Moving to Tel Aviv? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
Everything you’ll need to get started with life in the Holy Land.
It is the land of milk and honey, home to major world religions and where the politics are just as divisive as your views on hummus. Yet Israel is also home to Tel Aviv, the de facto gay capital of the Middle East, the diamond capital of the world and home to a tech industry to rival that of Silicon Valley’s. If you’re Jewish and making aliyah under the Law of Return, you’re entitled to an array of benefits and access to support systems when you relocate to Israel, so make sure you know what you’re entitled to. If not, fear not, there’s still plenty on offer to take advantage of. Besides, Tel Aviv is an international, cosmopolitan city, and most people speak English. So, you're moving to Tel Aviv? Here at Plum Guide We’ve done a round-up of everything you need to know in order to become a native Tel Avivi.
Israelis are not known for their promptness. Think of it more like a relaxed, Mediterranean culture. If a friend or colleague asks you for a drink at 7pm, don’t be surprised if they show up at 7.15pm. While you can expect doctors and dentists to be running slightly late for their appointments (unless you’re seeing them at private clinics), business meetings do tend to run like clockwork, with working hours often beginning as early as 7.30am - especially for those working with US markets.
Last, but definitely not least, finding somewhere to live. Many international companies which regularly employ ex-pats often own their own apartments for employees - in which case, you’re sorted. If not, serviced apartments or long-term rentals provide a great alternative. Why not take a look at Plum Guide's homes in Tel Aviv? We’ve personally vetted the best accomodation the city has to offer, so all the work is done for you. If you’re looking to buy a property, ex-pats do qualify for a mortgage, based on an assessment of your current income. But be aware that legislation dictates the maximum mortgage you can apply for, with mortgage banks assessing each individual case.
Israel is the only Jewish nation in the world. So when you’re relocating to Tel Aviv, be aware that religiously observant Jews will not pick up the phone on the Sabbath (Shabbat), which runs from Friday evening until Saturday evening, or during Jewish festivals and high holy days. If you’re using public transport, be aware that there are hardly any services running on Shabbat - apart from the newly instated bus routes - so you may need to plan your journeys in advance so you don’t get stuck. Bear in mind that you can always flag down a public taxi, known as a sherut, over Shabbat, but the fare could increase by a few shekels.
Tel Aviv is host to plenty of trendy hotels, bars and cafes for you to hold business meetings. Yet the fastest way to network when you first land, is via social media. Facebook and LinkedIn have plenty of community groups for fresh ex-pats and native English speakers to help you find your feet and build your network. While the best way to get to know the city is by befriending locals, it’s easiest to connect with other ex-pats when you first arrive in the TLV bubble, as the locals call it, and learn from their experiences moving to this great city.
It’s difficult. It’s got a different alphabet. And it’s written from right to left. Yes, it’s hard, but if you’re moving to Tel Aviv for business and want to make a hit with the locals, it’s best to take the plunge and enrol in an ulpan. While only around 50% of Israelis are native Hebrew speakers, it doesn’t hurt to learn Hebrew yourself. The best way to do this is via an ulpan - an intensive Hebrew learning programme. It may be difficult to integrate into your working schedule, but some employers offer to pay the costs for you. If not, there are plenty of private teachers and online courses which can work around you.
If you’re making aliyah, then you’re entitled to an array of benefits. This includes: financial assistance from the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, rent subsidy, health cover, mortgage discount, ulpan costs, customs benefits and tuition benefit. Make sure to take advantage of all the available perks if so. However, be aware that there is conscription in Israel. The government allows you one year of acclimation after making aliyah before you’re drafted into the Israeli Army - if you’re under the age of 28. Factors which determine your length of service include: marital status and length of time living in Israel. However, there are plenty of exemptions. For example, if you’re a married woman, a woman over 24 or religious, then you will not get drafted. However, if you’re 28 and older, you’re exempt from conscription.
Israel uses separate legislation for non-residents living in Israel. This includes: tourists, diplomats, students, business-persons, and other foreign nationals or people who do not have residency status. Non-resident employees must obtain private health insurance for the entire duration of their stay. They’re also entitled to a limited service from the social security benefits. Make sure that your health insurance covers any pre-existing medical conditions.