This is a true story, unbelievable as it may sound to you, with only the title somewhat misleading. It is the story of one Mr. F. (which happened to stand tall not only for Franz, but also for the initial of my middle name, Fuks), who realized one sunny day that his Israeli passport was about to expire. A feeling of dread overwhelmed Mr. F. for some reason, and engulfed him like a bubble for the entire week. He was disturbed by the plain fact that the passport, when opened, reflected to him the realization that he had not visit Israel since the death of his father eight years ago. To go along with that, it became clear to him that he needed to do something about it.
Which presented him with a dilemma: To give up on his Israeli citizenship altogether, since he was by now also an American citizen of some twenty years, and by doing so prevent the aggravation and the expense that always come with renewing and extending two passports; or to remain an Israeli citizen and simply renew his passport for the next ten years, which by reading the Israeli Consulate instructions on its website seemed, at first – though later, be warned, he would go through the seven cycles of hell – not so convoluted with paper work and outlandish demands as he had remembered it to be.
Not only that, though. In spite of his left-leaning politics, reflected in some activities (mainly in the past), and in some of his writings (mainly in the present), deep down Mr. F. was an Israeli patriot, marching to his own drum. Born in a kibbutz to parents who survived the Holocaust, serving as an officer in an elite paratroops unit, participating in a number of wars and operations, where he lost many friends and some of his blood, Mr. F. – after some sleepless nights, truth be told – was unable to mentally go through the complicated route of canceling his Israeli citizenship. And so, the hard part of solving the dilemma and deciding which path to take seemingly behind him, Mr. F. awoke one morning and – no, not feeling as a gigantic insect for once, but energized as a mouse chasing that insect – started the process.
He first, according with the Consular Services’ instructions, had to take two new passport-fitting photographs, which demanded of him to search for such a place (not so easy, these digital days), and second shell out some money, to the tune of twelve bucks. He then downloaded the requested documents from the Israeli Consulate website, and filled them up diligently. While doing so, and being at his core an honest man, Mr. F. also made one crucial mistake, though it was unbeknown to him at the time (and so it shall remain to you, dear readers, for now). And yet the demand to send everything registered and by UPS or FedEx, the amount of sixty-eight dollars payment for the renewal, either in cash or in money order, the added eight dollars for return of the passport and some other minute issues of such nature, presented Mr. F. with some questions, simple ones admittedly, but in demand of answers nonetheless.
But before we continue, let’s make a short detour here in order to make one important point very clear: The gap in literary talent between Mr. F. and Mr. K. is wide as the ocean, to be sure, but they also share some traits. Aside from being Jewish, both had labored and toiled in obscurity in one occupation or other during the day, and for meager existence at that, and wrote at nights or whenever they could find a free hour, and never sold much of anything from their writings during their lifetime. Therefore, both were always short of money. And so, this being the third millennium, and the digital age to boot, our Mr. F. first fired away an email, as instructed on the consulate website, and waited duly for a reply to his questions. But it never came. So he called and left a phone message, again as instructed, but no one from the consulate ever called him back, though he repeated this process a number of times. Mr. F., like Mr. K., is a determined fellow, if nothing else, in his pursuit to reach the castle. He was told also, in the Israeli army, to stick to the target and never give up no matter what. So he sent an email to the Administrator of the consulate, explaining the situation. Lo and behold, the administrator answered right away, apologizing, and telling him his email and his request were forwarded to the appropriate consulate person, and he should hear for them very soon.
Alas, he never did. Poor Mr. F. then decided to address his request to someone higher up on the steps leading to the castle. An “important personage,” so to say, borrowing an expression from another favorite writer and long time sufferer, Nikolai Gogol. And even though this “important personage” never returned Mr. F. email – of course not, who was he anyhow to disturb him like that – he did hear right away from a consulate worker. Now Mr. F., this you should know about him, is a sentimental fellow if nothing else. And when he heard on the phone the young voice of an Israeli woman, with such an Israeli name, which reminded him immediately the glorious days growing up in the kibbutz, and then serving in the army, Mr. F. simply melted away. He registered no complaints, was at his polite best, and objected not even once when he was told it was all because of the holidays, the delay in coming back to him (there are always Jewish holidays at such establishments, he reflected soundlessly).
In short: Mr. F. received straight forward answers to his questions, and followed to the hilt by sending away the requested documents, including his old passport. Mr. F. invested so far $96 dollars in the whole process, including using UPS, and sending the money for the return of the passport. But he was free of worries, at last, and that was worth more than anything to him. He was feeling good that soon he’ll have his passport in his hand, and should anything unexpectedly wrong would happen to his mother, or to his sister, both living in Tel Aviv, he would be able to hop on a plane to Israel and take care of business. And who wise enough to know, maybe he’ll find a way to finance such a trip regardless of emergencies and bad news.
Poor, naïve Mr. F. Here what happened next: he heard again after a while from one of the girls working in the consulate, informing him that he apparently had forgotten to sign his name on one of the documents. Mr. F. doubted that very much, since this had never happened to him before, being such a pedantic, diligent fellow, and yet he downloaded said document again, filled it again, signed it and faxed it back. Then, after a month or so, he heard again from the consulate. In Israel, he was informed, he was registered as Mr. P. – not Mr. F. (anybody familiar with the cursive way of writing Hebrew, knows that this is a possibility). Mr. F. protested vehemently, since all his life in Israel – childhood, youth, and young adulthood – he was Mr. F. and nothing else. Yet, you guessed it my friends, he was forced to fill more documents, and fax his army service ID, and other such documents proving that, indeed, he was Mr. F.
It was a long and bothersome process, which brought difficult nights and uneasy, disturbing “what if” dreams. But one rainy day, many weeks later, there came a call from another cute-sounding girl in the consulate, informing him that over there in the castle, high on top of the mountain, his request was finally approved, and he will get his new passport in the next week or so. However, since he duly stated in his renewal request document that he was now divorced (told you I’d be back to this most crucial mistake), the passport will be issued for one year only, not the customary ten years, for which he had paid for in full already. In order not to waste any more time, the girl informed him, and not delay further sending the new passport to him, it will arrive with the new documents for him to fill and sign, and a new set of instruction for him to follow.
For God’s sake, cried the unbeliever, what do they care up in the castle whether I’m divorced now or still married? He cried and cried, poor Mr. F., and banged his head on the wall repeatedly, but nothing had helped him. The forces playing and controlling his destiny, as if holding the strings of a puppet, there in the corridors of power, where much stronger than him. And thus began a whole new set of terrible, worrisome days for Mr. F., and a whole set of new, unimaginable adventures, to be told here in this blog next month – faithfully and accurately – in “The Castle” Part Three.