What ever made me think I could drive in this country – Part II

The inside of my head feels like a construction site today. And just yesterday I was thinking to myself (I was smart enough not to voice this thought out loud in case I gave myself an ayin hara)  how nice it is that I have not been sick for a while. Seemingly, it isn’t enough to ward off superstition by refraining from verbalizing one’s thoughts – the thoughts themselves jinx you. Voila, today I am sick, and, of course, being British, am blaming it on the weather.

Well, all is not lost. I may not have the necessary concentration to work, but the show will go on, and here is Part II of my misfortune on the Israeli roads, the drama of which continues until this day. 

 So where were we? Aah, yes. Summer of 2005. Just two weeks before the birth of my second daughter, I had come through the worst, and was officially an Israeli driver. I wasn’t sure if this was something to be proud of – judging by the insane driving and amount of fatalities on the road in this country – but I was euphoric to finally have the independence I so craved, and never in my life thought I would be so elated at the prospect of being able to drive myself to the supermarket to buy a bag of milk.  I was not the only happy camper. After three years of Josh being the one who had to run all the errands single-handed, he was happy to relieve himself of the responsibility. Of course, I didn’t really have much opportunity to drive in the two weeks leading up to the birth, given my size and my extremely pregnant condition, and I could not drive for six weeks after the birth because of the c-section delivery, but the knowledge, the sweet knowledge, of knowing that if I wanted to drive, I could, made me a very happy woman.

Fast-forward a couple of months to December of 2005 – it was a Friday morning in Modiin, and wanting to beat the normal Friday craziness in the supermarkets, I headed out early in the morning to the supermarket to do some last-minute errands. On my way back, at 8.30, I approached an intersection, and came to a stop at the stop sign. So far, so good. Advancing past the stop sign, I looked to my left, and saw a car coming from a distance, but thought I had enough time to make it, and cross the intersection. Well, I didn’t. The car was speeding, and we collided. Thank G-d, no one was hurt. My car took the extreme brunt of the damage, while the guy’s car was only slightly dented on the left side. I was reeling from shock. Before I knew it, the police had arrived, and our cars were moved away to the side of the road. The first thought that entered my mind was: I am screwed, I am screwed. For the first year of having your license, you are supposed to have a “New Driver” sign on the rear window, but mine was lying unused in the trunk. All it would take was for a policeman to look at my driver’s license, and see that I had only passed the test a couple of months before, and I would really be in trouble. As it turned out, that was the least of my worries. The policeman did indeed take a look at my license, and remarked that I didn’t have the sign at the back of my car, but instead of bailing me out for it, he winked at me and said, “al tidag, beseder, beseder” (Don’t worry, it’s fine). In this case, playing the role of the helpless female worked wonders.

A couple of minutes later, Josh arrived at the scene after my frantic phone call, and we talked to the Russian guy whose car I collided into. As far as I could see, he could only gain from the accident. His car looked as if it was at least fifteen years old, and the insurance money he would receive from the accident could help him buy a new car. It looked as if it is was on its way out anyway. We didn’t fare as well. We had to replace the entire right side of our car for a hefty bill, even with the insurance. A very annoying situation, but we were philosophical about it. No one was hurt, we were just a couple of thousand shekel poorer, and life goes on. His speeding combined with my poor judgement caused the accident.

A couple of weeks later, I got a phone call from the guy’s insurance company. He had claimed that his entire car was a write-off, and they wanted to verify his story. His car was only slightly dented, but obviously shekel signs were flashing in front of his eyes, and he wanted to profit from the situation, so he made out that his car had been totally wrecked. I told the insurance agent in no uncertain terms that HIS car was fine – although I couldn’t say the same about my car.

So my insurance company battled it out against his insurance company, and we were issued with a notice that we had to go to court over it, and that we had to be present… I am sure you can guess from my “luck” this far the outcome of the case – the representative that was sent to court on behalf of my insurance company was an arrogant, oil-slicked teenager who looked as if he would be more comfortable as a DJ in a night club in Tel Aviv than in a court of law, and did not endear himself to the female judge who had obviously had had her fair share of swaggering insurance agents that day. So yet another defeat for us, and a letter arrived in our mail box just a couple of weeks later notifying us that they had “dropped” us, and that they would no longer give us insurance, since we had been in two accidents in two years. (The first “accident” happened a year before on our street in Jerusalem, when our car was parked outside our apartment, and a school wall came tumbling down at  7.30 in the morning, luckily injuring no children, but crushing our car.)  The injustice! How dare they just “drop” us like that? What is the point of having insurance if the minute you get into an accident, you are considered too much of a liability, and you find yourself insurance-less? Well, what choice did we have? We found another insurance agent who finally agreed to take us on, and although we weren’t as fully covered, at least we had insurance.

