Herzliya Pituach, Israel Report of what it's like to live there - 08/08/13
Personal Experiences from Herzliya Pituach, Israel
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
This is our 5th expat experience - we have been in Europe and Asia before.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Washington, DC - about 12 hours from Newark or Philadelphia.
3. How long have you lived here?
One year so far.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Singles and couples live in Tel Aviv or just outside in apartments, family are North of the city in houses. Quite a few are within walking distance to the beach. There is a shuttle bus that takes about 45-60 minutes to and from Tel Aviv. If you drive yourself, you can make it between 25 and 45 minutes, depending on the time of day.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Almost everything is available but usually pricier than in the U.S. Expats here with the U.S. Government get the 18% tax back on groceries and household supplies except fruits and vegetables.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Non-chemical cosmetics, facial care and sunscreen are not easy to find. I am sure they are here, but if you can't read Hebrew you can't check ingredients.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
You can find anything here from cheap local joints, to overpriced McDonald's, high-end restaurants and everything in between. Prices are generally higher than in the U.S. Expats here with the U.S. Government get the 18% tax back on restaurant bills though.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
No problems, really. Some mosquitoes, fire ants and big cockroaches, nothing really nasty.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
About US$12-$15 per hour and easy to find.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Easy to use, widely accepted. You can't always include the tip, so make sure to bring some cash when you eat out.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, but limited. Services are always on Saturdays.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Both are available at decent prices.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It's nice to know how to say hello, please and thank you but you don't need any Hebrew to get around. I have not had any problems without Hebrew. Sometimes you use lots of hand gestures, sometimes you use your phone app, sometimes another customer helps... it always works out.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Herzliya seems OK, Tel Aviv not so much.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Embassy personnel and family members are not allowed to uses local buses. Trains and taxis are safe and affordable.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Don't bring a nice, new, shiny car because it will get dinged and scratched! Small is more practical but we have a big SUV and can navigate it just fine. We have had repairs done and were happy with the service. You can find a good garage through word of mouth.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet works well and is fairly priced.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Easy to get and plans are cheaper than in the U.S. You never pay for incoming calls!
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
I don't think so.
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
English-speaking vets are easy to find.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Not unless you speak Hebrew.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Casual to very casual. Even at weddings you don't necessarily see ties and often people show up in jeans.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
This is a danger post due to the political situation. It is mostly quiet but the tension simmers just below the surface at all times. It goes from quiet to crazy very quickly as we saw last November during the 8-day war.
There have been quite a few buglaries but all houses come equipped with alarm systems and most have window bars. However, it is incredibly safe for kids and they enjoy much more freedom here than they would in most US cities.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is good to very good and all doctors and pharmacists speak English. All medicine comes with English instructions.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Good, but a lot of people seem to suffer from spring allergies.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The weather is great: very nice spring and fall, hot and humid summer, mild rainy winter.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Tabeetha (in Tel Aviv-Jaffa), Anita's Treehouse (in Herzliya Pituach) and Walworth Barbour American International School. Most kids attend WBAIS and most parents are happy with it. The school is small (about 600 kids from pre-K to 12th Grade) and located on a beautiful campus about 30 minutes north or Herzliya Pituach.
As with almost any school, there are good and not so good teachers, good and not so good admin staff, good and not so good experiences. Our kids and all their friends like it a lot, but we have had parents from within the community pull their kids out as well.
The school staff/admin is very proud of the campus, facilities, computer lab, after-school activities etc. and seems to emphasize that more than academics sometimes.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Parents need to push hard to have the school accommodate special-needs kids and it doesn't always seem to work.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
I have not heard anything bad about the local preschools. Both English and Hebrew-speaking schools are available for expat kids.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
WBAIS has a good after-school sports program.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
3. Morale among expats:
Morale is good, but people usually have enough after three years... the constant tension and rudeness of (most) locals starts to get on your nerves.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes for all.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Tel Aviv is very gay and lesbian friendly.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes, Israeli's (not all of course) seem quite prejudiced. There is a lot of anger and tension in the air at all times! You have the Jews, the Ultra-Orthodox, the Muslims, the Christians... all living in a small place, seeing things differently and arguing about it. It can be very draining!
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Jaffa (Tel Aviv's Old City), Jerusalem, Dead Sea, Makhtesh Ramon (Israel's version of the Grand Canyon) in the Negev desert.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Trips all over the country to different cities, horseback riding, the beaches, good hiking and camping, many ruins and parks to visit, trips to neighboring Jordan.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
I can't think of anything unique to Israel.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Big on culture, many tourist attractions and national parks, good hiking, beach, Dead Sea, Red Sea, Mediterranean and good weather.
11. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Impatience and winter clothes (unless you want to go skiing in Europe).
3. But don't forget your:
Patience, a hat and good sunscreen.