Jerusalem, Israel Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem, Israel 10/28/19

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, we've had other posts in Europe and the Caribbean.

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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?

Travel here is relatively easy, usually through Newark or Miami.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Work at the Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is superficially nice: spacious, well laid out, good amenities. The problem is maintenance. Things here aren't built to the same standard you'd expect in other countries and they break all the time. During the 18 months we've spent here, we spent 4 of them without hot water in a house that was heated through a boiler, and a different 4 months without reliable light or electricity. We've had multiple plumbing problems and A/C problems, and while none of these are uncommon for Israelis living in the area either, it seems to take the Embassy's facilities team a really long time to diagnose problems and correct them.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Expensive and very seasonal, but everything is available if you know where to go. There are non-Kosher butchers that sell sausage and pork products including bacon, there are a couple of stores that sell various American products, and at least 2 boutiques that have asian and mexican products. Shopping can be an all-day affair, but you can get what you want.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More laundry and dish washing detergent, tomatillo green salsa, coffee, a couple of other minor things... but really, everything is available here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Almost everything in metro Jerusalem is closed on Shabbat, with the exception of a couple of restaurants in First Station and the Old City which you will get to know intimately and probably be very tired of by the time your tour is over. On normal days, quite a few restaurants deliver, but there isn't a central delivery platform like GrubHub/UberEats, etc. Most of those places don't have English menus and may not have English speaking staff, so if you don't have Hebrew you may have to go in and take out.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

We've had ants a number of times. We brought powdered borax, which has been a lifesaver.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO and Pouch are good for packages but letter mail seems to take forever (6-8 weeks) which is problematic if you've got business in the states or need to replace a lost credit card. Israeli post is broadly considered unreliable even among locals, and I wouldn't use if for anything more important than a birthday card.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Expensive, especially for full-time. We have a twice a week housecleaner through a service who comes for 4-5 hours and we pay him about US $60 per visit.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The Embassy has a gym at a local hotel that you can use for free, and many apartment buildings have some facilities. Gyms here are about the same cost as in the US, but are closed on Shabbat and often have women's hours and men's hours that you need to work around.

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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?

Credit cards are widely accepted and safe, but more and more businesses and ATMs seem to be having problems taking US ATM cards so having cash as a backup is essential.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

I would strongly recommend at least a FAST course or basic level of Hebrew since that's the local language of most of the places we are housed and visit. You can get by without it and survive, but it puts you very firmly on the margins here. If no one at a business speaks English, you'll have to come back later to do whatever you need to do. Because you can't read the script, shopping and ordering in restaurants is challenging and you sort of guess and hope you're getting what you want. If you look even vaguely Jewish/Israeli people will refuse to speak English to you and sometimes give you worse service because they think you're a new immigrant who is too lazy to learn Hebrew.

Arabic will be helpful at work, in the old city and with cab drivers.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, most of the city is not accessible, nor are most of the USG buildings in the mission.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

USG employees can't take the busses. The light rail is safe, affordable and often crowded but is a great way to get to the shuk and the old city if you're close to it. Everyone is pretty much reliant on taxis through the GETT app, which works just like Uber. It's pretty reliable and isn't too expensive.

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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?

A small car that you don't mind getting banged up a bit. We get out pretty extensively and have never found a need for our high-clearance four-wheel drive car, and parking anything larger than a golf cart is a pain.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, it's available and can be installed to be working when you arrive.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Use a local provider and make sure it's one that can bill your US Credit card (Golan cannot). Partner is pretty common and allows free calls to the US which is nice.

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Pets:

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?

If you can get out of here without adopting a street cat, you're made of strong stuff than most of us. Vet services are available and good, we paid about $100 for all the shots and spaying with our girl cat, and $50 for the neutering for our boy cat.

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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?

Most expat spouses either telecommute or work in the mission.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Volunteering here is hard because everything seems so political. There are some one-day opportunities for olive picking and grape harvesting and the like, but sustained volunteer activities would be tough.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Formal dress is rarely required, the mission tends to be very business casual internally with suits and ties for high level outside meetings.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Constant security concerns. You'll get to know your "SAFE" and "Red Alert" apps very well, and there's enough stabbings, knifings, etc. at check points and in the old city that it just becomes something else to plan around. Currently the security situation feels relatively stable, and we're allowed to travel into specific parts of the West Bank with relative freedom... but that could change tomorrow without any notice.

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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 great, both at the Embassy and on the economy.

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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?

Pretty good, except for the occasional sand/dust storm coming in from Jordan.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Many, many people here seem to have allergies and a lot of allergy stuff that is OTC in the US seems to be prescription here, so bring your Benedryl and Claritin and the like. This is a GREAT place to be a Vegan or dairy or lactose intolerant, since Kashrut requires everything with dairy to be labeled, and Israelis have a lot of gluten-free everything around. More specific allergies, you'd want to be able to read Hebrew.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

This is a really, really stressful place to live and that can cause or exacerbate mental health issues. Be gentle with yourself, take your R&Rs, and get out of Jerusalem as much as needed -- even Tel Aviv or the North can be a welcome break (women in shorts! food on Shabbat! Mixed seating in synagogues! It all feels very radical after too long in Jerusalem...).

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot in the summers, and while it isn't actually cold in the winters the houses aren't insulated or sealed well so if it's 50 outside, it's likely to feel about 50 in your house. The spring and summer are lovely.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Elementary school is lovely. Middle and on is... problematic.

