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Moving to Israel

Expats moving to Israel do so for various reasons. Many are attracted by the culture or faith, while others are drawn to the vibrant economy and thriving technology sector.

Uniting these disparate motivations is likely an intense and never-neutral part of the experience of living in Israel. The country evokes passionate responses from people, and expats moving to Israel should expect far more political and emotional wrangling than other foreign countries might provide.

Even though its landmass is actually smaller than the US state of New Jersey, there are around 8.5 million people living in Israel. It is the world's only official Jewish state, and a huge proportion of the population is Jewish. Due to a continuous influx of immigrants over the years, the population is diversified with Arab, American, European, Russian, Asian, and African nationalities. The official languages in Israel are Hebrew and Arabic. English is spoken widely, especially in urban areas and in businesses, and is the country's unofficial third language.

Although safety can be a concern in certain areas of the country, expats in Israel are generally free of this concern and tend to live in one of its main cities, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Be'er Sheva.

Israel’s modern and diverse market economy is built on several industries, including agriculture, biotechnology, construction, electronics, information technology, manufacturing, telecommunications, and tourism.  As such, expats working in Israel tend to find employment in these industries. Israel’s technology industry, in particular, has attracted massive foreign investment. With this influx of capital, ample opportunities for talented and qualified expats have subsequently arisen.

Although the cost of transport and food in the country is reasonable, high accommodation costs and low salaries compared to other developed countries means that the cost of living in Israel can be high. Despite Israeli public schools being both free and of a generally high standard, many expats send their children to international schools, as the language of instruction in public schools is Hebrew. Tuition for international schools is high, further increasing the cost of living for expats with children. 

Israelis are very proud of their achievements in building an innovative and multi-cultural state. Expats who can adapt to Israel's unique, and often tense, political circumstance will be able to experience a life which is both varied and full of flavour. 


Fast Facts

Official name: State of Israel

Population: Over 8.5 million

Capital city: Jerusalem 

Neighbouring countries: Israel is bordered by Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula to the south, Jordan to the east, Lebanon to the north and Syria to the northeast. Israel is also bordered by Palestinian territories, including the West Bank to the east and the Gaza strip close to the northernmost border between the Egypt and Israel. Israel's western border is a coastline on the Mediterranean Sea.

Geography: Despite its small size, Israel has a diverse geography. A fertile coastal plain borders the Mediterranean Sea, while a series of valleys run the length of the country, from the hilly ranges in the north to the arid, desert landscape of southern Israel. 

Political system: Parliamentary democracy

Major religions: Israel is the world’s only officially Jewish state, with Judaism being the dominant religion among its population. Islam is the second-largest religion in Israel, largely a result of the country’s Arab population.

Main languages: The official languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic; however, English is prominent in tourist and business centres.

Money: The currency in Israel is the Israeli Shekel (ILS), which is divided into 100 agorot (the singular is agora). It is fairly easy for expats working in Israel to open a bank account, and there are numerous ATMs in and around the country’s urban centres.

Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October)

Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. Round three-pin 'M-type' plugs, European 'C-type' two-pin plugs and Israel-specific 'H-type' three-pin plugs are common.

International dialling code: +972 

Internet domain: .il

Emergency numbers: 100 (police), 101 (ambulance), 102 (fire)

Transport and driving: Israel has a highly developed public transport system, so expats shouldn't experience much difficulty getting around the country. Cars in Israel drive on the right side of the road.

Weather in Israel

New arrivals living in Israel will find themselves in a nation with an incredibly pleasant climate.

Although the landscape transitions from mountains in the north and a hilly inland to a Mediterranean coastline in the east and the large, arid Negev desert in the south, summers are generally warm and dry, with average temperatures of 82°F (28°C), while winters are mild, with averages of 54°F (12°C), although Jerusalem can be particularly cold.

Weather in Israel is subject to regional variation and the most prominent fluctuations include the increased humidity found on the coast and frequent precipitation both in the north and inland.

Sunshine is abundant, and, during the peak of summer, the heat can feel oppressive. However, expats living in Tel Aviv will find some respite in the cool off-shore breezes. Winter can yield at least six to seven hours of sunlight a day, whereas in summer this figure rises to between 12 and 13 hours a day.

Rainfall occurs primarily between October and May, though the southern desert area is perennially dry.

Weather in Israel is generally favourable and is a great attraction for those moving there from areas of the world with less pleasant climates.

 

Embassy Contacts for Israel


Israeli embassies

  • Israeli Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 364 5500

  • Israeli Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7957 9500

  • Israeli Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 750 7500

  • Israeli Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6215 4500

  • Israeli Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 470 3500

  • Israeli Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 230 9400

  • Consulate of Israel, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 439 9500


Foreign embassies in Israel

  • United States Embassy, Jerusalem: +972 2 630 4000

  • British Embassy, Tel Aviv: +972 3 725 1222

  • Canadian Embassy, Tel Aviv: +972 3 636 3300 

  • Australian Embassy, Tel Aviv: +972 3 693 5000

  • South African Embassy, Tel Aviv: +972 3 525 2566

  • Irish Embassy, Tel Aviv: +972 3 696 4166

  • New Zealand Embassy, Ankara, Turkey (also responsible for Israel): +90 312 446 3333

Public Holidays in Israel

 

2020

2021

Passover

9 April

28 March

7th Day of Passover

15 April

3 April

Independence Day

29 April

15 April

Shavuot

29 May

17 May

Rosh Hashana

19-20 September

7-8 September

Yom Kippur

28 September

16 September

Sukkot

3 October

21 September

Simchat Torah

10 October

28 September

Safety in Israel

Safety in Israel is a common concern for travellers in the region, but dangers in the country are largely overstated by explicit media coverage of specific areas of conflict.

