Gefilte Fish Out of Water


Getting Driver’s License – parts 1 & 2
December 26, 2009, 3:35 pm
Filed under: Official Immigrant Stuff, Struggles | Tags:

I don’t know why,  but beaurocracy is beyond rampant in Israel.  I haven’t written anything about “official immigrant stuff” in months – and thank God, because there’s been no reason to.  Once I got my Teudat Zehut (official state I.D. card) and health insurance and passport, there’s just been no need to involve myself with that beaurocratic nightmare.

Here’s the thing about Israel.  The quality of life is aMazInG !!!  There’s such an emphasis on enjoyment – from food to café culture to celebrations.  There’s so much natural beauty – the Mediterranean, tree-lined streets, blossoms everywhere.  The men are astonishing looking.

Like I said, the quality of life is AmaZiNg….as long as you don’t have to do anything “OFFICIAL.”  OMG, you guys, you have no idea.  You want to wipe you butt in Israel, and it’s: get a form from the Butt Ministry, then take that to your proctologist, then go to the exfoliologist, then take four passport sized photos of your butt and stand on your head for five minutes while singing “Don’t Cry For Me Agentina” (backwards), then wait four weeks and finally you get your Butt Wiping Certificate and you can go ahead and wipe that (by now, dry & crusted) shiz off.

Not exaggerating guys.

So, if you just don’t have to do a lot of “official shit,” or you have an Israeli spouse to help you, or you just “go rogue” and never do anything legal, you can really enjoy the Good Life here in Israel. *le sigh*

So it’s been a while since I had to do anything official.  But now I’ve decided I want to get my Israeli driver’s license.  In your first year, Israel will grant you one if you have a valid license from another country.  But if you wait beyond this period, there’s like double the beauroshiz, so I decided the time to act was now.

I heard the gajillion six or seven step process begins by going to your eye doctor for an exam.  So, I made an appointment and last week had my eyes examined.  The good news is, my eyes are fine.  The bad news is, in Israel eye care is divided into optometrists (who unlike in America, are not doctors; they are basically eyeglass store owners merely certified to determine your prescription in order to sell you glasses) and opthamologists, who are Doctors.  For the purpose of getting your driver’s license, you actually have to visit a shister optometrist, have him check your eyes, and fill out a section of a special form.  Ah…, the form.  Where do you get this alleged “form.”  Ha, ha, ha.  You could drive south to a town called Holon, where there is some special center.  Or, there are all of two stores in Tel Aviv, who are licensed to distribute the forms.

My friend Eric, who’s been here a few years already, asked his boyfriend Moosh at work where in Tel Aviv I could pick us this form.  Moosh said there is a store “Memsi” where I could get it, and he told me it’s in Dizengoff Center, which is right in the center of town (duh).  Great!  I could easily go there on my bike an pick it up.  I set aside an hour one morning to do it this week.

Let me see, "Memsi" "Memsi" "Memsi"...maybe it's this way...no, I think over here...oh, i have to go to the information desk and ask? Where is that?... Where, again?

So, I do this…but it turns out Memsi moved locations two years ago.  Thanks for nothing, Moosh. I’m told the street name and given a general vicinity of where it is, and left to my own devices.  I call from this special information phone in the mall that gives you an English operator.  She’s never heard of this street, because I’ve already forgotten the Hebrew name, and she doesn’t understand the English translation (I was told in English it means “Train Street,” so I kept telling her that, and she’s like, What?)

So I text my friend (and former therapist, back in New York – for real, guys) Eitan, who really comes to my rescue.  First, because he calls me immediately.  Second, because he gives me great directions.  (Thanks, Eitan !!)  And, I’m off!  I sail down King George and Alenby on my bike until I get to Yehuda Halevi.  I get off the bike and walk the rest, taking off my headphones and carefully paying attention.  I overshoot the store, but not by much and get directed back the way I came.  And there it is – Memsi !!

