Friday, 16 November 2018

An A-Z expat guide for internationals living in Israel

expats in israel


Expats living in Israel - whether they be students, hi-tech workers here on contract or have for some other reason - face a unique set of problems and issues. Relocating to Israel can be a daunting experience.

New immigrants to Israel - olim (as defined by the Law of Return) - have many support systems and receive many benefits when they move to Israel.  

Culture shock, language barriers, unforeseen circumstances, expectations, acclimatizing oneself to the new culture, career anxiety, may prove to be more of a challenge than initially expected for many expats. Everyday tasks can become complicated and difficult to perform. This can cause a strain on relationships and one may develop feelings of isolation upon realizing that usual support networks are thousands of kilometers away.

Expats move to Israel for a variety of reasons; many are attracted by the culture or faith while others are drawn to the vibrant economy.  Israel is known as the start-up country and the technology sector is thriving. 

Israel is a country that evokes passionate responses from people, and expats moving to Israel should expect, and will experience far more than a  posting that another country might provide.

We will be dealing with various expat adjustment issues and problems for those who have already relocated and for those planning their relocation. The information contained herein, does not refer to Israeli citizens who have left the country and then returned some years later.  The term used to describe this kind of person is a 'returning citizen' - Hebrew: toshav hozer - תושב חוזר.

We asked the members of our Facebook group, what they thought the most important aspects of relocation are and this article is based on their comments.

Relocation anxieties

Just like any new immigrant, expats face numerous challenges and anxieties.  Will their job remain secure or will their employer break the contract?  Is their health insurance sufficient?  What about finances? Will they have enough to maintain our standard of living?  How about the kids?  Will they integrate?  And the language, how will we manage?

Sara Jacobovici  is an experienced clinician in the health and mental health fields practicing in the center of Israel, specializing in communication, trauma, grief work and other areas. She shares her tip  "When things feel out of control internally, focus externally by using your senses. Find a safe spot and look around you, identify all you see as familiar and comforting. Listen to some favorite music or just enjoy some quiet time in silence".

Financial planning for expats

Israel Banking, Currency & Foreign Exchange

The are many banks in Israel with branches across the country;  Bank Leumi, Mercantile Bank, Bank Hapoalim, Bank Mizrahi and First National Bank are among the largest and will therefore have English speaking personnel.

Local banking terms, translations of bank statements, foreign exchange and other documents can be found in this website  >>

Currency and Exchange

The currency of Israel is the New Israeli Shekel and its value generally fluctuates between 3.5 - 4.0 shekels to the US dollar. As at January 2018, the are 3.4 shekels to the US dollar.

If you're leaving money in your home country, you'll need access to it and the ability to make easy exchanges into  local currency. (Shekel is abbreviated to NIS or ILS). A few simple steps before you move can save a lot of effort: Wire Transfer agreements with your bank and set up your online access, consider the option of opening a global account with a trusted bank or money transfer agency.

Currency information

Cross cultural training and bridging the gaps

Although we all now live in a global village  you will find many cultural differences in Israel.  People from more than 80 different countries live here and each brings a different set of values, behavior, attitudes and opinions.  Foreigners are sometimes thrown off balance by the locals.  Israelis are not shy to tell you what they think, they are not being aggressive.  It is in their nature to be more assertive and outspoken than we might be used to.

Israel in a nutshell: Click here to find out more about Israel's  people, culture, religions and customs...

Israel Time

Mostly Israelis are pretty relaxed about time.  If you are invited to a wedding for instance at 7pm, arriving at 7:30 would be completely appropriate. If you are invited to someone's home for dinner, being 15 minutes late is not considered offensive, more than that would be. 

You can expect to be kept waiting for a doctor's or dentist appointment unless you are seeing them at their private clinics. 

You are expected to be on time for job interviews and business meetings.  If you see that you are running late, you should call to inform of your lateness.  Nine to Five?  No, your working hours could officially begin as early at 7:30am and end at 5:00 or 6:00pm.  Some Israeli companies, especially those working with the US markets may require you to start work later in the morning and end later in the evening.

