When you take driving lessons, try to understand your instructor

So I'm currently taking driving lessons to convert my American License to an Israeli one. There's no such thing as a learner's permit in Israel; rather, every new driver has to take about 24 expensive lessons before getting a license, and foreign drivers like me still must take a few lessons before getting official Israeli permission to venture on to the road.

My driving teacher, being Israeli, talks on his cell phone constantly while I drive. Today, he suddenly shouted,"Brrake! Brrake!" just as I was about to move through a traffic circle. I braked. Turned out he was greeting an Arab guy named "Berake" on the phone... oy.

But it could have been worse. He told me about an Argentinian-Israeli driving teacher who was speaking Spanish to someone in the back seat while an Israeli student was driving. The Israeli student came to a traffic circle, and heard her instructor suddenly say, "Si!" (As in, "Si, senora.")

The problem: in Hebrew, "si" is the imperative form of "drive," as in, "Get into the intersection now? What are you waiting for??" The student shrugged it off, because it obviously wasn't a good time to enter the traffic circle.

However, at the next intersection, she again heard the command for her instructor: "Si!" This time, she assumed that she must have done something wrong in stopping and looking to see who was coming.

So at the next traffic circle, when she heard "Si," she floored it-- shooting out into traffic and narrowly saved from collision by her instructor slamming on his brake.

This story almost comforted me when my driving instructor grabbed the steering wheel and tried to push me into a U-turn (I didn't understand the command to do a parsa-- horseshoe.)

Ah, the joys of living in a multi-lingual society!


  1. Actually, Maya, I'd report the teacher for talking on the phone and demand another. I'm sure it's illegal, not funny. Please check it out.

  2. He's actually a very good teacher, and I only need one more lesson. I've been driving for 9 years, so I can understand if he makes phone calls while I'm driving-- I only will take 3-4 lessons with him total. Did other people find that their instructors talked on the phone while they drove or is this just my guy?

  3. Yes, my teacher do this all the time. This is one of the reasons why I want to take another teacher.

  4. i did my license for israel in the army, and i had to do it on a 10 ton truck. based on the fact that i was the only one in the group of 4 people in my driving class that had had any experience driving (haveing started to drive in the usa at the age of 16) i was elected to go first. i thought we would take a few spins in this giant stick shift (which i had only had like two lessons on in my brother's car years before) around the base. OH NO we drove off base and into regular mercaz israel traffic. i was freaking out, added to the fact that my teacher was yelling the whole time stuff i didn't understand AT ALL and i was super nervous cuz the guys in the back seat were making fun of me...i about almost had a nervous break down...my first one since moving to israel a year and a half before. in the end i was the first one to pass the test...

  5. I too converted my license about 6 months after aliyah. In my part of New York, right on red is legal unless otherwise posted. I had taken 3 lessons and was ready for the big test.

    We started and everything was going great until the instructor had me turn right at an intersection. The light was red and I was first in line, so I did everything by the book: I first stopped at the red light, checked that the road was clear and then started to turn. In the middle of the intersection he slammed the brake on me and I yelled out, "What the hell are you doing, we're stopped in the middle of the intersection!" He just looked at me like I was insane and said nonchalantly, "It was a red light... you started to go through it."

    It was then that I realized that there was no right-on-red in Israel and that I had failed the test :-)

    The second test was a success...


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