This guide was written prior to the October 2023 escalation of hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militant groups. The ongoing conflict has markedly affected the safety and advisability of travel to the region. Please consult with relevant authorities and exercise extreme caution when considering travel to Israel and the surrounding areas.
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.
Even though its landmass is actually smaller than the US state of New Jersey, there are around 8.8 million people living in Israel. It is the world's only official Jewish state, and a considerable proportion of the population is Jewish. Arab Israelis comprise a significant minority, comprising about 20 percent of the population.
Due to a continuous influx of immigrants over the years, the population is highly diverse, with American, European, Russian, Asian and African nationalities represented. 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.
Living in Israel as an expat
Israel’s modern and diverse market economy is built on several industries, including biotechnology, electronics, information technology, manufacturing, telecommunications and tourism. Most expats working in Israel take up a position in these sectors. 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 accommodation prices are rather high, expats should be able to find an apartment to rent in the city of their choice – or, if they prefer something larger and more suited for a family, houses are predominantly found in the outer suburbs of cities. Transport is abundant and affordable in Israel, so if an expat chooses to live outside the city centre, they'll be able to commute to work without the use of a car and without breaking the bank.
Safety can be a concern in certain areas of the country, but expats in Israel can avoid troubled areas fairly easily in cities such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Be'er-Sheva.
Cost of living in Israel
High accommodation prices and low salaries compared to other developed countries mean that the cost of living in Israel can be high. In 2023, Tel Aviv was ranked eighth-most expensive out of 227 expat destinations in Mercer's Cost of Living Survey. That said, expats can earn lucrative salaries in Israel and costs are largely dependent on where in the country they decide to live, as well as their lifestyle.
Expat families and children
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, but children will be able to continue with a familiar curriculum and language of instruction while also receiving an excellent education.
Families will also discover that Israel is an incredibly child-friendly country. All cities accommodate children's needs, with plenty of activities and attractions to keep them busy outside of school. Zoos, beaches, museums and parks abound in Israel, and parents will therefore never be short of something to do with the little ones.
Climate in Israel
Although the weather in Israel varies from region to region, with mountains, a desert and a Mediterranean coastline, summers are warm and dry throughout the country. Winters are typically mild, but Jerusalem can get particularly cold. Rainfall generally occurs during the colder months, although the desert region is dry all year round.
Israel is recognised for its innovations and its multicultural fabric. Expats who can adapt to Israel's unique, and often tense, political landscape will be able to experience a life which is both varied and full of flavour.
Official name: State of Israel
Population: Over 8.8 million
Capital city: Jerusalem
Neighbouring countries: To the south, Israel is bordered by Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Jordan lies to the east, Lebanon to the north, and Syria to the northeast. In addition, Israel is adjacent to the Palestinian territories: the West Bank lies to its east, and the Gaza Strip to its southwest. The country's western boundary is defined by its coastline along the Mediterranean Sea.
Geography: Israel possesses a diverse geographical landscape within a compact area. The Mediterranean Sea lines its western coast, providing a fertile coastal plain. As one moves eastward, the terrain transitions through a series of valleys, extending from the hilly northern regions to the arid desert landscapes of the south. It's important to note that some geographical regions within and around Israel are subjects of international discussions and varied recognitions.
Political system: Parliamentary democracy
Major religions: Israel is the world’s only official Jewish state, with Judaism being the dominant religion among its population. A substantial portion of its citizens are Muslims and Christians.
Main languages: The official languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic, but 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: 230V, 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-hand side of the road.
►For info on getting around in the country, see Transport and Driving in Israel
What do expats say about living in Israel?
"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, a British expat, and her experiences in her expat interview about Israel.
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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