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Preface Last Updated: 11/18/2003 8:49 AM

Home to sites of immense and sometimes polarizing importance to the three Abrahamic faiths, Israel has, through three millennia, been ruled by Jewish Kings, the Roman Empire, the Byzantines, the Crusaders, the Ottomans, and the British, among others. Each era left a rich historical and archaeological legacy that continues to intrigue visitors and residents alike.

In 1948, the United Nations voted to establish the State of Israel, a permanent homeland for the Jewish people. The State initially provided much-needed sanctuary to survivors of the Holocaust. A few years later, Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, displaced by the Arab-Israeli conflict, found refuge in Israel. Since the 1970s, Israel has become home to waves of Ethiopian and Russian refugees. Today, Israel is home to 6.4 million people, 64% of whom were born in Israel.

About 80% of Israelis are loosely defined as Jews, and about 20% are what are commonly known as Israeli Arabs—Palestinians, Druze, and Bedouins. Israel is a rich mixture of cultures—Arab, Eastern European, Yemenite, Moroccan, Russian, and a host of others. While such a mixture creates almost inevitable societal tensions from time to time, it also offers an unending opportunity to experience new traditions and ideas.

In recent years, Israel has transformed itself from the agrarian society envisioned by early Zionists to one of the most important high-tech centers in the world. Israelis enjoy a relatively high standard of living, and Israel is home to internationally known universities, a world-class symphony, and fine museums. The sea is never far away; restaurants and cafes abound; and Israelis attend more live theater productions than any population in the world.

Though life in Israel can at times be stressful, Mission employees generally adjust to the environment and find that the country offers a wealth of activities for families and singles. Employees live literally minutes from major archaeological sites in Caesaraea and Akko. Jerusalem is one hour from Tel Aviv; the Sea of Galilee, two hours; and the Red Sea a four-hour drive or a short flight. Travel to Egypt and Jordan is easily arranged, and Europe is about four hours away.

As for professional satisfaction, few missions in the world receive as much high-level attention from all sectors of the U.S. Government as Embassy Tel Aviv. While the pace of work can at times be hectic, the rewards in personal satisfaction and professional growth are large. Indeed, employees serving in Tel Aviv ultimately have the opportunity not only to study millennia of history, but also to become a part of it.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 12/24/2003 10:17 AM

Israel is a narrow country at the junction of Asia and Africa. The Mediterranean Sea lies to the west, Lebanon and Syria to the north, Jordan to the east, and Egypt and the Red Sea to the south. It is about the size of New Jersey, some 8,000 square miles. It takes about seven hours to drive its 280-mile length. The greatest distance east to west is about 65 miles.

The topography ranges from the rugged mountainous desert in the Dead Sea area to the flat coastal plain where Tel Aviv and Caesarea are located. The Negev Desert, Judean Hills, and the higher hills and mountains of the Galilee add to the variety of the country’s landscape. Over thousands of years, the rains have carved spectacular wadis or ravines in the permeable clay terrain of the remote desert areas where members of various religious sects have constructed their dwellings through the ages. There are also many natural caves, which were carved by the flow of rivers and subterranean waterways. Alongside rocky deserts, pleasant fields roll with wheat, olive trees, and grapevines.

The country has many natural parks, such as Ein Gedi near the Dead Sea, where one can find hills, forest, desert, and waterfalls in the same area. The highest point in Israel (excluding the areas occupied as a result of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War) is Mt. Meron, at almost 4,000 feet; the lowest point is also the lowest point on Earth—the Dead Sea, some 1,200 feet below sea level. The colors of the landscape vary dramatically, depending on the season and the play of sunlight. The climate in Israel varies greatly from place to place. The coastal plain has wet, moderately cold winters with temperatures ranging from the mid-30s to the mid-60s. Then comes a beautiful spring followed by a long, hot, and humid summer during which the temperature can be more than 100 degrees. Hot spells, known as “sharav” or “khamsin,” are quite common during spring and summer and can cause significant discomfort to persons with respiratory problems. These often are accompanied by hot desert winds from the east or the south, carrying dust and sand from as far away as the Sahara. A cooler fall then leads to the beginning of the rainy season in late October or early November. Jerusalem, which is inland and in the Judean Hills, some 2,500 feet above sea level, is generally drier and colder throughout the entire year. In the summer, it gets very hot, but it remains less humid than the coast. In the winter Jerusalem temperatures regularly drop below freezing, and it snows occasionally. The Negev, in the south, is a hot, mostly barren desert. Throughout the country, the rainy season lasts from October or November until March or April. The rains often come in heavy downpours and thunderstorms.

With the first hint of summer, people go to the beach. Israelis love outdoor concerts in summer, and the spectacular ancient sites in Caesarea and Jaffa are used as open-air theaters. The high daytime temperatures are cooled off by evening breezes both in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Outdoor dining is especially popular in summer.

Fall is somewhat like a southern U.S. fall, with cooler weather and leaves falling off of trees. Winter comes suddenly, and rain falls regularly. In some years, rainfall is sparse, causing water shortages. The northern mountains, particularly Mt. Hermon in the disputed Golan Heights, will often have snow. Toward the south and the Negev, the weather remains balmy, though the nights are cold.

Population Last Updated: 12/29/2003 8:31 AM

Israel has many ethnic communities. Out of a population of over six million people, about 80% are Jewish and 20% are commonly referred to as Israeli Arab—Palestinian, Bedouin, and Druze (an ethnically Arab people whose religion is an offshoot of Islam). For the Jewish majority, Israel is the site of the ingathering of the exiles, although there has been a continuous Jewish presence in the land in greater or lesser numbers since Biblical times. The Jewish People tend to view themselves as one big family, in principle, if not always in practice. It is, however, a very heterogeneous group. Jews have immigrated from all over the world to live in Israel—some out of necessity as refugees, some as Zionists with strong ideological convictions, some for religious reasons, and others simply to try an alternative lifestyle. Israeli Jews are about 64% native-born; 25% born in Europe, the Americas, or Oceania; and 11% in Asia and Africa.

There has also been a major Arab presence in the country for centuries, particularly since the Arab conquest of the land in the seventh century. During Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, many Arabs fled or were driven out of the fledgling state. About 150,000 remained after Israeli independence, and their number has grown to a million today. Arabic is recognized as an official language, along with Hebrew.

Most of the Israeli Arab population lives in the Galilee and in villages on the Israeli side of the border with the West Bank. Bedouin live mainly in the Negev near Beersheba, but some also live in the Galilee. Nazareth is the largest primarily Arab town within the pre-June 1967 borders. In Arab and Druze villages, and among the Bedouin, many ancient traditions survive.

In addition to Arabs who hold Israeli citizenship, more than 2.5 million Palestinian Arabs reside in the eastern part of Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. About 18,000 Syrian Druse live in the Golan Heights, which was also occupied during the 1967 conflict.

Among the Jews in Israel, there are two major groups—the Sephardim (Hebrew for “Spaniards”), who largely come from the Muslim countries of North Africa and the Middle East, and the Ashkenazim who generally come from Europe. Although the Judaism of these two groups is largely the same, there are some differences in their synagogue services, dietary laws, and numerous rituals and customs differ slightly. At present, Jews of Sephardic origin constitute more than half of the Jewish population, although the Ashkenazim still tend to dominate the political and cultural life of the country.

One of the cardinal principles of the Israeli State which all governments have adhered to has been the active encouragement of Jewish immigration. There have been several large waves of immigration during this century, the latest being the arrival of some 1 million people from the former Soviet Union between 1989 and the present, including, for the first time, a measurable percentage of non-Jews. Most new arrivals learn some Hebrew and are to one degree or another absorbed into the life of the country. Native-born Israelis, now in the majority, are called Sabras. They are named after the indigenous cactus fruit that is prickly outside and sweet and juicy on the inside—a now trite metaphor for the native Israeli.

Israelis address each other in a direct and informal manner. They immediately call people by their first names. Strangers often engage each other on the street. The average person has strong opinions on most matters, especially politics, and is not hesitant to share them. They are, quick to be helpful by giving directions for example, and are always ready to help when trouble strikes.

Israeli society is highly family oriented. Extended families spend a lot of time together and are truly involved in each other’s lives. The family network provides a strong support system. Anyone without close family living in Israel will be adopted for the holidays. This applies to both Jewish and Arab Israelis alike.

Dating in Israel resembles urban North America, with singles groups, discos, and friends being good ways to meet people. However, religious identity and affiliation plays an important role in any serious relationship. Young religious Jews often meet each other through a matchmaker. Religious Muslims also do not “date,” in the conventional sense of the word.

Israeli women have not yet attained wholly equal status. Although most Jewish women do military service, those who want challenging positions in the army have to push hard to change ingrained traditions. For example, a young female conscript vying for admittance to pilot training had to take her case to the High Court of Justice in order to gain admission. Once out of the army, women are successful in many professions, including the law, business and journalism, among others. However, problems remain in some sectors with regard to equal pay for women. Attitudes toward women are gradually changing in the country but remain firmly traditional in the growing religious community.

Israel is a very child-oriented society. Children spend a great deal of non-school time together, often in outdoor activities. Israeli life generally keeps kids active and independent. Military service is mandatory at age 18, but only about half of those eligible currently serve. There is growing resentment by secular Israelis that ultra-religious (Haredi) youth are exempt from service in the armed forces in order to continue their religious studies. In Israeli society at large, individualism and private sector success are rapidly replacing the once-sacred notion of collective endeavor and achievement.

Many Israelis are named after biblical figures like Moshe, Shlomo, or Sarah. Names can also be modern, related to nature, or poetic—Alon (oak), Vered (rose), or Shira (poetry), or may be borrowed from other cultures. The choice of names reflects a wide range of religious and cultural influences, including foreign ones.

Israel’s official languages are Hebrew and Arabic. However, the incredible variety of countries and cultures from which people emigrated is reflected in the many languages heard spoken on the street. These include English, Yiddish, Ladino, Russian, Polish, Rumanian, Hungarian, Spanish, French, Italian, Farsi, and German, to name just a few. Many groups want to maintain the connection to their mother tongues and publish newspapers and magazines, and sponsor theatrical performances and radio programs in their language.

American popular culture pervades Israel in areas ranging from music to food. English, which is a mandatory subject in school, as is Arabic, is spoken throughout the country. However, it is spoken well only among Israel’s well-educated and urban upper and middle classes and in places frequented by tourists. Outside these circles, many people do not speak English, and knowledge of Hebrew or Russian is useful. It is sometimes difficult to improve one’s Hebrew, since those who do speak some English love to practice it.

In mixed Arab-Jewish cities such as Haifa and Acre, street signs often use Hebrew, Arabic, and English, while elsewhere, just Hebrew and either English or Arabic are used. Street signs can sometimes be confusing as English spellings vary, and some streets change names every few kilometers. The ability to recognize Hebrew letters and read phonetically is helpful.

The names of most food items are usually, but not always, translated into English. The same holds true for ingredients. Help in deciphering labels is usually available in big supermarkets. The Embassy Community Liaison Office (CLO) has a helpful glossary of fruits and vegetables. Supermarket workers tend to be new immigrants who speak little English, but many will go out of their way to get you the assistance you need.

Most intended immigrants study Hebrew at an ulpan or Hebrew learning center. One can attend for a few hours per week or be immersed in the language and culture for several hours a day over a period of four to six months. The program consists mainly of reading and writing conversational Hebrew, along with learning about the country. Ulpanim (the Hebrew plural of ulpan) can be found in cities and on Kibbutzim (collective settlements) as well as at most universities and colleges. For those who are interested, Post also offers a Hebrew and Arabic language program; although availability of funds has limited training to a small number of employees.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 12/29/2003 8:34 AM

Israel is a parliamentary democracy with supreme authority vested in the Knesset, a unicameral legislature of 120 members. Knesset elections are held every four years or more frequently in the event of a Cabinet crisis that leads to a Knesset vote for new elections. For electoral purposes, the country is treated as a single national constituency. Each party provides a slate of candidates, and Knesset seats are apportioned according to each party’s percentage of the total vote, starting at the top of each list.

To function, the government requires the “confidence” of the Knesset in the form of a majority of its 120 members. No single party has ever received the necessary 61 votes and, therefore, all of Israel’s governments have been coalitions. The broader the coalition base, the more difficult the supervisory role of the Knesset, on which the Government is dependent for the passage of all primary legislation. In addition to legislative functions, the Knesset chooses the President of the State for a 5-year term. The President is the official “Head of State,” but the office is largely ceremonial, with one of its few substantive powers being the right to pardon prisoners.

A majority of the Knesset (61 members) may express no-confidence in the government, and bring about new elections for both the Prime Minister and the Knesset.

Before 1996, the Prime Minister was the person at the head of the list of the party that won the most seats in the Knesset and had the best chance of being able to put together a viable governing coalition. In 1996, the Direct Elections Law went into effect whereby the Prime Minister is directly elected as an individual, rather than as the head of a party’s list. This law was repealed in 2001, and the former system was readopted. Voter turnout in national elections ranges between 70%–80%.

Municipal and local council elections take place every five years. Local and regional councils are elected on the basis of proportional representation. Municipal councils may pass by-laws subject to the approval of the Ministry of the Interior.