Expats in Israel who take the necessary precautions and avoid problematic areas will find the country as pleasant and safe as many other popular expat destinations.


Terrorism in Israel

There have been a number of terrorist attacks in Israel over the years. Sustained tension between the country and its neighbours has done little to diminish the threat of terrorist attacks. However, the risk of terrorist attacks is substantially reduced by Israeli national security, which is among the most developed in the world. The Israeli Defense Forces are highly trained and effective and care is taken in securing heavily populated and tourist-favoured areas.


Threat of rocket attacks in Israel

There have been instances of rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel, usually targeting large metropolitan areas. The chances of this occurring largely depend on current tensions between Gaza and Israel. Expats should stay informed about the current state of affairs at all times. It's also wise to follow the safety advice of one's national government.

Israel has invested heavily in countering rocket attacks, which is evident in the Iron Dome rocket interception defence system. A smartphone app has also been developed that warns of potential incoming missiles, providing its users with time to seek shelter. Expats in Israel should take heed of warning sirens and make sure they know the location of the nearest bomb shelter. 


General safety in Israel

Expats in Israel will find that life in cities such as Tel Aviv is relatively peaceful and free from the threats usually associated with the country. Violent crime is low in Israel, and foreigners are treated well by locals.

Expats should nevertheless keep an eye on their valuables when in public places, such as beaches or parks, as petty theft and opportunistic crimes have been known to occur.

Expat women should be aware that Israeli men can be extremely forward and brazen in how they approach women, especially foreigners. This should not be cause for concern, and can usually be overcome by a thick skin and a firm declaration of disinterest. 


Problematic areas in Israel

Israel’s volatility is largely condensed into a number of key regions, which many expats avoid. Problematic areas in Israel include:

Gaza

The Gaza region, located in southwest Israel on the Egyptian border, has seen considerable unrest in recent times. The Israeli state has issued warnings of kidnapping risks in and around Gaza. The state has also strongly advised against travel to Gaza, including to the waters off the coast of the region.

West Bank

The West Bank, located in eastern Israel, continues to be a tense and volatile region. Expats can travel to the West Bank, though they will need to pass through Israeli military checkpoints. 

Expats travelling to Jerusalem should note that the eastern half of the city is in the West Bank. Some governments have advised their citizens to stay alert when in eastern Jerusalem and the Old City, as protests and religious demonstrations are common.

Golan Heights

There have been cases of fire and shelling across the Syrian border and into the Golan Heights, an area in north-eastern Israel, making the area potentially unsafe for both foreigners and locals alike. 


Road safety in Israel

Expats planning to drive in Israel should note that the Israeli driving style is very aggressive. This can be quite a shock for foreign drivers, and it is often best for those not familiar with the roads to instead rely on public transportation to get around.

Expats driving in Israel should make sure to take out appropriate insurance, especially if driving to the West Bank.

Those driving into the desert should be sure to take plenty of water, a mobile phone and to inform others of their intended route before leaving. 

* The security situation in Israel is highly complex and can change suddenly. Expats travelling in and around Israel must keep up to date with the latest news, travel alerts and warnings from the Israeli government.

Working in Israel

Israel has a fairly resilient economy with a particularly strong technology sector. Much of this progress is due to Israel’s innovative abilities in the fields of applied sciences and technology as well as its highly educated workforce. A large proportion of Israeli graduates become specialists in telecommunications, software development and IT. 

Thanks to its rapidly growing GDP, Israel has become a popular expat destination for those looking for career progression as well as businesses looking for investment opportunities.


Job market in Israel

Within Israel, a huge amount of the workforce is employed in technical professions. Israeli companies have staked a major claim in worldwide high-tech and telecommunications markets due to their specialisations and ability to excel in diverse technological applications.

Key fields of technological innovation and expat employment are communications, computer hardware and software, information systems, finance, medicine, food processing and solar energy. Many foreigners also find employment teaching English.


Working culture in Israel

Tel Aviv is the business capital of Israel. For the most part, business dress in Israel is generally less formal than in North America and Europe, but meetings require formal dress. Women are expected to dress conservatively, particularly in religious areas. Business cards are common, but there is no formality involved in exchanging them. Socialising is an important part of business meetings, and, as such, they often run overtime or begin late.

Business hours in Israel are usually from 8.30am to 5pm. The working week is Sunday to Thursday as well as Friday mornings. Employees work eight to nine hours per day, including an hour for lunch, and, according to Israeli law, working hours may not exceed 43 hours per week.


Finding a job in Israel

Most expats move to Israel with a job in hand. Foreigners who intend on taking up a position in Israel need to pbtain a work permit. Expats who plan on immigrating as a Jew ('making Aliyah') may find the process easier as there are Aliyah organisations that can offer advice.

Israel produces large numbers of qualified professionals each year, so expats will need to stand out from the crowd if they want to secure a job in the country.

It's best to begin the search for a job three to four months before moving to Israel. Most employers don't hire people for more than four months in advance as they want people to start almost immediately, which can be problematic for some expats. 

Jobs can be found through online job portals, through listings in local newspapers and by directly contacting recruitment agencies. It can be beneficial to invest time in learning Hebrew as many job listings won't be in English. Learning the local language will not only be useful in the workplace but in social situations too.

Networking is also very important in Israel as most jobs are actually not advertised publicly. So it is worth speaking to colleagues and other contacts about any potential job opportunities as a personal recommendation can go a long way there.

