Until recently, I found registering new babies at Jerusalem’s US Consulate almost as harrowing as the births themselves. So when I went to register the birth of my baby at the brand new US consulate in Arnona, Jerusalem last week, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the consulate has become much more mommy-friendly, and even somewhat enjoyable.
Here is a list, in no particular order, of what made those visits with newborn in tow so incredibly unpleasant—and why it is so much better now.
- Location: The old consulate was nestled amongst the hostile and unfamiliar streets of East Jerusalem. Making that venture across Street #1 with a newborn baby during the years of intifada was especially scary. The new consulate is GORGEOUS. Millions of dollars worth of marble and glass with expansive vistas of the Judean Desert. Almost Holy Temple-ish in beauty and magnificence. And it’s located in the tranquil, historic Arnona neighborhood of West Jerusalem, convenient by car, taxi, and the #7 bus line.
- Strollers: For security reasons, no baby strollers were allowed into the old consulate. The strain of carrying a baby in my arms or a baby carrier for several hours so soon after a birth inevitably meant that I was in bed for a day following my visit to the consulate with a virus or cold or infection.Parents are now allowed to bring a stroller into the consulate, and leave it in the stroller parking area inside the consulate when they enter the consular services area. This means that parents still need to hold their baby while they are actually submitting their applications, but this new arrangement is a huge improvement over several hours of baby-holding.
- Lines: The hours-long line outside the old consulate was exposed to the elements, which meant that the baby and I were often stuck standing in the burning sun or the pouring rain while waiting to be let inside. I worried that I wouldn’t be allowed inside if they had already exceeded their quota of applicants,adding more stress. But the relatively new online appointment system has made the awful, endless, element-exposed line a thing of the past. Registering a new baby and getting a first passport used to take between 2-4 hours. Now you can easily be in and out in an hour or hour and half.
- Facilities for Babies or Children: At the old consulate, there was no place for children to play, no place to nurse (I would cover up and nurse in the Federal Benefits corner), no place to change a diaper, and no special arrangements to speed up the procedure for the many parents who visited the consulate. Now this is the best part. The new consulate features a spacious, beautiful nursing corner off of the women’s bathroom, a large, marble diapering area, and a half-a-football-field-sized picturesque outdoor sitting area where kids are encouraged to play and run around.
Make an appointment at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Chana Jenny Weisberg is the author of the world’s most popular weekly newsletter for Jewish mothers. To sign up, visit www.JewishMom.com
Photo credit (American Consulate):
Rahel Sharon Jaskow, Elms in the Yard (http://elmsintheyard.blogspot.com)