Israel does not have a written Constitution. In recent years, the schism between the religious and secular in Israel has intensified the debate over constitutional issues. A series of Basic Laws regulates many of these issues. These laws can be changed by a parliamentary majority of 61 votes. In the absence of a constitution, the Supreme Court plays an ever-increasing role in safeguarding civil rights and freedoms. Considerable tension exists between the Judiciary and the Rabbinical Courts, which do not recognize the Judiciary’s authority. Israel’s religious courts for the Jewish, Moslem, Christian, and Druse faiths maintain exclusive jurisdictions over questions of marriage, divorce, and religious conversion.

The Military. The Israeli military is one of the most important and respected institutions in the society. Aside from its obvious defense role, it has historically been vital as a unifying agent for the many groups that make up Israel’s diverse population. No matter where an immigrant comes from, or what social class he belongs to, he is thrown together with people from all strata of society. People make strong connections, which they use to great advantage in civilian life. In some cases, military veterans get special financial incentives denied to those who do not serve. This has caused particular resentment among the Arab population, which is exempt from compulsory military service. Some Arab young people volunteer for the army, especially Bedouin, who mainly serve as trackers. All Jewish and Druse young men are subject to the draft and three years of service. Young women generally serve for 18 months, but are not allowed to go into combat. Once discharged, many people continue to serve in miluim (the reserves) for up to a month or more per year, depending on one’s specialty. A very controversial issue among secular people in Israel is the fact that ultra-orthodox young men who study in yeshivas (religious seminaries) are exempt from service. This issue has emerged as religious parties have become more politically powerful.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 12/29/2003 8:37 AM

Education is compulsory until age 15, and is free, although parents must spend sizeable amounts of money for school books and field trips, etc. There are separate school systems for the Arab and Jewish sectors. In both sectors, there are both religious and non-religious school systems. Although most schools are public, there are some private primary and secondary schools run by Jewish and Christian groups, as well as the non-denominational Walworth Barbour American International School (AIS) in Kfar Shmaryahu, north of Tel Aviv.

The major universities are the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) in Haifa, Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan (just outside of Tel Aviv), the University of Haifa, and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba. Also important are the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts and the Rubin Academy of Music, both in Jerusalem. In recent years, many colleges have opened, as have local branches of many foreign colleges and universities.

Israel boasts a very high level of scientific competence and enjoys a worldwide reputation in a number of fields. Israel ranks at the top of countries that receive U.S. Government funds for research and also enjoys an active bilateral Fulbright exchange program. Israel’s principal research institutions are the Weizmann Institute, which offers graduate degrees in the basic and applied sciences and in science education, and the Technion, which is the country’s main producer of engineers. The other universities also pursue intensive research programs in a variety of fields.

Israel has many cinemas, theaters, museums, and concert halls. They are concentrated mainly in the big cities of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, and Beersheba. However, most municipalities have cinemas, theaters, sports facilities, and community centers. The major museums house important collections of archeological finds and Judaica, and the concert halls attract world class performers from Israel and abroad. Movie theaters offer English-language movies with Hebrew subtitles.

Tel Aviv provides Israel’s liveliest cultural life, with a variety of theaters, and many small off-Broadway-style productions. Most productions are in Hebrew. Some are summarized in English, and many offer English translations via earphones. The city also boasts a fabulous nightlife, with lots of clubs and bars open until the early hours of the morning.

While the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv Museum have the most notable art exhibits, there are many art galleries throughout the country. Art is ubiquitous in urban areas and throughout the countryside. A particularly magnificent example is the set of stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Many Kibbutzim have excellent art and archeological museums, and also sell arts and crafts, wine, and food products. Safed, Ein Hod and Old Jaffa house interesting and dynamic art colonies.

The Israel Museum houses a Youth Museum, the “Shrine of the Book,” which is the area dedicated to the display of the Dead Sea Scrolls, an Archaeology Pavilion, a prehistory section, and a planetarium. Its archeological wing is extensive and well documented, and holds material from recent state-of-the-art excavations. There is also a significant permanent collection that covers an array of fields.

Beit Hatefutsot (the Diaspora Museum) on the campus of Tel Aviv University offers visitors more than 2,500 years of Jewish history in beautifully arranged exhibits. It studies genealogy and can trace family names upon request.

The country’s music scene (and cultural scene in general) has been immeasurably enriched by the recent immigration of thousands of talented musicians and artists from the former Soviet Union. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Zubin Mehta, is one of the world’s top orchestras. Housed in the Frederic R. Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv, it travels to Jerusalem and Haifa, and abroad. Season tickets usually sell out every year.

Other orchestras include the Jerusalem Symphony, the Haifa Symphony, and the Galilee Symphony. Tel Aviv’s Israel Chamber Orchestra, the Ra’anana Symphonette, the Beersheba Symphonette, and the Herzliya and Holon Chamber Orchestras are also active groups. Tel Aviv has several internationally known chamber groups including the Yuval Piano Trio, the Tel Aviv String Quartet, and the Israel String Quartet. Tickets should be purchased well ahead of time because they are often sold out.

The onset of summer means festival time throughout Israel. This includes concerts at Masada, the Israel and Jerusalem Festivals, and the Acre Drama Festival. World-renowned artists from every artistic field visit Israel regularly to perform. One can enjoy cultural activities from opera to folk dancing, theater to puppetry, imported or home-grown. Entertainment listings are available weekly in the Jerusalem Post, and in tourist-oriented periodicals such as Hello Israel and This Week in Israel.

Israel’s playwrights and musicians have won many international awards. Many of them, such as the violinists Yitzhak Pearlman and Pinchas Zuckerman have gone on to world renown. Every year, Israeli theater companies such as “Habima,” take their plays abroad. In addition, there are a number of excellent theater schools and conservatories that generate future Israeli talent.

According to a UNESCO survey, Israelis read and publish more books per capita than any other people in the world. The wealth of Israeli publications is made apparent every year during Hebrew Book Week, when publishing companies display their titles in public squares throughout the country, and sell them at a discount.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 12/29/2003 8:41 AM

Israel has developed into a modern industrial state. It has a varied industrial base, a small and highly capitalized agricultural sector, and an increasingly important service sector. The economy is heavily dependent on foreign trade, and Israel is one of the world’s leading export nations on a per capita basis. Per capita income of about $17,500 is slightly more than half that of the U.S.

The economy, which stagnated in the mid-to-late 1990s, began to take off in 2000. GDP grew 6% that year. The onset of violence in the territories (the “intifadah”), combined with a worldwide high-tech slowdown, however, has led to sharply lower growth in 2001.

The country has a highly educated population, and the electronic and telecommunication sectors, among others, are as advanced as any in the world. In some areas, however, efficiency is held back by protectionist practices and an emphasis on maintaining employment at the expense of conversion to new technologies. This is particularly true in the poorer towns and border areas of the country, where political factors tend to dominate economic decision making.

Israel is research and development (R&D) intensive. Many Israeli and foreign companies invest in such high technology fields as aviation, communications, CAD/CAM, medical electronics, lasers, robotics, biotechnology and genetic engineering, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, solar energy, and sophisticated irrigation systems.

The Israeli Government has removed many restrictions on capital, labor, and currency markets in recent years. However, government involvement continues to characterize some sectors of the economy. Efforts to sell government-owned corporations have been moderately successful so far, and the privatization effort is moving ahead.

Israel has emerged as a major high-technology center, with companies in the forefront of such industries as software, telecommunications, biomedical equipment, and pharmaceuticals. Many leading U.S. technology companies have research or production facilities in Israel. More than 100 Israeli companies, mostly in high-tech fields, are registered for trading on U.S. stock exchanges, more than from any other country except Canada. The United States is Israel’s single largest trading partner. The two countries signed a free trade agreement in 1985, the first such agreement for the U.S. Two-way trade totaled about $21 billion in 2000, an increase of more than 20% over 1999. Israel also enjoys free trade agreements with Canada, the European Free Trade Association countries, and the European Union, which is a major market for many Israeli exports, especially in the agriculture, food, and hi-tech sectors. Recently, more trade agreements have been signed with Turkey, Canada, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

Although Israel’s economy was marked by strong governmental direction and control for most of the country’s first four decades of existence, economic reforms undertaken in the past decade have reduced the role of the state and increased the importance of private competition in the economy. The increased availability of U.S. consumer products and the growing presence of U.S.-based retail chains and fast-food outlets have given the Israeli economy an increasingly American flavor. Despite the increased role of competition in the economy, prices are generally high by U.S. standards, although foreign diplomats may apply for a rebate of Israel’s 17% value-added tax.

Israel is a densely populated country, with most of its citizens concentrated along the coastal plain or in the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem corridor. With increased affluence has come traffic congestion, as road construction has failed to keep pace with the greater number of cars on the road.

Israelis work five days a week, with Fridays and Saturdays off. (There are some businesses and government offices that are open on Friday mornings.) Many service-oriented businesses are also closed one additional afternoon during the week. Some employers, mainly in the hi-tech sector, have instituted a five-day work week, as have a majority of the offices in the state and local government. On the day before a religious holiday, work is also a half-day, since holidays begin in the evening. Stores generally close by early Friday afternoon for Shabbat. While Saturday is a normal business day among Israel’s Arab citizens, and many places of entertainment remain open, most businesses are closed for Shabbat.

Stores and businesses vary in their opening and closing times. Work often begins at 8:00 a.m. Some businesses stay open until 3:00 p.m., others until 4:00 or 5:00. Banks, post offices, government offices, and most shops close for lunch, from noon to 4:00 p.m., but this too varies. There are many businesses that do not work on a split shift, working right through the lunch hour. Some supermarkets stay open until midnight. It is best to learn the schedule of each individual office or shop that one needs to deal with. Schools let out anywhere from noon to 2:00 p.m., but if the school is religious, it gets out at 4:00 p.m. The American School lets out at 3:00 p.m.


Automobiles Last Updated: 12/29/2003 8:45 AM

A car is almost essential for most people assigned to Tel Aviv, certainly for those who live outside the city proper. It is advisable to make sure that it remains in good working condition. Air-conditioning is strongly recommended.

The Embassy Motor Pool runs a shuttle service that picks people up at their homes in the morning and drops them off there after work. Employees and dependents receive this service for free for their first six weeks at post. After that, the charge is $2.70 per person per one-way trip. (An equivalent taxi ride is between $5–$15, depending on distance.)

Each employee may ship one automobile to post at U.S. Government expense. Nondiplomatic-list employees who have not shipped an automobile may import or buy one without tax within six months of arrival. Employees on the diplomatic or consular corps list may import at their own expense, or acquire locally, one additional vehicle if they have more than one adult driver. Personnel assigned to the Embassy may import any type of car, but availability of service and parts may be limited. A departing employee may sell his/her car to another diplomat.

American, European, or Japanese cars can be purchased duty free through local dealers. Locally-purchased new and used cars that meet Israeli standards can be very expensive to convert to meet U.S. standards if one wants to ship it to the U.S. at the end of a tour. On the other hand, for those contemplating shipping a vehicle, it is necessary to take into account the possibility of considerable extra expense to change certain of the car’s systems to meet Israeli rather than American standards. For some cars, it will be worth it, while for others it might not be. Several features are mandatory, and their installation may cost as much as $900. These include non-sealed beam headlights, engraved chassis and engine numbers, side lights, and reflector tape strips for the rear of the vehicle. The shipping unit in the Embassy’s General Services Office (GSO) strongly recommends that incoming employees get in touch for guidance well before making any final decisions regarding the shipment of a vehicle. Upon receiving a faxed copy of a vehicle’s title, the shipping unit can tell whether the car meets Israeli licensing requirements and can provide an estimate of the cost for adapting it to local standards.

Tires can be purchased tax free, but large sizes are not always available. Safety belts are required on all vehicles. The inspection required for registration costs about $15.

Auto repairs and spare parts are costly. If possible, bring spare parts for exclusive model cars—windshield wipers, antennas, side mirrors, and hubcaps tend to disappear from parked cars. Anti-theft devices such as steering wheel locks and ignition-kill switches are a must. Auto theft has been rising rapidly for the last several years and shows no signs of abating, especially in several of the upper class neighborhoods where Mission employees are housed.

Upon arrival, the Embassy GSO assists with registration and getting license plates. There are three types of insurance. The first is mandatory insurance, which is required by the government of Israel. This insurance can only be purchased in Israel and costs between $500 and $700 annually. Cost is based on engine size for ordinary cars and on weight for vans and other large or non-standard vehicles and also the age of the driver. This insurance covers liability for medical and related costs in the event of injury to persons. No vehicle may be registered or driven on Israeli roads without this insurance.

Second, the Embassy requires that each employee carry a minimum of $50,000 of property liability insurance, known locally as third-party insurance. This can be purchased locally or through a few U.S. insurance companies. At least one U.S. insurance company that sells insurance for driving in Israel has local representation. If one buys third-party liability insurance from a U.S. insurance company not represented in Israel, it is vital to question the company carefully about how it represents people involved in accidents in Israel. Lack of representation puts one at a severe disadvantage relative to the other parties involved in the accident. It is important to read the insurance policy and understand it.

The third type of insurance is collision/comprehensive: It is optional, but recommended. Such insurance can be purchased either locally or through a U.S. insurance company that provides geographical coverage for Israel.

