Today we’re introducing an exciting new series of posts that recount some of our experiences which might be helpful if you ever find yourself on sabbatical in Haifa:

The Sail TowerWhen you come to Israel on a sabbatical, you simply enter on a tourist visa and fill out paperwork to extend it. When I first arrived at Technion, the department administrator had me fill in some paperwork to extend my Visa.  Two days later at 7:30 in the morning, I got a call from immigration telling me to be at 15 Palyam, 2nd floor, 9:30 am on September 7th to get the stamp I need.  I figure out the buses and go.  Let’s count the mistakes I made.

  • Between the phone call and September 7th, Sarah checks in at U Haifa.  The secretary there tells her that we should file our paperwork together and we should wait until closer to the expiration of our 3-month tourist visas, and go in together.  I don’t have a phone number for the person who called me, and I figure you don’t stand up Israeli bureaucrats.
  • It takes me about 45 minutes to figure out the buses the night before, since, as we’ve discussed, there is no map.  I eventually figure that I can take the 16 to Shivat Tzion near the foot of the Carmelit subway.  I have to ask 5 or 6 people before I find the building.  It turns out to be this one: בית המפרש‎, Beit HaMifras or the Sail Tower–the only skyscraper in Central Haifa.
  • I get there.  I tell the woman that I need to return to the US for a week at the end of October and ask if I’ll be able to leave and return. She says, “Oh, just come back and get your visa when you return.”  She doesn’t say, “Oh, I’ll just give you a return visa.”  Last night at dinner, someone tells me that I needed to phrase my question as, “Please give me a return visa” and that Israeli bureaucrats will never offer information, if it’s easier to just make you go away.

It’s fun to wait for the bus in humid 90 degree weather and have nothing to show for it.  The visa office itself was a bit interesting, lots Ethiopians in yarmulkes, big Russian families, and Filipino laborers all trying to get themselves legal.