A few weeks ago, someone posted a question regarding driving in Israel. I have driven before in Israel and didn't really think anything of it. Having just returned from a trip to Israel where I did more driving than ever before and had the 'opportunity' to be picking up Israeli bus drivers and taking them home at night, I got a whole education on driving in Israel.
I hope this helps others (some things were an eye-opener to me!)
1) Driving is on the right hand side. This is pretty obvious and makes it easy for most of the world except for the Australians and Brits who have to think about those left and right hand turn lanes.
2) Traffic lights. Seems obvious but not really. A flashing green means stop.....in Canada it means right of way!! My passengers all yelled at me when I gunned it through a flashing green before it turned yellow. Yellow means you stop, not get through quickly........more yelling in Hebrew.... I did much better the second day with my passengers. Red means stop too. No right hand turns on red. After the red it turns yellow before going green. That means, be ready to go the second it turns green or the entire country will be honking at you and even try to get around you. I was good at this part :) If you are driving a standard get into gear when it turns yellow from red.
3) Round-abouts. I learned to drive on roundabouts so no problem but apparently a lot of tourists haven't mastered them yet. They are not common in North America. Those in the circle have the right of way. Yield when entering and don't stop in the middle. Some places, like Beit Shean and Arad seem like one big round-about and you just go from one to another and hope you are exiting at the right spot. Don't even get me started about round-abouts in Tzfat and signage there....
4) Speed limits. In general, 50 km an hour in residential zones. You know when you are in a residential zone when you approach a town and see a round sign with a red circle and a little house in it. It doesn't say 50km an hour but that is what it means. Then you watch every block or so as the speed limit goes up and down. When exiting a residential area you see a round sign with a slash through it which means it cancels the earlier speed limits. Then the limit is 80km on undivided highways and 90 km on divided highways. Some divided highways have speed limits that go up to 100 or 110km an hour in sections. Only toll road 6 is 110 for the whole thing.
5) Emergency vehicles. In Canada if a police car is 2 cm from your back bumper with flashing lights, it means pull over. In Israel it means nothing. If the police want you to pull over, they use a siren or loudspeaker. They drive with flashing lights all the time and are really good at sneaking up behind you. I actually pulled over for ambulances but didn't see anyone else do that.
6) Passing. Some Israelis are impatient drivers. Some are just plain road hogs. If someone is riding on your bumper, ignore them, they will overtake you on some dangerous curve at some point, will attempt to overtake with oncoming traffic, or will eventually turn off the road. Don't feel pressured into going over the speed limit or taking curves on desert roads or on the Golan at greater speeds than you are comfortable with. On a divided highway, the left lane is a passing lane only.
7) Parking. You kind of need a PhD to stay on top of this but here are the basics. Red and white on the curb means no parking. Red and yellow on the curb means reserved for certain vehicles like buses. Blue and white on the curb means parking with a permit purchased at a machine. There may or may not be a machine nearby. If not, look for a kiosk which may or may not be nearby or permits may be purchased through a cellphone payment system which I have no idea how it works. Red and Grey on the curb means reserved for residents. There are others but you probably got the gist of this. Parking is all clearly explained on big signs in Hebrew only....
8) If you need to stop on a highway pull over on the shoulder. When exiting the car you must wear, by law, the reflective vest that should be in the glove compartment of your rental car. It is the law to have the vest in the car and not the trunk.
9) Talking on the cell phone or texting is against the law when driving.
10) Looking for a tourist site or landmark? The signs are shaped like arrows and are brown in colour. Almost all road signs in Israel are in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Of course, I say almost because I found all the Hebrew only ones. Never noticed them before since I read Hebrew just fine but my poor navigator couldn't keep track of where we were at times.
Driving in Israel is not difficult. I would not recommend driving in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem because the parking and one way streets just make it such a chore. Everywhere else it is great. Roads in the Carmel Mountains, the Naphtali Ridge, the Golan and in the Judean and Negev deserts can be very twisty and steep. It often require a downshift if your rental is not a powerful car. The views are spectacular and the roads are well maintained and, for the most part, well sign-posted.
I am happy to report that all my Israeli friends are still driving with me and after renting a car about 6 times in Israel, I now know the rules of the road (well, most of them anyway).