It is preferable not to call someone at their home between 2pm and 4pm if you know they are not at work.  In the old days, 2pm - 4pm, was siesta time, and some people still use this for their afternoon naps.  It is acceptable to call someone at their home from 7am up till 10pm, unless they are elderly.  Religiously observant Jews will not speak on the phone on the Sabbath (Friday evening/Saturday evening) or on Jewish high holy days (from sunset to sunset the following day).

Shopping time!  Your corner convenience store (makolet) could open as early as 6:30 or 7:00am.  Today there are many convenience stores that are open 24/7. General shopkeepers keep their stores open from 8am - 7pm.  Some are closed on Tuesday afternoons.  Shopping centers and malls are open from 9am/10am - 9pm/10pm.

Government offices have specific hours.  Best to call before you go.

Although some schools have adopted a 5 day week, most school children attend school 6 days a week.

Transport services in Israel; buses and trains all run on time.

Be prepared for the repairman to be late.

We have discussed "Israeli Time" at depth in various sections of the website, you can find out more by reading these articles:

Israeli Customs & Behavior

Employment

Medical & Healthcare

Government Ministries & Offices in Israel

Shopping in Israel

Education

Transport in Israel

Tips for relocating with children

Relocation has a huge impact on our children and our own personal progress will be challenged and influenced by their integration.  Every member of the family will have to adjust to a new lifestyle.  Preparing yourselves, understanding and being sympathetic to their crisis and dilemmas will help them get through this difficult phase.  Probably one of the hardest adjustments will be for school-going children who find it difficult to make friends and integrate because of the language barrier.  There are some schools in Israel that cater specifically to the expat community and studies are done in English.  Some of the schools have boarding facilities too.  Home schooling is also an option but of course comes with its own set of issues.

Slowly your children will begin to settle and they will make new friends and learn the language.  This will be a turning point in your relocation and you and every member of your family will then be able to take in and value all that Israel has to offer.

Try to identify the needs of each one of your children and what you can do to make their transition easier and hopefully then settle comfortably into their new life. Be available to listen to them and support them whenever they need it.

Seek the help of a professional if necessary.  There are plenty of English speaking therapists, counselors and psychologists and you will find them listed in our Business Directory.

Keeping in touch with family back home

Luckily, since the author of this article relocated in 1989, communications technology  has snowballed.  Her first office had a Telex machine - tape and all.  Fax machines were a brand-new technology. The cost of a phone-call back home was about 8 Shekels (over US$2 at today's rate). At this rate a 5 minute call limit once a month was all that was affordable.   This meant the only affordable way to keep in touch was to write letters and pray for one in return.

And then the cellular mobile phone market exploded.  These early mobile phones were huge and looked more like an office desk-top calculator than a communication device, but fortunately, within a few years mobile phones were the norm.  Now, with all the options, inter-continental communication has never been easier.

Mobile Phones

There are 8 mobile phone carriers in Israel; Cellcom, Pelephone, Orange, HOT Mobile, Golan Telecom, Rami Levy, 012 Mobile and YouPhone. Competition between these carriers is fierce and they  all offer discounted packages. For around 50 shekels a month, some carriers offer unlimited calls to overseas landlines.

Bringing your phone with you?  Note, not all of the carriers support  Blackberry so check this out carefully if you are still using one.

Purchasing a phone from a cellphone carrier in Israel, is expensive and you can get them cheaper from private stores around the country or online for as little as $80.

We have covered the mobile phone market in Israel extensively in the website.  Read more

Google Voice

Keep your old US mobile number after relocating. For this, you will need to port your number into Google Voice.  Number porting is a feature that allows you to use your existing mobile number which will become your Google Voice number. You will be able to use the  full set of the Google Voice features especially like one number to ring all of your phones.  This is really convenient for expats as it saves you going to the trouble of of new telephone number.  (If you do not want to port your existing number, you can choose a free Google Number when you set up your Google Voice account).