Doing Business in Israel

Business culture in Israel is diverse with surprising contrasts between warm hospitality, direct no-nonsense business approaches, aggressive negotiations and slow-paced meetings. Expats doing business in Israel should feel at ease in the casual culture, but should nevertheless prepare to be flexible and patient.

Israel ranked 35th out of 190 economies in The World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Survey, performing especially well in the categories of paying taxes (13th), protecting minority investors (16th) and starting a business (28th). However, the country fell short in areas such as getting electricity (83rd) and enforcing contracts (85th).

Important industries in Israel include technology and communications, agriculture, manufacturing, transport and tourism.


Fast facts

Business hours

Typical office hours are 8.30am to 5pm from Sunday to Thursday, while many businesses also operate on Friday mornings.

Business language

International business is conducted in English, while local business is more often conducted in Hebrew.

Dress

Business casual is common in most jobs, although women should avoid wearing revealing clothing, especially if they work with religious colleagues.

Greeting

Business associates usually greet by shaking hands. Expats should note that religious associates may not shake hands with members of the opposite sex. Business cards may be exchanged for convenience, often at the end of an introductory meeting. It is appropriate to have them printed in English.

Gifts

Companies typically send gifts to their customers at holiday times. The holidays include Passover in the early spring and Rosh Hashanah in early autumn. Champagne or flowers may be appropriate after closing a large deal.

Gender equality

Israeli business culture is generally egalitarian and women are treated as equals. Despite this, Israel has a high gender wage gap and women tend to earn less than their male counterparts. 


Business culture

Israel is a young country with few natural resources and it frequently faces adverse conditions. These factors play into its business environment. Known as the 'Start-Up Nation', Israeli business is pervaded by technology and innovation. Israelis prize intelligence and creativity and show respect for experts and prominent specialists in their field.

Networking

Israelis are direct, assertive and persistent. Business can feel both informal and fast-paced and it is often conducted with an inherent urgency. At the same time, personal connections are of the utmost importance. Colleagues and business partners take time to get to know one another, socialise and drink coffee together. 

Egalitarian work structure

The management style in Israel is often collaborative, and hierarchy isn't always strongly enforced. Israelis are interested in solutions and results, and everyone is given the opportunity to voice their opinion. The culture places an enormous emphasis on hospitality and Israelis will make an effort to be accommodating to other cultures.

Cultural sensitivities

When working with religious colleagues, it is important to be aware that they will not be available on the Sabbath (sundown on Friday until Saturday evening). It is customary to ask if there are special requirements when serving food or drink, as some Israelis observe the dietary laws of Kashrut.


Dos and don’ts of doing business in Israel

  • Do be prepared to offer drinks when hosting a meeting and prepare snacks when hosting long meetings

  • Do respect diversity and individual opinions. Avoid politics in general conversation, as well as vocalising generalisations about Israel's culture and people.

  • Do be prepared for everything to be negotiable and be assertive

  • Don't offer to shake hands with a religious person of the opposite sex

  • Don't be surprised by sudden changes in plans

  • Do make polite conversation and be friendly, flexible and accommodating

Visas for Israel

There are a number of visas available for expats moving to Israel. Those planning to settle in Israel need to be organised and patient because the process of getting a visa or work permit can be fairly complicated. Expats are advised to apply well ahead of time, as bureaucratic delays are common.


Tourist and business visas for Israel

Israel is a popular tourist destination. Many visitors do not require a pre-arranged visa to enter Israel and they'll usually be granted permission upon arrival to stay for up to 90 days. But it's worth noting that the border police reserve the right to reduce this period or add restrictions, such as limiting travel within the West Bank.

Citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America do not need a visa to enter Israel.

Before travelling, foreigners must ensure that their passport is valid for at least six months after the date of travel, and it must have space for an entry stamp. It is also worth checking country-specific visa requirements with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It may also be possible to extend one’s stay in Israel beyond three months. In order to do so, expats should apply at a branch of the Ministry of Interior in Israel.

It is a common belief that visitors with stamps from Arab countries will be refused entry to Israel on this basis. Although travellers may be subjected to additional questioning from the Border Police, many visitors do enter Israel from Arab countries without difficulty.


Student visas for Israel (A/2 visa)

Those wishing to study in Israel should apply for an A/2 visa, which is valid for multiple entries and exits for up to one year before it must be renewed. The visa must be received before entering the country, and may be applied for at the Israeli Embassy in the applicant’s home country. Expats in Israel on a student visa are not permitted to work.


Residence visas for Israel

Relocating to Israel can be an extremely difficult and complex process, largely due to the highly bureaucratic nature of the country. There are three situations in which foreigners may be eligible to gain residency in Israel:

  • A/1 visas are reserved for people of Jewish descent (making aliyah)

  • B/1 visas are granted to those in a relationship with an Israeli citizen

  • B/1 visas are also reserved for expats who have a job offer in Israel and whose employer is acting as a sponsor

Making aliyah in Israel (A/1 visa)

The Law of Return states that all Jewish people have the right to settle in Israel. The process is conducted by the Jewish Agency and should be completed in the applicant’s home country.  

Spousal visas for Israel (B/1 visa)

According to Israeli law, those in a genuine and monogamous relationship with an Israeli national may remain and work in Israel on this basis.

Most expat spouses enter Israel on regular B/2 tourist visas and then apply for B/1 work and residence visas once they are in Israel. As this process usually lasts longer than the entry period granted by tourist visas, expat spouses will be allowed to stay in Israel until their B/1 visa is either granted or denied. 

