Tips for new Olim moving to Israel

Our friends have been asking us about our move to Israel late last year so I started preparing a list of tips that have helped us and thought I’d share them.

First, a little disclaimer:

  1. These tips don’t replace advice you get from the various agencies and Israeli Ministries that have published terrific guides and “how tos”. These organizations include the Israel Centre in South Africa; the Jewish Agency and the Israeli Ministry of Absorption. Read those first, they are great resources, very helpful.
  2. These tips are our hacks that worked for us (mostly). You’ll find other people have their own too (check out Adventures in Aliyaland and Welcoming Olim too). These may work for you, they may not.
  3. We moved from South Africa so some of these are more relevant to South African Olim who are moving to Israel from there.
  4. I’ll probably update this post as new tips come to mind and I’ll indicate the changes in the text. Feel free to suggest tips of your own in the comments and I’ll add them to the list and credit you.

Shipping your stuff from SA

  • Share containers are cheaper but make sure your container will ship soon or you could wait a long time for your stuff. Sometimes it is cheaper in the medium term to take a container for yourself if you have enough stuff.
  • Weigh up the relative costs of taking all your appliances versus just buying new stuff when you arrive in Israel. Think about how long you may need to wait for your fridge, freezer and washing machine.
Flying into Tel Aviv
Landing in Tel Aviv

Aliyah admin

  • Do your citizenship stuff at the airport if you can. It makes a huge difference and means you can start functioning effectively when you walk out of the airport building.
  • It is worth making sure you have the right Hebrew spelling of your names before you arrive so you can give that to the Ministry officials in the airport. Sometimes they come up with weird spellings of names and changing names afterwards is possible but a bit of a pain.
  • Make appointments to meet with the Absorption Ministry and schools liaisons as soon after you arrive as you can. It gets the ball rolling.
  • You will need to open a joint bank account before you meet the Absorption Ministry liaison so do that as soon as you arrive (we went with Bank Leumi and we’re happy with them – we also received our cards in a week which helped with other stuff).
  • Start ulpan as soon as you can. Knowing Hebrew isn’t essential but it really helps day to day. Check when classes begin and whether the ulpan schools in your area offer convenient classes.
  • You’ll need to pick a healthcare provider when you become a citizen so research the options before you arrive. We went with Maccabi and we are happy with them.

Communications

  • We went with 012 Smile/Mobile and they have been pretty good. Good coverage and pricing.
  • Mobile contracts are theoretically 12-24 months but, in practice, you can usually cancel on a month’s notice so changing isn’t too problematic as far as I know.
  • You’ll probably need a credit card to place your orders so open your bank account ASAP. We received a credit card in about a week.

Bank accounts

  • Credit cards work a little differently. The whole balance is paid off on a day you can select each month. You’ll need to make sure you have enough in your check account to cover that payment and remember that your day to day card transactions don’t come off your cash balance as you go, only when the balance is paid each month.
  • Israelis use checks so order a checkbook and refresh your memory how to fill them out. Remember to use American date formats!
Crossing the street
Crossing the street

Travel

  • You don’t need a car as much as you did in SA, not nearly as much.
  • Cars are really useful for travel beyond public transport routes and when public transport doesn’t operate (like שבת).
  • Aside from that, get a Rav Kav card (you can often get one from the train station but ask around). Pre-pay money for your bus rides (each bus line/company may require a separate balance). You can also load train travel passes onto your Rav Kav card so it becomes a sort of universal public transport card.
  • You can pre-pay money for bus rides on the bus itself when you get on. I pay about 50 Shekels at a time. You’ll figure out how much you’ll need as you use public transport. I think the minimum deposit is 30 Shekels. A bus ride in Modi’in is about NIS 4,20 and about NIS 6,90 in Tel Aviv.

Getting stuff done

  • You don’t need to be able to speak Hebrew for most of what you need to do but it helps, even if you know 5 words. You’ll learn more.
  • Don’t be too polite. As helpful as Israelis generally are (some aren’t), they are also really busy and work hard so you have to be persistent and nag at times.
  • You may think that sending a text message or email will help move things along but, often, you just have to go to an office and deal with it in person.
  • Its ok to be forceful. You don’t have to be aggressive but be assertive. It isn’t that easy for ex-South Africans but it is an important life skill for us newbie Israelis.
  • Don’t take it personally when Israelis give you a hard time or are abrupt, it usually isn’t meant to be personal. Israelis aren’t big on patience.

Advice from other Olim

  • “If there’s one (general) suggestion I can make, it’s to leave your expectations behind – things work differently here (especially, for example, the education system). Don’t compare your new reality with your old one – just go with the flow and your life will be a lot easier. Also, don’t send out birthday invitations too early – parents just look at the day of the week and send their kids on the next relevant day (so you may end up with 15 kids on your doorstep 2 weeks early).” – Shely Mowszowski Cohen
  • “I don’t advise to apply or get your Israeli ID from the airport. Rather do it in the city you are settling in [Paul: I still recommend doing this at the airport, just remember it can be a bit chaotic getting the family through]. Due to the fact if you loose your id you can’t do it in your city but in Lod.” – Rael Jacobs

 

Paul
Enthusiast, marketing strategist, writer, and photographer. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad. Allergic to stupid

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