Israel at a Glance
Transport and Education in IsraeliStockphoto
Ben Gurion Airport houses the national HQ of El Al, Israel’s flag carrier.
Public Transportation: Air Traffic
Most expats arrive in Israel via the international terminal (Terminal 3) of Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv. Home to Israel’s flag carrier airline, El Al, Ben Gurion is the country’s busiest airport, with an annual 13 million passengers travelling to and arriving from numerous destinations worldwide.
Ben Gurion has good transport connections to Tel Aviv, by train, bus, taxi, and shuttle services. Taking an Israel Railways train is probably the easiest and fastest way to get to the city via public transport. When planning your journey, you should account for additional delays and waiting periods due to security checks and interviews in the immigration queue.
Public Transportation: Buses, Trains, and Taxis
Since Israel is a rather small country, it is fairly easy to travel from town to town. As mentioned above, the national railway company is called Israel Railways, and Egged offers inter-city bus services. Public transport in larger cities is often limited to bus lines, too: The Dan Bus Company is active in Gush Dan, i.e. in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and beyond. Jerusalem has city buses and a light railway, while light rail services are also under construction in Tel Aviv. Haifa features Israel’s only subway system, the Karmelit.
As you’ll soon notice, there are often no buses or train connections whatsoever on Shabbat (which begins at sunset on Friday night), as well as on Jewish holidays. On these days, you can take a taxi, although you need to pay a slightly higher rate. Taxi fares are standardized by the Ministry of Transport. An average ride within a city center costs about NIS25 (plus an extra 25% at night, on Shabbat, and during national or religious holidays).
Driving in Israel
If you prefer driving yourself, you should know that Israel has crowded highways, frequent traffic jams and parking shortages in metropolitan areas, as well as a high rate of traffic accidents. So, in order to get used to local traffic conditions, you might want to take a few driving lessons first.
Tourists and short-term visitors can simply use their valid driving permit from their home country. New immigrants, temporary residents, and returning Israeli citizens are also allowed to use a foreign driving license for up to one year. They must exchange it for an Israeli one within twelve months, though.
In order to exchange a valid driving permit from abroad for an Israeli license, you must be at least 17 years old and fulfill the following criteria:
- The foreign license was issued six months or more before you came to Israel.
- Get a general medical check-up and an eyesight exam.
- Show a valid passport.
- Take a brief “vehicle control capability test” with an official driving instructor.
Education in Israel: The School System
If you are an expat with kids, you need to gather some basic information on the Israeli school system before your stay. It consists of four different tracks: secular state schools (Mamlachti), religious state schools (Mamlachti dati), ultra-Orthodox Haredi schools (Chinuch Atzmai), and Arab schools (where the language of instruction is Arabic).
One mandatory year of pre-school/kindergarten is followed by six years of primary education. Secondary school then includes three years of lower secondary (middle school) and another three years of upper secondary education (high school).
Secondary education leads up to the te’udat bagrut graduation exam in obligatory subjects like Hebrew, English, math, history, literature, scripture, and civic studies. The bagrut scores, together with the results of the standardized PET test, determine admission to one of Israel’s nine public universities, many colleges or teacher-training institutions.
Schooling for Expat Kids
If your child isn’t fluent in Hebrew or Arabic and too old to pick up a foreign language as quickly as younger kids, you might look into enrolling him or her at a private international school. There are several international schools in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, most of them catering to the Anglo-American or French communities, e.g. the Walworth Barbour American International in Israel (Tel Aviv) or the Anglican International School of Jerusalem. As a last resort, you may consider homeschooling, for example, with a long-distance learning program in your mother tongue. Homeschooling is legal in Israel as long as you have permission from the Ministry of Education.