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After traveling quite a bit in Israel by car I still can't figure out how to use gas pumps at the gas stations.

All pumps I've seen were self service ones where you pay by car at the pump. Also none of them would allow you to change the language from Hebrew to anything else.

Issue with it is that they will ask you some questions and expect some answers. Every time I had to ask someone for help and they would come, press some buttons on the keyboard but I still have no idea what it was.

So:

  1. what questions are asked?
  2. what answers do I have to provide?
  3. why none of them has interface in English?
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    I am more curious why the OP is asking a bunch of internet strangers, 99% of whom will have never, ever, run into this issue. Instead, why not ask someone who lives in Israel and works at a service station? – CGCampbell Feb 14 at 13:25
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    @CGCampbell: OP was assuming there are Israeli locals on Travel.SX, and - s/he was right. – einpoklum Feb 14 at 22:50
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    The English language countries are the US, Canada, UK, New Zealand and Australia. Everyone else has a different language. So don't be surprised to NOT see foreign languages, just like you don't see Portugese or Chinese on gas pumps in the US. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 15 at 2:49
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica I didn't detect any "surprise", and in many of the countries you just listed machines can be switched into different languages for tourists. So not really sure what your point is here. – Asteroids With Wings Feb 16 at 3:20
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica That's not really a valid comparison. English is the lingua franca of travel and business almost everywhere, not just in countries where English is the native language. This includes Israel, where it's completely normal for things to be labeled in English in addition to Hebrew and/or Arabic. – reirab Feb 16 at 4:29
16

Almost all gas stations in Israel have full service pumps, where you pay a little more and are taken care of.

Unfortunately you're right - the interface is Hebrew only and I know no way to change it.

You're asked two questions - the license plate number (that's easy) and your id number (equivalent to American SSN). The questions are normally, not always, in this order. The main problem is not having an id number. It's part of the credit card verification process, so you can type something arbitrary and hope the transaction is approved.

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    Depending on the local software, a fake but valid ID number such as 122222227 will work better than a random ID. – notautogenerated Feb 14 at 18:07
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    Why do they need the plate number? Is it about tracking stolen vehicles or something? (E.g. if they look up the plate and id and you're not the owner, the police now know where to look for you?) What if I were driving with a friend and they offered to pay for the gas? (I'm just curious, not planning a trip to Israel any time soon.) – Darrel Hoffman Feb 14 at 21:50
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    @DarrelHoffman this is a wild guess, but I know many years ago Israel had a gas rationing system where cars (based on license plate) were only allowed to drive on alternating days. Maybe some kind of holdover from that era? – mbrig Feb 14 at 22:43
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    Some people have gas cards that are only supposed to be used with a specific car. Typing in the correct license plate is a (minor) hurdle to prevent you from borrowing a friend's card. (The gas purchased using such a card is usually subsidized by an employer.) – Joey Marianer Feb 15 at 6:28
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    @DarrelHoffman You don't have to put in a license number, most pumps will accept "1" as an input, or "1111111". This is only needed to print the car number on the receipt, which is needed for people who submit the receipts for tax purposes, for all other people it's not needed, and for no one it's enforced. – SIMEL Feb 15 at 18:58
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Even when using self service you can still get help from the gas station workers.

If there are no workers outside next to the pumps, you can always go inside (usually to the nearby convenience store and pay at the till, this is also how you pay in cash for gas.

If you want you can always pay slightly more and get full service, where they will fill gas for you. Most stations will have both types of pumps. To know the difference, in Hebrew full service is שירות מלא, self service is שירות עצמי

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what questions are asked? what answers do I have to provide?

Typically (perhaps always), what you get is:

  1. "Swipe credit card" (and it could be tricky to get it right - make sure you use the correct one of 4 ways to do it).
  2. "Enter your ID number" (associated with your credit card)
  3. "Enter car registration (= car plate) number" (with no dashes nor spaces)

why none of them has interface in English?

There isn't a good reason IMHO. Maybe it's cheaper than to have a multi-language interface? And a lot of these machines are probably 1980s technology. Also, maybe there's assuming only locals will have a credit card and the rest will opt for full service anyway.

Actually, it's even worse than the screen interface, because the keys often have Hebrew labels printed on them. So you might have המשך or הכנס instead of Ok/Enter. At least there's color-coding sometimes for the keys - Green for Ok/Enter, Yellow for correction, Red for Cancel. Not always though.

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    Why do they ask for license plate number? What if you enter the wrong one? – JonathanReez Feb 15 at 5:10
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    @JonathanReez: "Why" <- At best, in order to print it on the receipt. At worst, as a spying measure. "What if you enter the wrong one" <- nothing. You can safely enter some other valid license plate number (not sure what's the verification rule). – einpoklum Feb 15 at 8:03
  • It's probably for the receipt, so you can prove you paid for the fuel for your car if there is a clerical error in the shop and the attendant for some reason feels the need to call the police on you, thinking you've high-tailed it out of there without paying. – Asteroids With Wings Feb 16 at 3:23

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