There are two potential casualties that all incoming Embassy employees should ensure that their policies cover. The first is the cost of Israeli customs taxes on stolen vehicles. In late 1998 the Embassy was on the brink of reaching agreement with the Government of Israel to exempt the diplomatic personnel in both countries from customs taxes of this nature. The agreement, if it goes through, will cover lost or stolen cars. Employees who have a very low tolerance for risk may want to check their auto insurance to ensure that it covers customs fees in the event of loss, damage or other eventualities. Should the employee encounter a situation where the Government of Israel assesses a customs tax, it can be steep (between $10,000 and $30,000), depending on the type of the vehicle. Until it is paid, the government will not allow the employee to register another car. Local insurance companies automatically add coverage for this customs fee to the policy. Employees, however, should be aware that, while this has not yet happened to an Embassy employee, there have been instances where non-American insurance companies have refused to pay this part of a claim. If one expects to purchase insurance from a non-Israeli insurance company, it is critically important to review the policy carefully to ensure that the company will pay this tax. Not all provide the coverage automatically.

The second issue is that not all companies provide coverage for damage or loss of the car while in areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority. There are some areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority that, as of late 1998, were open to Embassy employees, principally Bethlehem. All employees should carefully check their insurance policies to determine whether or not travel into areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority is covered.

Gasoline is expensive, but the U.S. Embassy Association (USEA) of Tel Aviv has an agreement to sell tax-free gas coupons that can be used at the stations run by one of Israel’s largest energy companies. Even with the savings, gas is significantly more expensive than it is in the U.S.

Diplomats and tourists can drive in Israel with a valid U.S. license for their first 12 months in country. After this period, a U.S. license is not valid. GSO can provide details regarding procedures for obtaining an Israeli license.

Israel has a complex network of highways and roads, some built over ancient paths, and others started recently. Many of the ancient roads are dotted with ruins of outposts and fortresses. The effort of the government to modernize highly used thoroughfares has paid off in well maintained, well marked highways between cities and major towns. The road system, however, cannot keep up with the number of cars that often cause tremendous traffic jams. The congestion is especially bad at entrances to and exits from the major cities, and within the cities themselves.

The signage on major roads usually includes English, so finding one’s way around is not a problem, except on dark country roads where the sign might be in only Hebrew or Arabic. Drivers generally obey traffic signs and markings, stay in lane, and stop for red lights. However, some can be very aggressive and not wait their turn. Speeding is also a problem. Motorcycles are a real threat, darting out of nowhere at varying speeds, and endangering all but the most alert drivers. There are many road accidents in Israel, a large number of which result in injury and death. Defensive and alert driving is a must, especially on holidays, when more than the usual number of cars are on the roads.

Employees and dependents should exercise caution when utilizing public transportation, as well as in the vicinity of bus stops and other crowded areas (Note: At this time, public buses are off limits). Therefore, a private car is essential in Israel. The Government of Israel allows officers on the diplomatic and consular corps lists to own one car per adult driver in the officer’s family. It is advisable to bring a well-equipped air-conditioned vehicle for comfortable and safe transport.

American, European, and Japanese cars, whether new or used, can be purchased duty free through a local dealer or a departing diplomat. Local cars meet Israeli, not U.S., requirements. Many employees have found local purchase to be an excellent option. There is more detailed information on automobiles in the Embassy section of this report.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 11/18/2003 9:09 AM

Taxis are quick and easy to get depending on location and time of day; but a taxi ride can be expensive. They are usually metered. The fare is read off the meter and cannot be bargained. Receipts can be requested. For slightly higher fare, one can order a taxi for a pickup at home or any other location.

Sheruts (shared taxis) run between towns on a predetermined route and let people off at designated stops. Members of the official community find them a useful and economic transportation alternative.

Tel Aviv has an extensive bus system, but in keeping with its caution to all American citizens at the end of 1998, employees are urged to exercise caution when utilizing public transportation, as well as in the vicinity of bus stops and other crowded areas. At times, use of buses by the official community has been banned outright, and at other times, this regulation has been relaxed One must check on arrival at post to see the current Embassy regulation on the matter. In any case, all dependents shall comply with whatever security measures the Embassy considers prudent. Tour buses are considered safe.

There is a train that runs between Tel Aviv and Haifa every half hour from the downtown station in Tel Aviv, which is located just off the Ayalon highway at the HaShalom exit. The cost is 20 shekels one way. The Herzliyah station, complete with parking, conveniently serves the bedroom communities north of Tel Aviv where many Embassy employees live.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 12/29/2003 8:49 AM

Arkia (Israel Inland Airlines) operates daily flights between Rosh Pina (near the Sea of Galilee), Tel Aviv, and Eilat. Arkia also flies a Tel Aviv-Jerusalem route and conducts air/land tours for those with less time than money. Arkia does not fly on Shabbat.

Steamship service is frequent, particularly in summer, between Haifa and Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, and other eastern Mediterranean ports. During the summer, auto ferries run twice a week (Sundays and Tuesdays) between Haifa and Piraeus (Athens), stopping at Cyprus and Rhodes en route. One can also take a leisurely sailing trip to some of these places as well.

Direct travel to several neighboring countries is possible, and many Embassy employees take advantage of the opportunity to see more of the region. One can travel from Israel by car to Jordan and Egypt. Travel to Jordan is not complicated but requires advance notification to Embassy Amman, and a few other preparations that one can find out about at post. It is possible to travel to Egypt by car, but it is farther and costlier and requires better planning.

Israel is well located for trips all over the Mediterranean and Europe. Air travel is available to Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Cyprus, Africa, and Europe. Package deals can make the cost of a trip very reasonable.


Internet Last Updated: 12/29/2003 8:50 AM

As a high-tech country, Israel is fully integrated into the world wide web. Local companies provide server access to the Internet, and phone lines are readily available. Many newspapers publish Internet same-day versions. Some are:

Jerusalem Post:
Ha’aretz Daily

The Embassy operates an official home page ( as do many Government of Israel offices, including the Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Ministry, and the Defense Ministry, all of which feature both Hebrew and English versions.

Home personal computers should be protected by commercially available surge protectors, as current fluctuations can damage equipment.

Radio and TV Last Updated: 12/29/2003 8:51 AM

Israel boasts an abundance of news, information, and entertainment outlets on radio and TV. Radio stations broadcast on AM and FM 24 hours a day. The three main TV channels are supplemented by cable providers that operate regional concessions. Their offerings vary, but all cable providers carry CNN, BBC, and MTV.

Those who subscribe to cable will also receive a host of German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, French, Turkish, and Arabic stations. Movie channels (mostly American films subtitled in Hebrew), a shopping channel (mostly in Hebrew), and educational TV round out the offerings. Television is formatted in the PAL system, so multisystem TVs and VCRs are necessary if one wants to use the same equipment to watch both local TV and videotapes from the U.S., which are formatted on the NTSC system. (NTSC movie videos are available for rent from the Embassy Co-Op).

Regular Hebrew language prime-time newscasts by Israel TV Channel One and Two both air in the evening. Arabic language newscasts are also aired daily on Israel TV. There are also many other English-language news and information sources available to Embassy staff anywhere in the country. These include Kol Yisrael (The Voice of Israel) radio, Israel TV, and Jordan TV and radio, all of which have several daily broadcasts in English. The VOA, and the BBC are also easily available. In addition, there is a cable channel called Middle East Television (METV) that broadcasts many English language programs from its transmitter in South Lebanon.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 12/29/2003 8:52 AM

English-language newspapers are widely available through subscriptions or at street kiosks. The International Herald Tribune offers a same day edition published in Israel along with an English language version of the Ha’aretz newspaper that closely follows the Hebrew edition. The Jerusalem Post covers local, national and international news, and features an American sports and comics section as well as an abridged version of the Wall Street Journal.

Israel has three main national circulation Hebrew language dailies: Yediot Ahronot (circ. 700,000), Ma’ariv (circ. 280,000), and Ha'aretz (circ. 75,000). Globes, a Hebrew language financial daily and Hatzofe, a paper sponsored by the National Religious Party, are also available, along with many others, in many different languages. These publications, as well as the Jerusalem Post, are not published on Shabbat and important religious holidays.

Time and Newsweek are readily available in their international editions, as is the bi-weekly Jerusalem Report, which concentrates on Israel and the Middle East. Many American periodicals are locally available, but they are expensive. Subscriptions usually arrive about a week late from the U.S. when sent via APO.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 12/29/2003 8:53 AM

Israel has no U.S. Government health care facilities other than the Embassy’s small Health Unit. However, many competent U.S., European, and Israeli-trained doctors and dentists are available, both general practitioners and specialists in all fields. The Health Unit offers assistance in choosing an appropriate practitioner.

Some public hospitals are not up to U.S. standards, but private facilities are better. U.S. employees and their families mainly use private medical centers and hospitals for nonemergency care. There is 24-hour emergency care available in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.

Private physician and dental fees, as well as some medications, are expensive compared to those in the U.S. Some federal health insurance programs pay at least a part of these fees. A few medical institutions will even bill the insurance companies directly.

Personnel coming to post are strongly advised to have complete medical and dental checkups before arrival at post and to bring their records with them. In addition, anyone requiring long-term medication should arrange to have a continuing supply sent to post.

Many medicines are available locally, but quality can be a concern. It is best to purchase medicines through a U.S. pharmacy. Many insurance companies have mail order supply houses, and some U.S. pharmacies will send supplies through the APO.

If you anticipate ordering medicine through the mail, try to get all necessary prescriptions before departure. At post, you can have prescriptions written by the regional medical officer or the nurse practitioner.

The Embassy Health Unit is staffed by a Foreign Service nurse practitioner, a contract nurse, and an administrative assistant. It is open workdays from 8:00 a.m. to noon and 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. A duty nurse is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for advice and assistance in an emergency. The Health Unit has a limited supply of prescription and over-the-counter medications for on-the-job injuries and illnesses. Flu shots are available prior to and during flu season. Some over-the-counter drugs are available at the Embassy Co-op and local pharmacies. A duty pharmacy, listed in the Jerusalem Post each week along with other emergency information, is available after 7:00 p.m. and on weekends and holidays.

The post is serviced by a regional medical officer and a regional psychiatrist based in Cairo. They visit post approximately every 4–6 months for consultations with employees and their families and to review local medical services and facilities.

Community Health Last Updated: 12/29/2003 8:54 AM

Due to the favorable climate, fruits and vegetables are readily available throughout the year. However, heavy amounts of pesticide are used on produce. It is recommended to thoroughly wash it before consuming.

Tap water is usually potable. As it contains large amounts of sediment and chemicals, most Embassy employees choose not to drink it. The Health Unit recommends bottled water or a distilling system. GSO will provide a water distiller upon request.

Public cleanliness, food sanitation, and sewage and garbage disposal are below U.S. standards in some neighborhoods. Kfar Shmaryahu, Herzliya Pituach, Herzliya Bet, Ra’anana, and Ramat Aviv all offer good municipal services. Downtown Tel Aviv and other less wealthy areas are sometimes late in collecting the garbage. Occasional public service strikes negatively affects municipal services.

Homeless cats roam freely. The Israeli SPCA has tried to alleviate the problem without visible success.

As in most warm climates, cockroaches, ants, and other pests in homes are not uncommon, especially in kitchen and pantry areas. The problem is most acute during the summer. Repellants and shelving paper are available.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 12/29/2003 8:55 AM

Tel Aviv has the usual contagious and communicable diseases, but none are extraordinary threats. Dysentery may present a problem, especially in the summer. One must take care to keep food properly refrigerated and to avoid street vendors who serve salads and other foods that are not refrigerated.

Fungal infections are common due to the heat and humidity, and it is necessary to ventilate homes and closets well to prevent them. Those allergic to dust, molds and pollens may have problems. People with asthma and seasonal allergies often experience discomfort in the spring and fall.

The benign subtropical weather is conducive to outdoor activities and exercise. However, on hot and humid summer days, when the temperature can get above 100 degrees in various parts of the country, take particular care to keep your head covered to avoid sunstroke and drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration and heat-related illnesses. These precautions are especially important for children and older people. Motor vehicle accidents are common. You are advised to use seatbelts whenever in the car and to be very cautious as a driver and as a pedestrian.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 12/29/2003 8:56 AM

Employment opportunities are occasionally available. Some spouses add their names to a Fullbright-maintained list of tutors who prepare students for SAT, TOEFL, GMAT, and other U.S. university-related exams. Some people take on private students. Others teach at the American International School (AIS) or at another local school. A few PIT and AFM jobs occasionally become available at the Embassy. The Embassy positions are mostly secretarial; but some include consular, data processing and project work.

The Community Liaison Office (CLO) has a skills bank for spouses and a Teenage Summer Hire program for dependents. Through the CLO, dependents can work for the minimum U.S. wage in different sections of the Embassy and Consulate, at the Co-op, the Gift Shop, or the community pool.

Although there is a U.S.-Israel bilateral agreement that allows spouses to work in Israel, jobs are very specialized in the local economy, pay low wages compared to the United States and often require fluency in Hebrew. The spouses who do find jobs must obtain a work permit from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Such people waive their diplomatic immunity on matters related to that employment and must pay Israeli taxes on their earnings.

There are many opportunities to do volunteer and charity work. One can volunteer to teach English or Bible classes, drive disabled children back and forth from school, or administer school or community programs. Community Connections, in addition to sponsoring social events for the community, raises funds through an annual bazaar to support those activities and charitable projects.

