Moving to Israel?
Moving to Israel
At a Glance:
- Due to its unstable history and reputation, there are strict security regulations for moving to Israel, and it’s important to keep up to date with political developments in your daily life.
- There are different visas available depending on the purpose of your visit — most expats will require either a visitor visa or a working visa.
- Haifa, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv are the main expat destinations in Israel. They have quite different characters, so it’s important to think about your priorities before choosing one to move to.
Prior to their arrival, many expats are probably concerned for their personal safety in Israel, due to the negative image of the country often painted in the media. News headlines paint a harrowing picture of this troubled nation, but so long as you are careful, there is no reason why you can’t lead a relatively peaceful life in Israel.
A History Fraught with Strife
The “Holy Land” of three world religions looks back on a long history of strife between different peoples and faiths, under various rulers and empires, from Roman antiquity to the British colonial mandate after World War I. It hardly comes as a surprise that the ancient city of Jerusalem has been destroyed twice and attacked over 50 times since its foundation.
The modern state of Israel has also been fraught with warfare and political controversies in the international arena. Military campaigns have been a part of life in Israel ever since the first Arab-Israeli War, or War of Independence, in 1948.
However, once you move to Israel, you’ll soon notice that for most Israelis, daily life simply goes on, regardless of any crisis. The country’s political climate is definitely unpredictable, and for the sake of your personal safety, it’s important to stay up to date with the news.
Preparations and Entry Procedures
As a foreign national new to Israel, you should adhere to some basic safety rules. Once you have settled in, you’ll probably follow the example of your more relaxed Israeli colleagues and neighbors.
It is important to remember that Israel is unfortunately a potential hotbed of conflict. All expats should find out where their nearest embassy or consulate is, if it has an emergency number to call after office hours, and whether it offers an enrolment list for the citizens under its jurisdiction. Check the embassy’s security updates regularly.
You should also be prepared for strict security checks in the immigration queue. Carrying laptops, video cameras, or other technical equipment can cause further delays, both upon entry and departure.
If you are, among other things, a Muslim moving to Israel, a person of Arab descent, a missionary, or a political activist, if you have visas from Arab states in your travel document or wish to have no Israeli stamps in your passport, the interview with immigration officials may take even longer.
Visitors and expats with a Palestinian ID number (or anyone listed in the Palestinian Population Registry) are required to carry a Palestinian passport, even if they are citizens of another country, and cannot enter Israel without advance permission. If this applies to you, get in touch with the closest Israeli Embassy or Consulate and ask them about necessary documents and travel arrangements, including your point of entry and departure.
Basic Safety Advice for Israel
After you have gone through the immigration checks required for moving to Israel, security will be more laidback in everyday life. Just stay away from prohibited military areas and be careful around all political demonstrations, huge crowds, or groups of soldiers. Should you decide to visit the holy sites in Jerusalem, it’s recommended to avoid them on holy days and to wear modest clothing.
While many tourists choose to visit East Jerusalem or some places in the West Bank, especially Jericho, Ramallah, and Bethlehem, it is strongly recommended to do so only in company of a local guide. You should also be careful in the border areas to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.
As of October 2017, both the US State Department and the UK Government warn against travel to Gaza or the regions around the Syrian and the Lebanese borders if possible — of course, some expats or visitors (e.g. foreign correspondents, humanitarian workers) may be required to do so by their profession. There may also be official travel restrictions for some expatriates, for example US government staff moving to Israel.
Both governments recommend exercising care on public transport and on Jewish high holidays, when the risk of violence increases. It is also important to learn the location of your nearest bomb shelter and to take note of your embassy’s emergency numbers.
However, general crime rates in Israel are fairly moderate. Foreign visitors and residents mainly report minor incidents like car break-ins or purse-snatching. The emergency phone numbers are 100 (police) and 101 (ambulance).
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