Driving Miss Crazy


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.

14 thoughts on “Driving Miss Crazy

  1. Parking isn’t really a problem as one can park on the sidewalks, facing the opposite direction of the traffic flow, and if all else fails, just leave the car at home and take the damn bus. Cars are expensive, even the tax for a new immigrant is 50% of the cost of the car, insurance and registration must be paid in full and in a one-time payment and petrol hovers around $8-$9US/gallon.
    A car is a wonderful convenience and driving here is hardly relaxing when every other driver believes he(or she) is still at the throttle of their jet or tank and you are the enemy. I wish I could afford a car, but an idea from a friend of mine makes a lot of sense. If you want a car, without the added expense of registration and insurance and maintenance costs, sometimes it’s cheaper to rent a car for long term use or just when you want one for a trip. you can rent a car for a day or a week or a month at a time. Leasing is also an option.


    • For driving in Gush Dan (Herzliya to Bat Yam) you can go for Car2Go. You need to enrol and then you use the car for hours or days only when needed and pre-booked. Pick-up and drop-off is to the same spot in the Gush Dan area (and there are many spots (reserved parking) mainly south of the Yarkon and West of Road 2 (Ayalon). Enjoy playing dodgems on the Israeli roads! B’hatzlacha!


  2. Firstly I LOVE the headline.. *LOL* Secondly – I wish I had you here making sound effects and wiggling your body in an (excellent) attempt to show how seemingly rubber cars snugly fit into incredibly small parking places. You are such a gifted writer, and I loved this piece


  3. Sweetheart you are hilarious!!! And also out of date. It is no longer Schumie – the new boy on the block is Vettel!!! But you go for it girl and give them a run for their money. You could also start a new craze there – blowing your hooter – SA Taxi style!!!! HA HA AH


  4. Phwewwww Ro – thank heavens I did that back in 1987. It was still a challenge mastering the wrong side of the road – but I’m sure the traffic was more manageable. All I can say is ‘loads and loads of luck’ I’m sure you will come out on the winning side. Love


  5. If you can’t beat them, join them. It won’t be long from now that you will be swerving in between lanes without indicating. I think the common Israeli does not know what those instruments are for, they certainly don’t use them. I suppose they find it’s a waste of time, because even when one indicates to change a lane, they ignore you and push even closer to the car in front of them so that you won’t be allowed in. It has something to do with not been a “frier” this same pattern you will find when you stand in a queue.
    Don’t worry we all seem to have survived!


  6. Kol ha kavod to you and welcome to the Israeli drivers club!!
    But I must just stand up for my tribe and add .. that if you have ever driven in Italy, Cairo, Thailand, India, New York or any other metropolis you will encounter the same attitudes, the same impatience, the same disregard for road rules. Not only in Israel. So drive defensively because inevitably you can expect someone to do something stupid!


  7. Once again I laughed at your hilarious writing. You are truly gifted, my little one! I wonder, will you be driving when we visit in September?????? Huh? Anyway, good luck with this, you are a lot braver than I would be if I was in your situation! Looking forward to seeing you soon.


  8. Mazeltov Rolene,
    We too were sooo nervous that we decided to do the Driving test in “Mild Modiid” instead of “Roaring Ranaana”, & passed 1st time !!
    Happy & safe driving to you,


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