You will still need carrier service (Sprint, T-Mobile, Cricket, etc.) to receive calls on your mobile phone.  The end result - you will have your old US number ringing ahead to your Israeli cellphone, and will be able to make free calls to the US from Israel.

Mail forwarding

US Global Mail  provides a reliable, inexpensive and high-tech solution to manage all US mail when overseas. Each client gets a unique street address in the US. All mail and packages coming in to this address are logged, photographed and available to view online on your personal web portal. You can manage each piece i.e. consolidating packages, shipping options, shredding etc. 

The website Mailbox Forwarding.com provides you with a mailing address with online accessibility. You can receive and view all your mail online: letters, documents, and packages.  You are given a unique street address box number where you can have all your mail sent. When a new piece of mail arrives, the envelope is scanned. You then manage your mail through an online control panel, and can request that your mail be opened and the contents scanned, shred, recycled or forwarded to your home or business address.

With Whatssup, FaceTime and Messenger and our old friend Skype, you should not have any problems communicating with your loved ones back home.  Many cafes and restaurants in Israel have free WIFI so don't despair if you have run out of data in your network package.

The expat shopping experience in Israel

Consumerism: Be a wise shopper

Israelis love to shop and there is a wide and varied selection of locally manufactured and imported goods.  Shopping in Israel is a cultural experience.  Israelis love the thrill of getting a discount, of finding a bargain and  negotiating a price.  Whether they are buying apples in the market, new furniture for their homes or signing a rental contract, they will try to negotiate a discount.   You must learn to do this too.

Foreigners are vulnerable as they do not understand the Hebrew language and negotiation techniques.  They are often quoted, and land up paying, inflated prices just as foreigners do in many other countries around the world.

There are 4 shopping concepts you need to learn as soon as you get off the plane; 1)Tashloomim - Installments 2) Kre'dit - Credit  3) Hanacha - Discount and 4) Fryer - Sucker

  • Tashloomim are interest free monthly payments.  Many stores offer these and you should always ask if this is an option.
  • Kredit installments are not interest free.  You should always check with the vendor and credit card company what the current rate is.
  • A Hanacha - a discount, we all want one and if you do not ask, you will not get one.
  • Don't be a Fryer - a sucker - be street-wise, trust your instincts, if a price seems outrageous, question the vendor.

More about shopping in Israel, malls, markets, refunds, consumer issues, tips and suggestions

Cost of living allowance for expats in Israel

The cost of living in Israel can be high, depending on where in the country you decide to settle and of course, the lifestyle you choose to lead.  Out of an assessment of 115 countries Israel is ranked as the 10th most expensive (Numbeo.com).  Property prices and rental costs are high.   Raanana a satellite town of Tel Aviv, has a very large English speaking community, is family orientated with some of the best schools and close to many hi-tech employment opportunities.  Even-though it's a small town Raanana has a much higher cost of living than a city like Haifa.

Wages in Israel tend to be lower - the minimum wage as at December, 2017 stands at 5,300 shekels per month - about US$1,500 per month.  Obviously hi-tech and management jobs pay considerably more than this. This is just a gauge as expats will have negotiated their salaries prior to their arrival

According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics a combined gross family income of 14,000 shekels per month is considered average and will afford a decent standard of living. 

The Cost of Living in Israel

Average Prices in Israel

Minimum & Average Wage

Entertainment & fun stuff

Entertainment and Travel in Israel

If you are studying at one of Israel's world-class universities, you can be sure that the international students study program administrators have information on social activities on and off campus. If you have relocated to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, where there are large English speaking communities, you will find plenty of social and cultural events.  Telalivit has a huge network and activities and events are posted regularly on their site.  The Haifa Student Youth Center regularly posts events and activities in the Anglo-list's Facebook group page.  Haifa Uni's International School as well as the many other universities, post fun events  and outings on their Facebook pages too.  You can count on lots of pub evenings!

The weekend editions of the English newspapers, The Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz are also good resources of one-time and on-going activities.