Once in Israel, expat spouses should contact the local Ministry of the Interior to book an initial appointment to submit their documents to apply for a B/1 visa. Both the expat and Israeli partner must be present at this meeting.

After an initial meeting with the Ministry of Interior (approximately three months later), the expat and their partner will be summoned for separate interviews so that veracity of their relationship can be established. 

Spouses granted a B/1 visa will then be able to work and reside in Israel for one year. The visa will need to be renewed annually, and renewal applications will need to provide evidence to show that the expat's relationship is ongoing. 

Work visas for Israel (B/1 visa)

Expats can gain residency in Israel if they receive sponsorship from an employer in the form of a firm job offer.

Obtaining a work visa for Israel can be a long and complicated process. There are two different types of Israeli work permits that a foreign worker may receive, although they both fall under the category of the B/1 work visa.

The first is an open work permit, which allows a person to work without restrictions and is only granted to those of Jewish descent or to expats who are in a relationship with an Israeli citizen.

The second is a restricted work permit, which limits a foreigner to working for a particular employer, who must act as a sponsor.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Israel

The cost of living in Israel varies depending on where in the country an expat decides to settle and what type of lifestyle they aspire to. Urban centres are more expensive than desert outposts or mountain towns. Tel Aviv, Israel's most cosmopolitan destination, was ranked 15th in Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2019, claiming a cost of living higher than both Paris and London.

Wages in Israel tend to be low, despite the fact that the government offers numerous incentives and salary subsidies to new immigrants in accordance with the process of aliyah (the right of return). Additionally, many expats feel that taxes in Israel are exorbitantly high, with both import taxes and excise taxes leaving buyers bearing the brunt of costs. 


Cost of accommodation in Israel

The cost of accommodation in Israel varies depending on location, but this will certainly be an expat's largest expense.

After a period of heavy property investment, causing the cost of buying and renting in Israel to increase significantly over the past decade, the property market has stabilised. Despite this, many young couples still struggle to earn enough to surpass the financial barriers placed on entering the housing market.

For the wallet weary, house-sharing is still a popular option and a great way to save money for those who don't mind living with strangers. 


Cost of food and entertainment in Israel

The cost of food in Israel is reasonable if eating in, but expensive if dining out. Fresh fruit and vegetables are cheap, whereas dry goods and meats can end up being on the expensive side. Thankfully, Israeli shopping culture supports haggling, so bargains can be found at markets. 

Evening entertainment, including going out for dinner or indulging in a drink or two after work can be costly. Tickets for cinema, music concerts or other avenues of entertainment are similarly expensive. 


Cost of transport in Israel

Owning a car in Israel is extremely expensive. The Israeli government does offer benefits to new expats who decide to buy a car, but there are stipulations relating to the number of years the car must be owned and the number of people who can drive it. Petrol is becoming prohibitively expensive, and Israel has some of the highest taxes on buying vehicles. 

Most locals and expats use public transport to get around in Israel, which primarily consists of trains and buses. Fares vary depending on distance and the route travelled.

Individual inter-city taxis can be expensive but can be a good option for getting around in a large group. 


Cost of living chart for Israel

Note that prices may vary depending on product and service provider and the list below shows average prices for Tel Aviv in March 2020

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

ILS 12,000

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

ILS 18,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

ILS 8,500

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

ILS 13,000

Food and drink

Dozen eggs

ILS 14

Milk (1 litre)

ILS 7

Rice (1kg)

ILS 9

Loaf of white bread

ILS 9

Chicken breasts (1kg)

ILS 36

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

ILS 38

Eating out

Big Mac meal

ILS 55

Coca-Cola       

ILS 10

Cappuccino 

ILS 12

Bottle of beer (local)    

ILS 30

Bottle of beer (imported)

ILS 32

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant

ILS 150

Utilities/household (monthly)

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

ILS 0.25

Internet (Uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

ILS 100

Basic utilities (Average per month for standard household)

ILS 820

Transportation

Taxi rate/km 

ILS 3.50

Bus fare in the city centre       

ILS 6

Gasoline (per litre)

ILS 7

Culture Shock in Israel

From the secular business hub-cum-seaside resort of Tel Aviv to the religiously significant Jerusalem, Arab villages, kibbutzim and in between, Israel contains a huge amount of diversity in one very small strip of land.

Expats may experience varying degrees of culture shock in Israel, as local culture reflects its varied population of Europeans, North and South Americans, as well as inhabitants from the Arab world, the former Soviet Union and various African countries. 

Israel is, on the whole, a place of informality, where the common attitude is that people should be free to do what they want until an authority stops them.

It is fitting that the phrase chutzpah originates from Hebrew, as newcomers may be both shocked and affronted by the behaviour around them. Blatant flirting with strangers is standard, shouting at a customer is to be expected, understanding that ‘no’ means ‘no’ is rare and waiting in line is practically unheard of. Conversely, the straightforwardness of Israelis can be strangely refreshing, and there is something both exhilarating about bartering at a local market.

Expats may have heard Israelis described as cacti, and this is indeed an apt description for both the people and their culture. On the surface, Israelis may often seem rude, pushy and inflexible, but new arrivals are often surprised by how willing people can be to break rules in their favour, and how helpful people can be in moments of crisis.

Bureaucracy, however, is a key cause of frustration for expats living in Israel, as the completion of the simplest of administrative processes can easily stretch into weeks or even months.


Dress in Israel

Unless expats are in areas such as Jerusalem’s old city, Tsfat or the West Bank, dress in Israel is similar to Europe and North America. Expats in Tel Aviv during summer will see women in short dresses and men in nothing more than their swimming shorts.