The USG supported school (JAIS) dropped their high school program and their middle school program is about 15 kids across 4 grades (5th, which is middle school despite 5th graders not being developmentally ready for switching classes, etc., 6th, 7th, and 8th). If your kid gets along with any of those 15 kids, it's a great environment with small classes and nurturing teachers. If your kid doesn't find his tribe, it's a lonely couple of years. JAIS wants to add 9th and 10th grade, but seems to be floundering with their pilot program. I would look very carefully at the curriculum and opportunities available before signing on for that, especially if your kid has specific college ambitions or you're not able to pay full-freight and want them to get scholarships aid since there's no extracurriculars or opportunities to develop beyond the curriculum at JAIS.

The other option is the Anglican School, which is NOT USG-supported which means there are no placed held for Embassy kids. Several of their classes are "Full" at various times, and they may apparently just chose not to admit your kid even if they're on the waiting list. This has been the cause of broken handshakes and curtailments. The Anglican School does not do pre-admittance, so if you have a high school kid there's no assurance that there will be a place for you when you arrive.

Several people in DC will suggest that the American School in Tel Aviv is an option for kids in Jerusalem. These people are deluded. It's a 2-ish hour drive in rush hour to Tel Aviv, and Evan Yehuda, where the school is located, is another 45 minutes north beyond that. The high speed train makes it possible, but your kid would have to leave Jerusalem at 6:07am, and return home at 5:30, without any ability to participate in after school activities or social life. Please don't depend on this as a back-up option without really considering the realities of travel time.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

The Anglican School has had a fairly robust special needs program, if you can get into their school. JAIS has lagged behind, but has now hired the inclusion coordinator for the Anglican School, so we hope that things are improving. They do have a learning support center, which can help with mild special needs and some referrals to OT professionals. There is definitely a push to diagnose needs that the school can provide (at a cost), sometimes without referring to qualified outside professionals. And Israeli culture is a bit conformist, so some parents feel a push to diagnose and treat things that are just kids being normal, if outside cultural norms here.

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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?

Yes, lots of options.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Quite a few are available and they're actually inexpensive... but they're almost all in Hebrew. For English-language classes you'll have to look harder and pay more.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Technically, its HUGE. 1/5th of people living in Jerusalem are American Citizens, but the majority of them don't identify as expatriates and have made aliyah (immigrated) to this country and are focused on assimilation.

For people who are expats, it's been a really difficult and challenging couple of years of reduced funding and tough decisions and that shows up in morale in a big way. Many programs have closed, people have had to leave earlier than planned, relationships with local interlocutors have been strained, priorities have shifted. I think the worst has passed, but people are still trying to find the new normal and you'll see and feel that if you come here.

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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?

Lots of getting outdoors -- running, climbing, biking, hiking, etc. The cafe and restaurant scene here can be nice.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Singles and couples without kids seem to have the most fun here. Families do well, but the school situation can be challenging.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

A qualified yes. Israel over-all is fairly LGBT-friendly, and while Orthodox Jerusalem is not you're really not going to be interacting with those people anyway. Spouses can be fully accredited, and the mission is very supportive and diverse.

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5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

If you look even vaguely Arab, you're going to have a very different experience here and should be prepared for that. On the other hand, if you look very stereotypically Jewish, you'll have another completely different experience here, and should be prepared for that. I'd also say that if you're Jewish but not Orthodox or conservative you may find living here to be more challenging than you expect.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Constantly, in my opinion, and it's far to complex to get into here. Just know that it's real and it will effect you and your life the entire time you live here.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The people I've met and worked with are definitely a high-light. The locals here, including the local staff, are some of the warmest and most emotionally generous people I've ever known.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The Israeli National Parks are fantastic -- the pass is about $100 per year for a family and gives you free admission. The parks are open on Shabbat and all the holidays and are well maintained and interpreted, a lot like US parks. It's a great way to get out and blow off some steam, throughout the year. (Go to the ones with caves in the high summer, and save Masada and the hiking for the shoulder seasons...)

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There are ceramics, olive-wood, religious articles and Palestinian Embroidery are all over the place.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

You will never forget it.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Just how difficult living and working here would be. In other places we've been, we were seen as apart from the conflicts that were happening in the country. Here, it's inescapable and seems to permeate everything that you do -- the clothes you wear, the water you drink, what you chose to do on Thursday night, all are making political statements. Living here is exhausting and vivid and challenging all the time and you need to be prepared for that.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Preconceived notions that you know anything about the conflicts going on here.

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4. But don't forget your:

Warm clothes. Seriously, when you're used to 90+, 50 degrees in an unheated house is COLD.

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Jerusalem, Israel 08/06/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Third post after Guatemala City and Baghdad.

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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?

California and New York. Direct flights to Newark from Tel Aviv (6 hours) and one direct flight to San Francisco (14 hours). Or you can get a connecting flight through New York or Europe that takes a little longer.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One and a half years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Working at the US Consulate General in Jerusalem.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Beautiful small apartment in the City Center. Five minute walk to the consulate, 5 minute walk to the Old City and 5 minute walk to the downtown area. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a tiny balcony and one parking space in the garage with a storage garage. Not all the apartments have storage or even closets for that matter. Most apartments are quite nice and located in interesting neighborhoods in both West and East Jerusalem. Traffic during rush hour is bad and can double or triple the commute time from 15 minutes to 30 or 40 minutes between Arnona (where the new US Embassy is located) and the Consulate General near City Center.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

VERY expensive. I spend about $200 per week on meat, dairy and organic produce for 2 adults. Anything processed and imported is very expensive and the local stuff is expensive too and not our favorite. Most produce is grown locally and is seasonal which means it is always delicious! Produce here is great, and you can find all the normal stuff as well as exotic stuff like dragon fruit and lychee. Lemons are available year-round but limes are seasonal so we freeze them for year-round margaritas.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Anything we need we order online and ship it through DPO.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Restaurants here are delicious but VERY expensive. Most places are either kosher meat or kosher dairy and the fine dining is creative and delicious. Best local food you can get is hummus and falafel (the shwarma here is always super dry!) and it's the best deal at $10 for a meal. Most restaurants in West Jerusalem are closed Friday afternoon - Saturday for Shabbat. Most restaurants in East Jerusalem are hummus and grilled meat places, I would even say zero fine dinning. Not a lot of variety beyond bistro food, burgers and pizza. A taco place just opened and it's good but it costs US$15 for 3 tiny tacos....

