by Teddy Weinberger

Our family recently concluded its fifth and final driver’s education cycle in Israel, with Elie passing his driving exam on the third try. Unlike in America, there are no such things as learners’ permits here. What this means is that before you have your license, you cannot take Mom or Dad out for a spin (although this does tend to keep family therapy costs down). You may only get behind the wheel next to a certified driving instructor in a special car with dual brakes. Needless to say, learning how to drive in Israel can be quite expensive.
By law you are required to take 28 hours of driving instruction, which costs in the range of 100-120 shekels ($27-$33) an hour (this for manual transmission; if you are learning just how to drive an automatic, the cost is actually greater because of the instructor’s higher vehicle costs). Elie
thought that he would accelerate things by taking several double lessons. He ended up not feeling prepared after his 28 hours and thus had to take almost 40 lessons (as with the other kids, Sarah and I split with Elie the costs of his driver’s education).
Before taking the practical driving test, one must pass a written exam (47 shekels). The cost of a driving test is 400 shekels for the use of your instructor’s car plus 136 shekels for the government fee. The more times you fail, the more test costs you pay. You must be at least 17 years of age in order to try to earn your driver’s license.
After you pass your driving test there are certain limitations placed on you. By law for the first two years after you pass the test you have to have a “New Driver” sign displayed through the rear window. For the first 3 months you are not allowed to drive unless you have a chaperon in the car with you (said chaperon must be either 24 years old with a minimum of 5 years of experience or 30 years old with 3 years of experience). And to prevent rowdiness, for two years or until you reach the age of 21, you cannot carry more than two passengers in your vehicle.
Israeli insurers are very reluctant to trust the safety skills of young drivers. Up until the age of 21 a family who wants Precious to drive must purchase a “young driver” policy, which in our case would have increased our insurance by about 33% (up from $1,606). I say would have because we did not purchase this policy, and so both our young drivers, Ezra and Elie, cannot drive our family car. They are in luck, though, because Sarah’s company provides her with a car for which they are insured (this is a fairly common perk in Israel, but we do pay about $270 in monthly taxes for Sarah’s work car).
Each year your vehicle must undergo an emissions and safety inspection. The English word “test” is also the Hebrew word used for this inspection (cost: 95 shekels). One approaches the “test” with a good deal of dread. If your Hebrew is not perfect, and the testers are screaming “kadima” or “ahora,” you just might go forward when they wanted you to back up. And typically when you study Hebrew, you don’t learn the contemporary Hebrew term for “arm brake,” which is: “ambrayks.” I should mention that in order to take the “test,” you have to come with your paid registration form. Theoretically, the registration fee should go down with the depreciation of your car’s value, but for some reason in Israel it’s the other way around: my six-year-old Mazda’s registration fee this year was NIS 1518 and last year it was NIS 1490.
To round out this essay on driving costs, we need to mention the costs of purchasing a car and of the fuel to run it. After converting shekels to dollars and liters to gallons, the approximate equivalent dollar-per-gallon gasoline cost is a whopping $7.95. The method for calculating what it would
cost you in Israel to buy the car you drive in America is much simpler: Whatever you paid for your vehicle, double the price.
In order to hold down the human costs of driving–please, let’s everyone: Drive Safely.
Teddy Weinberger made aliyah in 1997 with his wife, former Omahan Sarah Ross, and their five children. Their oldest three, Nathan, Rebecca and Ruthie, are veterans of the Israel Defense Forces; Weinberger can be reached at weinross@net vision.net.il.