In more religious or conservative areas, new arrivals are advised to dress appropriately. Both men and women are expected to keep their arms and legs fully covered. Men should also cover their heads in Jewish religious sites


Alcohol in Israel 

Although not usually consumed in vast quantities, alcohol is a part of everyday life in Israel and is served in bars and cafés across the country.

Perhaps an explanation for the less prominent presence of drunken youths in the streets compared with countries like the UK is price. Alcoholic beverages in Israel are fairly expensive. 


Women in Israel

Despite the many laws that have been passed to promote equality and rights for women, Israel has a reputation as being a patriarchal society.

Women generally receive lots of attention from Israeli men, and foreigners are a common target. Expat women should be prepared to deal with some unwanted attention. That said, Israel is generally a very safe place for women compared with many other destinations. Many women feel safe to walk alone through most areas at night.


Language in Israel

Speaking English or Russian can be advantageous for an expat in Israel, but neither really match the benefits of speaking Hebrew.

Expats may question whether it's truly necessary to learn Hebrew. Often even simple processes, such as sending a parcel or buying a bus pass, can quickly develop into a nightmare if both parties are unable to communicate successfully. Having some knowledge of Hebrew will also give expats an advantage in the workplace.  

Accommodation in Israel

Although the rise in the price of housing in Israel has stagnated, there is still discontent among locals due to high property costs. This has caused many people to move out of city centres, while most expats and locals living in Israeli cities rent their accommodation and often live with housemates. Those who immigrate to Israel due to their Jewish heritage are usually entitled to a discount on both housing and council tax.


Types of accommodation in Israel

Apartments are by far the most common property type in Israel, although houses outside of the city are a feasible alternative.

Apartments

Property standards vary considerably, with many low-end apartments not having been refurbished since they were first built in the 1970s or 1980s and new developments frequently offering a shared garden, fitness room, and sometimes even a swimming pool.

Houses

Larger properties suitable for families tend to be found in suburban areas. Most of these are modern properties, many of which are custom built to meet the specifications of the owner. 

Furnished vs unfurnished properties

Expats should not expect rented properties in Israel to contain many facilities that are expected in other countries and most homes are completely unfurnished. Expats should be prepared to pay for an oven, fridge, washing machine and sometimes even an air conditioning unit. 


Finding accommodation in Israel

The majority of new arrivals find a home through online property portals  It is possible to find a home through a real estate agency, but many Israelis have traditionally avoided this route as agency fees are usually equivalent to a full month's rent. However, recent legislation has been passed which states, in the case that a landlord hires a real estate agent, that agent fees for most rental agreements are to be paid by the landlord and not by prospective tenants.  

When looking for an apartment in Israel, expats should note that ‘one room’ means just that: a studio apartment. ‘Two rooms’ means a living room and a bedroom. Apartments are often advertised as having ‘one and a half’ rooms, which usually means that there is some kind of partition inside the room.


Renting accommodation in Israel

Expats will most likely be dealing with a private landlord when signing a contract for an apartment in Israel. It is extremely important for tenants to understand their contract. Expats who don’t speak Hebrew are therefore strongly advised to bring a native speaker along to assist.

Leases

Most rental agreements are for one year, although landlords usually have no problem with tenants who leave sooner, provided they find a new tenant to replace them. Expats should always check this with their landlord if there is any chance they may wish to leave before their lease expires.  

Before signing a lease, expats should consider the following:

  • The expected condition that the apartment should be left in when moving out – some landlords may demand that the tenant repaint the apartment prior to their departure.

  • The maintenance fee (vad ba’it), which includes general maintenance of the building and will be higher if access to a fitness suite or gym is included.

  • The price increase at the end of the year – this is often written into the contract.

Deposits

Expats will be expected to pay first month's rent upfront and the equivalent of at least another month's rent to cover a security deposit. The deposit is returned at the end of the tenancy once the home has been inspected and any damages have been accounted.

Utilities

Expats renting property in Israel should note that in most instances they'll be expected to cover the cost of utilities such as gas, electricity, water and refuse collection. Gas, electricity and water are reasonably priced in Israel and are usually paid every two months.


Buying property in Israel

Most land in Israel is owned by the state. Instead of selling land, the state leases land for extensive periods. This land is reserved for Jewish Israelis, as well as Jewish foreign nationals who are entitled to move to Israel. Only expats given special permission by the Israeli Land Authority are permitted to lease land owned by the state. Conversely, anyone, including non-Israelis, is able to purchase private property, most of which is situated in Israel's urban centres.

Buying property in Israel is relatively expensive and prices fluctuate regularly. It can be an extremely complicated process, with many incentives and deals on offer. There is also a variety of mortgage types available, and expats are advised to do considerable research before committing to any purchasing decisions.

Expats should obtain a letter of pre-approval before looking for a property. This is a letter from one’s bank to confirm how much money can be borrowed. It is usually valid for three months, but can easily be extended. Getting this early can save expats time once they have found a desirable property.

Healthcare in Israel

Healthcare in Israel is of an exceptionally high standard and is on par with many developed countries, including the USA and much of Western Europe. Most doctors and nurses in Israel are highly trained and can speak English, making it easy for expats to communicate their needs.

Israel has an extensive public healthcare system which is available for all Israeli residents, regardless of income or pre-existing conditions. There are nevertheless numerous private healthcare options for those wanting to pay extra for additional services or personalised, high-end care. The excellent quality and affordability of healthcare in Israel has made the country an increasingly popular medical tourism destination. 


