Driving Lesson

Today we accomplished Step 4 (scroll down the page to #4) of converting our Ohio driver’s licenses over to the coveted Israeli ones.

A few days ago I posted a request for instructor recommendations to the Nefesh B’Nefesh list and the overwhelming majority urged us to contact Eyal Ben Harush.

I called Eyal on Tuesday and was surprised when he quickly set us up for a 1:30 p.m. appointment on Thursday. He cautioned me that this was just the driving lesson; it could be 6 weeks before our road test is scheduled.

From what I understood, we were supposed to meet him across the street from the Central Bus Station at Binyanay Hauma (phonetic as I am not sure how to spell it in English) – the Congress Center. I had no idea where that was, but last night I got a ride home from the Nefesh B’Nefesh Parent Education Forum with Bill and Nancy Statfield and they just happened to need to pick up a relative at the 174 bus stop next to this place I had to go today!

Despite that extra piece of information, we still weren’t sure exactly where to meet Eyal so I called him when we arrived at the building at 12:50 p.m. He figured out that we were in the wrong location – but at least on the grounds – and told us to go to the front of the building at 1:30. We managed to find an open door (this place is locked down like Fort Knox) and entered. A very nice security guard escorted us from the rear entrance to a side exit and instructed us to go straight, and turn left. Eventually we made it to some shady benches at the front of the building by the flag poles. That’s when it became known that some family members needed to use a restroom! So we trekked back to the door we exited from and were looked upon with suspicious eyes, but eventually they decided we weren’t terrorist material and let us in, directing us to the desired location.

Promptly at 1:30 p.m. Eyal rang my cell phone and talked us to his true location – at the bottom of the stairs to the left of the building (if you’re facing the black glass wall you turn left, pass the guard shacks, cross the street and go down the stairs). Unfortunately because of the heat my head was pounding and I felt nauseous so I didn’t think to take a photo for those of you who still need to find this place.

Michael and I just used the GPS Analyzer and think this shot may help you find it.

  • “A” is the Central Bus Station
  • “B” is Binyanay Hauma (the Congress Center)
  • “C” is the location of the Driving Instructors

Eyal then told us there was a problem; he is only insured for passengers over the age of 14 so Yisrael couldn’t ride in the car. I made Michael go first because my head hurt. Eyal told me to meet him at the same location in 40 minutes, so Yisrael and I went to a street vendor for a cold drink, bag of chips and ice cream (i.e., not so healthy lunch!)

At 2 p.m. we made our way back to the steps and sat in the 30 inches of shade. At 2:13 p.m. Michael rounded the circle and it was my turn. As I dropped my backpack on the back seat Eyal asked how I was and without thinking I responded that my head hurt and I wasn’t feeling well – and that I was very nervous about driving in Jerusalem, especially on a stick shift!

Eyal is a very kind and patient man 😀 He had me wait about 5 minutes with the car idling and air conditioning blasting me back to life while he recorded the results of Michael’s driving lesson into his PDA. With that task completed, he instructed me to ease out into traffic and proceed straight unless he told me otherwise.

While Michael treated Yisrael to pizza and a new toy, I drove around the newer Katamon neighborhood I don’t recall having been in before. As often happens, my fears and anxieties proved to be wasted energy because to my delight I didn’t have to drive in the congested areas of Jerusalem. This turned out to be a pretty nice experience.

Here are some things we learned during our lesson:

  1. The speed limit in Jerusalem is 50 kilometers per hour (approx. 31 m.p.h.) unless otherwise posted – we were both reminded to slow down several times. Outside the city is usually 80 k.p.h. (approx. 50 m.p.h.) and highways can be up to 110 k.p.h. (approx. 68 m.p.h.)
  2. We were instructed to remain in the far right lane whenever possible.
  3. You MUST come to a complete stop (wait at least 5 seconds) at Stop signs. Failure to do so will cause you to fail the driving test – and qualify you for a ticket if caught doing so after you’ve received your license.
  4. Always yield to the driver(s) already in the traffic circle.
  5. All streets are two-way unless otherwise posted.
  6. The curbs are color-coded for parking; yellow/red is for buses – you may stop but not park there, red/white is no parking at any time, blue/white means you can park there but have to pay for parking so you better make sure you find the meter or have paid for a parking permit first.
  7. The driving test is only 5 to 7 minutes long and doesn’t involve any maneuvers like parallel parking. The tester is just there to confirm that you are an experienced driver. So relax!

Differences from driving in the US are:

  1. Yield to the person on your LEFT (not right) at Yield and Stop signs.
  2. NO RIGHT ON RED ANYWHERE in Israel.
  3. Operators of Emergency and Police vehicles drive with their flashing lights on all the time. You don’t need to yield to them unless they have their sirens on.
  4. Pedestrians have the right of way when crossing the street. If there is a pedestrian crossing light, they are supposed to wait for the green walking man to indicate its okay for them to cross. However, it is better to yield to the pedestrian and let the car behind you smash into your vehicle than to injure or kill a pedestrian!

So how did we do?

  • We both drove too close to (or above) the speed limit – he explained that the sign does not indicate the minimum speed it is the maximum speed.
  • I kept forgetting to use my signal lights. Eyal explained that you might not fail the test for not using them but you must use them!
  • I stalled once – not for the usual on a hill stick shift issue but because I stopped at a light in 3rd gear and when the light changed quickly I forgot to put it back in 1st. Eyal said it was no big deal and if that were to happen during the test it wouldn’t matter unless it happened 3 or 4 times.
  • Michael had a taxi try to pass him on the right as he was entering the right lane and the instructor said that Michael was in the wrong for cutting off the taxi (we’re guessing that means it’s okay to pass on the right here).

Eyal said he felt we were both ready for the test and have nothing to worry about. We will probably have to wait until after Sukkot for our tests because the schools and government offices shut down from Rosh HaShanah until the end of Sukkot. As Yaakov Smirnoff has been saying for years (about a different country) What a Country!

Oh, and remember how I told you a few weeks ago that all prices and rules are subject to change without notice? Well, according to Eyal prices went up July 1st. The lessons are no longer 100 shekels each, they’re 150; the 57 shekel fee that has to be paid at the post office the morning of your test is now 60 (Eyal gave us forms to take to the post office for this); and either the cost of using the instructor’s car for the test or the cost to convert the license at Misrad HaRishui is 500 shekels – we need to get clarification on that, but either way both went up.

We highly recommend Eyal Ben Harush – in addition to being a thorough driving instructor, he understands customer service and has a nice car! Here’s his contact information:
Mobile 1: 050-6950086
Mobile 2: 052-5533117
Home: 02-9960322
Email: eyal-b@actcom.net.il

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