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On not having a driver’s license in Israel

For starters, don't tell me about your cousin who failed the test 12 times
Illustrative. Traffic on I-75 through Sarasota, Florida, on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. (Mike Lang /Sarasota Herald-Tribune via AP)
Illustrative. Traffic on I-75 through Sarasota, Florida, on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. (Mike Lang /Sarasota Herald-Tribune via AP)

We walk among you like ordinary people. We could be anyone: doctors, lawyers, academics, artists – family, neighbors, friends. We’re parents and non-parents. In many respects, we are ordinary people — that is, until you inevitably find out about our secret identity. And, just as Clark Kent is infinitely less awesome than Superman, you discover that we are different in a way that’s decidedly uncool: we don’t have a driver’s license.

It’s as if you’ve learned that we have some kind of disease; not life-threatening, not contagious (praise be), but serious. Let’s liken it to diabetes. A person can live a happy, fulfilling life with it, but by God, it must make life difficult. And as often happens when you learn about someone’s unfortunate medical condition, you end up saying offhand insensitive things that continue to haunt us, the non-drivers, as we once again undertake the hike to the post office/ supermarket/ kindergarten.

You might not realize you’re being hurtful. So I’ve compiled this helpful list of things not to say under any circumstances when you discover that someone in Israel does not have a driver’s license. And, as a token of good will, I’ve also come up with some simple phrases you can say that will help you seem more like a friend and less like scum.

DON’T SAY

I can’t believe you don’t have a driver’s license.

This statement implies that you had a perfectly good opinion of the person you were talking to until you unmasked them as plucky protagonists of the non-driving brigade. What it suggests is that non-drivers are, in some way, incompetent, lacking, or damaged. To quote Bridget Jones, “[Y]ou really needn’t bother. I already feel like an idiot most of the time anyway.”

You should really get a license — your life will be so much better!

Thank you, Captain Obvious. My life would be so much more sparkly and magical if I got a license! Clearly, I am having some trouble making this happen. There are a number of reasons why this just hasn’t worked out for some of us here in Israel yet, such as test anxiety, nasty testers, or — and this is really specific to Israel — prohibitive costs. A driving test here costs about $200, while the minimum number of lessons you have to take before you’re eligible for a test adds up to nearly $1,000.

You know, it took my nephew/wife/Great-Aunt Menucha 12 tries before she finally passed her driving test!

We get where this is coming from: you want to make us feel better. “You’re not alone!” You smile. “You’ll pass eventually — just look at Menucha!” The intention is commendable, but it doesn’t actually help. 73-year-old Menucha has finally joined the jocks — but we’re still stuck on the debate team (No offense meant to anyone on debate teams — you guys are the cat’s pajamas).

You decided to try taking a driving test in a small town up north instead of in a big city? There was an episode of Ramzor in which a female character did the exact same thing!

OK, this one’s clearly more personal/regional. But I mean, honestly — where are you going with this? So now my life is an imitation of an Israeli TV show that I a) don’t find funny, and b) do find super misogynistic?

DO SAY

Wow, that sounds really difficult/frustrating.

Empathy. I’m loving it.

How are you managing without a license?

Showing interest without being judgmental? You go girl.

How can I help?

The truth is, most of us without a driver’s license in Israel are managing just fine. But it’s nice to know that there are people to reach out to while we’re battling whatever internal/external demons are keeping us from obtaining that most coveted of plastic cards.

To quote a fictional bad-ass heroine, who as I far as I know also couldn’t drive, but who was nevertheless a very decent human being: “Thank you for your consideration.”

(For the uninitiated, that’s Katniss Everdeen in the film Catching Fire).

About the Author
A writer with 3 kids under the age of five and a fierce love of all things caffeinated. Go figure.
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