Public healthcare in Israel

Since the mid-1990s, Israeli residents have been legally required to join one of four non-profit health organisations, which provide coverage for the Israeli public healthcare system. The universal healthcare coverage in Israel is esteemed the world over, as it benefits from the country’s state of the art medical technology and research facilities. 

Expat eligibility for public healthcare in Israel depends on whether or not they have residency and are earning a salary. Those earning money in Israel are required to pay a health insurance tax, which is the country's primary source of funding for the public healthcare system.

The public healthcare system in Israel includes all basic and essential healthcare services, but additional services and treatments, such as coverage for specific surgeries, can be accessed through supplementary insurance. 


Private healthcare in Israel

Private healthcare services in Israel are known as 'Sharap'. Despite the reach and effectiveness of public healthcare in Israel, it's not uncommon for patients to wait days or weeks for non-emergency tests and surgeries. While some people simply wait for the next available appointment, many others seek private healthcare, which allows for earlier treatments access to care at a more convenient location. On the whole, though, the overall quality of care between public and private health services is fairly equal. 

Expats looking to purchase private health insurance in Israel are advised to look at a variety of options before making a decision. There are numerous companies that offer private health insurance and specialised coverage plans exist for individuals, families and groups.

Some employers in Israel provide additional private healthcare coverage on a group basis for the expat employee and their family, but this is becoming less common. 


Medical tourism in Israel

The quality and affordability of healthcare in Israel has made the country an increasingly popular medical tourism destination in recent years. Most medical tourists come from Russia and the surrounding Arab countries, some of which do not have the same standard of medical facilities and expertise.

Many US citizens also travel to Israel for their medical procedures, as Israeli healthcare is significantly cheaper than back home.

Expats interested in travelling to Israel for a medical procedure can hire a medical tourism broker, who organises everything from travel and the logistics of the procedure to accommodation and a sightseeing itinerary. These medical brokers are usually paid by the hospital and don't charge the patient anything. 


Pharmacies in Israel

There are plenty of pharmacies in Israel, especially in the country’s metropolitan areas.

While most pharmacies are open during normal business hours, there are some that offer 24/7 services and are open during weekends. It's worth familiarizing oneself with the operating hours of the local pharmacies in the area.


Health hazards in Israel

Living in Israel presents very few health hazards. New arrivals who aren't used to the summer sun should avoid sunburn, while also ensuring that they are adequately hydrated. Otherwise, a doctor should be consulted prior to travel in order for expats to have the appropriate vaccinations. 


Emergency services in Israel

Emergency services in Israel are efficient, comprising a high-tech fleet of land, sea and air vehicles. Ambulance response times are generally fast and some private hospitals have their own ambulance services.

Expats should make sure to memorise the necessary emergency numbers when travelling in the country, especially when in and around high-risk areas.

Emergency numbers in Israel

  • Police: 100

  • Ambulance: 101

  • Fire brigade: 102

Education and Schools in Israel

The Israeli education system is strongly underpinned by the goals of imparting civic values, technological and analytical skills, and knowledge of Jewish heritage to students.

Schools in Israel are generally more informal compared with those in America and the UK and teachers and principals are addressed by their first names. The curriculum tends to be broader than that found in North American schools and emphasises mathematics, science and foreign language learning.

Kindergarten and elementary schools follow a progressive model, valuing experience and social exchange, as well as creativity, play and emotional development.

Hebrew is the main language spoken in institutions of higher education, whereas Arabic is the language of instruction at Israel’s three teacher-training colleges. Despite this, many programmes and courses are taught in English.

The academic calendar year follows the Hebrew calendar.


Public education in Israel

Israel provides free and compulsory education for all children from the age of six through to 18 years. While tuition is free, textbooks and school supplies usually need to be purchased. Other fees are generally required for extra-curricular activities, such as school trips.

Although the public education system is of a generally high standard, many expats don't enrol their children in public schools as the language of instruction is in Hebrew.


Private education in Israel

Private schools in Israel follow the basic curriculum as set by the state, however, they follow different teaching standards and philosophies. As such, there are some English-language private schools in Israel, which might be an attractive option for expat children that don't speak Arabic or Hebrew.  

Private schools can be very expensive for those earning a local salary, but the quality of education tends to be better than that of a public school. Those earning expat salaries will find that private education in Israel is considerably less expensive than in their home country.

Applying to a private school in Israel

Private schools can be highly competitive and many require rigorous testing before admitting a student. Students typically undergo verbal reasoning and English proficiency tests, a maths test and, in some cases, a science test. The head teacher may also interview prospective students.


International schools in Israel

There are also a number of international schools in Israel that expat parents can send their children to. The benefit of international schools is that they provide a high quality of education while also allowing for academic continuity, as many expat students are given the opportunity to continue with the curriculum of their home country. International schools in Israel also offer an extremely diverse cultural setting, as expat children will be classmates with students from all over the world.

A drawback of international schools is their school fees, which are considerably higher than that of both public and private Israeli schools. Most international schools in Israel are in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and provide either the UK, US or French curriculum.


Colleges and universities in Israel

Israel has a total of eight large universities, most of which are based in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Most courses are taught in Hebrew, however, some English courses are taught and accelerated Hebrew language learning programmes are offered which cater to foreign students who want to study in Israel.

Foreign applicants who wish to study in Israel must submit their high school diplomas to the institute that they are applying to. The strength of the diploma will then be weighed against the Israeli bagrut.

By law, the minimum length of study for a bachelor's degree is three years. Exceptions are nursing, engineering, architecture and law degrees, where degrees are granted after four years of study.

International Schools in Israel

Israel has several excellent international schools for those expat parents wishing to educate their children outside of the Israeli public school system.