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

A few little microscopic ants during the summer and mosquitoes all winter.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

VERY expensive and difficult to find. Bring your nanny with you if you have a good one! We work Monday-Friday, the rest of the country works Sunday - Thursday so people have a hard time finding childcare on Friday and Saturday. Some people have Filipina nannies. It's difficult to hire Palestinians because they have difficulty crossing the checkpoint from the West Bank to work in Jerusalem. But some people do have part-time house cleaners and part and full-time nannies. Babysitters are about $15 per hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are a few nice gyms (YMCA, Kibbutz Ramat Rachel and Lerner Center) with pools, basketball, tennis, classes, cardio and heavy weights which cost about $100 plus per month. There are also a few cramped small "local style" gyms with old rusty equipment that are about $80 per month.

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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?

US credit cards are widely accepted. ATMs are widely available and safe.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

All of them, it's Jerusalem! I don't go, but we have friends who have found great Christian church communities here.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is widely spoken. We have a language program here that pays for both Hebrew and Arabic classes.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Probably. There are good sidewalks some places but most other places are cobblestones, uneven, have cars and trash blocking them and many businesses have stairs to get in them with no ramp.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

We can't ride buses but the tram is safe and $1.50 per trip. The train travels from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and the other parts of Israel and is reasonable. Taxis are US$10-$20 per trip in Jerusalem and $75 to the airport in Tel Aviv. There's an app called Gett that everyone uses to call a taxi and pay for it (like Uber).

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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?

You can find services for all cars here but it may not be the best parts and service. Small cars are best for parking. It will get banged up so nothing too nice. There is a big off-roading community here and a ton of dirt roads so bring something with high-clearance if you want to explore (we did and those are some of our best memories). Safe, no carjacking or burglary.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Pretty quick to install and speed is just fine. Difficult to use VPNs here.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get a local sim card and the Golan 99 shekel plan for unlimited local calls and texts, more than enough data and 2 virtual phone #s for a US phone number that makes it easy for family in the US to call you.

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Pets:

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?

Yes, we have a vet for our cat that we adopted here that makes house calls. There are vaccine and registration requirements for pets. Lots of stray cats everywhere, no stray dogs. People in East Jerusalem are not too keen on dogs and the teenage boys have fun whistling, yelling and tormenting them.

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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?

Most work in the consulate and embassy in Jerusalem. Tel Aviv is at least 1 hour so the commute is too long. Local salaries are lower and you need to speak English/Hebrew/Arabic. There are a ton of Americans here who have made Aliyah, learned English and are now working (just not any in the Dip community).

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots as long as it is not seen as a political or controversial organization.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Casual at work. Very casual in town but modest coverage for everyone in Jerusalem. You can wear jeans, t-shirts and sandals every day, to job interviews and to fine dinning restaurants. Tourists wear whatever they want.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

I have heard of politically motivated stabbings and ramming attacks. Mostly Palestinians attacking Israelis but some foreigners get caught in the mix occasionally. Our access to the Old City is closed during particularly tense times when chance of attacks go up but it is always opened up as soon as things quiet down. That said, I feel safe walking anywhere day or night as there is not much petty crime.

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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 and the doctors and nurses speak English but at the reception desk customer service is terrible and mostly in Hebrew. The Health Unit at the consulate provides a lot of help translating and booking appointments. Most problems can be taken care of here or in Tel Aviv. I had a baby in East Jerusalem and the doctors, nurses and staff were all really good, very relaxed and warm.

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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?

Air quality is great. Sometimes there are dust storms that cause allergies and some neighborhoods in East Jerusalem burn trash.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Customer service in restaurants seems pretty terrible so even if you tell them you have an allergy it gets lost in translation between the table and the kitchen.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Lots of sun here! It just seems a little stressful at times due to the political tension and the honking gets on everyone's nerves.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

This is a great weather post. Sunny and hot in the 80s to 90s May through September. October through April is pleasant in the 70s during the day and 40s at night with a few big rain storms.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Most kids pre-K to 8th grade go to the Jerusalem American International School and the Anglican International School Jerusalem. The high school options are limited so we don't really have older kids here.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Both schools accommodate special needs.

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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?

Preschools are plentiful.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Sports, climbing, arts, music all available for kids here.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Sometimes I feel like I'm in the US walking down the street surrounded by New Yorkers who have moved here. Lots of expats here with other diplomatic missions, we have lots of friends from other countries and local friends also. Morale is great! This is a very nice place to live.

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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?

