Monday, September 10, 2012

Cool grammar facts, and more! by September blogger of the month Benzi Samueli

As anyone in my Hebrew class can attest by now, I love studying grammar and the rules of grammar. So before I begin my discussion on life in Israel, let me tell a short story that lead me to a cool grammar fact. My friend and I had a difference of opinion regarding the proper definition of a word, so I went to the Merriam Webster dictionary website. In any case, this also brought me to MWs grammar videos, from which I learned the following:

When the word octopus was brought into English in the 18th century, it was given a standard English plural suffix (octopuses). When fanatic Latin grammar nuts insisted on giving words their proper Latin endings, octopi was entered into the dictionary. Realizing that octopus actually comes from GRΣΣK, other grammarians gave it the proper plural: octopodes (ock-TOP-uh-deez). Incidentally, Octopodes is the name of my alma mater’s oldest a cappella group.

That having been said, I was asked to talk a little bit about my experience moving to Israel under the Law of Return. Once you are determined eligible for citizenship, the State places you into one of four categories, which have almost no practical significance (there are two things that I’ll get to in a minute). They are:
     עולה חדש* - New immigrant - has no previous legal connection to Israel (me)
     קטין חוזר - Returning minor - was born in Israel but left at a very young age and returns as an adult (my lovely wife Rakefet)
     אזרח עולה - Citizen immigrant - was granted citizenship on birth due to technical reasons, but wasn’t actually born here (two of the other immigrants in my class)
     תושב חוזר - Returning resident - grew up in Israel, moved abroad, and is now moving back

As I mentioned, these categories bear very little significance. The State gives some extra benefits to a New Immigrant that others don’t get (such as 1 year of health insurance; otherwise it costs the market price of $1500/year).

But the main purpose of the categories is to add bureaucracy to the system. (Lesson #4: Everything in Israel is designed to create more bureaucracy, which in turn creates jobs for people to handle the extra paperwork.) Because my lovely wife Rakefet is a Returning Minor, our immigration booklet is green instead of the blue one that other immigrants get. Immigrants who are entitled to a blue book are able to get them at the airport upon arrival, but green bookers need to go to the nearest immigration office to pick them up. But just for fun, if a green booker is married to a blue booker, even though that causes the couple’s shared book to be the green type, then it is received at the airport. Also, if you happen not to fit nicely into one of these three categories (and indeed, someone in my class does not), then you get to play circus with every authority you encounter because there’s no checkbox that accurately describes you on the forms.

Lesson #5: (the most important lesson I will ever give) The bureaucracy is much easier to deal with if you do your homework and really learn the process. For example, converting your driver’s license can be done in the following simple steps: 1) get optician's note; 2) physician signs note; 3) DMV stamps note; 4) schedule & take 3 driving classes using the DMV stamp; 5) schedule practical exam; 6) pay for the exam at post office; 7) take exam and get certificate; 8) bring certificate to the DMV for your temporary license; 9) bring temporary license to post office to activate it; 10) wait for the real license in the mail. Although you may not realize that you need to go to the post office twice in order to get your license, it’s true. So before you ask anything from a government office, it’s highly advisable to know what they expect from you. And while they will expect a lot more from you than their counterparts in the States, it is manageable.

One great benefit of Israel’s bureaucracy, though, is the Population Registry. Every citizen is fully described in the computers of the Population Registry. When you buy a cell phone plan, PO box, internet service, pet octopodes, bank account, or anything at all, you just give your 9-digit Citizen Number (aka TZ). Lesson #6: Unlike your SSN, this number is not private, mainly because in Israel you don’t get privacy. With your TZ, the sales rep can instantly download your phone number, mailing address, birthday, and all-important immigrant classification. Then, you just have to fill out a blank form with your phone number, mailing address, birthday... wait, why did they download that information from the Registry if I have to fill out this form anyway? Whatever, this is Israel.

Taught by my Hebrew teacher. Background: Russians usually pronounce the Hebrew/English “oh” as an “ah” sound. Ex. Moscowbecomes Moskvah. The rest of the joke has to be done in Hebrew because it doesn’t make sense in English.

שני עלים יושבים בנחת על ענף של עץ. פתאום מגיע עלה נוסף ומתיישב ליידם. העלים מסתובבים ומסתכלים עליו ושואלים אותו "סליחה מי אתה?" אז הוא עונה להם במבטא רוסי "אני עלה חדש"