Israel possesses a diverse culture that consists of the traditions and customs of Jews from all over the world. In part, Israel’s society is very westernized, and many expats are living in Israel. However, expats should always remain aware that there is a strong underlying Jewish religion that requires respect and sensitivity at all times.
Israel currently has a population in the region of 7 million people, with this largely consisting of Jewish people worldwide (80%). The remainder of people living in Israel consists of non-Jewish people, the majority of which are Arab.
The state of Israel that we know today was first established in the 18th century when many Jewish immigrants decided that they would settle and reclaim their historical homeland. This, however, was the beginning of major strife for the country, which was further aggravated when the country was given to the British to control after WWI. The extreme nationalist movement grew, and more and more Jews arrived to escape persecution in Europe. In 1948, Israel declared independence, but this also meant that it was no longer under the British’s protection, and, as a result, there was an immediate clash with the Palestinians who had lived there before the Jews claimed it back. The neighboring Middle Eastern countries sided with Palestine, and the rest (including countless wars and terrorist attacks) is history.
Despite the constant conflict, Israel is one of the Middle East leaders in terms of economics, industry, trade, and science. The number of international companies moving to Israel is growing every year, and tourism is also rising. People who visit the country are usually attracted to the wealth of sacred attractions. It is the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity and believed to be where Muhammad rose to heaven and therefore is important to people from all these faiths worldwide.
There is no doubt that Israel has played a significant role in world history despite its small size. It lies at the heart of many religions, and it is this which has seen it involved in many wars and issues. Even today, the country continues to be a source of conflict for many other nations in the Middle East.
Israel as an Expat Destination
Isreal’s economy is powerful, and the country itself is very wealthy. This is very appealing to many expats who move here to enjoy the high standards of living. Such standards, however, are only accessible to those with significant financial resources. Everyday events such as eating out, going to the cinema, and going shopping have high costs to supplement the hefty security investment required by business owners to protect their customers.
The majority of ex-pats living in Isreal have relocated here for religious purposes. This is easy to do if you are Jewish, as Israeli law states that all Jews can freely settle in Israel.
Cost of Living in Israel
In the 2012 Mercer cost of living survey, Tel Aviv was named the most expensive city in the Middle East and the 24th most expensive city in the world to live in, which represented a decrease in 7 positions from the previous year’s standing at position 19. Real estate prices are high, especially in larger cities such as Tel Aviv, but food, clothes, and groceries are fairly reasonable.
Expatriates should be aware that the cost of living index in Israel is gradually on the rise as a result of a fall in the value of the Israel shekel against other major currencies such as the US Dollar. For someone earning euros, pounds, or US dollars, this will mean that Israel is a little cheaper for them. However, if you are offered a job here on a local contract and local wage, you will need to consider this when you negotiate your salary.
Israel’s official languages are Hebrew and Arabic. English is widely spoken.
Israel has a Mediterranean climate with long, hot, dry summers and relatively short, cool, wet winters.
Expat Jobs and Career Opportunities
Israel’s strong and sophisticated economy entails that jobs are available for the right candidates. A strong academic background or professional training is often a prerequisite, as to are good language skills.
Recruiters in Israel do tend to expect a working knowledge of Hebrew, although a small number of jobs may exist for English speakers. The Maariv and Yediot newspapers issue job advertisements every Friday. These are particularly useful for people who are searching for work in the Information Technology sector.
There are some detailed rules and regulations governing employment in Israel, and full details of such conditions can be found on Israel’s Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor (Israel) website.
Key Facts Every Expat Should Know About Living in Israel
- All Jewish people are entitled to citizenship in Israel under the Law of Return.
- The normal working week runs from Sunday to Thursday in Israel.
- When living in Israel, you should always carry your papers and a form of identification with you. Security threats entail that people without appropriate identification will be treated very severely.
- New immigrants are exempt from making health insurance payments during their first year in Israel.
Israel City Guides
The Expat Info Desk Desk relocation guide to living in Jerusalem is coming soon.