 If only this was the end of my sorry tale. In June of this year, a message on my cellphone informed “Hakhel” that his court case had been postponed till July 15. Having put the accident behind me, and thinking that the message was obviously not for me, since who in G-d’s name was “Hakhel”, I concluded that they had the wrong number, and felt sorry for the dude who was never informed of the change in date of his court case. Well, another phone call a week later confirmed that “Hakhel” was their way of pronouncing “Sorelle,” and that the message was indeed intended for my ears.

I tried to keep my voice even and calm when I spoke to the clerk, and thanked her for notifying me of the change in date in court case, but that I had no idea that there was even going to be a court case, and if she could please tell me what in G-d’s name she was talking about, I would be ever so grateful. The next five minutes of our conversation revealed that the State of Israel were prosecuting me for poor judgement in an accident that had occurred two years ago. Of course, I had never received the original letter from the court, so this follow-up phone call telling me that the case had been postponed was not exactly helpful. 

You gotta love Israel – the ENTIRE government at the time were being indicted for some crime or another, including the beloved prime minister, Olmert, and the head of the police, and I WAS BEING PROSECUTED FOR POOR JUDGEMENT?   

After recovering from the initial shock, my next phone call was to find a lawyer who could find out from the police what the story was – and what it was that I was being prosecuted for. Apparently, the other driver had not only claimed that his car was a write-off, but that he had to go to hospital because of injuries sustained as a result of the accident. Frustration turned into rage – it’s one thing for this guy to try to get rich out of the accident, but to claim that he was hurt was so outrageous and deceitful, he may as well have been claiming that night was day. My lawyer suggested that we work out some sort of plea bargain with the court, whereby I lose my license for a couple of months (that’s a compromise???), and that would be it.

The lawyer told me that the worst-case scenario would be for them to take away my license for three months, so I wasn’t quite sure why agreeing to them taking away my license for three months was a plea bargain – but he claimed that that was the best he could do given the fact that I was a new driver, and the cards were stacked against me. He did, however, assure me that there would be no fine. Okay, three months without a license – I had lived for this long without a license, life goes on. 

Well, to cut an extremely long story short, I arrive in court to find that not only was I going to be without my license for three months, but that I was going to be slapped with a NIS 1000 shekel fine. Apparently, my lawyer “forgot” – when he met with the prosecutor over coffee and croissants – to bring up the issue of the fine, and that was why, in essence, there was no plea bargain. I had paid $600 to an absolutely useless lawyer, and the prosecutor must have been laughing his head off at the results of the “plea bargain.” The lawyer did reassure me, though, that I could pay the fine in tashlumim – monthly payments. How very reassuring. NOTE TO SELF: Hire an Israeli lawyer, not a self-effacing British one. Well, I didn’t roll over meekly on this one – my husband and I insisted that the lawyer pay half the fine, and eventually he agreed, admitting that he had “forgot” to bring up the subject of the fine. There were TWO things the lawyer needed to discuss – the issue of my license being revoked for three months, and the fine – and out of those two things, he suffered amnesia, and forgot to deal with the money aspect.

I was told by the judge that I had to hand in my license to the court office, and pay the fine. Well, as I handed over my license – and my freedom – to the faceless woman behind the desk, my heart started to pound as she told me that she could not take my license, since it had expired just two days before. The three-month clock could not start ticking until I renewed my license, and then return to the court to hand it in. Exercising extreme self-restraint by stopping myself from having a nervous breakdown right then and there, I asked her calmly and slowly where I could renew my license in the area, and she told me where, but with one caveat – the Ministry of Transport were on strike, and I could not renew my license until they resumed work. So I had to wait an extra FIVE days until they deigned to get up from their strike and join the rest of the workforce before I could renew my license, and begin the three-month period of my driverless status.

I suppose I should have realized two weeks ago, on October 31st, when I finally got my license back, that that wouldn’t be the end of it. Just this morning, I was delivered a letter informing me that I have to take a twelve-hour course on basic driving, followed by an exam at the end.

So do you think someone’s trying to tell me something?

   

6 thoughts on “What ever made me think I could drive in this country – Part II

  1. Oy! I have heard nothing but horror stories about driving in Israel, not to mention actually getting your license! Sorry to hear about your troubles…Oh, the guy that hit you? Maybe taking a hammer to his nice, new shiny car will make you feel a bit better!

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