Getting a driver’s license in Israel is a complicated task, involving many steps over a long period of time. I will cover the process over a couple posts.
The Tofis. The process of getting an driver’s license starts with getting the tofis – and that’s where the month-long journey begins. The tofis is a form that has 1) your picture in the upper left corner, 2) a questionnaire about vision, 3) a health questionnaire to be completed by yourself, 4) the same health questions to be completed by the doctor, and the rest, as far as I can tell, is complete by the drivers training instructor and/or the Ministry of Transportation (MOT).
You can get the tofis at random locations throughout the country. Your local driving instructor will be able to direct you to the closest one. The equipment to produce the tofis is nothing more than a computer connected to the MOT, a printer and a camera.
Getting the Tofis. Our first attempt to get the tofis was at New Look Optical in Acco, but the MOT computers were down – like they were the day before. We were told by others that it happens all the time. We took New Look’s suggestion to try another location, this time closer to home, in Nahariyya. Once again, the MOT computers were still down, but only for another 15-20 minutes – long enough to make a few friends and have a snack. The new location was nothing more than a bedroom-sized office in some run down commercial building, with old, stained carpet, a few chairs, a desk and the tools needed to produce the tosif. The worker-lady was very friendly and efficient, and made sure we were happy with our picture before she printed out the form.
Optical. I was able to get the optical portion completed quickly by our local optical center where I had just gotten some new glasses a couple weeks ago. (FYI – glasses in Israel are much more affordable, so if new glasses are on your shopping list, wait until you get here.) I was in-and-out in under 5 minutes.
Kupat Holim. Getting set up in the Kupat Holim system requires that you take your documentation (Teudat Olah, Teudat Zehut, etc.) to the Doar (post office?!) and choose your health care system – in our case Maccabi. The next step is to actually go the doctors office and get set up in their system. Once again, bring all your documentation.
Setting up an appointment with the doctor is very trying. You have to battle your way through Hebrew phone prompts, trying to remember the sequence of numbers used to get through to a human to set an appointment. Finally, after all that work, you are slotted for 10 minutes of the doctors time.
First Doctor Visit. Our doctor – Dr. Yonaton Kent is from Canada and his office is a beautiful 20 minute walk from our house. When you get to the Macabbi center, you just sit down in the “waiting room” which is nothing more than a hall and wait for your turn. There is no nurse or assistants to escort you in and out, you just walk in the doctor office when the last person leaves. This office visit was quick and to the point – to complete the tofis. After my visit was complete, I dutifully payed my 7 shekels ($1.89) and went happily on my way knowing that soon I will be taking my drivers test and getting a license.