American Embassy - Tel Aviv

Post City Last Updated: 12/29/2003 8:58 AM

Tel Aviv has a metropolitan area population of about two million people. Located in the center of Israel’s Mediterranean coast, the city was founded in 1909 as a Jewish appendage to the Arab port of Jaffa. Jaffa is an ancient city; King Solomon imported construction materials through its port, and it was in Jaffa that Saint Peter had his vision of converting the Gentiles. The main part of Tel Aviv is bounded by the Yarkon River in the north and the towns of Holon and BatYam in the south.

Tel Aviv separated from Jaffa in 1921 following Arab riots against Jewish residents, and became an independent community (they now comprise one municipality). The city grew rapidly, becoming the financial and commercial center first of Palestine during the mandate, and then of Israel. Most banks, insurance companies, and other big businesses have their headquarters in Tel Aviv. Manufacturing facilities are usually located elsewhere. All government ministries have small offices in Tel Aviv, supporting headquarters in Jerusalem. The city is the commercial, intellectual, and cultural center of the country. Though Mediterranean in style, the pace is intense, with congested streets and crowded sidewalk cafes. Though most offices and shops are air-conditioned, the pace is slower in the summer, especially on the hot and humid days.

Tel Aviv began as a suburb and expanded without much planning. As a result, streets are narrow and buildings are crowded together in the older sections of town. Among these are some modern glass and concrete office towers, including one of the tallest buildings in the Middle East. While the city has some of the best preserved examples in the world of the early 20th century German Bauhaus architectural style, it is a melange of ultra modern structures and old buildings on narrow streets.

The newer parts of town show more attention to planning and quality of construction. One major project was the building of a beautiful promenade along the section of the Tel Aviv beachfront most frequented by tourists. Many world class hotels have been built on the beach in recent years as well. The hotels, the clean beaches, the promenade, and the numerous restaurants and sidewalk cafes dotting the area have turned central Tel Aviv into a major tourist attraction. The rear entrance to the Embassy faces the beach and is right in the middle of this area. Many offices even have an ocean view.

Security Last Updated: 12/29/2003 8:59 AM

Security is taken very seriously in Israel, by both the national government and the U.S. Mission. Israel has experienced a high number of terrorist attacks and faces the possible threat of chemical and biological attack from unfriendly countries in the region such as Iraq. While employees and families reside in relatively safe areas and will probably not experience any type of terrorist act during their tour, regional threats have resulted in several authorized and mandatory evacuations of dependents in recent years. Local crime levels, while rising in 1999, still remain below the levels experienced in major urban areas of the United States in most categories.

The Embassy has an active Regional Security Office that works diligently to make your tour as safe as possible. To help maximize your safety, arriving employees and their families are briefed on Mission security policies and on prudent steps to avoid being victimized by crime or terrorism. Security procedures and programs include travel restrictions in areas that may not be safe, and the requirement to give advance travel notification and use a driver and armored vehicle when traveling to certain areas. The Embassy also has a local guard force, which patrols the neighborhoods where employees live. The Consular Warden system, which quickly disseminates news about threatening situations, is tested frequently and works well.

Post personnel are encouraged to keep up with local circumstances that affect security. English language cable television news services and English language newspapers are locally available. Information from these news sources, timely security briefings, and Mission security notices help ensure that all our personnel are aware of local events that may affect their safety and security. Simple common sense, more than anything else, will reduce the possibility of finding oneself in the wrong place at the wrong time or having one's possessions stolen.

It is helpful to remember that Israel is a country that hosts a tremendous number of tourists every year. The Israeli Government takes extraordinary measures to ensure that visitors and citizens are as safe as possible. These protective measures benefit Mission personnel and families as well. These measures, and post security activities, ensure that a tour in Israel will be as safe and rewarding as possible.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 12/29/2003 9:21 AM

Despite Israel’s designation of Jerusalem as the capital of the country, all but two foreign embassies accredited to Israel are located in Tel Aviv, including that of the U.S. The Congress passed a law that recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and required the Embassy to be moved there by May 1999. However, the law contains a provision that allows the President to defer the move in the interests of national security.

The U.S. maintains an autonomous Consulate General in Jerusalem, not subject to direct Embassy jurisdiction nor accredited to the Government of Israel. The Consulate General receives some administrative support from Embassy Tel Aviv and personnel in the two Missions work closely together. In addition, officers stationed in Tel Aviv who have frequent business to conduct with the Israeli Government frequently travel between the two cities (usually about an hour by car).

The post is organized along traditional lines. Mission operations are carried out under the direction of the Ambassador or, in his or her absence, the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM). State Department units of the Embassy include Economic, Political, Management, Consular, and Public Diplomacy Sections. There is also a Regional Security Office and Marine Security Guard detachment. In addition to the State Department, other agencies represented at post include the Department of Commerce (USCS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Office of the Defense Attaché (DAO), the Defense Contract Management Command (DCMC), Defense Cooperation and Armaments (DCA), the Air Mobility Command (AMC), the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), the Agency for International Development (AID), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), and the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

Some U.S. Government agencies have representatives in Israel working under grant arrangements with Israeli ministries or other organizations. Americans assigned under such arrangements are not considered part of the Mission and do not have diplomatic or Embassy privileges. Administrative support services such as customs clearance, car tags, and ID cards are handled through the sponsoring Israeli organization.

The Embassy street address is 71 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv 63903. Most offices are located there. AID and the Embassyés Public Diplomacy section are housed several blocks away. AMC is at Ben Gurion International Airport, close to Tel Aviv. FBIS is located in one of the northern suburbs while DCMC is in Herzliya Pituach. An American library is open to the public at the American Cultural Center (ACC) in Jerusalem, which shares space with the Jerusalem office of the Foreign Commercial Service. The main Embassy telephone number is 972–3–519–7575. To call a specific person or office, replace the last four digits of the Embassy phone number with the extension to avoid the switchboard.

New Mission members are met on arrival by their office sponsor and are assigned a community sponsor as well. Air passengers traveling on a U.S. carrier usually land in mid-afternoon at Ben Gurion International airport, 12 miles from Tel Aviv. The first few days after arrival are taken up with introductions, security briefings, orientation, and in-processing. The Tel Aviv Star is the weekly Mission newsletter with current Embassy and local information including special offers for local entertainment and restaurants. Located in the middle of the seaside promenade, the Embassy has numerous eating alternatives within a few minutes walk.

Tel Aviv was one of the first posts to organize a Community Liaison Office (CLO). Located in the Embassy, the office has a library of fiction and non-fiction books, U.S. magazines, catalogs for mail-order shopping, updated literature on Israel, and a computer terminal hooked up to the Internet. The office is open 40 hours a week. The library and internet terminal are available around the clock.

The CLO maintains a skills bank for dependents, a teenage-hire list, information on Hebrew classes and on local cultural events and tourism in Israel and neighboring countries. In addition the CLO is a source of information on schools for the children of Mission members and maintains a list of facilities that have been used and recommended by others.

The CLO organizes a wide variety of programs and excursions to help Embassy employees see and understand life in Israel. These programs are advertised in the Tel Aviv Star and are open to all members of the Embassy community.

The office works closely with the PTA (Parents and Teachers Association) at the Walworth Barbour American International School, as well as the Foreign Service Institute and the American Association of Foreign Service Women. CLO also keeps on file information received from the Family Liaison Office (FLO) at the State Department in Washington. The CLO is available to answer questions via phone, E-mail, or fax.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 12/19/2003 6:21 AM

Every effort is made to move newly arrived personnel directly into their permanent housing. When this is not possible, they will be housed in temporary apartments or houses until their permanent quarters are ready.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 12/29/2003 9:26 AM

All U.S. personnel live in furnished U.S. Government-owned or -leased quarters located in the city or in nearby suburbs. Single employees and couples without children are usually housed in apartments, although there are some small houses as well. Some apartments are within walking distance of the Embassy. Most families with school-aged children are housed in the suburbs near the American School. Government-owned houses are built to U.S. specifications with three bedrooms and a den or fourth bedroom. Leased houses generally have three or four bedrooms. Israeli homes tend to have smaller rooms and fewer closets than American homes; when packing your household effects you should bear that in mind. Special housing needs should be communicated to the Assistant GSO for Housing as early as possible to assist in identifying appropriate housing.

A nine-member Housing Board composed of personnel from various sections of the Embassy makes all permanent-housing assignments. The Housing Officer acts as adviser to the Board. Assignments are based on published regulations covering employee rank, family size, and availability of housing at the time of arrival. Every effort is made to include personal preferences as a factor in assigning housing, and employees should notify post as soon as possible about any special needs or concerns. However, all should be aware that personal preference is only one of the many considerations that go into the housing decision, and not every one will be able to get his or her ideal location and residence.

Whether an employee is first assigned to permanent housing or transient quarters, a Welcome Kit is provided for use until the arrival of the employee’s airfreight shipment. The standard kit contains dishes, glasses, utensils, pots and pans, towels, sheets and blankets, etc. If required, a crib can also be supplied.

The Ambassador’s residence, built in 1963 and renovated in 1995, is located in Herzliya Pituach on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean. Representational space is generous, and on the ground floor includes an entrance hall with two powder rooms, an entrance sitting room, a living room, and an enclosed patio/reception room. The residence has a substantial garden used for large receptions in the summer, and a swimming pool and pool house with two changing rooms/bathrooms.

The ground floor of the house has an attached but self-contained guest wing, added in 1987. The wing contains a sitting room/study, kitchenette, powder room, and two large bedrooms, each with a private bath. The guestrooms have direct access to the garden and swimming pool via a separate patio terrace.

The DCM’s house, purchased in 1989 and also located in Herzliya Pituach, has a large garden and a swimming pool. The ground floor contains a large living room, a dining room, a den, and kitchen.

Furnishings Last Updated: 12/19/2003 6:23 AM

The Embassy provides all furnishings and major appliances, including refrigerator, heating/cooling air-conditioner, upright freezer, gas range, automatic washer and dryer, and some transformers for other small, privately owned appliances. Families may bring electrical appliances such as mixer/blenders, microwaves, popcorn poppers, fry pans, hair dryers, razors, radios, and stereos. A list of the furnishings provided is sent out upon assignment to post.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 12/29/2003 9:28 AM

Some apartments have centrally heated hot water. Most apartments and houses have individual solar water-heating systems, which are very economical in the summer and during mild winters. The government-owned houses have electric water heaters. All residences are provided with air conditioners, which reverse cycle to provide heat in the winter. Most detached homes do not have central air conditioning or heating.

Israeli houses and apartments have fewer electrical outlets than is normal by U.S. standards. Electric current in Israel is 220v, 50 cycles, AC, single phase. The U.S. government-built houses are wired for 220v, but also have 110v (50 cycle) outlets in the kitchen and the dining room with enough power to operate small appliances.

Gas is commonly used for heating and cooking. Gas stoves are supplied from gas bottles or “"balloons”. Each balloon lasts from four to six weeks depending on the size of the household and volume of cooking. Each residence has two balloons available. Electric and kerosene heaters, and hot-air blowers are also used for heat in winter.

Windows have blinds called trissim, but in some leased and rented quarters they do not have screens. Therefore, flies, mosquitoes, and other pests can get into houses easily.

Phone service is quite reliable. The main phone company is called Bezeq, and it provides all local phone service. One pays by the minute for local and in-country long distance calls, but the charges are reasonable. There are different rates for different times of day. There is strong competition now among Bezeq and two other companies for the market in overseas calls. By the end of 1998 this had dramatically reduced the price of a call to the U.S. to under 20› per minute. Many Israelis use cellular telephones. The rates are expensive, but less than in the U.S.

Food Last Updated: 12/29/2003 9:30 AM

Excellent fruits and vegetables are available in the local markets year round. The price depends on where one shops. It is often cheaper in the supermarkets and more expensive in the little exclusive fruit and vegetable shops. Carrots, string beans, tomatoes, okra, peppers of every form and color, sweet and white potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, radishes, avocados, mushrooms, lettuce, eggplant, artichokes, and cucumbers are sold in season. There is also an abundance of fruit throughout the year. Apples, strawberries, bananas, and citrus are especially plentiful. Prices in general are lower than in the U.S.

Locally available canned fruits and vegetables are of acceptable quality. Local fruit juices, jellies, jams, and frozen vegetables are very good.

The Carmel Market in Tel Aviv is a large open-air market where one can find all varieties of in-season produce. People like to go there to stock up on fruits and vegetables, and the savings can be substantial. There is also a less crowded open-air market in Netanya.

Local meats are both expensive and less tasty than in the United States. Poultry is very good and turkey is gaining popularity as a substitute for red meats. Pork, which is seldom cooked in Jewish and Muslim kitchens, can be found at the Russian supermarket in Netanya, and at several other specialty shops. Ostrich meat, which tastes like beef but is considerably less expensive, can be purchased there as well. (You should ask the merchants whether your purchases are kosher.) Variety meats such as sausage, cold cuts, and chopped liver are available everywhere.

Israel has good fresh milk which comes in a choice of 3% and 0% fat content. There is also a great array of yogurts, cream cheeses, cottage cheeses, sour creams, and local and imported hard cheeses. Specialized cheese products are available but expensive.

