Israeli Bureaucracy, Part 0: New Misrad HaPnim Phone Scheduling System

This is "Part 0" because it precedes Part 1, and is really just to relay some late-breaking information about Misrad HaPnim (מסרד הפנים), the Israeli Ministry of the Interior.

The Jerusalem office is located at 1 Shlomtzion HaMalka, not, as I somehow erroneously thought, at Kikar Safra.1 That part is not late-breaking. It was always true.

The late-breaking information is that the old number that you used to call to get an appointment at the Jerusalem office of Misrad HaPnim, 02-629-0239, on Sunday-Thursday, from 8 am to 1 pm, which they never answered,2 has been replaced by a new number. This new number is 1-700-551-111.3 This change happened sometime between last Sunday, my last visit to Misrad HaPnim, and today (also Sunday), my most recent visit to Misrad HaPnim.

I found this out when I went to the scheduling office at Misrad HaPnim to try to change my appointment with the visa people, since I knew that you could never reach them via phone. The door was locked and when I knocked, no one answered. Someone came out of another office and said, "This office is closed." I asked, "When will the person who works here return?" and she said, "Never. Nobody works in that office anymore. You have to call the number listed on the door." Uh, okay. Someone worked there last week. When I told her that I had tried to call many times before and that nobody answered the phone and that coming to this office (204, if you're curious) was the only way to get an appointment,4 she shrugged.

Then I heard voices coming from inside the office, and a different employee of Misrad HaPnim informed me that the person who worked in that office was "on break," meaning, I think, a 15 minute break. I asked her when said employee would be back, and she said she didn't know. She also referred to this mythical scheduler as a woman, when the person I had seen last week was a man. Hmmmm...

Then I noticed a new sign on the door, with the new number mentioned above. I asked her if this was a new number, and she said, "Yes! There is a brand-new national scheduling system!" She was very excited and happily reported that this number worked. A cause for joy, indeed.

I explained all of this to the two South Africans behind me in line who could neither read nor speak Hebrew (not even to know that "פקס" meant "fax number" and not "phone number").

I noted that the new sign reported that the new number worked from 1-3 pm, and so at 1:31 pm today, I called it. I pressed "1" for the 02 (Jerusalem) area5 only to be informed that one needs to call (as before) between 8 am and 1 pm for service! 

I'm not sure what it means if the national scheduling system number operates only between 1-3 pm and the regional (Jerusalem) scheduler answers only between 8 am and 1 pm. I guess I will try to call 1-700-551-111 tomorrow morning and, if that fails, again right at 1 pm. I also have no great hopes that they now answer the phone. It just sounds to me like a new national number that routes callers through to the old regional scheduling number, which nobody answers.

This, among other reasons, is why today was a two-coffee day. 

1. How great is it that Google Maps covers Israel now? Truly great. Much better than Walla Maps, which is what you had to use before last fall.
2. This information is based both on my experience calling at three different times on three different days and listening to the machine message loop until it died and went into beep-beep-beep mode instead of ringing, and on the first-hand admission of the person who was supposed to answer it.
3. That's right, 1-700, followed by six digits, not seven digits.
4. This is well-known among people in the know. You have to try to call a few times and then go down to Misrad HaPnim, Room 204, and tell them that you couldn't get through on the phone and then they'll let you make the appointment in person. I've  never tried to make an appointment via fax (02-646-9523) because I never had regular use of a fax machine such that they could fax me back with confirmation about my appointment time. If you're reading this and you have regular access to a fax machine or you have an eFax number, you can try this and let me know how it goes.
5. Not surprisingly but somewhat confusingly, you press "2" for 03 and "3" for 04, etc.

P.S. I've been working at a cafe with a large, flat-screen TV on one wall all afternoon. When I came in, it was mostly full of women (and a few men) working on a laptops or drinking coffee with friends. My back is to most of the room, and I've been working hard and not looking around much. I just turned around and noticed that the midd of the cafe is full of guys, almost all sitting in one direction, facing the TV, avidly watching a tennis match being broadcast live from somewhere where it makes sense to have ads for BNP Paribas, FedEx, Perrier, IBM, and Peugot. (Who or what are "SOD" and "FED"?) There are a few women and men still sitting along the edges of the room, working on laptops or hanging out with friends, but the middle of the room has totally changed character in the last few hours.


Anonymous said...

Roger Federer defeated Robin Soderling in the final of the French Open.

Abacaxi Mamao said...

Thanks, Anonymous! I've actually heard of Roger Federer.

Abacaxi Mamao said...

Someone else with a
somewhat similar experience, right down the person in the office being "on break."