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How Franz Kafka Got His Israeli Passport Part II, or “The Castle” Part Three

Allow me, dear readers, to refresh your memory as to the saga of Mr. F. and his uphill battle to gain an Israeli passport. If you recall, as described in “The Castle Part Two,” Mr. F’s request – being an Israeli citizen all his life, who served in the army honorably – was supposedly a simple one. And his wish – to visit his old mother (a Holocaust survivor) living in Tel Aviv, where his sister and eldest son also live – was common, and an understandable one. Yet nothing is simple, common and understandable, when it comes to the Jewish state, its bureaucracy and bureaucrats, who sit at the castle on top of the hill and control the destiny of the Jewish people.

And so it happened that, after six months of continuing struggle, close to $100 in expenses, and numerous sleepless nights full of worries and anxieties, Mr. F. had finally received his passport last July. However, since he had duly stated in his renewal request document that he was now divorced, the passport was issued for one year only, not the customary ten years, for which he had paid for in full already. It arrived, also, with a bunch of new documents for him to fill and sign, and a complicated set of instructions for him to follow. And thus began a long period of worrisome days for Mr. F., along with unimaginable adventures.

It began with the demand to fill out the documents (not difficult at all), signed them in front of a public notary (somewhat difficult and costly), including the presence and signature of his ex-wife (very difficult), authorize and stamp his divorce documents by an apostille (what’s that?…), complete all these and return it in ten days (impossible), including his new passport which he’d just received (totally unacceptable!). Facing these new set of requests, the tormented Mr. F. decided he must get some explanations and answers first from the Israeli Consulate, before he makes any further moves.

He called the consulate, therefore, feeling secure that after all that he’d been through with them so far, and all the phone calls he’d shared with the nice-sounding Israeli girls there during the past six months (as described previously in the first part of this saga), his calls would now be answered and returned promptly. Not so: how wrong a simpleton such as Mr. F. could be. In short, his numerous calls and emails were never returned or answered. Furthermore, in a bold attempt on his part, Mr. F. had solicited the help of a friend, an “important personage” – to borrow again the expression of another member of the suffering-writers-club, Nikolai Gogol. If to believe her, she tried not once but twice, yet no one ever called poor Mr. F. back.

Facing such a wall of silence, Mr. F. took an even bolder step and, against his character and the consulate clear instructions, decided not to do anything further about the matter for the time being. He figured he had won a small battle, and in return for his troubles and his $100, had received his Israeli passport for a whole year. After all, within this year he may still be able to afford a trip to Israel, and if not – he would still have it in his possession in case of emergency. More importantly, he would leave all these troubles behind him for a while, and will concentrate instead on the mundane necessity of making a living somehow, and on the supreme necessity, and infinitely more spiritually rewarding pursuit, of attempting to resurrect his writing career.

To his surprise his was able to do that. And yet, as the year was drawing to an end, the stack of documents and letters from the consulate, thrown in a corner of his study, began to grow ever larger in presence, so much so that it had overpowered his ability to write peacefully. Even more so, if he would let the passport expire, he would be thrown into an even more complicated set of troubles than ever before. He therefore first filled and signed all the documents (both in English and in Hebrew, just in case), yet avoided the public notary altogether, and on the previous advice of his friend the “important personage,” disregarded the demand that his ex-wife sign the papers too, notifying in the documents that this cannot be accomplished since they are not on speaking terms.

The heavy business, though, of authenticating his divorce documents by an official apostille remained to last. He knew – again, on the advice of the “important personage” – that he had to do it. Otherwise there’s no passport: end of story. So he did his homework online, found the office of the California Secretary of State and official apostille services, and sent them his documents with the appropriate check ($30 or so). After a long wait, he received his documents back unsigned, his check not deposited, and was informed that true, his divorce documents were good enough for regular usage in the state of California, but for the propose of international usage, he needs to order his original, signed by the judge documents, certify and copy them, then bring them in to their office to be officially stamped.

It took awhile for poor Mr. F. to recover from this heavy blow. And yet, time being of the essence, he got up from the floor and in short order ordered said documents from the Superior Court of California, and when he was informed that they had arrived, he drove down there, parked his car, stood for hours in line, moved from office to office and window to window. When his documented were finally issued to him, to the tune, again, of some $30, he drove to the office of the Justice Department, parked his car, stood in line, paid the mandatory $30 and finally, almost a whole day gone by, got it stamped by an apostille. A day later, he sent all these documents, including his one-year-passport, now already expired, by UPS to the Israeli Consulate. And of course, he included the mandatory $8 for the return of the passport. Otherwise, of course, he’ll never see it again.

The exhausted Mr. F. assumed he’d wait some two, three weeks before he’ll hear, or see anything. And yet, three days later, out of the clear Northern California blue skies, a call – would you believe it, dear readers? – from the consulate rang on his phone, which he’d missed. The recorded message, by one of these cute-voice-girls, said – no, not that nothing is in good order, as he was afraid – but that everything was in fact hunky-dory, only that in the meantime the amount for sending the passport back to him was increased from $8 to $14 (I’m not inventing this!) and he needs to stop by at the consulate in San Francisco, or send the extra $6 before the passport can be issued to him. Still more, before his tears of hysterical laughter had dried, there was another call. This time informing him that together with the $6, he needs to download also and send – again! – a new request for extending his passport for the remaining nine years. Well, our poor hero did that as well, and sent it via UPS again. And a week later, after more than a year and a half of struggle against the mighty forces in the castle, to the tune of some $200, maybe more, Mr. F. received his Israeli passport.

What, you may ask, is the moral of the story? There must be one, don’t you think? What: never give up? Or: never give in? These are old clichés. But what about this: Mr. F.’s story is, indeed, not entirely unlike that of the Jewish People as a whole. With persistence, with determination, with sticking to the target and goal no matter what, at whatever costs, with fighting against all odds, he may – like his ancestors – reach one day the Promised Land!

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