Choosing a Community in Israel
Choosing a Community in Israel involves many important factors. This article is meant to help guide individuals, families, and groups in choosing possible communities for Aliyah or part-time living. These points are not presented in order of importance, but do follow the general sequence of information in this website’s community profile pages.
Israel is a land with a variety of areas that vary in climate and topography. The Center, or Merkaz, is the most developed part of the country, encompassing several districts, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Judea/Samaria. The North, including Haifa, Tveria (Tiberias), and the Golan is generally less densely populated, but includes some larger cities and centers of employment. The South includes Be’er Sheva, Eilat, and the Negev desert area. Many people choose the Merkaz because of the convenience between population centers, but others prefer the North and South with their often more relaxed rural atmosphere. Government incentives exist for choosing to live in the North and South.
Israel has a variety of cities, towns, and settlements that offer different styles of living. Major cities provide the services, amenities, and employment common to the most developed areas, and come with their share of higher living costs, congestion, and other downsides. Smaller cities, towns and villages throughout Israel often offer proximity to larger metropolitan areas at lower costs, but with the need to commute for some education, employment, and government services. Settlements include those known as Yishuv, Kibbutz, and Moshav. Some are located in Judea and Samaria, but they can be found throughout Israel. The main differences between these types of settlements is mostly in the way they are run, including the practice on many settlements of needing to be accepted by a committee and adhering to local rules.
Some communities are very diverse, but others are more popular among retirees, couples, young families, or families with children in middle school and beyond. The types of services, amenities, education, and employment opportunities is often a factor in appeal to various demographic groups, as are the overall cost of living, location, and access to transportation, etc. The value of living among people with similar age and family situations is often an important part of the community selection process.
Having people with similar spiritual attitudes and levels of observance in your community is essential to many people. Israel has a unique set of descriptions for varieties of Jewish religious and political groups. (Religion and politics can seem extremely interconnected compared to other nations). See the FAQ/Glossary for explanations of terms used, such as Chabad, Chardal, Dati Leumi, Haredi, Reform, and Secular.
The types of housing available, and the prices, vary considerably in different communities. Smaller communities and those outside the larger cities generally offer larger, more private, and lower-cost properties. Large cities are often more costly and offer smaller spaces with fewer amenities, especially for families with children. For singles and young couples, proximity to work may be more important than outdoor space. Groups planning Aliyah may be more interested in forming their own neighborhood in an area under development.
Getting to shops, work, and school on a daily basis is a basic need. The cost, speed, and convenience of transportation vary considerably from place to place. While some communities have excellent public transportation or offer most of what you need in walking distance, private car ownership is almost a necessity in other locations. Taxis, van services, bicycling, and other methods of transportation abound, but conditions in different areas need to be taken into consideration.
Perhaps more than any other factor, the ability to earn income is paramount to all but retirees and the very wealthy. The amount, type, and quality of work available can differ dramatically across communities. Some large cities and their suburbs offer a lot of work, sometimes for English speakers. Some communities have a lot of people working from home on North American hours for overseas employers. More rural areas, especially in the north and south districts, have less employment and require fluent Hebrew. Professional credentials from outside Israel often require re-certification, and may not yield a similar the level of salary. Exploring the employment situation and making contact with potential employers is strongly recommended for those who will need to find a job in Israel.
Israel’s education system is very robust, and comparatively affordable. Communities differ in the amount and variety of education offered locally for different age groups and affiliations. All schools operate under Israel’s Ministry of Education, and many are fully funded. However, many do have fees, although these are usually considerably lower than the cost of similar services in North America. Higher education is varied and advanced, but thought must be given to the type of schools needed and their availability in communities under consideration.
Service for Olim
Services for immigrants are available through the national government, many local governments, community-based organizations, and community members. The ease of getting help in English is high in communities with many English-speaking Olim, and some communities have very developed Ulpan (Hebrew instruction) and other programs for new arrivals. Access to help with navigating government requirements, acquiring health insurance, finding housing, school registration, purchasing appliances and furniture, enrolling in Ulpan, and other essentials is always within reach, but may be offered by a local government office, a neighbor, or an online group, depending on where you choose to live. Reaching out to local Aliyah support and joining online groups may help with planning and ease the transition.
Quality of life and ease of transition are usually closely connected to the types of people and organizations within a community. For those making Aliyah with a group of neighbors and arriving in the same location, the community is largely self-determined. For smaller groups, families, and individuals it is important to find a suitable neighborhood, congregation, and other communal aspects that suit their needs and desires. The type of shopping, education, culture, and worship options is usually determined by the population. Some places offer Torah study for adults in English, youth groups, and Shabbat observance. Others are more secular-oriented. Museums, libraries, sports centers, and local organizations for everything from toddler gymnastics to senior outings exist, but finding the right combination may take some research.
Amenities & Attractions
Some communities have everything you need in the way of medical, government, recreation, shopping, dining, and other facilities. Other places rely on a distribution of these across a winder area, or a combination of some local and some nearby facilities. It is important to consider the variety, convenience, cos, and other factors that will affect your daily life in a given community.
For people considering Aliyah, or buying property for visits, a pilot trip can be invaluable. Anyone planning Aliyah with children, especially teens, would be well-advised to bring them to Israel for firsthand experience. During the trip you can plan to visit different communities and become more familiar with them on a firsthand basis. By immersing yourselves in the experience on a day-to-day basis, you can discover the joys and challenges of Israel. Living in Israel, even for a short time, gives real-world knowledge that can help you make informed decisions. Much of what is wonderful or requires adaptation in Israel is intangible and hard to describe. Being here and absorbing everything allows you to think and compare on your return, and decide if Israel is your full-time or part-time home.
Advice from Olim
The purpose of the website is to provide information and access to people and agencies who can help you. We encourage you to reach out to us with your questions, comments, and suggestions for making this a better resource.
More Articles and Information
Beer ShevaRegion: Southern City Type: Large City Population: 210,000 Demographics: Young Couples, Young Families, Retirees Religious Makeup: Chabad, Conservative, Dati Leumi, Haredi, Reform, Secular Affordability: $$$$ (range 1 to 5)Climate Average Temperatures Day...
Beit Shemesh/RBSRegion: Jerusalem District City Type: Major City Population: 119,000 (RBS 25,000) Demographics: Young Couples & Families, Families, Retirees Religious Makeup: Chabad, Chardal, Dati Leumi, Haredi, Secular Affordability: $$$ (range 1 to 5)Climate...
EfratRegion: Judea and Samaria DistrictCity Type: Settlement (Yishuv)Population: 10,000Demographics: Young Families, Families, RetireesReligious Makeup: Chabad, Chardal, Dati LeumiAffordability: $$$ (range 1 to 5)Climate Average Temperatures Day Night January 11C/52F...