it - and then my sister - who just returned from London - but was able to get it from her husband at work who looked it up on line (!)) and the woman who answered the phone (cousins of congregants from both our South Orange and Jerusalem synagogues) passed us on to a woman who I think is the legal counsel (or something like that) who also had to call the absorption ministry and others - she finally called back and basically said that there was not much we could do at this point. Ian is technically covered - but until he is signed up for a specific Kuppah, if there is a medical emergency - we will need to lay out funds and then fight to be reimbursed later. Presumably - once we get our teudat zeihut (identity card) Ian will also be able to sign up for insurance (another visit to the post office and then the insurance company office)... but we will keep you posted.

I have to say - that we have not experienced much (if any) homophobic discrimination in Israel (part of our decision to make Aliya) and we are still hopeful that when our papers are all processed we will retain the married status (despite US governments refusal to respect us with the same treatment)... but we presume the straight couples with kids on our aliya flight did not have these same problems.

Meanwhile - people at stores and offices still recognize us from TV as a family and are really nice and warm and welcoming to us... so Bravo for Israeli society. (I am proud to be an Israeli!) so I am now voting to attribute this to annoying beurocracy - but the jury is still out. I will try to keep the blogosphere posted of upcoming developments.

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