Moving to Israel?
Israel’s Major Expat Destinations
Expatriates or migrants settling in Israel will probably move to one of the three largest cities. Out of Israel’s six districts and 15 sub-districts, the metropolitan areas of Haifa, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv attract the highest numbers of new residents. No wonder, since about 50% of Israel’s territory consists of steppe or desert!
However, except for comparatively high population figures, the major cities don’t have all that much in common. Their fairly different character is best described by a popular proverb: “Haifa works, Jerusalem prays, Tel Aviv plays.”
Haifa — The City on Mount Carmel
Located 90 kilometers north of Tel Aviv, Haifa is the biggest city in northern Israel and the third largest in the country. The inner metro area includes about 600,000 inhabitants. 90% of them are Jews, often from the former Soviet Union, and 10% are mostly Christian Arabs.
As an important port city, Haifa used to be the major gateway for overseas immigration to Palestine and the state of Israel, with the first Jewish immigrants arriving from Romania in the 19th century. Due to the port, its industrial areas (mainly oil refineries and heavy industry), and its railway station, Haifa was also a booming industrial city, known as “Red Haifa” with a staunchly left-wing and secular labor force.
Nowadays, Haifa has lost much of its influence to Tel Aviv, where the international airport and the center of Israel’s high-tech center are located. Nonetheless, Haifa’s industrial zone around the Kishon River, the Matam Business Park, and its two renowned universities still play an important part in education and employment in Israel.
Haifa also boasts Israel’s only subway system, the Karmelit. It is named after Mount Carmel, the local landmark: older residential areas cling to the mountain slopes while you can find the most exclusive neighborhoods near the top.
Jerusalem — The Holy City
Jerusalem (Hebrew: Yerushalayim; Arabic: al-Quds) is Israel’s largest city and capital, even though it is internationally not recognized as such. Ironically, one possible translation of the Hebrew name is “abode of peace”, although Jerusalem is rather rife with religious and socio-political tensions.
The Israeli government claims the entire city as its national capital, whereas predominantly Arab East Jerusalem has often been suggested as the potential capital of a Palestinian state. Nevertheless, all of Israel’s government branches and institutions are located in Jerusalem, with the exception of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Agriculture. However, unlike the many Israelis working in the public sector, there are few expats from the diplomatic service around here: the foreign embassies in Israel are based in Tel Aviv.
Expatriates in Jerusalem are likely to be employed in education, health and welfare, in the few local high-tech industries, or the tourism sector. Due to its status as a World Heritage Site and the destination of countless pilgrims, Jerusalem features a huge tourism industry. The Old City, with its Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Quarter, is a popular highlight for every visitor. Contemporary residents, on the other hand, rather move to one of over 70 neighborhoods of the New City.
Tel Aviv — The White City
In contrast to spiritual and slightly old-fashioned Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Yafo — the center of the populous, sprawling Gush Dan area — is a secular, liberal-minded and cosmopolitan metropolis, with about 60 residential neighborhoods and a growing core population of more than 400,000 residents. As Tel Aviv is an economic hub and the seat of Israel’s stock exchange, as well as numerous high-tech businesses, it offers excellent job opportunities in commerce, finance - especially venture capital - and IT/ICT start-up companies. The chemical industry, textile production, and food processing are major employers as well.
Once you have had enough of working hard, Tel Aviv invites you to relax. In and outside Israel, the metropolis is famous for its arts and entertainment scene, its beaches and its reputation as a green city, and the local nightlife. If your expat life takes you to Tel Aviv, you shouldn’t miss out on the chance to explore hip and trendy neighborhoods like Florentin or to unwind on the beautiful shores of the Mediterranean.
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