Sunday, July 10, 2011

Getting a visa

My mother-in-law Millie's carer is a Philippina named Sally (short for Reosalyn). She is a lovely girl, very caring, very meticulous. She looks very young but she is in fact 26 and has a husband and child aged 5 back in the Philippines. She has a BA but could not get work at home. In fact the Philippino workers abroad are the second largest source of foreign currency for the Philippines. We don't know what we would do without her, since neither Naomi nor I am able to look after her 95 year old mother who now has Alzheimer's disease, although she still recognizes us. The home where Millie lives, called Nofei Hasharon (View of the Sharon), is full of Philippinas and some Philippino men carers. In fact there are variously estimated to be 30-50,000 of them in Israel. Some have married Israelis and live here. It is not unusual to see bunches of them walking around in town, and amazingly most of them speak good Hebrew. Before they are allowed abroad they are required to take courses in looking after old people and speaking the local language.

Before she came to Israel, Sally worked in Taiwan in a factory and then in Qatar looking after an old person. But she felt mistreated, she had to leave their home every weekend and had nowhere to go and was not paid. She seems very happy here in Israel, although her job looking after an old woman is not very pleasant. She and a group of others have rented an apartment between them and she goes every Shabbat in the afternoon to her Church with many other Philippinos. But, a few days ago her grandfather of 92 died in the Philippines and she asked if she could go home for a month, even if it would be after the funeral. Although it is not usual to allow a vacation for a month after about 6 months working here, we agreed, because she is so good and because she gave an undertaking not to ask for leave for another year, and she found a subsitute for the month. Her substitute is called "Lovely" and is even smaller and more delicate than Sally. But, she has been looking after a woman in a similar stage to Millie, but the woman died recently and Lovely was looking for a new short-term job. So we hope it will work out.

In order to travel back to the Philippines and then return to Israel after a month, Sally needed an extension of her work visa for a year and a reentry visa. So on Thursday we went to the agency that she is officially under contract to, and they filled out all the forms required in Hebrew, which she and I signed where asked. Then we had to take them to the Ministry of the Interior Office in Netanya, not far from where I live. Entry to the office is strictly controlled, and when you enter you get a number. It is a nice clean white large room full of people lining up at various desks with electronic numbers above them, and it is air-conditioned. There were over a hundred people there, including Arabs, Ethiopian Jews, Black Africans, Philippinos, lawyers representing their clients and many Jews. It looks disorganized, but is so much better than the place we had to go when we first came to Netanya 15 years ago, where we stood for hours in a dark corridor with a single fan and had to arrange our numbers ourselves.

In order to find the right line we wandered around for a while asking people (there was noone at the Information desk) and finally ended up outside a locked door with notices in large letters telling people to wait their turn. But we didn't have an appointment. So I went in and asked the old lady at the desk what tom do, and she told me to wait until all those with appointments were taken care of. It was not so many people, but one took an hour and another a half hour and so we waited over 2 hours. They have a good system though, they lock the doors at 12 noon and then the people left trapped inside are taken care of in sequence. When we finally got in and told the lady our problem (Sally had only 4 days until her flight and that included Shabbat) she very efficiently took care of issuing Sally her visas. She was a nice old lady and she remembered Millie and that she had issued her her official Israeli id. She printed the visas out directly and stuck them into Sally's passport. It took about 10 mins. Then Sally rushed off to the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv, while I went to rest and recover from the ordeal.


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