Friday, January 7, 2011

Driving in Israel

I first went in to rent a car fro Avis. A very good experience and if you are in need of a car, check them out. To my surprise, the automatic transmission on the Chevy we picked up also had tiptronic. I know how to drive a manual, and I understand the concept of the tiptronic. However, I had never driven a car with one. It took me more than a few tries to figure out exactly how to use it and in the end, I was glad to discover how to get the car into drive and stay automatic instead of this "new-fangeled" transmission.

That wasn't the end of the driving issues though. If you've never been to Jerusalem, I don't think I can begin to explain what goes on here as far as traffic. The traffic lights change from green, to yellow, to red, to yellow and back to green. This is so you can have your car in gear and already moving before the light changes. The result is a lot of honking when people are a little slow.

Driving here is also a lot like walking. You just need to go for it. People are very good about using their breaks to stop, but they are not so good at using things like turn signals or letting someone into a lane. Complicating the diving issue even more was the fact that the street signs, while marked somewhat well for pedestrians, are of little to no help for drivers. They are tiny and often blocked by traffic control signs or by advertisements.

The roads here do some strange things too. They sometimes add lanes and then take them away. Israel is also not immune to road construction. All of these things added into the difficulty I had trying to get us out of Jerusalem to head to the Dead Sea and Masada.

I got us lost twice in the city. Well, not really lost because I knew where I was. We were more lost in the fact that I couldn't get us where we wanted to go. I only take the blame for one of these two instances. One was due to poorly marked roads and me not having great directions (thanks Google). The other time was an issue of me not being in the right lane. That one was my bad. As it turns out, if you ask someone for directions they will give you very detailed ones. But this was not enough.

After I had returned to my car, the man followed me to give me better directions that he had thought of since we talked 20 seconds earlier. These worked really well. The third time is the charm.

Once we were on the highway, it was pretty easy to get where we needed to go. We made our way to the Dead Sea (look for another post soon about that part of the trip), and finally on to Masada.

This is where I got us lost again.

We were planning on staying at the Masada Youth Hostel and Guest House. When I was looking for directions, I could only find bus routes and an address that told me Masada. I put this into Google Maps, copied down the directions and hoped all would be well.


I knew that there are two sides to Masada. What I didn't know was that we were staying on the side closer to the Dead Sea. This was something that escaped me in my directions. So instead of having a very short journey, I took us far south, into and through Arad, back into the desert and to Masada. When we got there, the man at the security barrier told us that we were on the wrong side and had to go back.

When we reached Arad for the second time, we pulled over on the side of the road. Luckily there was an open internet hotspot that we could log on to. Kaitlin helped me find the right address and we charted our own course back through the desert to our hostel for the night. We arrived only an hour later than we had planned and two-and-a-half hours after we could have arrived.

Where We Were Supposed To Be
Where We Ended Up

The drive home was far less eventful. It took us about an hour or so to get back to Jerusalem. Reentering the city is a lot easier than leaving it. Maybe it's not that Jerusalem has such a hold on you. It might be that it's just impossible to find your way out!

It was a great trip though. I really enjoyed getting to spend time in the car with Kaitlin. The experiences were great too.

Another post will come soon that will tell you all about the Dead Sea and Masada.

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