The goal of this article is to provide guidance regarding what to consider when choosing a community in Israel, and to provide a key for understanding the profiles included in the NBN Community Guide.
Affordability & Housing
Please refer to the pricing guide that appears on each of the community profiles. This pricing guide reflects average prices in a given community; prices are quoted in Shekels. Be sure to check current exchange rates for other currencies. There are always more expensive and less expensive areas of a community, and apartments will change in price depending on their floor location, condition of the building and condition of the apartment. Please note that the pricing guide reflects the cost of buying a three bedroom apartment (based on numbers quoted in current real estate journals), and it can be understood as follows:
$: Up to 600,000 NIS
$$: 600,000 – 1 million NIS
$$$: 1.1 – 1.3 million NIS
$$$$: 1.35 – 1.6 million NIS
$$$$$: 1.61 million NIS and up
We can’t emphasize enough the importance of making a well-planned pilot trip to properly plan your Aliyah. It is our hope that this introduction and the profiles in the NBN Community Guide will be useful as a resource for you as you do your own research on communities before and during your pilot trip. It is important to spend time in communities to ask the questions that you need answered in order to determine your own personal comfort level in each potential community.
When describing a home, the size is generally determined by the number of rooms and square meters. Homes are listed as 3-room, 4-room, 5-room, etc. A three-bedroom house will be listed as a four-room house (3 bedrooms + living room). Home listings will often state whether a particular listing has a Mirpeset (porch/patio area), a private outdoor space as well as something to consider for use in building a Succah. Note: A meter is equal to about 3.3 feet, so a 150 meter apartment is equal to just under 1,700 square feet.
Apartment buildings in Israel vary considerably in size and height. Not all buildings have elevators. Some are built on a hill in such a way that they almost resemble a staircase and are appropriately called Meduragim (stepped). This style of apartment is often quite spacious, with large patio areas for each unit. The Israeli term “Cottage” is basically the equivalent of a town house. All cottages are attached at least on one side; and there are generally more than 5 in a row. “Du Mishpachti” refers to a semi-detached home that shares a wall with another house. The terms “Villa” or “ Bnei Beitcha” refer to a free-standing house in all sizes. Listed rental and purchase prices are approximate figures and are subject to change.
Cities and Large Towns
Cities (100,000 + residents) and large towns ( 70,000 + residents) have both advantages and disadvantages. A major advantage is public transportation, with convenient service to and from centers of employment; which could be a critical factor, especially for families who are not planning to buy a car immediately after making Aliyah. Moreover, cities offer a wide range of educational, religious and cultural options. Finally, government offices and immigrant services are easily accessible. On the downside, the cost of living is generally more expensive in a city. In addition, cities and large towns have the potential to leave the Oleh with the feeling of not being part of a community. Therefore, Olim should carefully research the nature of community life in each city they are considering.
Small towns (10,000 + residents) are generally the equivalent of a suburb or “bedroom community.” Often, towns can provide some of the cultural and educational offerings of a city, with a hint of the intimacy of a Yishuv. Like cities, they usually have several educational and cultural options. Whereas cities generally have mostly apartments and fewer private homes, towns usually have a greater number of private housing options.
Yishuvim, Kibbutzim and Moshavim
The literal translation of the word “Yishuv” is settlement, however, Yishuvim are not located only in Judea and Samaria. It is possible to live on a Yishuv in the Gallil, the Negev, or even in the center of the country. A Yishuv can range in size from a group of a hundred families to over a thousand families. People who want to live on a Yishuv must undergo an acceptance process that is run by an administrative committee, composed of Yishuv members. Yishuvim are generally small, self-contained units with their own mini-markets, synagogues, educational institutions and parks. Some Yishuvim are located only a few minutes away from major cities, while others are more isolated. Yishuv life is appropriate for those who are searching for a close-knit and, generally, more homogenous community without the need for major shopping or areas of public amenities.
Kibbutzim and Moshavim are similar, in many ways, to Yishuvim.
