Thursday, 14 May 2015

Driven round the bend, Israeli-style

And I've just realized I've been here now for 10 months. Blimey! 
The time has really flown most respects. There are some times and places in Israeli society - Yom Kippur and government offices, namely - in which you can literally feel yourself growing old and slowly dying. The Misrad HaRishui (Licensing Ministry), a title which my non sabra-native tongue just can't make its way around, is one of these such places. 
I mentioned last post that I had passed my driving test in Israel, successfully converting my UK license to an Israeli one. What I didn't mention was the time frame and cost incurred in order to do this. 
Ain't that the truth
Have a gander at this here box; it explains (non dynamically, due to copy/paste) the different steps needed to convert a license: 
And no, it's not a joke.
That's 9 steps - 9. Fricking. Steps!!
Let me take you through each stage, with a little bit of Flisstory (Fliss-history) attached: 

1. Eye exam. 
Date I did it: August 2014
Location: Jerusalem
Cost: 50 NIS.
I first found the one of two (!!!) places in the whole of the sprawl that is Jerusalem which is licensed to do the (allegedly) ultra-specific eye exam. It took all of 3 minutes, consisting of a bored, questionably qualified girl (who sat on her phone throughout) pretending to listen as I read a chart.
2. Declaration of Health
Date: August 2014
Location: Jerusalem
Cost: Free. 
I actually cheated a little bit here; I thought that by attending a Nefesh B Nefesh (lit: Soul to Soul, an agency helping Anglos with pre and post-Aliya) Anglo-olim event, I'd manage to skip pretty much every other step. 
But nope. They actually created a lot more steps for me.
Long, long (like 3-4 months) story short, I had my form - 'tofes yarok' (lit. green form) sent off for special assessment by a panel based in Holon. I would get a ruling as to whether or not I could drive in 4 weeks. 
3. Visit a physician
Date: later that day
Location: Jerusalem
Cost: 100 NIS
And then, I went to my doctor. I whined and complained that this was getting ridiculous and I just wanted to do my bloody test while I still had relative amounts of free time. 
He wrote a strongly worded letter to the panel in Holon, but to no avail.
My doctor signed a form saying I was healthy and able-bodied, and that was that. But it's always nice to have that confirmation, innit.

4. Go to Misrad Harishui
Date: August, September and October 2014. 
Location: Jerusalem
Cost: Bus tickets to the sodding place each time!
I don't really want to relive it, but this step involved 3 or 4 (enforced amnaesiac) visits to the good old Misrad, where I had to deal with angry public servants, line upon lines upon lines and no fricking returned tofes yarok. Until October, that is, when I did the same thing but emerged triumphant with my tofes yarok stating - surprise, surprise - that I was fit and healthy to drive, end of. 

5. Schedule your lesson
Date: September, November 2014
Location: Jerusalem
Cost: 130 NIS a go
This one was time dependent, as I had to have a practice lesson or three, you know - what with driving and having the gear stick on the other side back in Blighty. But all was good, I could have taken my test right there and then if not for the next few steps...

6. Visit the Post Office 
Date: August 2014
Location: Jerusalem
Cost: 72 NIS (cash)
Here's a warning - if you ever need to pay for anything at a post office in Israel, always. Take. Cash.

I can't even begin to tell you the amounts of time (over 10) that I've waited a long-arse time to get to the front of the queue (other than when I pretend to not understand the system - one of the only benefits of looking different and having this stupid accent), only to have the person behind the desk tell me I have to pay in cash - and I am without cash at that moment. Like the Queen.

But eventually it got done.

And so, it came to pass, that the next three steps were easier. Whether or not this was because I had moved to Tel Aviv (and everything is better in Tel Aviv ;) ), or all of the balagan had just been before, these next three steps flew by.

Here's one important thing to note though - if you want to convert your license in Israel, the Misrad HaRishui only does this on Tuesday afternoons, when Saturn is in the path of Jupiter and only in a  schmitta year, and only then IF it's also a leap year.

Ok so maybe that's an exaggeration, but they're stupidly specific about their timings.

But, after contacting a driving instructor, the next three bits -
7. Take the test (Tel Aviv, cost: 450 NIS)
8. Return to Misrad HaRishui - My driving instructor did this for me, once he saw I had broken out in cold sweat at the mere mention of that name)
9. Return to the Post Office (Tel Aviv: Cost: 225 NIS)
Were comparatively easy and painless. I just need to wait 2 months (or more) for my license to come through.
Even the test was ridiculously easy - ten minutes of driving around some backstreets of north Tel Aviv, having the instructor shout 'yemina!' (right) or 'smolla!' (left) two seconds before the actual turn. In England, the process is about an hour long, and you have to demonstrate your parking skills, A-road driving, various manoeuvers and more.
So in total, the whole process (for me) took 8 months and cost upwards of 1300 NIS. That's roughly 215 quid!
Now look at this information, taking from the British government's website, on the same process in Blighty:

5 years? 43 quid? 3 weeks? APPLY FOR THIS WHOLE THING ONLINE?????

Is it any wonder that sometimes this here land seems like a second world country??

Well, even if it is, I still love it, and I have done for 10 whole months, and many more.

Otherwise, thank god - nothing exciting to report, other than I managed to -