A wide variety of fresh breads and pastries is available. The baking style tends toward the continental. Croissants, bagels, and giant pretzels serve as popular between-meal snacks. The most popular bread is the pita-pouch, usually filled with humus (crushed chick peas) and chopped fresh vegetables. Pastries and cakes are usually expensive.

A reasonable variety of local wines is available. Israel’s best wines are of good quality but very expensive, while cheaper table wines are not comparable in price or value to many imports from Chile, the U.S., or France. One may tour many local wineries and do some tasting along the way. The Embassy Co-Op and several duty free shops carry table wines from the U.S. and other countries at substantial discounts.

Clothing Last Updated: 12/29/2003 9:31 AM

Israel has many climate zones, so be prepared for all types of weather, except extreme cold. In the heat and humidity of Tel Aviv, sport and casual wear will do for most of the year. One needs a large wardrobe of washable summer clothes—sports clothes, shorts, short-sleeved shirts and blouses, beachwear, and sneakers. A sturdy pair of hiking or walking shoes is useful. It is also very important to bring hats or other types of head coverings for all family members because the summer sun all over the country beats down unmercifully and can cause sunstroke to the unprotected.

Cold weather and rain gear are necessary because it does get cold during the rainy winters. Jerusalem is in a hilly region, where it can get below freezing in the winter and occasionally snows. In addition, construction materials such as stone, tile, and stucco tend to make it harder to keep homes comfortably warm. Good winter coats, parkas, wind breakers, blazers, or trench coats with wool linings are all appropriate for the rain and cold of a Jerusalem winter. Even in the fall, Jerusalem evenings get cool enough to require a jacket or sweater. In Tel Aviv, a jacket or parka will generally suffice for the winter. Salt air and humidity are hard on clothes and shoes, so it is a good idea to bring protective garment bags, and mothballs for storing winter clothes.

Evening attire for concerts, the theater, and cocktails is trendy in Tel Aviv and conservative in Jerusalem. Women generally wear stockings in the evening.

Those who have a hard time finding shoes that fit should bring a good supply of casual, touring, and evening shoes. Israeli shoes are made European-style, and do not fit narrow feet. Some shops in Herzliya Pituach, Ramat Aviv and Ra’anana carry classic shoe styles, but they cost $250–$400. Sandals of all qualities and prices abound, and even beach sandals are attractive and cheap. Walking shoes, sneakers, and children’s shoes are all quite expensive.

Most good quality shoes and clothing sold in Israel are imported from the U.S. or Europe and are very expensive. This is particularly so when buying for babies, children, and teenagers. At post, many employees get around the high prices by ordering from U.S. catalogs that offer cheaper prices and better quality. Some of the more popular ones are JC Penney, Sears, Joseph Bank, Eddie Bauer, L.L. Bean, and Land’s End. Another option is to take along a large wardrobe so that buying will not be necessary, remembering that homes have very limited storage space.

Another good option is to shop at open-air markets and discount stores where a wide variety of clothing is available at reasonable prices. These places are especially good for children’s clothes.

Silver and gold fashion accessories, both antique and new, are popular in Israel and widely available. Basic tailoring is easily available, but the quality of the work varies. Some tailors will also custom-make clothes, but that is quite expensive.

Men Last Updated: 12/19/2003 6:29 AM

Although life in Tel Aviv is informal, suits are often worn to do business in the winter (a medium weight suit is recommended). In the summer, Israelis tend to conduct business in casual open-neck shirts. The business sector tends to be somewhat more formal and the large majority of businessmen tend to wear suits and ties, even in summer. A dark business suit is necessary for formal occasions. Because Israeli events do not require black tie, a tuxedo or dinner jacket would only be needed for the U.S. Marine Corps Ball. Sports jackets and blazers are useful year round as substitutes for suits.

Women Last Updated: 12/29/2003 9:33 AM

People in senior level positions will need the same kind of dressy clothing that is worn in the United States for dinner parties, receptions, concerts, and other social events. Formal attire (long dress) is rarely needed. However, as a personal option, many choose to wear formal attire to the annual U.S. Marine Corps Ball. Cocktail-length dresses are suitable for most occasions. It is necessary to have dresses with longer sleeves for official events in Jerusalem and for the winter months in Tel Aviv. For everyday wear in the summer, women wear sundresses, shorts, slacks, jeans and skirts, and casual tops and blouses. Winter cold requires heavier skirts and blouses. Israel is an ideal climate for wool and lighter weight suits during the non-summer months. Employees wear skirts or slacks with blouses or sweaters or dresses. Blazers or suits may be worn in the winter. Suits or dressier work clothes are necessary for those working as Control Officers for senior visitors.

Supplies and Services Last Updated: 12/29/2003 9:34 AM

The Embassy Co-Op carries an assortment of canned and powdered goods, household cleaning and paper products, bath items, over-the-counter medicines, cosmetics, men’s after shave lotions, alcoholic beverages, and cigarettes, just to name a few items. The Co-Op also carries duty-free items such as televisions, CD and DVD players, film, and batteries. DVDs and tapes are also available for rent. The Co-Op also sells tax-free coupons for gasoline. Prices at the Co-Op are generally higher than in the U.S., in part because of the cost of shipping products from abroad. However, the Co-Op stocks some American products that are hard to get locally and also offers convenience for those working in or near the Chancery. A deposit and a monthly fee are required for membership in the U.S. Embassy Association. The deposit is refunded on leaving post. Periodically beef, chicken or other frozen meat products can be ordered through the Navy at a very reasonable price.

In addition to the Co-Op, the Association manages a duty free gift shop and the Recreation Center. The gift shop sells many consignment items made by local artisans and craftsmen. It carries a variety of jewelry items, ceramics, T-shirts, olive wood, prints, Palestinian embroidery, post and greeting cards, and cosmetics. The Recreation Center is located in Kfar Shmaryahu and is open to all members of USEA. It has a tennis court, small pool, and a kiddie pool. The Association also manages a small preschool on the grounds of the Recreation Center.

The Embassy is served by the APO mail service, making it possible to send and receive letters and packages on site, just as if one were dealing with a post office in the U.S.

Supplies Last Updated: 12/29/2003 9:37 AM

Local supermarkets are well stocked with a variety of fresh, frozen, and packaged foods, although not necessarily American brands. Typical American favorites like breakfast cereals, ketchup, and pasta sauces are available but more expensive than in the United States. The large Carmel outdoor market in downtown Tel Aviv has excellent fresh produce, superior in quality and less expensive than the supermarket. Many small green grocer shops in Tel Aviv also sell high quality fruits and vegetables, albeit at higher prices.

Local pharmacies are well supplied with toiletries such as soaps, shampoo, cosmetics, and deodorant. Sunscreen is available, but it is quite expensive. Due to the sunny climate, it is advisable to bring a supply with you to Post. Many over-the-counter medications can be purchased at local pharmacies; however, some specific American brands may not be available. The Embassy Health Unit recommends that anyone taking a specific prescription drug or a favorite over-the-counter drug bring an adequate supply or make arrangements to have refills shipped to Post. Any questions regarding prescription or over-the-counter medications should be directed to the Health Unit.

Most all baby and toddler supplies are available locally. Large items such as strollers, cribs, playpens, clothing and shoes are significantly more expensive than in the United States. Diapers and infant formula, including American brands, are readily available and are only marginally more expensive.

Tel Aviv has two duty free stores open to the diplomatic corps. They sell food, appliances, perfumes, cosmetics, suntan lotion, watches, wine and liquor, local and imported clothes, electronic equipment, and other items. Many people buy multi-system TVs and VCRs from these stores. Some items can be ordered more cheaply through the AAFES catalog.

Locally made handicrafts can be purchased at the markets of Jaffa and Jerusalem. These include copper and brass pitchers, pots, and trays; assorted quality ceramics; olive wood carvings; weaves; rugs; antiques, and various gold and silver items.

Several bookstores within Tel Aviv and the suburbs carry books from all over the world, including the latest best sellers from the U.S. Books are very expensive. The best option is catalog or internet shopping. The American International School has a library of videos and books; there is a membership fee of $35 to use it. The Embassy Co-op rents out a limited supply of American videos. There are also local video clubs that one can join to rent PAL format tapes. CLO has a small library of both non-fiction and fiction books. There are secondhand bookstores in Tel Aviv that buy and sell English paperbacks, and the annual fair at the American International School is a good opportunity to pick up a supply of adventure, history and fiction books. Avid readers can also belong to one of a variety of local book clubs.

Basic Services Last Updated: 12/29/2003 9:37 AM

Service in restaurants can be slow, but there is a desire to please in the more upscale ones. There is generally far less pressure on patrons to “pay up and move on” than in the U.S.

Laundry and dry cleaning services are expensive, and results are usually not up to U.S. standards.

Beauty salons, some of which are excellent, are available in most neighborhoods, but prices are high. They often do not offer all of the services that one would expect; only some do manicures and pedicures. The big hotels, on the other hand, are used to attending to an international clientele, and offer a broad range of services.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 12/29/2003 9:38 AM

Experienced housekeepers, cooks, and domestic helpers are available in Tel Aviv. Wage levels are similar to those in the U.S. Many come with strong recommendations, having been with Embassy families for years. Most are from the Philippines, and need to be “sponsored” by someone to be able to work in Israel legally. Embassy policy prohibits employees from hiring personnel who are not in the country legally. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs is very strict about not approving sponsorship applications for prospective employees who are now, or have ever been, in Israel illegally. Sponsorship is not complicated, and many Embassy families do it. Information about the process is available at post.

Most people rely on part-time help. A few families, including those with heavy representational responsibilities, have a full-time servant. Teenagers babysit, look after pets, and house sit. You may occasionally find an au pair willing to work full-time. Bartenders and waiters are available by the hour, or for $30 to $50 for an evening.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 12/29/2003 9:47 AM

In addition to Judaism, Christianity and Islam both consider the Land of Israel to be sacred territory, and both maintain a major presence in modern Israel. The Bahai religion also has its world center in Haifa. Places of worship—synagogues, churches and mosques—are often located close to each other, particularly in the disputed Old City of Jerusalem where such holy sites of different religions as the Western Wall of the Temple, the Dome of the Rock, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre virtually abut one another.

The religious authorities of each religion exercise considerable power over the adherents of their faith. In addition to being responsible for administering the holy sites of the faith, they also control many aspects of the personal lives of their constituents, such as marriage, divorce, and burial. This has become increasingly controversial as more and more secular people demand the right to decide for themselves the role of religion in their lives. If Israelis want to marry in a civil rather than a religious ceremony, they must do so in another country if they want the Ministry of the Interior to recognize and register the marriage.

An ongoing and controversial issue facing Israelis is over what it means to be a Jew. The only stream of Judaism that is recognized by the State of Israel is the Orthodox establishment, both Ashkenazim and Sephardim. The Conservative and Reform movements, which predominate in the U.S., have no official standing in Israel, and rituals such as marriages and conversions performed in Israel are not recognized by the government, although those performed in the U.S. are. With the rise in participation of the religiously observant community in the political and judicial life of the country (nearly one quarter of the Knesset members come from parties with religious affiliations), this issue has taken on a sharper focus. Furthermore, the rapid influx of immigrants from Russia in the early and mid-90s, whose affiliations with Judaism were in some cases tenuous, has dramatized several aspects of this problem through cases they have brought to court and legislation that has been introduced in the Knesset.

Roughly 20% of Israeli Jews are religious. About 40% are defined as “traditional” and another 40% as “secular.” Many of the middle group are quite traditional in their outlook, even though they do not strictly observe Jewish religious law. Even most secular Jews observe certain Jewish traditions. Judaism sets the rhythm and tone for the country, both for those who are religious and those who are not. Holidays, for example, are determined by the Jewish rather than by the Julian calendar. Shabbat (Saturday) is the day of rest. Schools, factories, and government institutions are closed on that day, and on many Jewish religious holidays. Furthermore, even most secular Israelis participate in some form of basic holiday observances and religious ceremonies, such as circumcisions, bar mitzvahs, and the shiva (mourning rituals).

Both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have ultra-orthodox sections where Shabbat, which goes from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, is strictly observed. No cars are allowed, and all commercial enterprises are closed in these areas. On Shabbat, Orthodox Jews do not answer the phone, write, ride in cars, or perform any tasks considered to be work. Muslim areas are generally closed on Fridays, and Christian areas on Sundays.

Members of the religious community dress modestly, and it is recommended that visitors to religious areas, holy sites, and prayer services do so as well. Ultra Orthodox Jewish men wear very distinctive black clothing, which predominates in places like Mea Shearim in Jerusalem and Bnai Brak outside of Tel Aviv. Islamic laws of modesty are even stricter than those of Judaism, and in many Muslim areas, observant women are covered from head to foot. Very religious Jews and Muslims do not touch or even directly address members of the opposite sex, except within the family. Hence, when greeting or being introduced, one should not attempt to shake hands with the opposite sex unless the other party offers his or her hand.

Judaism has a complex set of dietary rules known as the laws of kashrut. Most food produced in Israel is kosher, although virtually all kinds of non-kosher products are available—especially since the recent mass aliyah (immigration) from Russia. Restaurants may or may not keep kosher. Hotels generally do. Those that do will serve either dairy or meat meals, but not both. When bringing a gift to an observant family, whether Jewish or Muslim, it is important to consider its appropriateness—religious Jews and Muslims do not eat pork. Muslims do not drink alcoholic beverages.