As an expat, you are going to be working most of the time and unless your contract stipulates otherwise, you will be working Sunday - Thursday.  Most offices in Israel are closed on Fridays and Saturdays. Sunday is a regular work day.  There are few official long-weekends, so mostly you will only have 2 days a week to see the country.  Do not let this bother you.  Israel is a small country and you can travel by car, from north to south in about 7 hours.  It is said that Israel is the only country in the world where you could be snow skiing in the morning and enjoying a sun-drenched afternoon at the beach, all on the same day.

Israelis love hiking and the outdoors.  Spring and autumn months are perfect for cycling, walking, wandering through forest trails, exploring wadis and visiting ancient historical sites.  A membership with the Nature & Parks Authority gets you free entrance and discounted rates to the nature reserves and national parks

You may want to hike the 920km, Israel National Trail from the north to the south of the country.  It is an amazing way to see Israel.  The trail transverses forests, mountain ranges, urban areas and deserts before ending at the southern most point on the Red Sea.  The trail can be done is stages, a couple of days at a time.

Other weekend get-aways could include the northern parts of Israel. After the first rains it is not too hot - the flowers are blossoming and  the wadis and waterfalls are flowing.

In the Beer Sheva area, part of the Negev region, you can discover the Bedouin community and visit the brilliant air-force museum. Gaze at the stars,  see the craters and enjoy the desert scenery near Mitzpe Rimon.

A short flight or a few hours in the car, gets you to Eilat where you can enjoy water sports, the underwater observatory, a fantastic aquarium and vibrant night-life.

From Haifa, there are weekend cruises to Cyprus that leave on Thursday evenings and return early Sunday morning in time for work. A casino, pool parties, plenty of food together with a couple of shore tours make this a fun break.

Camping is also a fun thing to do in Israel and it certainly keeps your travel budget to a minimum. The Israel Nature & Parks Authority run a number of campsites.  They are well equipped and clean.  In June, July and August when night-time temperatures are warm you can easily get by and sleep under the stars - no tent necessary.  At Horshat Tal for instance (northern Israel), you can even rent a mattress.  More about camping

See also,

Tour Israel: Attractions & Places of Interest 

Eating Out

Top 10

Expat communities in Israel

Aside from the tens of different  immigrant Jewish communities that are entitled to live in Israel under the Law of Return, there is a growing expat community who have come to live, work or study here.  You will find:

Americans, Bahais from all over the world, Brits, Canadians, Cameroonians,  Chinese, Filipinos, Indians, Japanese, Kiwis, Ozzies, South-Africans, Sir-Lankans, Thais and many more...

The Bahai Community

The Filippino Community

Each one of these communities brings its own special culture, values and customs and habits.  All this blended together makes Israel an exciting place to live and it is common in a social gathering to meet people of many different backgrounds

Foodies

Israel's National Foods

Can you trust the street food? You might see food vendors offering anything from Turkish coffee, breads of all types, baklawa,  hot corn, Druze pita and labane (sour goat's milk cheese) and other tempting foods right on the street.  Is it safe to eat this food?  Of course, we cannot give you a 100 per-cent guarantee but we are confident that the food is fresh.  You should not eat any hummous or tehina that has not been refrigerated. 

Some Tips

Many fast-food establishments do not enforce the wearing of latex/plastic gloves when serving food. 

Most fast-food establishment, even the corner felafel stand,  will have facilities for washing your hands.

Tried-and-tested: Are there lots of customers? Are people buying from them or are the owners sitting around and smoking cigarettes? Bon Apetite or as we say in Hebrew - Betayavon!

Eating Out

Health & special foods

Health food stores, specialized food stores are abundant and the large supermarket chains keep a variety of health foods and specialized foods; lactose free, gluten free, soy based etc.  Milk substitutes in powder form are easily available in Israel.

Water

It is safe to drink tap water in Israel.  Most Israelis use in-line water filters or jug filters in their homes.  Bottled water is plentiful costing about 2 shekels for 1.5 liters in the supermarket.  Of course it will cost more at your corner convenience store.  Like any soft drink, buying a refrigerated bottle is considerably more expensive.

