Living in Israel?
Life in Israel
When you start your life in Israel, you will join a current population of around eight million people. The majority of the population has settled in the coastal plain along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, and most of the country’s cities are located here, with the notable exception of Jerusalem.
Considering the country’s urbanization rate of over 90%, it shouldn’t surprise you that the most populous areas are the three metropolises of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Yafo, and Haifa. Take a look at our guide on moving to Israel for more information on these cities.
The Israeli People
As the only predominantly Jewish nation and a self-defined “Jewish and democratic state”, it comes as no surprise that 75% of Israel’s residents are Jewish. The spectrum of religious beliefs among Israeli Jews ranges from secular atheists to the ultra-orthodox Haredim. The remaining 25% of the population are mainly Arabs, the majority of which are Muslim, as well as several minorities such as Druze, Circassians, and Samaritans. The official languages are Hebrew and Arabic, but many people speak English at a good level, making life easier for expats.
Many Israelis have foreign roots — among the Jewish population, roughly two-thirds are Sabras, or those actually born in Israel, while the other 27% have immigrated to the country. Most of the latter come from Europe or the United States, but there are many with an African (especially Ethiopian) or Asian background, too.
In addition to the Jewish immigrants making Aliyah,(i.e. returning to the Promised Land), life in Israel attracts poor migrant workers from countries like China, Nigeria, the Philippines, Romania, or Thailand. The living and working conditions of disadvantaged laborers have led to renewed media attention and public debates in recent years.
A Small Country with Extreme Temperatures
Israel is a fairly small state. If you exclude the occupied territories in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights, whose status has been hotly disputed for the last few decades, the nation is about the size of the US State of New Jersey. Much of the territory is desert or steppe, which explains the high degree of urbanization described above.
As the country is wedged in between the Mediterranean coast and the Arabian Peninsula, Israel’s landscape mainly consists of semi-arid regions and areas with a typical desert climate. In the hills and mountains, the heat is mitigated by rather rough winters, and the coastal cities profit from the maritime influence that brings a bit more humidity and slightly milder temperatures.
It’s important that expats prepare themselves for the heat — many will not have lived in a subtropical climate for an extended period of time, and therefore medical conditions such as heat stroke or dehydration are common among visitors and new residents.
What to Do in Your Spare Time?
Israel has a rich heritage and culture, extending beyond its many historical and religious sites, and expats are in the perfect position to explore. Jerusalem in particular welcomes thousands of pilgrims and tourists every year.
Camping and hiking are popular activities, among athletic visitors and outdoorsy Israelis alike. If you prefer to enjoy your athletic activities on the living-room sofa rather than in the Eilat Mountains, soccer and basketball are the nation’s favorite spectator sports, and an ideal small-talk topic for any expat.
If you’re interested in Israel’s culture, there’s a lot on offer. Hebrew novelists and poets like Amos Oz or Yehuda Amichai have been translated into numerous languages, and recent movie productions such as Waltz with Bashir, Sand Storm, and Zero Motivation have given Israeli film-makers an excellent reputation. If you fancy letting your hair down, Tel Aviv’s many venues for clubbing and partying should make sure that life in Israel never gets boring.
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