 

Anglican International School Jerusalem

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate

Ages: 3 to 18

Website: www.aisj.co.il

 

The Walworth Barbour American International School in Israel

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: American

Ages: 3 to 18

Website: www.wbais.net

 

Jerusalem American International School

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: American

Ages: 3 to 18

Website: www.jerusalemais.org

 

Treehouse International School

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: British and American

Ages: 3 to 18

Website: www.treehouse.co.il

Transport and Driving in Israel

Public transport in Israel is efficient and affordable, consisting of buses, trains and taxis. Expats will find that due to its small size, it’s relatively quick and easy to get around Israel.


Public transport in Israel

Israel has a comprehensive public transport system and expats will find that they don't need a car in the major cities. Buses, trains and taxis are available and can be used to travel countrywide.

Buses

Buses are the primary form of public transport in Israel and can be used for both local and intercity travel. Buses in Israel are affordable, safe and air-conditioned, and run frequent and reliable services. Expats can purchase tickets at bus stations or from the driver when boarding. Expats should note that buses do not usually run on the Sabbath or on Jewish holidays.

Egged is the largest bus company in Israel and it runs most of the main routes throughout the country. The quickest way to travel between cities is by bus. There are frequent buses between Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv. 

Arab-run bus companies provide bus services in Nazareth, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, although the vehicles are usually older and uncomfortable.

Trains

The national train operator in Israel is Israel Railways. Trains are inexpensive and run from Tel Aviv to most other large cities. There are also services to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. There are four main railway lines in Israel: Tel Aviv to Haifa and Nahariya, Tel Aviv to Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv to Be’er Sheva and Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The coastal lines tend to be faster and more frequent than the lines to Be’er Sheva and Jerusalem.

The only problem expats might face when using the train system in Israel is that all signs and announcements are in Hebrew, with no route maps on the trains. It might be useful for expats to learn a few Hebrew phrases before travelling by train.

Metro

Jerusalem has a light rail system that runs for a distance of eight miles (13km) through the city. Tel Aviv’s light rail system is still being constructed.

Haifa has a subway system called Carmelit, which is one of the world's shortest subway systems.


Taxis

All of Israel’s large cities have taxi services, which can even be used for intercity travel. Taxis within cities have meters and intercity taxis charge standard fees that are set by the Ministry of Transportation.

Taxis in Israel can be hailed off the street or ordered via telephone.

Sheruts are shared taxis that run along bus routes and stop at designated stops. These yellow minivans are not engaged privately and only leave their stop once they are full. Sheruts are a good way to travel between Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. Sherut fares are similar to bus fares, but they are faster and safer than buses and run seven days a week. 

App-based rideshare services such as Gett are active in Israel. Many expats prefer using rideshare apps as they allow for automatic credit card billing as well as a greater control over their route.


Air travel in Israel

There are several domestic airlines in Israel that provide flights between Israel’s major cities. Israel’s major airports are Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Teyman Airport in Be’er Sheva and Haifa Airport in Haifa. 


Driving in Israel

Expats living in one of Israel’s main cities, such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Haifa, will find it unnecessary to own a car. Traffic congestion is a constant problem, parking is difficult and Israeli driving tends to be aggressive. With comprehensive transport options available, it’s easy and affordable to get around these cities using public transport exclusively.

Israel has a comprehensive road network and the highways between Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa are well-maintained. There are clear road signs in most places, which are generally in Hebrew but with some in English as well. Driving in Israel is on the right side of the road.

Israel’s intercity roads are marked by numbers. Even-numbered roads run north to south, whereas odd-numbered roads run east to west.

Speed limits in Israel are set at around 30 miles (50km) per hour in cities and around 55 miles (90km) per hour on highways unless otherwise stated. Expats should drive cautiously, especially in mountainous areas where roads can be narrow and winding.

Driver's licences

New arrivals can legally drive in Israel using their foreign driving licence for up to one year after their arrival in Israel. After one year, they will need to apply for an Israeli driving licence.  

An Israeli driver's licence can be applied for at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (Misrad HaRishui). Expats do not have to take a driving test on the condition that they have had a valid driving licence for at least five years. 

Keeping in Touch in Israel

Israel is a highly developed country with advanced communication infrastructure. New arrivals in Israel will find that all services required for keeping in touch, both domestically and abroad, are easily available at reasonable prices.


Internet in Israel

The internet in Israel is usually both fast and reliable. There are many public Wi-Fi areas (such as coffee houses and hotels) for those using their own laptop.

Expats in Israel won't need landlines for internet access. Nevertheless, home internet connections are usually something a tenant will have to organise themselves, and they are not automatically included in the rent.

Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as LinkedIn, are widely used with no restrictions or censorship.


Landline telephones in Israel

Communication by landline is very efficient and inexpensive. Prices vary according to different packages and the length of the phone call.

Most of the same companies that provide internet services also provide packages for international calling. Prices vary slightly from company to company; however, due to competition, prices are generally reasonable.


Mobile phones in Israel

Mobile phones are the preferred form of communication in Israel. Many residents only use their mobile phones and do not have landlines.

Major companies providing mobile phone services in Israel include Cellcom, HOT, Pelephone and Golan Telecom. Each company offers its own packages and deals. Expats should be able to find a package that suits their needs.

There are also pay-as-you-go options, whereby one can load credit onto a SIM card without having to commit to a contract.


Postal services in Israel

The Israeli postal service is both efficient and reliable, with many branches throughout the country. The post office provides a wide variety of services in addition to mailing letters and packages. Post offices in Israel provide services that include banking, currency exchange and Western Union transfers. 