Eating out, picnics in the parks, having friends over for dinner, festivals, concerts, tours, language classes. The Jerusalem Expat Network has monthly meetings and activities and is a great way to meet other spouses.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Best for couples and families. The singles here have a good time but the singles scene is pretty small. Not really a club or bar scene here. Jerusalem might be a good place to meet someone if you're super religious. Most people go to Tel Aviv for night life and dating.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes and no. Jerusalem is religious and conservative and I think the LGBT crowd is not comfortable being super open in public here. There are at least two restaurants that I know of that are owned by openly gay couples but sadly, my understanding is one of them was vandalized by conservative Jews. Jerusalem has an annual Pride & Tolerance March that draws 20,000 people but I heard rainbow flags on the light poles along the route had to be ordered by the Supreme Court. Tel Aviv has a great LGBT scene and is well known for it's annual Pride Week.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. The extremest Jews and Muslims do not get along and are quite vocal about it, online and in person. Israelis are very racist and treat anyone who is not obviously white and Jewish like second class citizens.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Despite the complaints, Jerusalem is a very easy place to live. The weather is amazing, the food is really good and there are more national parks and historic sites than you'll ever have time to visit. Highlights are the beaches, the Galilee and Golan Heights, visiting wineries, the Dead Sea, camping in the desert, wild camels, hiking to waterfalls up slot canyons, goat cheese, hummus, figs, mangoes, and sweet cherry tomatoes. Plus living here I have experienced the conflict and controversy first hand and understand both sides more than I ever would have just reading about it. Overnight trips to other places are difficult because hotels are $200 a night for a room that is worth about $40. We ended up driving a lot and making them day trips, camping a lot and searching for reasonable AirBnBs (and usually not finding any).

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The Old City has a hidden gem around every corner! The festivals are great. Camping in the desert in the Negev in the winter is amazing. Hiking trails are everywhere. Camping in the forest right outside Jerusalem.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Yes to shopping but again, pretty pricey and you have to bargain for it. Woven rugs, olive wood, Palestinian embroidery, Armenian ceramics, and Judaica.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

If you like history and religion you will love it here. It's hot in the summer but nicer than Tel Aviv where it's hot AND humid.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I had known how expensive it would be.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I would still move here because it really is priceless being able to experience such a historic place in person. And the weather and food are wonderful!

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Polite pleases and thank yous, and your winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Bible, sharp elbows, hiking and camping gear and sunscreen.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Jerusalem is a beautiful place and there is a lot to see and do here. We feel safe walking around anywhere and enjoy visiting the rest of the country as well. The rudeness and racism we have seen and the high costs are our only real complaints.

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Jerusalem, Israel 04/08/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes, as an adult.

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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?

New York, 11 hours direct. There are no direct government flights to DC; one has to go through NY or an overseas hub.

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3. How long have you lived here?

8 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

USG.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Brand new apartment in East Jerusalem. Fairly big and modern, with very nice light. 20 minute commute to the consulate, 30-45 min. to Arnona. You could take the tram to the consulate with a short walk at the end, but a car is necessary for Arnona. The apartments in East Jerusalem are the nicest and biggest, but also the furthest from work and the least nice in terms of walkability of the neighborhood. The ones in central Jerusalem are smaller and not as new (for the most part, there are a couple of amazing, big ones with great views), but they are walkable to work and lots of restaurants. The only downside is West Jerusalem shuts down for Shabbat, while East Jerusalem doesn't. The apartments near Arnona are the worst ones in my opinion. They are much older, much smaller, and very dark. That said, they are walkable to work if you work in Arnona.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Similar in price to NY, but produce is more seasonal; you can't really decide what you want to make so much as go to the store and see what looks best. Household supplies are available, but American brands are more expensive. We are not fond of the local brands, so we order our supplies from Amazon.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

We do Amazon orders of paper towels, cleaning supplies, and some cosmetics. We also order diapers because they're cheaper at home, but there is no need to crazy stock up on stuff, except cat litter. If you have a cat, I would bring ALL the cat litter in your HHE. The cat litter here doesn't clump, doesn't contain smells, is super expensive, and Amazon doesn't always let you order litter. Same with pet food in general, American food is very expensive, so brining your own if you're picky, or order it.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Lots of restaurants, most are Middle Eastern. Though there are many slightly upscale restaurants that sound different by description, they all have basically the same menu: a fish dish, a steak, a burger, a pasta with olive oil and artichokes or some other seasonal vegetable. It's good, but we find that it gets boring. Eating out is kind of expensive (the same or more than NY prices), so it doesn't seem worth it for that type of food. Most restaurants close Friday night to Saturday. No food delivery, but take out is possible for ok pizza and some "fast food" type things, like Thai noodles. The Thai noodles do not taste Thai to us, but are good. No Chinese, no Indian, and no Mexican; there's not a lot of spicy food here. You have to go to Tel Aviv for all of those things.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None at all. A few mosquitos and flies, that's it.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO, but it takes a surprisingly long time, up to 6 weeks.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

No one has full time cleaning people or other help (other than nannies). A cleaning person once a week costs 50 shekels an hour for about four hours. It is very hard to find a full time nanny; some people brought their former nannies as live-ins. Even babysitters are hard to find, and the going rate is 40-50 shekels an hour, plus money for transportation. It makes it kind of hard because the work week is not the same as hours, so you have to scramble to find after school care, especially on Friday afternoons.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are gyms, but they are expensive. YMCA has a nice one with a pool and exercise classes, it's about $100 a month.

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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?