The Sabbath is spiritually observed in differing degrees, depending on whether one is orthodox, traditional, or secular. Nevertheless, whatever one’s position on religious issues, on Friday most Israelis clean the house, buy flowers, and have a special Shabbat evening meal with family and friends. Throughout Israel, it is traditional to greet everyone with Shabbat Shalom, starting Friday at noon.

The Christian and Muslim communities are responsible for their Holy Sites in Jerusalem and throughout the country. Some of the most spectacular monasteries can be seen clinging to cliffs in the wilderness of the Judean Desert. The established churches include Greek and Armenian Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Baptist, Mormon, Roman Catholic and other smaller Christian groups. Some of these churches have a joint agreement to administer the Christian religious sites. They also receive the many religious pilgrims and tourists who come to Israel. They conduct conferences, vigils, and religious ceremonies, participate in archaeological excavations, and do research on the Bible. Visitors come mainly at Christmas, Easter, and summertime.

Places of worship abound throughout Israel. Every community has at least one synagogue; most are traditional Orthodox, but there are also some Conservative and Reform synagogues in the major urban communities. (The names of specific Reform and Conservative synagogues are available through the CLO.) There are also many churches and mosques, mainly in Arab areas; and several churches close to Tel Aviv and the suburbs. In Jaffa there are St. Anthony’s Church and St. Peter’s Church (Roman Catholic); the Greek Orthodox Church; the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian); and the Immanuel Church (Lutheran). A Christian Women’s Fellowship Group meets regularly as well. Among the many Christian churches in Jerusalem is a Mormon Church that meets on Saturdays.

Christian worship services in English are conducted in the Herzliya Pituach area. A non-denominational Christian Fellowship group meets every Saturday morning at the American International School in Kfar Shmaryahu, and there is a Roman Catholic mass there on Saturday evenings. St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Herzliya Pituach has Sunday services. There is also a Baptist Center near Petach Tikva, east of Tel Aviv. Immanuel Church in Jaffa has an English-language Sunday School and an English church service every Sunday morning.

Around Christmas and Easter time, there is an abundance of information about services in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the nearby monasteries, Nazareth, and Bethlehem (which is located in the Palestinian Authority Area and not currently available to the Embassy community). The Jerusalem Post and the Israeli edition of the International Herald Tribune have schedules for services, and the Community Liaison Office (CLO) also keeps current information on hand.


Dependent Education Last Updated: 12/29/2003 10:04 AM

Preschool Education. In Israeli society, all children attend compulsory preschool starting at age five. A private gan (preschool) may accept children as young as 18 months. Facilities are adequate to excellent and include well-trained staffs, but the better ones fill up early. Gan runs sux days a week (Sunday–Friday) from 7:30 a.m. to up to 4:00 p.m. (12:30 p.m. on Friday). Attendance is usually flexible within this schedule. Tuition can run up to about $350 per month for full-time attendance. Several Embassy families send their children to a gan.

The Embassy sponsors a preschool located in Kfar Shmaryahu, which had approximately 20 children enrolled for the 2003–2004 school year. A director from the international expatriate community oversees the curriculum. American Embassy children between the ages of two to four have priority for enrollment, with preschoolers from the rest of the international community being accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. A non-refundable $100 fee will reserve a place for Embassy children in the school if sent before classes have filled up.

Grade School and High School. The Walworth Barbour American International School (WBAIS) is an independent, coeducational day school that offers an educational program from kindergarten through high school for students of all nationalities. The school was founded in 1958 as a nonprofit corporation registered in the State of Delaware. This corporation delegates its power to a seven-member School Board in charge of policymaking.

The U.S. Government authorizes an educational allowance for children attending WBAIS or any other school approved by the Department of State’s Office of Overseas Schools. WBAIS, or AIS as it is called locally, is located in suburban Kfar Shmaryahu and is easily accessible to families assigned to post. Bus service, contracted by the school, serves most neighboring communities and is provided for children who are part of the Mission.

Enrollment at WBAIS in the 03/04 school year was 430 — 175 in elementary school, 104 in middle school, and 151 in high school. The student body was comprised of 151 U.S. citizens, 81 Israelis, and 198 children of other nationalities. Of the U.S. citizens, 57 were dependents of U.S government direct-hire or contract employees.

The school’s curriculum is that of a U.S. general academic, college-preparatory public school. Instruction is in English. There is no religious instruction. The elementary school consists of kindergarten through grade five. Grades six through eight comprise the Middle School, and grades nine through 12 the High School. Hebrew language instruction becomes mandatory in grade three. French and Spanish are offered from the seventh grade on. In the high school, emphasis is placed on college preparation. Students take the College Board PSATs and SATs and the California Achievement Tests. Graduates have been accepted to top colleges and universities in the United States, Israel, and Europe. The school is fully accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

WBAIS offers many extra curricular activities. Extensive after-school offerings in sports and arts and crafts are the most popular. The school has playing fields, a gym/auditorium, and an outdoor basketball court. These are used throughout the school year for field hockey, soccer, and volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter, and softball and baseball in the spring. There are also intramural volleyball, hockey leagues, and other recreational activities at all levels. In addition, the school hosts many outside events.

The school library, directed by a professional librarian, boasts 15,000 volumes and access to both print and electronic resources. The internet is accessible from the library and all classrooms. The school also has four well-equipped science laboratories, five computer laboratories, two art rooms, and a photographic dark room. A small store offers “AIS" merchandise such as notebooks, pencils, etc. However, it is advisable to bring a healthy stock of all school supplies, as paper products are expensive locally. A backpack or other book bag would also be useful. Students’ families may use the book and video library. There is also a small snack bar.

The school term runs from late August to June. All Israeli holidays are observed, in addition to some American ones. Spring vacation is during Passover/Easter week.

WBAIS administers the California Achievement Tests in grades three through 10. The PSATs and SATs are given locally. Private SAT preparatory courses are available.

Tuition per student in the 2003–04 school year is $12,600 (grades K–5); $13,300 (grades 6–8); and $14,300 (grades 9–12). A one-time non-refundable registration fee of $1,000 is assessed. For further information write:

Walworth Barbour American International School
American Embassy
UNIT 7228. BOX 0038
APO AE 09830
Tel: 972–9–958 4225

Several other educational facilities are available at post, including British and French schools.

The British school, Tabeetha, sponsored by the Church of Scotland is located in Jaffa and prepares students for entrance to British universities. The school offers the equivalent of a U.S. high school curriculum, but the grades taught vary each year. Maximum enrollment is 290 students. Tabeetha offers French, German, and Hebrew, as well as preparation for the British “A-level” exams in both the humanities and the sciences, depending on the demand.

Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 12/29/2003 10:06 AM

The American International School has a special education department that serves children with mild learning difficulties only. The general guideline followed by the school is to provide support to children in the regular classroom. English speaking physical and speech therapist referrals are available through the school. Moderately or severely handicapped children, or those with a history of emotional disturbance, may have difficulty finding schooling in Israel. Anyone with children who have special education requirements must check with post and the school before an assignment is finalized.

If a student needs special educational assistance, the CLO will work with the Director of the American School, the Embassy Health Unit and local specialists to determine if there is an appropriate program available in Israel for the child.

Language and University Education. Israel offers a limited number of university programs taught entirely in English. At present (winter 2003), although 13 U.S. universities have been accredited by the Israeli Council for Higher Education to operate overseas branches locally, only Boston University’s MSM in Management and Touro College’s BA in Business are taught entirely in English. The other programs are mainly in Hebrew.

Other programs taught in English include:

The Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center: BS in Computer Science (beginning 10/99). For further information, visit their website at: or call 09–952–7272.
Northwestern University’s Kellogg’ Recanati International Executive MBA, offered jointly with Tel Aviv University. Website: Telephone: 03–640–9955.
The Levinsky College of Education’s B.Ed. in English Education.
Empire State College (SUNY) in Jerusalem offers a variety of undergraduate majors. For further information please call 02–624–9406.
Additional options:

The University of Maryland's University College (UMUC) is currently planning to begin offering undergraduate courses and seminars to the U.S. Embassy and American community in Tel Aviv. Under contract to the U.S. Department of Defense, UMUC has offered classes to U.S. military overseas since 1949. UMUC is accredited by the Middle States Association. Classes are traditionally held in the evenings, twice a week, over an eight-week term.
The Educational Information Center’s advising service of the U.S.-Israel Educational Foundation (Fulbright) offers a wide range of reference material (books, website addresses) on various U.S. higher education, including distance learning offices. For details, visit their website at (see Links or Useful Resources on the Internet) or call the EIC Director at 03–517–2131, extension 206.

Recreation and Social Life Last Updated: 12/29/2003 10:08 AM

Israelis have an enormous variety of choices when it comes to relaxation and entertainment. There are world-class restaurants offering of kosher and non-kosher cuisines and many well-stocked shopping malls. Tel Aviv is the center of the country’s nightlife with bars and clubs that are open through the night; other cities and towns also have much to offer in this regard. People like to spend hours conversing at the many outdoor cafes that line the streets of the cities and towns. Walking along the Tel Aviv beach promenade during summer evenings is a popular activity.

There are amateur English-speaking theater groups in Israel, and many music and theater festivals in the spring and summer. One festival is called “Jacob’s Ladder,” which is a two-day celebration of English and American folk music at alternating sites, including impressive ancient ruins in the Upper Galilee, the shores of the Sea of Galilee, or a natural pool in the Jezreel Valley. The festival features fiddle, guitar, and banjo playing. Israelis love to celebrate with family. The Jewish calendar, which is full of holidays, gives them ample opportunity. There are also endless celebrations for births, engagements, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and brits (circumcisions). A good part of the budget goes to buying presents for friends, relatives, and coworkers; no one appears empty-handed at holidays or simachot (celebrations).

Sports Last Updated: 12/29/2003 10:10 AM

Sports are very important in Israel. The country hosts the Maccabiah Games every few years, which draw Jewish athletes from all over the world. Soccer and basketball are extremely popular, and fans passionately support their favorite teams. The Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, and Sea of Galilee provide ample settings for water sports.

Tel Aviv and nearby coastal areas have many beaches and swimming pools. Swimming is possible eight months a year, and year round for the hardy. Some beaches are rocky and hard to walk on. In addition, some are polluted. Post recommends caution in using them. Most are very crowded on Shabbat. Swimming is forbidden when there is no lifeguard, since most beaches have a dangerous undertow. Beach warnings should be obeyed, as there are numerous cases of drowning every year. Swimming areas are cordoned off, and there are one to three lifeguards at all times. Colored signal flags indicate when it is safe to swim. Surfers should be especially careful.

Year-round pools and clubs are popular and numerous in the Tel Aviv area, and their cost is comparable to what one would pay in the U.S. There are pools at all major hotels. Kfar Shmaryahu has a quiet club with a covered pool and tennis courts, which offers a discount for diplomats and residents of the area. The Tel Aviv Country Club, five miles north of the city, has excellent sports facilities, including 11 tennis courts, a large gym, and an olympic-sized pool that is heated during the winter. The Embassy Association Recreation Center is located in Kfar Shmaryahu and is open to all members of the USEA. It has a tennis court, small pool, and a kiddie pool.

Fishing, snorkeling, water skiing, wind surfing, surfboarding, and scuba diving are very popular in Israel. The Ramat Aviv beach has especially good waves for surfing. Diving classes in English are given in both Tel Aviv and Eilat. Equipment is generally safe and can be rented. It is expensive to buy.

Small boats can be rented for the day in Haifa and on the Sea of Galilee in Tiberias. Scuba divers can explore interesting underwater ruins off the coast of Caesarea. The Gulf of Aqaba has a spectacular coral reef with a variety of reef fish. Eilat also offers excellent water skiing, scuba diving, and snorkeling.

Israel has two golf courses, located north of Herzliya.

There are riding stables near Tel Aviv. The Moshav Rishpon stable near Kfar Shmaryahu keeps horses and offers riding lessons. The Vered Hagalil ranch north of Tiberias in the hills of the Galilee offers trail riding. One can also take guided horseback tours and see frequent horse shows in the Galilee. Horseback riding is also available in Netanya.

Hunting certain game is permitted. Partridge and wild boar can be found, but duck and geese are scarce. Hunters are permitted to shoot up to 10 game birds per day during the hunting season (September–February). All guns must be licensed. Military caliber rifles are not allowed. Twelve-gauge shotguns and .22 caliber rifles are recommended, since ammunition for these sizes is readily available (but expensive) in Israel. Under no circumstances should prospective Embassy employees consider importing any firearms without discussing their plans first with the Embassy’s Regional Security Office and receiving the RSO’s approval.

During warm weather, an Embassy team plays softball on weekends, and soccer is played in the winter. Adult volleyball, basketball, and floor hockey are played at the American International School once a week throughout the school year.

Wintertime activities include skiing on Mt. Hermon in the Golan Heights, some three hours from Tel Aviv, and indoor ice skating at two small rinks in the Tel Aviv area. Rental equipment is available, but expensive.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 12/29/2003 10:28 AM

One of the main Israeli pastimes is going on tiyulim, or short trips. People pack a picnic or take their barbecue grills to any of the many historical parks or nature reserves. On Shabbat and holidays, parks become quite crowded. Foreign tourism is vital to the economy, but domestic tourism is also important. There are many quaint motels and lodges dotting the landscape for those who want to spend more time away from home.

