Posts Tagged ‘Driving in Israel’

Driving in Israel Part 3: Parking in Israel

January 27, 2012 3 comments

I have to hand it to Israelis. They might not be able to park a car between the lines in a lot, but they sure can squeeze into a space. They have driving-in-reverse skills that would make Mater proud. But, like I said, they have little to no regard for the lines.

Basically, parking in the cities is so bad that eventually you are going to have to park illegally at some point. I did it blatantly last week for the first time. There are so many people parked illegally all the time that there is no way the police can ticket or tow them all. However, if you see this sign, I wouldn’t mess around. Keep looking.

Stace did get a ticket in Tel Aviv when we were legitimately trying to park legally in a blue & white spot. Unfortunately we misread the Hebrew sign and didn’t realize that times are read right-to-left just like words. For example, in the US if a store is open  from 8:00-5:00 then in Israel it would be written “5:00-8:00.” Simple right?

Well, there are a few rules. Everyone breaks them, but I’ll tell them to you anyway. It’s all about the color of  the curb .

GRAY = Free parking.
RED & WHITE = Do not park here. People do anyway when legit spaces are scarce.
BLUE &WHITE = You may have to pay to park here, or maybe not, or maybe you need a residential pass. I hope you can read Hebrew.
BLACK & WHITE = Don’t park here ever. People mostly respect this one.

A popular Israeli pastime is make-your-own-spot. This is usually done out of desperation and/or cheapness. One example is to park in a red & white spot, but to pull up on the curb so you are mostly out of the way… of the cars. Pedestrians don’t get much consideration while someone is in desperation parking mode. In Jerusalem, they’ve actually created legal pull-up-on-the-curb  spots. Another strategy is to park full-on in the middle of the sidewalk as seen below. Also note the black car across the street parked on the  red & white curb.

Sure, I can fit, why not?

4WD gives you the freedom to park wherever your high-clearance vehicle can take you.

This one is just wonderful, courtesy of my friend Fara. I’ve added notations to make sure you don’t miss anything:


Driving in Israel Part 2: Merging With Traffic

December 24, 2011 1 comment

When it comes to merging in Israeli traffic, the bottom line is that anyone can and will merge if they think they can pull it off.  It basically amounts to a game of chicken and a battle of wills.

The first time it happens to you feels something like this:

I’m merging.
No you aren’t.. are you crazy?
I’m merging.
No you aren’t.
Yes I am.
No you aren’t.
Yes I am.
Fine, just don’t hit my car!

Because this behavior is normal and expected, Israeli drivers are very confused if you decide to be nice and let them in. They never take the opening, because they don’t expect other drivers to just let them in. They think they have to take it from you. It’s like they think it’s a trap and they just don’t know how to respond.

Once you get used to this kind of behavior you’ll periodically astonish yourself with how much nerve you’ve developed. I was in a traffic jam that looks a lot like this picture I stole from the internet. It took me two hours to get home from the grocery that night. (It normally takes 10 min.)  I realized at one point that I was mere inches from the car in front of me as I was forcing myself through the intersection, the light had turned, and the oncoming traffic was closing in on me in much the same way. “Wow,” I thought, “I’m becoming one of them.”

There are always a couple of fools on the highway who literally drive like they are on a racetrack. These guys are Level 6 Douchebags who view “shooting the gap” as some kind of extreme sport. They scare the crap out of the most seasoned Israeli drivers and would probably cause a lot of accidents if people didn’t already expect crazy merging behavior.

At this point I’m a bit worried about making the transition to driving back in the States. I’ve picked up some pretty nasty habits as a means of survival and I’m afraid I’m going to forget where I am one day. Let’s just hope there are no cops around.

Next time: Parking in Israel

Driving in Israel Part 1: Traffic Lights

December 7, 2011 3 comments

As promised long ago, this is the first of many posts on how to drive in Israel.  But first a disclaimer: I have not read a single publication on how you are supposed to drive in Israel. I have merely observed the behavior of fellow drivers and have adapted my behavior as far as I feel is safe and responsible.

In case you haven’t heard, Israelis are famous for being crazy drivers. Even Israelis are afraid of Israeli drivers. (And yes, they drive on the right.)






We’ll begin with the most important information: How to behave at a traffic light.

  1. It is NOT LEGAL to turn right on red. Ever. Anywhere. As many traffic laws as you see Israelis break, they will never ever ever break this one. I asked around about this, thinking the fine for getting caught must be pretty expensive. I was basically told that it was just unheard of and would be viewed much the same way as going the wrong way down a one-way street. It’s just stupid.
  2. BUT… if you are turning right at the intersection, look very closely. If there is a small triangular curb dividing the right turn lane from the straight traffic and there is no right turn signal, then you can turn right when the straight traffic has the Red light and you must yield to oncoming traffic. If you are in doubt, stop, and the drivers behind you will “let you know” if it’s OK to go.
  3. Red/Yellow Light Combo
    When you see this light, it’s time to take your foot off the brake pedal and hover it over the gas pedal. The driver behind you should no longer see your brake lights on. If he does, he will “let you know” they are on. If you are on a motorcycle, this is when you hit the gas.
  4. Green Light
    Stomp on the gas pedal at the exact moment the light changes from Red/Yellow to Green. The driver behind you will “let you know” if you are waiting too long.
  5. Blinking Green Light
    You can make it through if you are close–hit the gas. (Treat it like a yellow light in the US).
  6. Yellow Light
    You’re not going to make it–hit the brake.
  7. Red Light
    Seriously, stop. Go back to #1.

Next time: Merging with Traffic