Yes for credit cards, we use them all the time. ATMs are safe, but there aren't a ton of ATMs.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Everything monotheistic, it's Jerusalem. I don't know about non-monotheistic religions, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were services for those as well.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None. I speak neither Hebrew nor Arabic, and it's not a problem. English is the default language for Hebrew and Arabic speakers to speak to each other. I learned a few small pleasantries in both, and it's appreciated, but not necessary. Post pays for language classes in both, including tutors, casual speaking classes, and more intensive courses.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, it would be limiting, but not impossible. It's a hilly place and there are places you can't drive to, particularly in the old city. There are a lot of steps and cobblestone streets and crowds, especially in the old city. Sidewalks in East Jerusalem are bad, and there are frequently trees or posts or trash blocking them. A lot of restaurants have a couple of steps to access them. Buildings have elevators, there is handicapped parking in most places, sidewalks in West Jerusalem are decent and have curb cutouts. I think people will be helpful to you if you need it; they have a reputation for brusqueness (well deserved), but people do help with my stroller, and I had a guest with a wheelchair who was able to get around fairly well.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

We aren't allowed to take the buses. We can take the tram, but there is only a single line. It's convenient for getting from housing in East Jerusalem to the center of town. Taxis are safe and cost about $10-20 to get to most places in the city. It's pretty necessary to have a car or two here though, and you'll want to get out of the city.

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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?

Any car is fine, but you will get in accidents. There is not a single un-banged up car in the garage. A small car is easier to park in the city. People here are pretty aggressive drivers. No burglary or carjacking risks.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, our sponsor got it set up before we got here.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Golan has a great plan for 99 shekels a month. You get unlimited calls and data, including unlimited calls to the US, and a US phone number that forwards to your cell. It also includes limited overseas coverage when you travel.

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Pets:

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?

Yes, vet services are very good and not too expensive (less than US). No quarantine, just paperwork before you get in. We brought a dog and a cat. It's hard to find green space for your dog in East Jerusalem, and people can be a little afraid, but many people are also curious. None of the housing here has yards.

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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?

Telecommuting or at post. I don't know anyone working on the local economy, though lots of people work for NGOs and are posted here. Telecommuting is very easy her, as phones and internet work perfectly.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

I'm sure there are a lot, but they require initiative to find. Everything is very political, so it is more difficult to ensure that you are volunteering in a capacity that isn't read as political.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Very casual. At work, the casual end of business casual. In public jeans, sneakers, tees are all acceptable everywhere. Jerusalem is a very religious place. Orthodox Jewish women cover knees, elbows, collarbones, and never wear pants. Muslim women frequently cover their heads and are about evenly split between wearing long dresses and tunics with tight pants. As someone who looks Jewish living in East Jerusalem, I prefer to wear pants to differentiate myself from settlers. You don't have to dress particularly modestly, but super short shorts or mini skirts and spaghetti straps are definitely out of the ordinary for local sensibilities. Shorts for men are also unusual for locals in Jerusalem. That being said, tourists wear anything, and there are lots of tourists.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Terrorism (mostly stabbings, some car ramming, and at this point, very rare bombs) are the security threats we think about here. While it always feels on the brink of war, I experience this mostly as abstract tension and anxiety. You stay more vigilant here about the security situation and political feeling, but it does not feel personally threatening to me. I follow the security warnings. Otherwise, there is no petty crime. I do not worry about burglary, robbery, rape, assault. I feel fairly safe here walking around at night alone. You get used to the intense police state, with its cameras and guns everywhere.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No diseases or air quality problems. Medical care is very good, and some people stay to give birth here. You could get pretty much any treatment here, though medical culture might be different enough for you not to want to for something really serious.

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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. It's dry and dusty for a lot of the year, but otherwise air quality is excellent.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Those with peanut allergies might need to be careful, especially at school. No one here has peanut allergies, so it's not common to ban them at schools like in the US.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

No, the weather is beautiful. The security environment and the amount of hatred on both sides might cause some anxiety and stress, but it is what you would expect and expats are not that personally involved.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It's very dry; even when it rains, it's only every few days for a few hours. It doesn't rain for months at a time. It's pretty hot in the summer, but not that dissimilar from the East Coast, and it's a much drier heat.

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Schools & Children:

1. 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?

Yes. Many go to the YMCA, it's about $800 a month and it's in Hebrew and Arabic. Teachers are very warm and loving, and they feed them good food at the school for breakfast and lunch. They have activities like music, and swimming lessons for older kids. You have to register by January for the September start date, and they fill up. The only issue is the schedule: school normally ends at 4 p.m., and then at 12:30 p.m. on Fridays, so you need after school care, and it's hard to come by and expensive.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Big, lots of diplomats and NGOs. Morale is good, this is a pleasant place to live with meaningful and exciting work.

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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?

There is lots of touring to do. There are bars, restaurants, and a few small clubs for dancing or karaoke. There's also the usual home activities like book clubs and game nights. I have done a lot more socializing with expats than locals.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for all. For singles though a lot of dating social life is more centered in Tel Aviv because it's much less religious, especially if you're dating locals as opposed to expats. For couples and families, it's great. Israel is a tiny country, so it's very easy to take day trips to Tel Aviv, the beach, the Dead Sea, and lots of archaeological and natural national parks.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes. The dating scene is not well developed in Jerusalem, but it is in Tel Aviv, which is less than an hour away. While this is a religious place, it's safe to be out here, and I don't think same sex physical affection will get any different reaction from heterosexual (which is to say, PDAs are not common here- the religious folks don't touch in public).