And…they don’t have the license anymore.  It rotates, the guy tells me.  He thinks it’s this place “Optica Balisima,” which is right across from the Cinematheque, a location I totally know and was, in fact, nearby a few hours earlier.  But he’s not sure, so he gives me a special phone number (*5678) to call the Ministry of Transportation and confirm who has the license currently.  Yeah, good luck with that, I think;  1-800 numbers and automatic voice attendants are the kiss of death for non Hebrew-fluent Anglos in Israel.  There’s always a “for English, press four” prompt, and while it may give a recorded spiel in English after pressing it, you are always transferred to a real person….(wait for it)….who answers the line in Hebrew.  You can wing it with your limited Hebrew skills, but if you’re trying to take care of something and you really need to understand, of course you want the English option, so you ask if they speak English, and even though they totally do, because everyone speaks English in this country  (…imagine if every movie and TV show you ever saw was in Swahili…guess what, you’d speak Swahili), they say in Hebrew that they will transfer you to someone else who speaks English, but whoever picks up speaks to you again in Hebrew, and this process can go on for like nine people, until hell freezes over and you finally get someone willing to speak to you in English.  So, no thanks, I think, and I set out for Optica Balisima.

It’s a short ride, and I guess the one bonus of this minor wild goose chase is that for the first time I go cross-town in a certain way and realize how where I just was is connected to another part of town I already know; a deeper sense of orientation about my city falls into place.  I come upon where the store should be and with trepidation I look up…and….it’s right where it should be!

Praise the Lord.  Go inside, get my pic taken.  Hate my crazy eyes and take another one.  Looks better.  Get eyes examined and pay 40 shekels.  Done!  step two of like seven parts. Seriously.

Next I’m supposed to take this form to my primary care physician and have him sign off on it that I’m not at risk for dropping dead behind the wheel.  Then, the real fun begins.  I’ll need a ride to this ministry joint in Holon and turn the form in…and pay like 100 shekels to these shady guys with driver test cars behind the place and take a mandatory lesson.  Then, you get offered another lesson and you’re supposed to decline it.  Then, you’ll get an appointment for your on-the-road exam, which you must take in this same shady guy’s car, and he’ll try and sell you a mini lesson immediately before the test, and you’re supposed to agree to it.

*le sigh*, for real – I just sighed after writing that.

But for the moment I was victorious, and I celebrated with a bagel sandwich from Tal Bagels, which was right next door and I’d never been to.  You guys, Y-U-M !!!

Eat me.


8 Comments so far
Leave a comment

you are so funny! i’m totally calling you next time i’m in tel aviv! i have to go to avgad, the jewelry supply store… ever been? i have… it’s an experience…

Comment by blanche and guy

LOL, thanks. No, never been, Blanche, and I would love to go with you. Thanks for inviting me!

Comment by skatp

Erm, just re-read ur comment…and looks like I invited myself! Oopsie…

Comment by skatp

[...] so we’re back to the continuing saga of Israeli bureaucracy and how it relates to getting one’s driver’s license [...]

Pingback by Getting Driver’s License – Parts 3 & 4 « Gefilte Fish Out of Water

[...] working so hard to get my green form, I was a little nervous about leaving it behind with the woman behind the counter, who told me I [...]

Pingback by Getting Driver’s License – Part 4.5 « Gefilte Fish Out of Water

[...] that’s it, huh?  The whole beaurocratic process is finito?  That wasn’t so bad.  HaHaHaHa, Silly wabbit – this [...]

Pingback by Getting Driver’s License – Parts 5, 6 & 6.5 « Gefilte Fish Out of Water

Scott! Skat! :) Just had to re-visit your blog to pay a bit more attention to the driver license stuff. We’re here 8 months now so it’s time we go about getting my license official here. We’re out in the boonies (remember we met you at Sarah Melamed’s house in Nes Ziona?) … so I’m not sure how I go about this but I just know that I should… My husband Guy is Israeli and is SCARED of what he will have to go through to get his Israeli license back… he hasn’t lived here since 1992! So we’ll see what happens…. wish us luck! I still haven’t been to Avgad since I wrote that comment back in December… it’s better that way… then I don’t spend anything! It’s better that I don’t drive either – spend less money! We stay in the moshav – safer that way. :) Take care! Hope all is well with you and Petey!

Comment by Blanche

Hi, Blanche – of course I remember. I have been through so many changes the last month (housing, work) that I have neglected the blog. Gonna try and do some posts today. I think I put my whole driver’s license saga on here. I think there are 8 parts. Let me know if you have any questions, please. xo shabbat shalom

Comment by skatp




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