Here are some recommendations for shipping musical instruments to Israel:
- Ship your favorite, truly necessary gear to Israel, and sell the rest before you come.
- If you can afford to upgrade your gear, physically small items are preferable, as space may be at a premium in your new Israeli home.
- There is some risk involved in shipping instruments. Insure your items at the Israeli cost, which can sometimes be as much as (roughly) double American Internet prices.
- Pack everything well; and pack everything yourself. You can put socks and T-shirts, etc. in the hardshell cases of your instruments, wrap amps in blankets, etc. Use common sense and creativity to turn your household goods and clothes into packing materials.
- For shipping or flying with guitars (bass, banjo, dulcimer, etc.), you may want to loosen the strings a couple of whole steps (from E down to C).
- Carry your favorite or immediately-needed instrument on the plane with tuner, pedals, strings, cables, etc. Keep in mind the possibility that an instrument that is shipped may sit in the port unexpectedly, due to a strike or other logistical difficulty.
- Generally, gig bags can be carried on planes — but not always. If the attendant takes your instrument away as you board, make sure he or she knows it is valuable, and make sure it is put in the front of the “closet.”) If you need to put extra gear under the plane, ask El Al about extra cargo prices.
- Expect to be charged Meches (taxes) on the 2nd, 3rd, etc. of any type of item that you ship – and don’t expect Customs to differentiate between a 4 string bass and a 5 string bass!
- It is best to buy power transformers in Israel, rather than shipping them from the U.S., so that you can return them if you experience any problems.
- It is better to buy big transformers with a 3 prong American outlet, and ship a few American power strips. The 2 prong transformers are handy but can introduce hum or ruin your gear. Ask an electrician if you’re unsure.
- Some European-made gear sold in America (like a Marshall amp) can be easily switched over to 220V by an electrician in Israel. Most computer type gear has a 220V / 110V switch or automatically switches to 220V. Check with the manufacturer if you’re unsure. Have alterations done in Israel, so you that can bring it back if there is a problem.
- Regarding stereo systems: Cassette speed on American decks (and turntables) may be thrown off. Bring one with vari-speed playback or battery power. USA radios won’t get all the stations in Israel. Power surges and outages are common, so turn gear off when not in use and consider a power conditioner for expensive gear.
A special thank you to professional musician and NBN Oleh Bradley Fish, who prepared this article based on his own Aliyah experiences.