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. I was surprised at just how much vehement hatred there is on both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides, and about how public people are willing to be with those prejudices. It can be very uncomfortable to hear, but as a Jewish American, I do not feel like people on either side see me as part of that conflict. The hatred on the Arab side does not feel aimed at non-Israeli Jews at all. I do think there is some anti-Semitism in the expat community, due to the political situation, and that can feel a little harder to deal with. Gender does not feel like as much of an issue, nor does racial prejudice, at least for expats.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The city is full of history, and it is palpably spiritual. One should have memberships to the zoo and the Israel Museum. Tel Aviv and its beaches for relaxation, the Dead Sea, national parks, and too many day trips to mention. You won't run out of things to do here if you like history, museums, ruins, and nature, as any guidebook will show you.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There are lots, just work your way through a guidebook.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Not really. Armenian pottery/tiles. Olive wood stuff. Hebron glass.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It's a very easy place to live in terms of conveniences and things to do.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

The antipathy here is not subtle. People you have just met will tell you how glad they are that no Arabs/ Jews live where they live and how much they don't like each other.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Heavy coat, sense that peaceful coexistence is easily achievable.

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4. But don't forget your:

Bathing suit, sunscreen, Bible, and history books.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Jerusalem (comic book by Guy Delisle) about living here as an expat.

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Jerusalem, Israel 12/22/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Not our first expatriate experience.

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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 16+ hours, through JFK.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

All mission community members live in apartments. Apartments in the city center are small and tend to increase in square footage as you move out. Places in East Jerusalem tend to be larger.



The commute is based on whether or not you are close enough to walk to the consulate. Most people prefer to walk because parking is not provided.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are expensive. More so than western Europe or DC Metro area. But I can find almost everything I want to find. Some items I must mail order through Amazon or Walmart or from family members, but there is not really much in regard to groceries that cannot be found. Sometimes you just have to ask.



Grocery stores are small -- like little Mom & Pop corner grocers -- but they are everywhere and almost every one has an little shop they can stop at to buy milk or bread or cheese. The only issue would be that many are closed on Shabbat (sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday). But you can go to East Jerusalem or just plan ahead. You get used to it.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

None - everything is available here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Many excellent restaurant options in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv -- too many to list. Eating out is great but super-expensive. No good Chinese options however. Food delivery exists, but they don't quite have it down yet. Takeout exists as well but they call it "Take Away."

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO. I don't know anything about local postal service.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

No real household help pool here at all. It is difficult to find someone to clean, even once a week. Israeli labor laws are fairly strict. Nannies/sitters are like gold here. It is hardly worth it for EFMs to work when their entire salary goes to cover childcare costs.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Consulate has a decent gym, free, but it is located at Arnona (at the consular section) and so not very convenient to anyone but those who live or work in Arnona. Otherwise, there are indeed plenty of gyms in the city center but they are not cheap. There are a few pools, including a great 50-meter pool that many mission members swim at in lieu of running the hills here in the city. Lot of people enjoy the bike path for their walking, jogging, biking.

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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?

Yes, safe.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes -- this is the world capitol for every religion!

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is more than enough to get by here. Everyone speaks English. Some of the signs are only in Hebrew but I have not found this to have affected my daily life at all. If it isn't translated into English then it likely did not pertain to me in the first place. Movies are shown in English and have Hebrew sub-titles.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Maybe. There are hills and stairs and steps everywhere. It is a runner's dream (nightmare?) but there are accommodations for strollers everywhere due to the large baby-population so that can prove helpful for wheelchairs. The Consulate itself is NOT handicapped-accessible, at all. If you have a disability that affects your mobility, do not bid on this post.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Safe and affordable but public transport is off-limits to mission personnel. Taxis are fine.

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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?

Bring a small car. Parking is a hassle here.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Can get it installed before arrival if your sponsor is pro-active.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Local provider. Bring your unlocked phone.

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Pets:

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?

Yes. No quarantine necessary. but you must get the rabies titer prior to entry -- this could take a few months so plan ahead.

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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?

There are many EFM positions at post. Both part-time and full-time. Local jobs on the economy are almost impossible to consider because most businesses require fluency in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Even if an EFM is fluent in all three languages, the salaries are so low, you can't cover childcare costs at all.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are a few but it is difficult because everything is so political here. All volunteer positions must be cleared through management first in order to ensure that political and cultural sensitivities are intact.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Work attire is same as at most posts, depends on your job. Most wear business attire. For public areas, almost anything goes because there are so many tourists here. Certain pockets in the city require extra caution in regard to what females wear (the ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, or very conservative Muslim areas). But no matter how you dress, there will always be a tourist wearing something worse/better.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Not really. Security in Jerusalem and in Israel overall is pretty intense. I think that petty crime is almost non-existent. Any security issues are in regard to political unrest. Set your alarm, lock your car, and be attentive.

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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 excellent in Israel.

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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?

Air quality in Israel is good. Remember that we are at about 3,000 ft so initially you may feel slightly winded but that may also be due to all the hills!

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

There are nuts in everything. Pay attention. But many of the restaurants have keys on their menus indicating as much. If you have allergies to olive pollen then beware.


Also if you can easily support a gluten-free diet here. Vegetarians are very happy here!

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Weather is pretty nice. Warm dry summers, mild winters with rain. Spring and fall are lovely. No one complains about the weather in Israel.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are essentially two schools here for mission dependents. The American school only goes up to grade 7 or 8 and those grades have ridiculously small class sizes so socially there will be some disappointment if your kids are coming from larger schools.


The Anglican school goes up to 12th grade but it is NOT a state-sponsored school due to the religious affiliation to the Anglican Church. It is also an IB school. The class sizes are only slightly better. Still small.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I think that both the American and the Anglican schools work well with IEPs but there are no accommodations made for students who require any sort of advanced academic placement. If you are coming from a school system with a robust gifted and talented program, then you will be disappointed and will have to consider supplementing through other education resources such as the JHU CTY program.

