Friday, March 19, 2010

Of Licenses, Motorcycles and a Tiyul

1. Licenses: As in a DRIVER'S license. As those of you who have been following this blog know, Andy and I made the decision after 8 months (already 8 months!?) of being here to bite the bullet and work on getting our driver's licenses. In the States, you learn the Rules of the Road, take a driving test, take a road test, go to the DMV, get insulted by some city workers and then get your license. Here, it is slightly different. First of all, if you are getting a license for the first time, it is MUCH more difficult. You take over 25 driving lessons (that cost a little less than a small car), followed by a test and a few other steps (see below). You learn the Rule of the Road....not the "rules" but just the "rule." And that rule is DRIVE DEFENSIVELY! Always assume the other guy wants to be in front of you and will do anything to accomplish this.

In any case, as we were technically just converting our licenses from USA to Israeli ones, the process is a little less confusing. But, it is still a multi-part process which we began this week. Step One: Go to a participating optometrist where you have an eye exam and have your picture taken. The picture is stored in the computer (to be used by the License Authority for the actual license). You also have a copy of this picture imprinted on the Tofes Yarok (the document that follows your path with you until receipt of the license...guess what color the document is...). STEP 2: You then take this Tofes Yarok to a doctor who must then say you are physically fit to drive. Ok, that was accomplished with no problem as well. Step 3: Go to Misrad HaRishui (the License Authority) where they inspect the documents to ensure that you may go to the next step. Ok, that's done, as well and on to the next step. That next step is to schedule a driving lesson. (You also pay a small fortune to take this lesson as you are paying for the instuctor's time and usage of the car and insurance so that you may drive his car) Yes, after driving for 35 years, I need to take an official lesson. It is this man who determines your future! If he feels you need more lessons, you need more lessons and will spend a fortune on them! If you are ok in the driving lesson, you move to the next step...the driving test. But first, you go to the Post Office, get another document to show you have paid for this step, take that to the instructor, take your test and then (if you pass) you get your temporary license. Once you pay for the final one, you get the official permanent license. Oh, and at the test, the instructor does not tell you if you passed or not yet. Why is that? One time, an instructor told a person taking his test that he had not passed. Reacting to this news, the driver decided to shoot the instructor...not TOO aggressive! As a result, they made a rule that the instructor calls the driver later to inform him.
After Pesach, we hope to finish this arduous process and I will keep you informed. In the meantime, try not to let the suspense of whether or not we succeed keep you awake at night!

2. Motorcycles: As long as we are on the subject of driving, an observation about motorcycles here in Israel. There are thousands on the road here and you can not miss them. There seems to be a set of unwritten Rules of the Road for motorcycles...not only must you be first, you must also weave in and out of traffic, cut off buses, speed to the front of a line up at a red light and drive recklessly, all with a helmet on....the kind of driving that must make a mom proud!
In any case, I thought I had seen all the various permutations of how motorcyclists make the roads more unsafe...that is, until yesterday! I was in traffic (last day of the car usage) in a two lane road, ie, one lane in each direction. In between the lanes was a concrete island medium that was raised from the ground a few centimeters. As I sat there in traffic, carefree yet alert, I heard a noise coming up on my left side. In my rear view mirror and getting closer and closer was some hot dog driving on the median! The width of this median was about 1 mm wider than his tires. One small misstep and he would not be riding much longer. As I sat there somewhat in disbelief, I smiled to myself and thought, ah, yes...the motorcyclist's goals are being met: get there first, get there dangerously and do it with all the speed and flair you can muster.

3. Tiyul: As we have nothing else to do a week before Pesach (LOL!), Andy and I decided to join our fellow Olim in Maale Adumim for a Nature Tiyul in our area. We walked through a valley/wadi observing the various flora, fauna and wildlife. To cap off the evening, we made a small, roasted marshmallows and baked fresh pita! We were guided by a local Nature Guide who has lived in Maale Adumim for over 20 years. We not only learned a lot, but truly enjoyed ourselves. As we were winding down, rain suddenly began to pour down on us and we all ran for cover and then back to our warm homes. It was a very special tiyul and we are grateful to have had this opporunity. We plan that during Pesach break to B'ezrat Hashem, take more tiyulim and enjoy this magnificent country.