Moving to Israel?
Israel’s Major Expat Destinations
Expats settling in Israel will probably move to one of the three largest cities. Out of Israel’s 6 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 different characters are 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, with almost 300,000 inhabitants: 80% of these are Jews, many from the former Soviet Union, and the remaining population is made up of Christians and Muslims.
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 19thcentury. 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, the city has lost much of its influence to Tel Aviv, where the international airport and the center of Israel’s high-tech sector 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.
The city 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, although it is not internationally recognized as such. The city is rather rife with religious and socio-political tensions.
The Israeli government claims the entire city as its national capital, whereas the predominantly Arab East Jerusalem is considered the capital of the state of Palestine (which is, however, not officially recognized by Israel and various prominent member states of the United Nations).
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 or 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’s tourism industry is booming. The Old City, with its Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Quarter, is especially popular among visitors. However, residents prefer to live in one of the many neighbourhoods of the New City.
Tel Aviv — The City That Never Sleeps
In contrast to the spiritual and slightly old-fashioned city of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Yafo — the center of the sprawling, urban Gush Dan area — is a secular, liberal-minded and cosmopolitan metropolis, with about 60 residential neighborhoods and a growing population of over 400,000 residents.
Tel Aviv is an economic hub and the seat of Israel’s stock exchange, as well as numerous high-tech businesses, and therefore it can offer excellent job opportunities in commerce (wholesale and retail), finance (especially venture capital), and IT start-up companies.
If you’ve had enough of working hard, there are many ways to spend your free time in Tel Aviv. 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. Make sure to explore the trendy neighbourhoods of the city, like Florentin and Jaffa, and spend a sunny day unwinding on the beautiful shores of the Mediterranean.
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