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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?

Yes -- a ton of pre-schools. They are called "Gans" here. Many are conducted in English but you must seek them out through friends/colleagues, etc. They are cheaper than sending your pre-school aged kids to the pre-K programs at the the American and Anglican schools.


There are after school clubs at both schools but no "after school care".

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

This is limited and difficult for families who are reliant on extra-curricular athletics for their children. These are even less available to girls. Some of the after-school clubs at both schools help fill this gap but it is not a robust as one would hope for.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

It is large. There are a great number of consulates and govt organizations and NGOs in play here in Jerusalem in particular. But also of note is the great number of families and individuals who have made Aliyah (immigration of jews to Israel from the diaspora) so there are people from the whole planet here. Morale within this community is good because they are here of their own choice. Diplomats quickly tire of the constant politics and the tension between Israelis and Palestinians -- it seeps into every aspect of life here.

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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?

There is so much to do in Israel -- you can continue whatever your passion is here and thus meet up with like-minded people. The bar scene is robust, the beaches in Tel Aviv are amazing, the historical sites are older than old, the religious sites are literally the holiest of the holy, and since Israel relies so heavily on tourism everything is pretty accessible and the security is top notch.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

All. Singles, young couples, families, you name it -- all find their niche.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes -- Israel is one of the most LGBT tolerant countries in the world. There is a robust LGBT population in Tel Aviv.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Ha! Yes, and if you don't know this then you probably shouldn't bother coming here.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Saturday morning (shabbat) trips to Tel Aviv to hang out at the beach for just a few hours...
Masada. Ambling through the Old City with no real agenda. Shopping in Machane Yehuda for the makings of a great dinner party. Jerusalem Marathon. Tel Aviv Marathon. Any of the parades and festivals in the city when you get to see the full flavor of the city.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Masada. Beaches in Tel Aviv. Take your kids to one of the ten million playgrounds and parks. Day trip to Jericho because it's supposedly the oldest continually inhabited city in the world and because the cable car is so rickety and fun. Sarona Market in Tel Aviv for some sushi or bratwurst followed by a decadent dessert. Lunch at Old Man and the Sea on the boardwalk in Jaffa Port. The movie theater! The speakeasy! Shopping on Umbrella Street for that perfect gift for your aunt!

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Yes. You'll buy stuff here. Even if you swear you won't, you will.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Hmmmm. You are at the heart of Judaism, Christianity (sorry Vatican), and Islam! It's all very fascinating especially if you don't consider yourself married to any of the above three...staying neutral is the key.


Also be prepared for everyone to come visit you... they all come, even the ones you don't want.


Also, Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport has pretty cheap airfare to some parts of Europe - so when you are tired of the tension or the religion, you can escape to Budapest, Cyprus, Turkey, Vienna, Rome, Prague, etc. etc. etc.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

That's a tough one. Israel's quality of life is high. Jerusalem is a fascinating and fun city to live in. The work is rewarding and interesting. But the schools -- knowing what I know now, I would not have come here due to the schooling.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Skis, preconceived notions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, hopes for a palatial villa, and reliance on household help.

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3. But don't forget your:

Cash, rain boots and slicker.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The Koran, the Torah, the Bible. Just kidding.


There are so many. I started with Michener's The Source. DoveKeepers.


I recommend not limiting yourself to only reading books from one side of the conflict. Reading both sides will be more productive and prove more interesting.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Cost of living here is high. You will find yourself bleeding cash in the first few months. and then you'll get used to it but you'll still be bleeding cash!

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Jerusalem, Israel 08/25/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. We've lived in many cities in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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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?

West Coast, usually connecting through JFK - takes about 20 hours or so, including the layover.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2011-2015.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Almost all apartments and almost universally smaller than you'd expect. We had a decent apartment, but it was smaller than our modest house in Northern Virginia. Parks are available, though, and are generally good. Commute time was 10 minutes without traffic (or a 35 minute brisk walk). With traffic, it could rise to about 30 minutes. Housing is pretty scattered.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything is available, but not necessarily all year long. Many fruits and vegetables are seasonal. By and large groceries are expensive.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Less stuff. Storage is a premium in most apartments.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Food of most kinds, but mostly expensive. There are a few cheap options for food (you can find a $2.00 falafel sandwich inside the Muslim quarter (best falafel in the city is 100 m inside Damascus Gate in my opinion), or you can spend $5.00 for a falafel on Jaffa St). Otherwise, things are generally expensive - you can spend $15 for an awful bigmac meal at McDonalds (seriously) or pay $40 for a decent meal at a decent restaurant. You know things are expensive here when you return to D.C. and are amazed at how reasonable prices are when eating out. There is one Indian restaurant in Jerusalem that I know of.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Nothing to write home about. We never had any cockroaches, although we did come across a few scorpions in the apartment.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The U.S Consulate has an adequate gym available.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I very rarely used a credit card or ATM, but plenty of people did. I had two credit cards used without authorization - one the credit card company in the U.S. reimbursed me immediately. I also had a local credit card that had $250 of unauthorized use. The Israeli credit card company did not reimburse me for the unauthorized charges.

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4. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Learning to sound out Hebrew is helpful for grocery shopping to help figure out what is sour cream vs yogurt vs creme fraiche vs whatever else they have.

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5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Jerusalem is a relatively accommodating city when compared with others in the Middle East. Elevators generally work, and most curbs in West Jerusalem are cut to allow wheelchair access.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Public transportation (except for the light rail) is off limits. Taxis are average ($6 to go about 3 miles or so).

