Wednesday, January 31, 2007


This week I passed my driving exam - no small thing since most Israelis have to take nearly 30 lessons before they qualify for the exam process. Thankfully, I only had to take two lessons since I have a foreign license. I have 3+ years driving experience here and, after the lessons, I feel more confused about driving than I ever did before.

The entire license-getting experience is quite expensive and surprisingly stressful. What I found interesting is that you show up and a prep guy sits you in the car with seat belt on and you wait. Then, out of nowhere, the one giving the driving test appears out of nowhere, sits down in the passenger seat, and the driving test suddenly begins. When the test is over, he immediately leaves the car and disappears into the crowd. After waiting 24 hours, you then call to get the result. Why? Because in the past fights would regularly break out between the test-er and test-ee after the exam, so a sort of chronological buffer zone was created to give the test-giver a sporting chance.

Anyway, I get my actual drivers license card in about two months (everything takes forever here), but before submitting the final form we noticed that my family name in Hebrew is spelled completely wrong. It's in the ballpark, but wrong enough. In order to avoid possible problems in the future from having a glaring error on an important piece of identification, we tried to get it changed before sending the form off for processing. Then the real obstacle course began:

1) Called the license office to get them to fix their mistake and give us a corrected form. No, they must have a letter from the Ministry of Interior (across town) telling them what my name is. What that has to do with a driver's license, I had no clue. But, then again, what do I know about how things are done here?

2) Went to the Ministry of Interior, waited in line, and finally requested the letter we needed. No, they cannot do that because there is no official spelling for English names. Besides, what does the Ministry of Interior have to do with a driver's license? The clerk asked rhetorically. She agreed that it was a significant mistake and said that since the license office made the mistake, they should correct it themselves.

3) Went back (across town) to the license office, waited in line, and finally requested them to make the change for us. No, that cannot be done because it should have been done in the beginning of the process, and were asked accusingly why we didn't correct her at the time. She said that once we get to this point it is impossible to make a correction. We then asked why we were told to go to the Ministry of Interior when we called and she said that we should not have gone there (as if we just decided to do it on our own).

In the end, we were told that once I get my Israeli ID they can make the correction, but that will be some time from now. This is not an isolated or unusual incident, by any means. Things are done much differently and they take a lot longer than I'm used to but, then again, I'm definitely not in Tennessee anymore.

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