I passed my test! Using a stick shift! The second lesson really helped, as well as a lot of practice…
The reason why I was on the verge of hysteria at the thought of failing was a complicated stew:
You have only one year to drive on a foreign license.
You have three years to convert your foreign license to an Israeli one.
Until you convert your license, you cannot buy a car. We currently have a long term rental, which we use every weekday, but it’s obviously not the cheapest way to go.
You have only two chances to present your foreign license (I am skipping approximately 10 steps, including an optician-administered eye test, a doctor, and two government offices–this is the most complicated single post-aliyah task, I think), take one driving lesson from a qualified instructor, and take a road test. If you fail the road test twice you are on the hook to do it from scratch, like a home-grown Israeli. This entails a theory test (in Hebrew!!), a series of 28 (!!!!) road lessons, and the road test that I took today. As much pressure as I felt to pass on the first try, how much of a wreck would I have been if I were down to my last chance?
Of course, many of the steps involve fees. We’re looking at about $350 for each of us (slightly more for me because I took a second lesson) to get our Israeli licenses. The from-scratch method, due to the extra testing and ridiculous number of lessons, would probably cost in the neighborhood of $1,000. And that’s before you buy a car for double the price (and double the price of gas every time you fill up!) you’d pay in the United States.
The funniest thing is that I (and probably many other newbies) thought that converting a license would be among the easiest tasks before us. In May I said something to that effect at a table full of recent and not-so-recent immigrants and got an earful. It seems so ridiculous and draconian that a bunch of people in their 30s (driving for +/- half their lives now; that was the real rub for me, because I consider myself to be a pretty decent and well mannered driver) have to jump through these hoops….
But it’s over and done and maybe I’ll sleep tonight and run tomorrow morning. And enjoy my last free days before ulpan. And maybe unpack a box or 12.