Medical & healthcare for expats in Israel

Health insurance

There is separate legislation for non-residents of the country, living in Israel - tourists, diplomats, students, business-persons, and other foreign nationals or individuals who have do not have residency status. A non-resident employee in Israel must have private health insurance for the entire length of stay. Non-residents are entitled to a limited service from the social security benefits (Bituach Leumi). The social security rate that will be deducted monthly will be a minimal applicable fee.

Make sure your health insurance will cover any existing medical condition. Many international health plans do not cover pre-existing medical conditions or only cover them under certain conditions.  If you have a previous medical condition, it is a good idea to have it covered.

Obtaining the right health insurance plan is one of the most important decisions you will make before regarding your relocation. Get the right health plan at the right price from a reputable insurance company.

Everything you need to know about healthcare in Israel

Expat housing

Housing, renting, mortgages and real estate in Israel

You may be one of the lucky ones!  Your company, if they regularly employ expats, may own their own apartment/s for their workers.  You might share the apartment with other expat employees of your company.  This is a great solution, even if it is only  temporary until you are able to find your own accommodations.

A serviced apartment would be a very convenient option and would offer expats peace of mind. However, options for long term rentals, including cleaning services, are few and far between in Israel.  A private arrangement with your landlord would have to be made but, for many reasons it is preferable to contract your own cleaner.  You can refer to our Business Directory for a list or English speaking cleaners, electricians, plumbers and other maintenance and repairmen who are able to give you the type of service you are used to back home.

If you're an expat looking for cost-effective housing options, shared accommodation with a trusted friend or a colleague is also an option.  Of course this will free up a lot of your income by splitting the rental cost and utility bills. If you are looking for a flatmate, you can post and find one via the Anglo-list's Facebook page.

Should you find yourself in the position that you are responsible for your own housing and you choose to rent directly (not via an agency), there are many ins-and-outs that you need to know and clearly understand.  We refer you to the  detailed section on Housing in Israel.  Here you will find information such as costs, preferred areas, utilities, the rental agreement, translations and tons of tips.

Expats do qualify for mortgages.  Your current income is accepted as a basis for calculation.  If you have an account with an Israeli bank as well as other investments that will also be taken into consideration.

Legislation governs the maximum mortgage you can apply for.  You would have to discuss this with a mortgage bank who will assess each individual case.  Feel free to contact us, and we will happily provide you with recommendations.

How to deal with the language barrier

Learning Hebrew

The most important part of relocation to Israel is learning the Hebrew language.  International trade and relations in Israel relies on English speakers, however if you want to get to know the real Israeli and experience and appreciate the culture, it is advisable to develop a knowledge and some command of the Hebrew language.

Hebrew is difficult to learn; the alphabet is different, it is written from right to left and some, mainly guttural sounds, are difficult for foreigners to produce.  This website has made it easy for you to learn Hebrew.  We have free Hebrew learning aids, extensive word sheets with Hebrew to English translations and transliterations.

As Hebrew is an ancient language, it had a small vocabulary - about 60,000 words.  Some 2,000 modern words, borrowed from other languages, are added to the lexicon every year, resulting in a working vocabulary of about 150,000 words.  Hebrew is very structured with masculine and feminine forms, past, present and future tenses of verbs and nouns.  This structure also makes Hebrew very poetic.

There are words and expressions that will make you laugh, their literal meanings having nothing to do with their real meaning.  We've produced a list and a video of common Hebrew slang words that will help you get a handle on the language.

Ulpan, an intensive Hebrew learning program, will probably be difficult to integrate into your working schedule.  However, their are many private teachers and short on-line courses where you can work at your own pace.

Around 90 percent of Israelis speak varying levels of Hebrew but only about 50 percent are native Hebrew speakers.  Don't be afraid to make mistakes.

Extra resources

Slang Words

Transliterated Hebrew English Dictionary - by Topic

Translations and other Hebrew learning aids

Developing a network

Join our Facebook community and groups on LinkedIn.  We also suggest you join some of the many local list-serves and forums for English speakers.  Do not be shy to ask for advice.

