As a new immigrant, I am legally allowed to drive using my Florida’s driver’s license for one year. My year is up and now I have to get an Israeli license. The process is supposed to be easy for people who already know how to drive. There is no written test, just a short driving test to prove that you know how to use your horn when the person in front of you doesn’t drive fast enough. Unfortunately, there a number of steps required before you can take the driving test.
Step 1: Prove that you can see. This makes sense. Just like in the USA, you look at a chart with one eye at a time and if you can make out some of the letters, than you pass. In Israel, they make you go to an optometrist to take this test — as if you needed to have more than a first grade education to administer the test. No appointment needed, just have to travel there. The optometrist gives you a green form and charges you 50 shekels.
Step 2: See a doctor. This is the Jewish response to all problems. The theory here is that you might be taking medicine that interferes with driving. Your doctor has to sign off on your form. I am on cholesterol medicine but that is ok. I am taking sleeping pills but my doctor still signed my form. He trusts me that I know to take the pill before going to bed, not before I go to pick up my daughter from school. The good news is that not only did I get my form signed, but I also learned that my prostate is normal.
Step 3: Take the signed form to the license office so that they can stamp it. You need a stamped form before you can take the driving test. The license office in Haifa is conveniently located outside of Haifa where no public transportation exists. You have to take a bus to the train to a camel to get there. No worries, you only have to come here twice. The first time to get your form stamped. You have to come back again in 2 weeks to take the test. The license office is like the post office during a strike. All the workers are unionized which means that they have to take a 30 minute break every 15 minutes. The first union worker refused to stamp my form because of my cholesterol medication. She sent me to another line so a different union worker could ask me what cholesterol medicine I was taking. I did not remember the name because it is a generic pill and it seems to change every 6 months. But the name always rhymes with Lipitor. I mumbled, “Flimpacor.” She asked me to spell it. I wrote it down in English. She doesn’t read English. She said ok and stamped my form.
Step 4: Hire an instructor. This logic is fascinating. You are only allowed to take a driving test in a licensed instructor’s car. I am not allowed to take the driving test in the car that I will actually be driving. The instructor won’t let you drive his car without taking a lesson from him first.
Step 5: Go to the post office and pay a fee. You have to pay a fee at the post office before you are allowed to take the test. They don’t take money at the license office. I am not complaining because it is always fun visiting the post office.
Step 6: Take the test. Go to the license office again with your instructor in his car and show them that you know how to beep the horn. Pay 400 shekels to your driving instructor for letting you use his car.
Step 7: Go back to the post office to pay another fee.
Congratulations, you now have an Israeli driver’s license. This process has been designed so that Israelis can feel persecuted. Now that we have our own country, it is harder for other nations to persecute us. We have to take that responsibility. Without persecution, we Jews have a tendency to fight among ourselves. At the license office, we are no longer Ashkenazi or Shephardi; we are no longer Russians or Yemenites; we are not even religious or secular. We are all one people, equally persecuted by the state that we created.
Am Yisrael Chai.