I'd like to share some tips about the driving license requirements for people that have moved to Israel. My status is that of a tourist with a working visa but the info below should apply to residents ("toshavim)" as well.
The Israeli law requires that whoever possesses a foreign driving license valid for Israel (for example it can be an European one or an international one) can drive in Israel for up to one year since his/her arrival.
This is a crucial point that is not clear to most people (even to Israeli Public Administration): how do you count the arrival? For example, supposing we come shortly back to visit our family, is it the last re-entry to Israel that counts? The answer is no: the counting restarts only if you stay outside Israel for 1 year continuously.
If you want to keep driving in Israel after one year, you have to convert your driving license to an Israeli one; pay attention that you're exchanging your driving license with an Israeli one and the previous one must be handed over to the Licensing Office (anyway Israeli licenses are valid for Europe for one year at least, after which you'd need to re-convert).
In order to convert your driving license to an Israeli one this is the procedure (it will be difficult to obtain the following info, even if you manage Hebrew, so treasure it):
- If your status is that of a tourist it means you don't have an Israeli ID (residents and up have it already), so first of all you need to travel to the competent Central Licensing Office for your area (e.g. for the North it is in Haifa, "batei zikuk") and ask for a Licensing Office ID so that you'll be present in the Licensing Office systems.
- You need then to perform a quick (paid) eye examination in any of the optics store licensed by the Licensing Office (usually there's one extremely close to the local Licensing Office) and get the "green form" ("tofes yarok").
- You'll then need to fill the parts meant for the examinee, so ask someone to help you if you can't manage (it's in Hebrew).
- You'll also need a (paid) medical examination, the doctor will fill the rest of the green form (most doctors speak Hebrew so you can ask them to help you with your part as well).
- Your country of origin might have an agreement with Israel that removes the need for an exam in order to convert the driving license (Italy, my country of origin, does); if this is not the case, you'll need to book the examination(s) (I think this too must be done at the competent Central Licensing Office for your area but I'm not entirely sure, if someone knows please share it in the comments).
- Else, just come back to the competent Central Licensing Office for your area (for the North it is in Haifa, "batei zikuk"), ask for the conversion, wait half-an-hour and get the temporary driving license. Congratulations, you can drive!
- You finally need to pay a tax at any post office and in one month's time you'll receive the final license card at your home address. Cool!
You'll need to start this process when your visa and foreign license have at least three months left and you won't be able to complete it during the visa renewal period, so allow for plenty of time and ideally do it just after you've obtained or renewed your visa.
It is true that most people (including Police and car rentals) don't know all of the above and most likely will let you drive with your foreign license even after one year but don't do it: just imagine the mess if, God forbid, should you be involved in an accident.
Hope this will help people reducing headaches and useless trips around!