Socializing

Many expats will tell you that the best way to truly experience the local culture is by befriending locals. This is great advice, but most expats also find a real need to connect and find support from other expats. These friendships can be a real lifeline when you face challenging times abroad!

Research local clubs and organizations - there are many - and contact them about attending a meeting or event. Even if you don't meet someone who you feel a connection with at a specific event, you'll feel a sense of accomplishment for having put yourself out there!

Looking to meet like-minded expats in Israel?

Shipping for relocation to Israel

We refer you to the shipping relocation articles in this website where the topic is covered in great detail >>>

Pet shipping

A pet can make a huge difference to a young child who is dealing with the stress of relocation, who has left his friends and all that is familiar to him, behind. Our pets are much loved members of the family and the thought of leaving them behind is heartbreaking. But it is possible to relocate and bring your pet with you. In fact, thousands of pets relocate every year and more than 6,000 pets relocated to Israel in Israel every year.

Getting ready to move to Israel - a relocation timeline

About one month before the move

Start down-sizing and sorting through your possession - discard anything you don't need or want. If you did not use something in the last year or two, chances are you don't really need it. This is a great opportunity to bundle and bag clothes and toys to be donated to your local thrift store.

Two weeks to go!

  • With you final departure date verified and confirmed, inform your regular utility services so that they can discontinue service.
  • Medical records; make sure you get them and photocopy them.  Scan them, and upload copies into your laptop computer and into your mobile phone. In fact, do this with all your documents and personal papers.
  • If you take medication for a chronic ailment, arrangement for a 3 month supply to see you through the initial stages of your relocation or until you find a suitable medical practitioner in Israel.  Most doctors in Israel speak some English. No need to worry, there are many native English speaking medical professionals as well

One week to go!

  • Get you family to prepare a "memory box".  Fill it with photos of your loved ones and other valuable, sentimental and meaningful items you family may want to have with them.  Great for the days when you are feeling down.
  • Get your small children to prepare their hand-luggage with their favorite toys, games and snacks for the trip.
  • Computer peripherals, cables, transformers, battery chargers etc.  Make sure you have them and that they are all in good working order.

Day before the move

  • Your packing crew will arrive. Make sure you supervise this process. Pack all valuables by yourself.
  • Collect all house keys and arrange to leave them with the new owners, your real estate agent or landlord.
  • If you are part of a neighborhood-watch program or have a home-protection company make sure they know if your home will be unoccupied for some time.

Day of the Move

  • Compare the mover's inventory with your records and make amendments if necessary. Use your digital camera or mobile phone to take photographs in-case a dispute arises and make sure you get a copy of the inventory list.
  • Check every room before the moving van leaves. Make sure the water and electricity have been shut off and windows are shut and locked.

Day One in Israel - Moving in Day

Arrange with you shipping company to have an English speaking supervisor present when your shipment is unloaded at your new residence.

Your first week

  • Obtain necessary IDs such as driver's license, health cards etc.
  • Stroll around your neighborhood to get an idea what is around and where to find things; bus stops, playgrounds etc.
  • Check out your neighborhood shopping options; the corner convenience store and supermarkets
  • Make friends with your neighbors, ask them questions.  They will be happy to help and share advice.
  • Ask for recommendations for an English speaking attorney and notary as well as translating services should you need documents officially translated and notarized.  You'll find some in our Business Directory.

English and other foreign language television broadcasts

Television

There are 2 main cable TV companies in Israel.  HOT and YES.  You can get an all inclusive package, with all the TV channels, telephone calls and internet for around US$100/month.

