|Preface Last Updated: 11/18/2003
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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: http://www.jpost.com/
Ha’aretz Daily http://www.haaretz.co.il/eng/daily
The Embassy operates an official home page (www.usis-israel.org.il)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Walworth Barbour American International School
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:
http://www.idc.ac.il or call 09–952–7272.
Northwestern University’s Kellogg’ Recanati International Executive
MBA, offered jointly with Tel Aviv University. Website: http://www.tau.ac.il/gsba/emba/.
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
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 http://studyusa.fulbright.org.il (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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
The seasonal service uniform with service aiguillette and ribbons
is worn on the following occasions, unless formal/informal attire is
During presentation to members of the Israeli General Staff, the
Commanders of the Armed Services, and during departure calls on the
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
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
Service Dress Uniform
Lt blue shirt with long sleeves uniform
Lt blue shirt with short sleeves uniform
Mess dress uniform
For Wear on Field Trips (occasional):
One set fatigue uniform, BDU
One cap field
One pair boots, combat
One jacket, field, BDU
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)
Two sets blue
Mess dress (Officers)
Wooly pully sweater
Flight jacket (if authorized)
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 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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.
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
Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 9. Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House
Facts About Israel. Jerusalem: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Information Division, 1985.
Kalatch, Alfred. The Jewish Book of Why; The Second Jewish Book
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
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)
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
Reinharz, Yehuda & Anita Shapira, eds. Essential Papers on
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
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
Collins and Lapiere. O Jerusalem.
Dayan, Moshe. Break Through.
Frankel, William. Israel Observed.
Friedman, Thomas L. From Beirut to Jerusalem. New York: Anchor
Gavron, Daniel. Israel After Begin.
Grossman, David. The Yellow Wind. 1988.
Herzog, Chaim. The Arab-Israeli Wars: War and Peace in the Middle
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.,
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
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.
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
Amidst the bustle of modern life, the Israelis say Hag Sameach!,
happy holiday, many times a year. The holidays are organized as
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
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.
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
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.