Israeli high tech has produced start-ups like MobileEye, GreenRoad, Sensomatix and Traffilog to improve driver safety and behavior, but it will require a cultural change to turn Israel into a genuinely friendly place for drivers. As a frustrated driver myself, I have assembled a list of observations and camera phone pics for those unfamiliar with the experience of driving in Israel. All pictures are courtesy of my faithful Blackberry Bold.
1. Tailgating at speeds of 120kmh is a true sport in this impatient land. The logic goes something like this: “The closer I get to the car in front, the clearer I will become in his rearview mirror…and the more likely he is to move out of the way in haste.”
2. Shoulders on the side of the road are for those people in a real hurry and who didn’t know there would be traffic.
3. While frightening, it’s completely routine to see cars enter a highway and then slowly reverse after changing their minds.
4. Crosswalks merely indicate where a pedestrian might be run over if one is so bold as to cross the street. Conversely, drivers only have to stop at a crosswalk if a pedestrian has fully stepped off the pavement.
5. Mopeds, ATVs and small motorcycles can morph into pedestrians at will and use the crosswalks to get around a red light at an intersection. Consider this the next time you marvel at the speed of your pizza delivery.
6. Disabled parking spots tend to be occupied by luxury sedans and SUVs. In fact, I generally associated illegal parking in the cities with luxury vehicles whose drivers are above the law.
(graffiti on wall reads: "Disabled Parking is for the Disabled Momo!")
7. Don’t be alarmed to see seemingly senile pensioners taking their motorized wheelchair on main roads during rush hour. It’s part of the fearless, laissez faire culture we cherish so much.
8. If you want to meditate while driving, you can always read the religious graffiti on the road signs. Na, Nach, Nachma, Nachman Meuman is a chant of the Brezlov Hasidic sect. Why they feel compelled to use spraypoint is beyond me.
9. Israeli road signs are conveniently translated into English and Arabic. However, don’t be surprised if the English name of your destination appears to change its spelling as you drive along. Netanya may become Natanya. Zichron Yaakov may become Zikron Yaakov or Zikhron Yaakov. Petah Tiqwa, Petah Tikva or Petach Tikva…and so on. This should change soon with a harmonization in tranliteration, but in the meantime it must really confuse tourists.
10. Traffic cops exist, but you have to look carefully. And when you do, you will see that justice eventually comes to all repeat offenders regardless of their status.