  • The two most popular local Hebrew commercial channels are Channel 10 (14 on your remote) and Channel 22.  Israel TV - Channel 1 is not commercialized.
  • You can listen in and watch exchanges in the government on the Knesset channel.  This is a Hebrew channel but it is fun to watch the ministers 'having a go' at each other.
  • There are many local entertainment channels with Hebrew and English programs.  There are local Russian and Arabic channels as well.
  • Sky, BBC, Fox, France 24 are the main English news channels.  A list of all English news channels
  • National Geographic channels, The Discovery channels, CBS Zone are all available.
  • There are many movie channels; drama, comedy, foreign movies and classics.  English movie will have Hebrew subtitles.
  • There are local documentary channels too.  Israeli's love reality TV and you can watch local versions of Big Brother, Survivor, The Amazing Race, Master Chef etc.  There are a number of quiz shows and lots of cooking programs with local top chefs and master bakers.
  • Netflix is new in Israel and there is not yet the same selection of channels and programs as there are abroad but this will change in time.
  • The Cable TV companies offer services like "Start Over", "Movies on Demand" and hundreds of hours of recording time. 

Transport Services & getting around

There are plenty of Israelis who do not own cars so public transport options in Israel are plentiful, reliable, safe and relatively inexpensive.  You have a choice that includes a country-wide bus service, frequent trains from Nahariya in the north and Beer Sheva in the South and the airport to the east of the country.  A train to Eilat is on the drawing board.

  • A sherut or shared taxi, has 10 passengers and the fare is almost identical to bus fare.  There is a minimum surcharge for private taxis and you can either agree on a flat rate before your departure or opt for a metered rate.
  • The Carmelit is an underground funicular that connects the downtown area of Haifa with the commercial center of Hadar and the residential suburbs of the Carmel on the top of the mountain.  Takes about 6 minutes from start to finish. 
  • The Jerusalem Light Train has a designated lane in the roads of Jerusalem.  This is a brilliant option for avoiding traffic jams and peak hours in Israel's crowded capital city.  A Light Train is also under construction in Tel Aviv.  Still in its initial stages, it will take many more years to complete.
  • The Metronit is a new light rail service that connects the Krayot (just outside Haifa), the industrial bay area, downtown and the Hadar commercial center as well as MATAM - the hi-tech center (Haifa's silicone valley).
  • January 2016 the Israel Transport Tariff Reform came into effect.  You can now travel on any form of public transport with an inexpensive daily, weekly or monthly travel pass within certain zones and areas.
  • There are many useful transport apps for your phone that will make your transport problems a lot easier:  Moovit, Efobus, Gettaxi are just some of the very many.  The app "WAZE" is our favorite GPS that even connects to your social networks, should you want it to.

More detailed information on transport options in Israel, trains, buses, taxis, toll roads, airports etc,

National security concerns for expats in Israel

Sadly, there is a permanent and real threat of  war in Israel.  It is something you have to accept and is just part of living here.  Israeli nationals are required to do army service in the Israel Defense Force (IDF).  Depending on the threat, It is not always possible to get on a plane and leave the danger zone even if your country recommends it.  If you are here with children, and there is a war, their school will probably close down and you will have to make alternative arrangements for their care and supervision.  This can be very challenging. Depending on the industry you work in and your employment contract, you may be required by law, to be at work.

These days, terrorism knows no borders and Israel has been in the past, and will be in the future, a country where terrorist events happen.  You have to be prepared and being able to identify suspicious situations and knowing how to react in an emergency, can save your life.

The Home Front Command is the official body that is responsible for providing information to the public in an emergency situation. We have incorporated information and some of their suggestions into our various articles in this website.  Should an emergency arise, official information will be posted in English, in this website and will also be published via our social networks.

Your General Safety

Aside from the threat of war that has existed ever since Israel became an independent state, you will probably feel comfortable and secure in the streets.    There are security guards at the entrance to public buildings like hospitals, shopping malls, bus and train stations, government buildings, supermarkets etc.  If you are carrying a bag of some sort, you will be required to open the bag and the security officer will inspect its contents.  Your body will probably be scanned with a hand-held scanner and then you may be required to walk through an additional body scanner.

