With a completed tofis in hand, we needed to go back to the Ministry of Transportation (Misrad HaRashui) to be assigned the minimum of two driving lessons. Coming from Ma’alot, that required a shirut (9-14 seat mini-bus) at 10 NIS to get to Nahariyya (30 minutes), and then another shirut to the MOT, just north of Haifa for only 14 NIS (55 minutes). Our wait at the MOT was no more than 10 minutes and the whole procedure took 10 minutes. Most of the time was spent going next door to the post office to make 2 copies of our Teudat Zehuts.
It should be noted that if one takes any medications, the tofis is forwarded to the MOT doctor staff for evaluation. If the medication is assumed not to alter cognative function then the tofis will be returned, otherwise, that is the end of the road (pun intended) for getting a driver’s license.
New American olim are generally required to take 2 driving lessons before taking the driving test. If one fails two driving tests, they have to start from the beginning with 28 lessons. There are two types of licenses – manual and automatic. If you get a license for a manual you are approved to drive an automatic – but not the opposite. I chose to get a license for a manual transmission.
Chir, our driving instructor, came recommended, is polite, extremely helpful, and spoke English – what a great combination!
Chir is Druze and we learned a lot about what it is like to be Druse in Israel as he took us to get the tofis. Druze have been living in the area for hundreds of years, and are a part of the cultural landscape. They are not Arabs or Muslims, but have their own monotheistic religious views. The very religious men wear unique clothes – usually all black or dark blue with white head coverings – like this scarf or knit caps with tassles on top (similar to “Na-Nach’s). This man in this picture is wearing a skirt. They often have a big, bushy mustache – but no beards. Strangely enough, the Druze shirut drivers seem to like dance music.
My two lessons with Chir were about 40 minutes each and it wasn’t easy. I have been driving for over 20 years and feel comfortable on the road, but for the test you need to be constantly looking in your mirrors. Other naughty habits I had to break were driving with my hand on the “stick”, waiting at stop signs idling in neutral, looking over my shoulder when making a lane change (?!), and dropping into neutural instead of down-shifting. I was also a little out of practice down-shifting, and found 1st or 5th gear instead of 3rd (oops) – I’m not a big fan of down-shifting. I wisely took a third lesson immediately before the test – just to get me relaxed and in the swing of all the requirements.
Previously, Chir had given me 3 completed forms that I had to take to the post office and pay about 450 NIS – I am guessing they are for the application/driving test. Later, I gave the forms to the tester.
Test day was Sunday at 7:30 am. Chir put in a classical music CD (Vivaldi – Four Seasons) to relax the tester. It was me and a youngster who had just completed his 28 lessons – I drove first. Everything went smoothly – hands at 10 and 2, check the mirrors like a paranoid bank robber, smooth shifting – the whole thing, except…yep, downshifting into 3rd! Yikes – what a horrible noise the motor made. You just can’t cover up a mistake like that. Thank G-d I got a call from Chir at 4:30 that day with the good news that I passed !
My tofis which had been in the custody of Chir, was giving to the tester, and later was passed on to the MOT. About 10 days later Chir received my paper driver’s license and dropped it off at my house. Once again, another trip to the post office, this time it’s 406 NIS.
At this point the paper license can go in two directions, depending on if you are buying a new car or just need a license. The timing, process and extra costs (if there are any) may be announced in an upcoming post – when I have the answers.