So it has dawned on me that I need to brave the Israeli roads (actually make that drivers) and learn to drive here.
Yip, I know, I also didn’t think that at the tender age of 30-something I would have to relearn a skill I have had for many years. Well, if you call driving like a frustrated grand prix driver a skill…..
I know some of my friends in South Africa are scratching their heads in confusion and thinking, Ro, why does someone who drives like she thinks she is Schumacher on a hot lap have to take driving lessons?
While Israel has an extremely efficient public transport system (the trains are a trip! Pardon the really bad pun!), it is a good idea to have your own set of wheels. Or at least the ability to make them move. On the opposite side of the road which we Saffers (ex South Africans) are not used to. This definitely takes some getting used to!
Anyone who has ever observed the art of driving in Israel would come to the same conclusion: why hasn’t NASCAR or Formula 1 recruited drivers from this tiny little place? Just observing a bus turning a corner or the morning rush into Tel Aviv would have the most generous racing sponsor salivating! Speed and the innate ability to overtake at a rate of knots make Israel the perfect breeding ground for racing drivers. When we are children we learn that cars go vroom vroom. Here they go “yalla! Zuz (move)!!!
And then there is parking. This is a phenomenon all on its own. It requires a level of driving skill mixed with a David Blaine-esque ability to squeeze a car into the space designed for a bicycle. It also requires a certain amount of rhythm to do the shuffle backwards and forwards and then from side to side to ensure that the aforementioned vehicle fits comfortably. And don’t stress if one of your wheels humps the pavement. This is parking. Israeli style!
All back seat driving aside, driving in Israel is extremely pleasurable. The roads are excellent and well signed. Even a directionally-challenged person like me can find her way around! Olim, note that you have limited time to drive around using your licence from your country of origin. You have a year to get your Israeli licence. But you have three years to convert your licence. Confusing I know, but the system seems to work.
It may appear to the unassuming new driver that the rules of driving in Israel are like Fight Club (ie, there are no rules) the licensing process and the laws of the road are quite strict and failure to adhere will result in harsh penalties. You also have to go for obligatory medical examinations before attempting to take your licence. This means visiting your GP and an optometrist for the a-okay.
This is the next step in the entertaining journey of self discovery that is Aliyah.
It is time for me to whip out the bad passport sized photograph, take my documents and permission from the powers that be down to the DMV and officially be let loose on Israel’s roads.
Now that my engine is revving dangerously close to the red zone, my fellow citizens, consider yourselves warned. I will be driving on a highway near you. Soon.