Men, women and children of all ages, walk alone in the street.  Children walk to school, teenagers are out late at night, especially in the summer months, and can safely make use of special night-lines and public transport facilities.  Israel, like every other country is not crime free and you have to always be aware.  Be streetwise and do not take silly risks. Pick-pocketing happens everywhere in the world.  Be careful in the markets, make sure your bags are zipped up and your wallet and mobile phones are not in your back pocket.

Dress appropriately so that you do not incite any religious groups that have strict dress codes in their communities.

Going to the West-Bank, Gaza or Neighboring Arab Countries?

Follow all international travel warnings or special travel warnings that your embassy may have issued.

Top, super-practical expat tips

  1. Remember that you are in a new country where things are different, embrace the differences and do not try to fight them.
  2. Look at the entire relocation experience as a positive opportunity rather than as difficult situation with huge hurdles you have to overcome.  When you do that life becomes a much easier.
  3. Always keep the reasons for your relocation in mind. This will have a huge impact on your entire experience and how you adapt to your new life.
  4. Ask yourself this question; if  I am unable to find a product or service that I am used to, will it have a dramatic or severe impact on my new life and can I live without it or am I prepared to compromise?

Your Tips

Use the Facebook comment box at the bottom of the page to submit a tip about expat life and your experience in Israel and share a bit of helpful advice with others.  Your tips could be on any of these topics:

  • Moving & Living Abroad
  • Employment
  • Parenting
  • Expat Seniors
  • Visas & work permits
  • Housing, rentals and real estate
  • School and education
  • Healthcare
  • Cost of living
  • Banking and finances
  • Lifestyle; food, entertainment, travel etc.
  • Personal safety
  • General and miscellaneous

Amanda

Did you know that many credit cards and debit cards have a built in fee called a "foreign transaction fee". This fee will charge you about 3-5% more on all items you buy with your credit card 

Gary

The best tip for anyone moving abroad is to plan everything and do it well in advance! Give yourself 6 months, at least, to get things sorted - as there will be many things that you will unintentionally neglect.

Megan

Israel is my third relocation, I' was in the UAE and in Hong Kong and I like to get organized as quickly as possible. I try to establish a routine as fast as possible.I find the sooner I do this, the better

Anje

Yes hello, I am Anje from Norway. I am working in the hotel industry. I am in Israel for three months now and here still until the winter of 2014. Please you make some suggestions or give me some tips.

Anshu

I am Anshu from Sir-Lanka. Mine is an universal tip for all expats in all countries.. It pays to know where you are going before you get into the taxi. I check the route and distance before I leave home on Google Maps.

Patty S

My first tip to all expats in Israel is to use this website, So many of my relocation issues have been solved here. They do these translations of all kinds of things and they are most helpful. - the word sheets too.

Victor

I have lived in a few countries and one of the things that I have learned to do is to blend in with the locals. For example, I never walk around looking at a map or with my camera hanging around my neck.

Work permits and visas for Israel

A foreign national working in Israel needs a B-1 visa.  This how to obtain one:

Apply for an Israeli work permit at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. 

  1. Complete an Israeli visa application with the Ministry of Interior.
  2. You will then be issued of a short term B-1 visa from your local Israeli consul which you will use to enter Israel.
  3. Once in Israel you need to visit the Ministry of Interior to arrange for the extension of the B-1 visa.   A multiple entry visa will then be issued  for the stated length of your work contract in Israel.

Essential resources

Government Ministries & Offices Contact Information

Embassies & Consulates

Manage your expectations

One of the first words you will learn in Hebrew is PATIENCE - Savlanut. Another phrase you will learn is Le'at, Le'at - slowly, slowly.  If you expect everything to happen in your time frame and in an orderly fashion,  if you expect repairmen to come on time, if you expect that a task will be executed properly the first time then prepare yourself for disappointment.  If you think a phone call will come when you've been told it will come, do NOT hold your breath!!  

You have probably heard many wonderful and glowing reports about your relocation and your new life.  Remember to keep your expectations at a low level.  Prepare yourself for disappointment and when things work out well, you'll be delighted.  Adjust your expectations and embrace the differences.

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”  ― Alexander Pope