See http://www.tmoshavim.org.il/content/?did=6 for an interactive map of Moshavim.
See http://www.kibbutz.org.il/eng/welcome.htm for a listing of Kibbutzim.
All Israeli schools receive some sort of government funding. Mamlachti (state funded, non-religious) schools and Mamlachti-Dati (state funded, religious) schools are completely funded by the government. Some of the Mamlachti-Dati schools are further classified as Torani, meaning that they have increased emphasis on Torah studies. Some schools are partially funded by the government, like schools in the Charedi sector and specialized schools in the Mamlachti and Mamlachti Dati sectors. These schools are subject to certain requirements of the Ministry of Education, but they also enjoy considerably more autonomy than traditional governmental schools.
Contrary to popular misconception, education in Israel is not free. Costs do not compare to day school tuition in North America, for example, but there are fees to be considered. Just to provide a very rough idea, fees for a government elementary school may equal about $300 per year. Fees at a semi-private school are likely to be higher, ranging from $1,500 for elementary school to $5,000 for high school dorming per year. Individual schools should be contacted directly for information.
Language & Absorption
In choosing the type of community you want, it is important to consider the size of the English-speaking community. This consideration is important for a number of reasons, the most important of which is finding those who share a common language and culture. In particular, an Oleh who does not speak fluent Hebrew will probably feel more comfortable in a community with a fair number of English speakers. Olim and native Israelis may have different expectations regarding community cohesion and the absorption of new people. English-speaking Olim are often searching for a close-knit community – like the one they had abroad – that will help fill the role of a surrogate family. Many Olim left extended family behind and look toward the community to help fill the void. Don’t underestimate the importance of a social network!
In exploring communities, consider how much support you are likely to need. Will you need to be learning in an Ulpan (intensive Hebrew study program)? Then you really should consider the community’s proximity to Ulpan programs. Do you feel like you would like to have someone available to hold your hand during the absorption process? Then look at the communities that have more formal absorption programs or well-organized English-speaking communities.
Disclaimer: Information for the profiles was obtained through personal interviews, site visits, web-based research and other means. We work to update our database every 2 to 3 years, so it is important for you to visit your first choice communities in order to get the most accurate information. The statistics provided represent the impressions of various residents.
How important is the actual location of your community in Israel? Here are some of the primary considerations that you should consider
- Employment: Some professions have greater opportunities in specific regions, while others can be found almost anywhere in the country. Before choosing a community, research your particular profession carefully, and check its viability in different regions in the country.
- Transportation: If you are not planning on buying a car, make sure that the community that you choose has easy accessibility to centers of industry and commerce. Check for local bus and train service. If you are planning on buying a car, consider the driving distances to places of employment.
- Climate: For a country of its size, Israel has a remarkable range of climates. In deciding where to live, think about how important climate is to you. If it is important, let it inform your decision.
- Security: The NBN Community Guide does not address topics of safety and security. This is certainly not because they are unimportant, it is simply that safety and security are personal and subjective. It is important to visit a place to determine whether it is comfortable for you.
It is important to find a community where you feel comfortable religiously. In exploring different communities, be aware that the religious affiliations that you are used in your country of origin may have different connotations in Israel. Familiarize yourself with the nuances, so that your choice of community is based on a sound understanding of the meaning of terms like: Orthodox, Charedi, Chardal, Dati-Leumi, Reform, Conservative, mixed and unaffiliated. In Israel, there are many communities that cater to one, specific type of population. The majority of Yishuvim are either exclusively Orthodox or non-Orthodox; a limited number are pluralistic, and a few are Conservative. In exclusively Orthodox Yishuvim, residents are expected to keep Shabbat and Kashrut. Cities, in contrast to Yishuvim, have mixed populations — though each tends to have its own flavor. It is not uncommon for a neighborhood within a city to cater to a particular segment of society and its religious needs. It is important to consider the expectations of each community, when making your decision.