Hiking and exploring are also major pastimes. There are many walking tours/seminars held on a variety of topics. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, one among many ecology and nature organizations, sponsors trips that take neophytes and veterans alike through the desert, up a cliff, or down into a wadi (canyon). At times, security matters must be taken into consideration. In spring, people enjoy seeing the flowers in bloom, but it is against the law to pick them. Similarly, while one may see archeological artifacts or glass pieces from the Roman era strewn on the beach at Caesarea or elsewhere, it is illegal to disturb them, much less remove them from the site.

The most popular recreational activity for employees at post is touring and viewing ancient ruins. Since the country is small, an exciting excursion can take only a couple of hours; a weekend stay can cover most sites in a given region. Israel is a country rich in history, and there are a myriad of prominent and lesser known archeological sites that range from the Canaanite period to more recent times. Crusader castles and fortresses, Bronze Age cities, Roman aqueducts and amphitheaters, and Biblical sites, are all available to see.

Occasionally, arrangements can be made to participate in archeological digs, either as a volunteer or by paying to be an archeologist for a day. This is an especially worthwhile program for teenagers and college students. An archeology class in English, including excursions, is offered at Tel Aviv University.

Embassy people are allowed to travel freely to most sites of interest. However, there are some periods when travel on certain roads and to certain areas is discouraged. This happens most often when there is turmoil in the area or the threat of a terrorist attack. In such cases the Embassy and/or the Consulate General in Jerusalem publish a “travel advisory,” which is distributed to Embassy personnel and to the members of the broader American community in the country.

It takes many visits to get to know Jerusalem well. The city is about one hour from Tel Aviv, southeast through the Judean Hills. The new city surrounds the ancient walled city. The famous Jerusalem market or souk, with ceramics, gold, rugs, and countless other items, connects narrow streets that exude history and drama. Outside the city wall is Mount Zion, with King David’s tomb, the Mount of Olives, and countless other important and fascinating sites. Jerusalem is also the site of Yad Vashem (The National Holocaust Memorial), the Kennedy Memorial, and Mt. Herzl, Israel’s national cemetery where the country’s founders and leaders, including Yitzhak Rabin, are buried.

Caesarea is about 30 minutes north of Tel Aviv along the coast. This ancient, partially excavated city was founded by Herod on the site of a Hellenistic town and was the Roman capital in Palestine. A long aqueduct from Roman times parallels the beach. The Roman theater is used to host visiting artists during the summer music festival on the site. Wedged between these remnants is a Crusader city, with a moat, streets and buildings, all clearly discernible.

Meggido is about 1½ hours from Tel Aviv. It sits on a steep hill looking over the strategic Jezreel Valley. The lowest excavated layer dates back to the fourth millennium B.C. The most recent layer dates from the fourth century B.C. As a fortress, Megiddo defended the country against Pharaoh Thutmose III. The Hill of Megiddo in Hebrew is Har Megiddo, from which comes the word Armageddon.

Tiberias is some 2½ hours from Tel Aviv. A popular resort on the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret in Hebrew), it has an ancient synagogue with a beautiful mosaic floor. The area around Tiberias is frequented by Christian pilgrims, as it derives much of its fame from the New Testament. Important sites include the Mount of the Beatitudes, and Tabgha, the site of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

Nazareth is 2½ hours from Tel Aviv. Again, the natural beauty of the countryside alone justifies a trip. It is the best-known Christian site outside of Jerusalem, as well as the largest Arab and Christian town in the country.

Akko (Acre), a mixed Jewish-Arab city, is about 90 minutes north of Tel Aviv, on the coast just above Haifa. Its Crusader fortress was destroyed by the Arabs, but the Turkish fortress that resisted Napoleon still stands. The impressive underground Crusader city is a monument to modern excavation; most of the walls around the city still remain. A British Mandate period prison on the site is now a museum. The market is colorful, with a true Middle Eastern flavor. On the Lebanese border, a half hour to the north, are the grottoes of Rosh Hanikra. The border road provides impressive views of south Lebanon.

Haifa, the largest mixed Jewish/ Arab city in Israel, is 75 minutes north of Tel Aviv. Israel’s main port, it spreads inland from the Bay of Haifa onto the western slope of Mount Carmel. The view of the city and the bay from above is impressive. Much of Israel’s heavy industry is concentrated just north of the city, including the country’s main oil refinery, whose towers are visible from afar. Haifa played a pivotal role in Israel’s history just after World War II when it was the center of illegal Jewish immigration from Europe into Palestine. The city also has its share of interesting museums, including the Museum of Antiquities, the Museum of Modern Art, the Ethnological and Folklore Museum, the Science Museum, and the Maritime and Navy Museums. Haifa is also home to the world headquarters of the Bahai Faith and to Haifa University, where Arabs comprise a significant proportion of the student population.

Other places worth exploring are the Dead Sea, where the mud is said to have curative powers, and one floats on top of the water because it is so salty. The nature reserves of Ein Gedi and Ein Bokek are nearby. The city of Beersheba is the capital of the south. It boasts a major university and is the gateway to the Negev Desert, which is Israel’s last expanse of undeveloped territory. While much of it is reserved for military use, there are many areas one can explore via the hiking trails that dot the area.

There are still minefields in the Golan Heights from past wars with Syria. Hikers should not under any circumstances venture off marked paths.

Official Functions Last Updated: 12/29/2003 10:29 AM

Official and semiofficial functions are usually receptions, cocktail parties, or buffet dinners. Chiefs of sections and senior officers have a very active social life. Obligations for junior officers are minimal.

A small supply of printed or engraved cards is necessary for business purposes. These can be printed in Washington to ensure good quality or done locally after arrival. One hundred cards suffice at first for diplomatic and consular officers. Other personnel may find them useful but not essential. Fold-type informals, thank you notes, and invitation cards are available locally, but they are expensive.

Special Information Last Updated: 12/29/2003 10:33 AM

Office of the U.S. Defense Attaché

The Office of the U.S. Defense Attaché‚ is located in the American Embassy, telephone 03–519–7333. Office hours are the same as the Embassy’s hours (8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.).


Civilian clothes are generally worn at the office and at most social functions. Office wear is normally slacks and open neck shirts. Uniforms are worn by attachés on occasions when visiting military installations, on Military Attaché‚ Corps visits, and at most social functions. Enlisted personnel should bring one complete uniform (summer and winter) to be used on special occasions. There are acceptable dry cleaners available, but they are relatively expensive.

All Services: Attachés must arrive on station with complete service and dress uniforms, and accessories to include miniature medals, service ribbons, and service and dress aiguillettes. These must be available for immediate use. Assigned personnel should arrive on station in civilian clothing (slacks and open-necked shirt preferred).

The seasonal service uniform with service aiguillette and ribbons is worn on the following occasions, unless formal/informal attire is specifically directed:

During presentation to members of the Israeli General Staff, the Commanders of the Armed Services, and during departure calls on the same people.

During ceremonies and official receptions.

When visiting the Chief or Deputy Chief of Staff, Israeli Defense Forces, or other equivalent officers.

When attending Armed Forces Day functions.

When attending the funeral of a VIP.

When attending foreign national day celebrations.

When attending banquets held in honor of foreign chiefs of staff or other foreign dignitaries visiting Israel.

When attending functions for which the uniform is prescribed by U.S. protocol or custom.

When visiting foreign and U.S. ships.
Uniform Requirements for all Military Personnel. Each individual should bring adequate footwear for both uniforms and civilian dress. Spouses of attachés should arrive on station with an adequate supply of informal and formal attire. Normally, cocktail functions are informal, and short dresses or suits are acceptable. However, there will be occasions, such as dinners, where formal wear is recommended.


USDAO personnel are included in the Embassy’s general housing pool, and furnishings supplied are similar to those provided to other members of the Mission. Refer to the relevant sections of this report for a description of the housing and the appliances provided. The inventory list of Government-owned household items and their condition is available in DAH-4B.


Families should have sufficient funds available for initial expenditures upon arrival. Those expenses include membership fees to join the Embassy’s co-op, food and household supplies, gas coupons, school supplies if applicable, and vehicle make-ready costs. The Attaché should also consider initial representational expenses. Sponsors will provide more detailed information.

Calling Cards and Invitations

As noted earlier, calling cards and informals can be printed locally, but a higher quality product is available more cheaply in the U.S. There is no official need for cards or invitations for NCO staff members, although many find them useful in social settings.

Shipment of Household Goods, Unaccompanied Baggage, and POV

Israel is considered a hard-lift area by all services (shipment of household goods is by MAC). Privately owned vehicle shipment is by surface mode, meaning ships. The shipment of unaccompanied baggage is by air for all services and should be timed to coincide with arrival at post, insofar as it is possible. Transportation management officers provide complete shipping details regarding transit times, recommended insurance coverage, and what items qualify for shipping as unaccompanied (airfreight) baggage.

Minimum Officer Uniform Requirements

Air Force
Service Dress Uniform
Lt blue shirt with long sleeves uniform
Lt blue shirt with short sleeves uniform
Mess dress uniform
Pullover sweater

For Wear on Field Trips (occasional):
One set fatigue uniform, BDU
One cap field
One pair boots, combat
One jacket, field, BDU

Green uniform
Dress blue uniform

For Wear on Field Trips (occasional)
Two sets fatigue uniforms, BDU
One cap, field
One pair boots, combat
One jacket, field, BDU

Full Dress (White)
Full Dress (Blue)
Service Dress (White)
Dinner Dress (Summer/Winter)

Three white
Two khaki
One raincoat

Two sets blue

Marine Corps
Mess dress (Officers)
Dress blues
Service alpha’s
Camouflage utilities
All-weather coat
Wooly pully sweater
Flight jacket (if authorized)

Minimum Enlisted
One service dress uniform
One set BDU
Mess dress (optional)

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 12/19/2003 7:50 AM

The normal route from the U.S. to Israel is by air, direct from New York to Tel Aviv. All new arrivals are met at the airport. Notify the Administrative Section well in advance of arrival so arrangements can be made for transportation and temporary lodging, if necessary.

If arriving in Tel Aviv during winter, be sure to bring raincoats, umbrellas, sweaters, and warm clothing for immediate use. Heating in hotels and public buildings is not adequate by U.S. standards.

Customs, Duties, and Passage Last Updated: 12/29/2003 11:01 AM

Israel allows free entry and export privileges to all Mission members regardless of diplomatic status. Personal and household effects and cars are admitted duty free. Fulbright professors and students enjoy the same privileges, but other U.S. grantees in Israel do not.

There are no warehouse facilities at the port, and temporary in-bond storage is prohibitively expensive, so it is strongly recommend that all shipments be scheduled to arrive at the same time as the employee, insofar as possible. Notify the GSO officer in advance in order to avoid customs delays. A shipment can only be cleared through customs after its owner is physically in the country. Detailed packing lists must accompany all shipments to Israel and should be mailed to post with the bill of lading or the airway bill. Port strikes or other labor problems that can delay receipt of household effects are not unusual. Determine what should be sent airfreight accordingly.

Automobiles and household effects are shipped into Haifa or Ashdod ports, both of which have deep water berths. Shipments from the Far East arrive at the Port of Eilat and are then trucked by road. The handling of shipments at all ports is rough. Household effects should therefore be well packed. No size restrictions exist on cartons or lift vans. Heavy rains can be expected from November to March and all large boxes and vans sent during that time should be carefully waterproofed. The usual shipping time for surface freight from the U.S. to Israel is four to six weeks; airfreight arrives in about two to three weeks.

Automobiles from the U.S. are usually shipped in 20-foot containers. All removable items — hubcaps, radio aerials, windshield wipers, should be taken off, packed in a separate carton, and sent in the household goods shipment. Do not leave anything in the car or trunk. Most shippers prohibit this, but even if it is allowed, pilferage is likely.

The U.S. Government does not authorize long-term storage in Tel Aviv. It will only pay for 90 days of temporary storage from the date that the employee (not the shipment) arrives in country. If a shipment is in temporary storage longer than the 90 days allowed, the employee must pay any warehouse costs incurred.

On leaving post, local packers provide adequate service in handling valuable or delicate objects.

Anyone traveling on a diplomatic or official passport must have an Israeli visa prior to entering Israel. Holders of regular passports may get their visas upon arrival at the airport. Temporary duty officers require visas prior to arrival.

Pets Last Updated: 12/29/2003 11:02 AM

Pets (dogs, cats, rabbits, birds or rodents) who are accompanied by their owners, are exempt from a special Israeli Veterinary Import Permit provided that the owner has the following documentation (only up to two of each type are allowed):

Health Certificate issued within seven days prior to the shipment of the animal.

Declaration from the owner that the animal has been in his/her possession for at least three months.

Certificate of vaccination against rabies that must not be more than a year old and not less than a month prior to shipment.
Please note: Dogs and cats who are younger than three months will not be permitted entry.

If pets (dogs, cats, rabbits, birds or rodents) are unaccompanied by the owner or other animal species not mentioned above are imported, a special Israeli Veterinary Import Permit is required prior to shipment of the animal.

Contact post for more details about these requirements. Animals abound in the areas where Embassy families live, and many run loose day and night, causing concern about rabies infections.