English-language media

While Hebrew and Arabic are the two official languages in Israel, English is widely used. All service providers have an option for English communication, and all large businesses and services have an option for English on their websites.

Television

There are a number of providers of cable television in Israel, each providing different types of packages. Many series and films on Israeli television are in English. They usually have Hebrew subtitles but aren't dubbed, so English-speaking viewers can see them in their original form.

News

The most convenient access to news is through the internet. News is broadcast in English on the radio and television at specific times of the day. 

Newspapers

Two English newspapers are published in Israel, The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz, both of which are available online and in print. 

Relocation Companies in Israel

Relocation businesses offer companies and individuals with a full suite of services including pre-departure orientation, neighbourhood orientation, home-finding services, lease negotiation and utility hook-ups, as well as school selection, visits and registration assistance. Removals companies, on the other hand, offer a more limited range of services that tend to focus on the transportation of goods.

O.R.I. Global HR and Relocation Solutions

Established in 1994, O.R.I. is Israel’s leading relocation and global human resources company and offers companies and individuals various relocation solutions that include relocation consulting, work and residential permits, visas, destination services (orientation, home-finding and settling-in) and logistics services, for those relocating from Israel to abroad and those moving to Israel.

Website: www.orirelocation.com

plus_relocation.jpg

Plus Relocation

Plus Relocation is a full-service global relocation management company providing domestic and international relocation, global assignment management and consulting services. Plus Relocation has the experts you can trust to make your move to Israel easier.

Website: www.plusrelocation.com

Ocean Relocation

Israel-based Ocean Relocation offers full-service packages that include school searches, temporary accommodation, furniture rental and orientation tours. Our unique method creates extra value to our clients by leveraging the “total package” solution to their advantage, and each project includes presenting our clients with multiple solutions so that the most suitable option will be fitted to their needs.

Website: www.ocean-il.co.il

► See more worldwide relocation companies.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Israel

Expats should have little difficulty managing their money in Israel, as the country has a highly developed banking system that is both accessible and reliable. 


Money in Israel 

The official currency of Israel is the Israeli New Shekel, abbreviated as ILS, but also abbreviated locally as NIS. 

The shekel is subdivided into 100 agorot.

  • Notes: ILS 20, 50, 100 and 200 

  • Coins: ILS 1, 2, 5 and 10, and 1, 5, 10 and 50 agorot


Banking in Israel

Israel’s biggest banks are Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Bank of Israel and Israel Discount Bank and major banks have branches throughout the country. Urban branches usually offer more extensive services, whereas rural branches may have limited services and hours of operation. Most banks offer telephone or internet banking, with many of these services available in English. 

Banks are generally opened on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 8.30am to 4pm. On Monday and Wednesday, banks open from 8.30am to 2pm before closing for two hours, and then reopening from 4pm to 6pm, while all banks are closed on Saturday for Shabbat. 

Opening a bank account

All expat workers are able to open a bank account in Israel. Opening a bank account is usually fairly straightforward and typically requires one’s passport or residence permit. Expats are advised to prepare recent bank statements from other accounts in order to expedite the process. It's also possible to open a bank account with the Postal Bank (any post office) without making an initial deposit. 

Credit cards and ATMs

Expats applying for a credit card in Israel will need to make an initial deposit, the amount of which will be specified by the bank. International credit cards are widely accepted in Israel. Israeli credit cards are available that allow only for purchases in Israel and in local currency, as well as international credit cards that can be used worldwide. ATMs in Israel's urban centres are widespread and accessible 24 hours a day, but they can be rarer in rural areas. 

Transfers

Money transfers in all forms (cheques, cash and money orders) are accepted in most banks in Israel. As an alternative to opening a bank account in Israel, clients working or living in Israel have the option to open an international bank account before moving to Israel. This allows access to a variety of services, including offshore bank accounts and banking in other currencies. Banks such as HSBC, BNP, Barclays and Citibank operate in the country. 


Taxes in Israel

Israel has some of the highest taxes in the world and all sources of income for an Israeli resident are taxed in the country.

Income tax is calculated on a sliding scale depending on how much one earns. Expats living in Israel for less than 183 days in any 12-month period are only liable for tax on their locally earned income. However, expats in Israel for 183 days or more in any 12-month period are considered tax residents, meaning that they will be liable to pay tax on their worldwide income.

Social security and medical Insurance

Each employee in Israel must pay social security and health insurance in the form of a deduction from their salary based on their individual income. Both employee and employer are required to pay social security.

A non-resident employee in Israel must retain private health insurance for their entire length of stay. Non-residents are entitled to limited services and social security benefits. The social security rate that will be deducted from their salary every month will be the minimum applicable fee.

Expat Experiences in Israel

When considering a move to a new country, there's nothing more useful than hearing real life stories and experiences from other expats who live there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences in Israel. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Israel and would like to share your story.


Aviva Yoselis, originally from New Jersey, lived in Philadelphia and Buenos Aires before moving to Israel in 1996. In her interview with Expat Arrivals, she provides some great insights into expat life in Jerusalem. 

Abi Nurser, originally from Rugby in the UK, moved to Israel in 2011 for love. In her expat experience of Tel Aviv, Abi speaks about the pros and cons of life in the vibrant Israeli city.

Sharon Lintz left her favourite fancy grocery stores and the slow Sunday mornings of the southern US for the bubbling café culture and sultry shores of Tel Aviv, Israel. After nearly four years of living abroad, she gives us a glimpse into life in the country's nightlife capital. Read about her unique expat experience in Tel Aviv.

sharon lintz - an american living in Israel