Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Driving Lessons

Israeli roads – where people reverse into parked cars and then shout at the owners for stupidity, where to take hold of the wheel is to take your life in your hands and where a court recently fined someone 3,000 shekels for slapping a taxi driver who refused to put the meter on. Venturing onto the road in Israel is no easy mission, especially if you are used to driving on the other side of the road (apart from British historical isolationism and ‘better than thouness,’ does anyone know why we still do that?) Yet apparently it’s a rite of passage no Oleh should miss out on, so after the initial bureaucracy had been sorted, what better next step than to get that much sought after Israeli driver’s license?

For new drivers, no test can be arranged until they have taken a minimum of 28 lessons and a theory test. But if you have a foreign license already, it’s not so bad. You need to go to a place to fill out a form, have a ‘physical’ (which involves having your blood pressure taken) an eye test and then you can have a couple of lessons and take the test. It dawned on me that there are two ways one can fail the eye test; either by actually being blind, or not knowing how to say blue, red and white in Hebrew! (I won’t actually reveal the correct order so as not to allow blind people to pass their test – we have enough people here who don’t look where they are going…) but basically its pretty easy.

Driving itself proves slightly more of a problem. It dawned on me that not knowing the words for ‘indicate’ ‘hand break’ and ‘parallel parking’ may complicate my chances of passing (the first warning signs were when I reversed parked instead of doing parallel parking) Luckily the words for ‘u turn’ and ‘gas’ are the same. I then realized that things that will pass you in England (not crossing your hands on the steering wheel, putting up the handbreak up at traffic lights) will fail you in Israel…yet the most surprising revelation was when my instructor told me that hooting is ONLY allowed in Israel to prevent an immediate accident…someone should really tell that to the number two car in the queue at traffic lights.

In retrospect, perhaps the best preparation for a driving test would not have been a torrential downpour for two days prior to the test; nor the pre test lesson being cut short because the post office where you pay was closed due to electrical problems. Yet once the examiner came into the car, things went smoothly. Munching on a croissant, he casually asks me if I mind him eating and, seeing my Kippah, hastily puts his hand on his head and says a bracha over the food. I was just happy he didn’t start trotting out Tefillat HaDerech.

People who know me know how much I like speaking Hebrew to Israelis (even when its not necessary,) but I have to admit to having difficulty concentrating on driving whilst listening to the examiner telling me his dreams of working in the Israeli Embassy in Romania, cos his parents were Romanian 'and ‘the Carpathian mountains are supposed to be very beautiful there.’ Yet bearing in mind it was his 15th test that day, I figured he was probably bored and it would help my chances of passing if he was concentrating on the conversation rather than my driving skills.

As we near the end of the test, he asked me where my wife was. And when I replied that I don’t have one he gets very animated – that I must find a kallah, and the best sort of girls for me are ones from Bnei Brak, because they’re proper and serious… And whilst I am still unconvinced by his shidduch suggestions, I was happy to humour him for the remaining minutes of the test.

As I have said many times already over the last 3 weeks, ‘only in Israel…’


Michael R said...

So nu? Did you pass???

Gilly said...

Hand brake is "end breks" in hebrew.

Everyone's favourite piece of car trivia - "back axle" is "back ax", front axle is "back ax kidmi" (front back axle.

Drive carefully,


Cori/Shoshana said...

ever thought of not driving in israel? i really hope i can get away with that for some time.

Emah S said...

ugh. The whole driving test thing scares me. I'm thinking the distraction is a good idea though. Pick up some cookies or something on the way to the test for the tester....

Don't keep us hanging....did you pass?

Mazal Tov on your Aliyah! :)

ifyouwillit said...

My driving "lessons" gave me many an "only in Israel" moments, like being told "why you stop at junction - they see you"

gils said...

Since my license has been re-instated in Sydney, I can now apply for one in Israel...can't believe you will have an Israeli licence before me, what was the point in me making Aliyah before you if not to beat you to it!

Me said...
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