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.
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.
"I like the European feel of where I live, the appreciation of life to be lived, and not to achieve, succeed or acquire items that I felt growing up in the States." Read about Aviva's expat experience in Israel.
"Tel Aviv has a lot to offer, and I particularly love its vibrancy and variety of great restaurants." Read about Abi's experiences here.
Are you an expat living in Israel?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Israel. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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