Pet food and litter are available in Israel, but are expensive. The Embassy Co-op carries some pet food. Otherwise, bring a supply or order by mail. The Embassy Co-op can fill special orders.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 5/21/2004 7:25 AM

Official firearms: Post policy is that no American diplomatic personnel will carry firearms, except for law enforcement and security officers in the performance of their duties. Each request of this type must be approved by the Ambassador in writing, in advance of arrival. Approval must also be given by the Government of Israel prior to arrival. Contact RSO to obtain the necessary approval forms.

Sport firearms: While there is some hunting in Israel, most shooting is restricted to target shooting at commercial ranges. Generally, only one handgun and one shotgan or rifle will be approved by post. Each request of this type must be approved by the Ambassador in writing, in advance of arrival. Approval must also be given by the Government of Israel prior to arrival. Contact RSO to obtain the necessary approval forms. Depending on the type of weapon, it may be necessary to join a local gun club and comply with their regulations.

Shipping: Please note that the only approved method for the shipment of a personally owned weapon to or from post is within an employee's household effects. Contact the GSO at post after receiving written authorization from the RSO. A sole exception will be made for Federal law enforcement officers who may follow individual agency guidelines for the transport of weapons utilized in official duties. Use of the APO or Diplomatic Pouch to transport personal firearms is prohibited by regulation and law. The employee is responsible for obtaining any customs declaration and export forms that may be required by U.S. law.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 12/19/2003 7:55 AM

The agora is the smallest currency unit, and there are 100 agorot in one shekel. The symbol for shekel is NIS (New Israeli Shekel). Coins come in 5 agora, 10 agora, 50 agora or half shekel, 1 shekel (NIS), 5 shekel, and 10 shekel denominations. There are bills of 20, 50, 100, and 200 NIS. In view of the fluctuating exchange rate (4.23 NIS = US$1, December 2001); some American personnel maintain shekel accounts.

Certain shops accept foreign currency but, in general, business transactions are in shekels. Most hotels and tourist shops accept travelers checks, and credit cards are usable virtually everywhere. Payment in dollars or travelers checks is encouraged at certain designated export shops that give discounts for foreign currency payments.

Embassy Co-Op bills are rendered in dollars and must be paid using dollar checks. Dollars or credit cards may be used for APO transactions. For this reason, all personnel are urged to maintain a dollar checking account in the U.S. Many foreign exchange offices that buy and sell both dollars and shekels, are located in close proximity to the Embassy. In addition, the Embassy cashier can cash a U.S. personal check for either dollars or shekels. Several accept personal checks when an individual can provide an Embassy identification card. Two foreign exchange offices in Herzliya Pituach also will cash personal checks for members of the Embassy community. Travelers checks are also available in exchange for dollar checks. In addition, ATM cards may be used throughout the country, but one should check fees since some financial transactions fees are higher in Israel than in the United States.

Israel uses the metric measurement system. Weight is in kilograms, distance in kilometers, and volume in liters.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 12/29/2003 11:09 AM

The Government of Israel does not require that all articles imported duty free be re-exported, but appropriate taxes must be paid on anything sold within Israel to someone without free-entry privileges. The customs authorities determine how much tax is due in each case. For example, an automobile may be taxed prior to sale. The responsibility for complying with these regulations rests with the buyer.

The automobile market fluctuates considerably. Taxes are often imposed at a rate far above the value of the car. Resale of vehicles, especially large and expensive ones, may become very difficult. In some cases, employees find it necessary to ship their cars to their next post of assignment.

Employees are entitled to a partial refund of the Value Added Tax (VAT) on items that they purchase, except for produce, gasoline, and things bought from small businesses that are not required to charge the VAT. In 2003, the VAT rate was 17%. The Embassy processes the refund on behalf of employees. Information on this will be provided on arrival.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 12/29/2003 11:27 AM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

See the hard copy of the Culture Guide in the Overseas Briefing Center for detailed reading, and the Israel reading list prepared by the School of Area Studies at FSI for additional resources.

General Reference
Bacon, Joseph, editor. All Israel, A Catalogue of Everything Israeli. London: Quitel Publishing Ltd., 1988.

Dimont, Max. Jews, God and History.

Eban, Abba. Heritage-Civilization and the Jews. New York: Summit Books, 1984.

Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 9. Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Ltd., 1971.

Facts About Israel. Jerusalem: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information Division, 1985.

Kalatch, Alfred. The Jewish Book of Why; The Second Jewish Book of Why.

Oz, Amos. In the Land of Israel. New York: Harvest, 1993.

Saltsman, Rosally. The Illustrated Oleh Hadash for the Perplexed. Illustrated by the Ruty Malovany. Tel Aviv: Eked Publishing, 1990.

Statistical Abstract of Israel. Jerusalem: Central Bureau of Statistics of the State of Israel, 1988.

Arian, Asher, Ed. Israel, A Developing Society.

Armstrong, Karen. Jerusalem — One City, Three Faiths.

Begin, Menachem. The Revolt: White Nights.

Bell, J. Bowyer. Terror Out of Zion.

Dayan, Moshe. Story of My Life.

Dimont, Max. Jews, God and History.

Eban, Abba. My People: An Autobiography.

Elon, Amos: The Israelis: Founders and Sons.

Fabian, Larry L. & Schiff, Ze’ev. Israelis Speak.

Galnoor, Itzhak. The Partition of Palestine—Decision Crossroads in the Zionist Movement.

Gilbert, Martin. Israel—A History.

Goldberg, Rabbi David. To the Promised Land—A History of Zionist Thought.

Herzl, Theodore. Old, New World, Altnewland.

Herzog, Chaim. Living History.

Heschel, Abraham. Israeli Ecstasies-Jewish Agonies.

Johnson, Paul. A History of the Jews. New edition.

Josephus. The Jewish War.

Katz, Shmuel. Lone Wolf: A Biography of Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky.

Kollek, Teddy. For Jerusalem, a Life.

Lacqueur, Walter. A History of Zionism.

Meir, Golda. My Life.

O'Brien, Connor Cruise. The Siege: The Saga of Israel and Zionism. 1986.

Reinharz, Yehuda & Anita Shapira, eds. Essential Papers on Zionism.

Sachar, Howard M. A History of Israel from the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, re-edition, 1997.

Sachar, Howard M. The Course of Modern Jewish History. 1997.

Schiff, Ze’ev. A History of the Israeli Army: 1874 to the Present. 1985.

Tessler, Mark. A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994.

Teveth, Shabtai. Ben Gurion: The Burning Ground, 1896–1948. 1987.

Urofsky, Melvin. American Zionism from Herzl to the Holocaust. New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1976.

Weizmann, Chaim. Trial and Error.

Weizmann, Ezer. On Eagle’s Wings.

Bentwich, Norman. Israel: Two Fateful Years, 1967–69.

Benvenisti, Meron. The West Bank Data Project: A Survey of Israel’s Politics.

Collins and Lapiere. O Jerusalem.

Dayan, Moshe. Break Through.

Frankel, William. Israel Observed.

Friedman, Thomas L. From Beirut to Jerusalem. New York: Anchor Books, 1995.

Gavron, Daniel. Israel After Begin.

Grossman, David. The Yellow Wind. 1988.

Herzog, Chaim. The Arab-Israeli Wars: War and Peace in the Middle East.

Meyer, Lawrence. Israel Now: Potrait of a Troubled Land.

Naor, Mordechai. Haapala, Clandestine Immigration, 1931–1948. Ministry of Defence, Israel, Tel Aviv: Express Sdar, 1987.

Naor, Mordechai, editor. Ha’Hagana.Tel Aviv: Naidat Press Ltd., 1985.

Orbaum, Sam, editor. Israel, Never a Dull Moment, From the Pages of the Jerusalem Post.

Oz, Amos. In the Land of Israel.

Peretz, Don. The Middle East: Selected Readings.

Safran, Nadav. From War to War: The Arab-Israeli Confrontation, 1948–67; The Embattled Ally.

Savir, Uri. The Process.

Schiff, Ze’ev and Ya’ari, Ehud. Israel’s Lebanon War.

Shipler, David K. Arabs and Jews: Wounded Spirits in the Promised Land, 1986.

Weizmann, Ezer. The Battle for Peace.

Yanai, Nathan. Party Leadership in Israel.

The Country and Travel
Alon, Azaria, and The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. 300 Wild Flowers of Israel. Kal Printing Ltd.: Israel, 1993.

Bar-Am, Aviva. Easy Walks in Israel, Sites & Stories. Yuval Press: Jerusalem, 1997.

Bar-Am, Aviva. Israeli Landscapes: Volume I, Guide to the Golan Heights. Safed College, Bar Ilan Univesity, 1995 (includes dictionary of flora and fauna).

Bar-Am, Avivav. Israel’s Southern Landscapes: Your Guide to Eilat and the Negev. Graphica Omanim: Tel Aviv, 1995.

Baedeker. Israel.

Baedeker. Jerusalem.

Carta. Official Guide to Israel.

Fodor. Guide to Israel.

Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome. The Holy Land, an Archeological Guide From the Earliest Times to 1700.

Paz, Uzi, and The Society for Protection of Nature in Israel. Birds in the Land of the Bible. Palphot Ltd.: Israel, 1997.

Pearlman, Moshe. Historical Sites of Israel.

Shalem, Ysrael and Phyllis. Safed-Six Self-Guided Tours in and Around the Mystic City.

Shalem, Ysrael and Phyllis. The Complete Guide to Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee.

Sofer, Barbara. Kids Love Israel Israel Loves Kids. Rockville, Md.: KarBen Copies, Inc. 1995.

Vilnay, Ze’ev. Guide to Israel.

Journals of Travel
ERETZ Magazine. Fax. 03–571–4184

Gur, Batya. Murder at the Kibbutz.

Grossman, David. The Smile of the Lamb.

Michener, James. The Source.

Oz, Amos. Touch the Water, Touch the Wind; My Michael; the Black Box; To Know a Woman.

Sachar, Howard. From the Ends of the Earth the People of Israel.

Schwartz-Barth, Andre. The Last of the Just.

Uris, Leon. Exodus.

Wiesel, Elies. The Oath; Beggar in Jerusalem.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 12/29/2003 11:29 AM

Although for the purposes of modern life, Israel uses the Julian calendar, the rhythm of life in the country is determined by the lunar Jewish calendar. All of the Jewish religious holidays and Israeli national observances take place according to their dates on this calendar, so their Julian calendar dates vary from year to year.

Amidst the bustle of modern life, the Israelis say Hag Sameach!, happy holiday, many times a year. The holidays are organized as follows:

The High Holidays falling during September and October are:

Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year): The Jewish people pray to be inscribed in the Book of Life for health, happiness and peace for the coming year.

Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement): A 24-hour sundown to sundown fast, which concludes the period of repentance begun on Rosh Hashana. There is absolutely no traffic on Yom Kippur, except for emergency vehicles. Even many secular Israelis fast and attend synagogue on this day.

The festivals of pilgrimages to Jerusalem in temple times:

Succot: This holiday takes place five days after Yom Kippur, usually in October. Religious people make small outdoor shelters where they have their meals and sleep over the course of its seven days. The shelters commemorate the type of housing the Children of Israel lived in during their 40 years of wandering in the desert after the exodus from Egypt.

Pesach (Passover): A springtime holiday of seven days, it commemorates the exodus from Egypt—the move from bondage to freedom. Matza (unleavened bread) is eaten instead of bread throughout the holiday. This is in memory of the haste with which the Children of Israel had to flee Egypt—they did not even have the time to allow the bread they were baking to rise. The unique feature of this holiday is the seder (ritual meal), held on the first night to celebrate the escape to freedom. At the seder, a home service is conducted with readings from the Haggadah, which retells the story of the exodus from Egypt. In addition, an elaborate meal is served, with special dishes eaten only at Passover. The specific foods that Sephardim and Ashkenazim eat vary slightly.

Shavuot: This late spring, early summer holiday marks the giving of the Torah to the Children of Israel on Mount Sinai.

Minor festivals:

Chanukkah: An eight-day holiday in December that celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks in 165 B.C., and the rededication of the Temple. Candles are lit, potato latkes (pancakes) are eaten, and Chanukkah gelt (money) and other gifts are given to children. A special Israeli pastry called Sufganiot (jelly doughnuts) is also eaten at this time.

Purim: This March holiday commemorates the victory of Queen Esther and the Jews of Persia over their enemies, as recounted in the biblical book of Esther. The Book of Esther is read in synagogues, children dress up in costumes, and many cities have parades.

National Days of Mourning

Sirens are sounded, all traffic stops, people stop what they are doing, and observe a moment of silence on Yom Hashoah—Holocaust Remembrance Day, and Yom Hazikaron—Memorial Day for fallen Israeli soldiers. Both occur in the spring. In the summer comes Tish’a B’av (the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av), a religious day of mourning in memory of the destruction of the two temples, and the many other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish People over the course of their long history.

National Independence Day

The solemnity of Yom Hazikaron is followed by the enthusiastic celebration of Yom Ha’atzma’ut (Israeli Independence Day). This holiday is marked by concerts, street parties, and fireworks. Israel’s fiftieth anniversary of statehood (1948–1998) was celebrated at all municipal, city, and national government levels.

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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