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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?

Small is better! However, if you like to go camping in the desert (which is great) bring a 4x4 to gain access to an entire part of the Negev that is inaccessible in a car. If you don't have a 4x4, there are plenty of places you can get to, but you won't get completely off the beaten path. No matter what car you bring, get a back-up sensor installed to help with parking. Car repairs and maintenance in the West part of the city are ridiculously expensive ($200 for an oil change) so either do it yourself or take to East Jerusalem.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Relatively inexpensive (about $30). You can get up to 15mb, but when connecting to the U.S. it drops to 3-4 mbs, which is enough to stream movies but not always crystal clear.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

The hyper competitive cell phone market here has created some great innovations. Golan telecom is cheap - you can also get a U.S. number from them so family in the U.S. can dial the cell directly.

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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?

No, unless you speak Hebrew and have an Israeli passport.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many, but many of those are in Ramallah or elsewhere in the West Bank where you might not be able to travel based on your organization's security policies.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Israelis are very relaxed at work and almost never wear ties. Nearly all of the diplomatic missions in Jerusalem function as the diplomatic representatives of their respective governments to the Palestinians. As such, it's best to conform to Palestinian dress norms, which are more formal (suite and tie for meetings)

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes, of course. It's Jerusalem. By and large, though, as long as you avoid demonstrations there's little to worry about day to day. When violence flares up in the region, it affects Jerusalem. We had sirens from Gaza rockets during two different periods. There was little chance of impacts in Jerusalem, but it does affect the morale and psychology at Post when you have that hanging over your head for weeks at a time.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Decent, but not cheap by non-US standards. Medical care we've received in other Posts has been much cheaper and of better or comparable quality.

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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?

Air quality is pretty good. We didn't have any asthma issues.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Weather in Jerusalem is almost ideal. You have all four seasons, but winter and summer are short. August and September can be hot, but generally it's only miserable for a month or so. Snow is rare, but we had enough snow in each of the years we were there to go sledding at least once (including December 2013 when the snow shut the city down for a week). Spring and Fall are great.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

JAIS is the official school for the U.S. ConGen. JAIS has a great new head of school as of 2014 who has brought positive energy to the school and made some needed decisions to better the overall situation there. Specifically, the school has removed its high school, which was tiny already but sucking up resources that can now better be used for the elementary and middle schools. The school rents space on a separate campus and has one class per grade (in general). Some grades are small. Others come close to about 20 pupils each. The teachers are, by and large, excellent. We've had one that we weren't happy with, but other parents didn't have problems with her.

The other school is the Anglican School (British Curriculum). It has bigger classes, specifically at the higher grades. They own their school facilities and have a fairly nice sports field (which JAIS lacks). If you have a high school student, you would send them here.

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2. 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?

Yes. There are both neighborhood preschools (Gans) and private ones at the YMCA or at JAIS or the Anglican School. Cost is the same as in the U.S.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Somewhat. If you're kid is into soccer, there is a Saturday expat soccer group that meets and has teams for kids of all ages. Ballet and gymnastics are also available, both in the complex underneath Teddy Stadium and in some of the neighborhood community centers (those will largely be taught in Hebrew). One family also had their pre-teen participate in English-language plays put on a by a semi-professional group.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Enormous and mixed. Speaking from the perspective of the U.S. diplomatic personnel here, the work at the ConGen is relentless - especially in some of the sections. Constant VIP trips, outbreaks of conflict, a demoralized local Palestinian population that appreciates our support but is frustrated with our policies, and normally long hours wear on you. On the flip side, it is amazing to be working on issues of central importance to so many and the (little) progress that is made in addressing some of these long-standing issues keeps people motivated and willing to take on even more.

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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?

Eating out, visiting sites, going to the park, going to the beach, camping, visiting homes, etc...

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes for all. Great place for young families (with elementary and preschool aged kids). Those with older kids have a mixed bag - because public transportation is still off-limits for official Americans, and older kids either need to taxi (which gets expensive), get driven around (which gets old), or be able/willing to bike around (which is increasingly do-able - more and more Israelis in Jerusalem use electric bikes to get around). That said, older kids would probably appreciate the uniqueness of living in a city like Jerusalem with its tensions and history.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Seems to be at least doable. My gay colleagues had a great community of support in the local gay scene. That said, Jerusalem is a very religiously conservative city, and gay and lesbians here face discrimination and harrassment (including violence at times).

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. All three. It wears on you. The key is to get out of the city and recharge.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

There is always something to see and do here, both in Jerusalem and in Israel or the Palestinian territories. There are numerous Israeli national parks that warrant multiple visits, including many that aren't necessarily historical but that have natural beauty - Gan Hashlosha, Yehudit Nature Reserve, Maktesh Ramon, all of the Negev, numerous beaches (Dor Habonim - where there's great camping as long as you don't go from Friday to Saturday), etc... When you tire of dealing with what can be a rather abrasive Israeli culture, you can head to Bethlehem or Jericho to visit historical sites or get some great Arabic food. Aqaba is about a four hour drive away - Petra and Wadi Rum are a little bit further but also really accessible. You won't lack for things to do.

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7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Jerusalem is one of a kind. It has tons to offer in terms of both its historical sites as well as the central (and outsized) role it plays in modern foreign policy.

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8. Can you save money?

Yes, due to the various differentials (COLAs, hardship, language pay, etc..). Otherwise, it would be hard - there are plenty of things to spend money on and nothing here is cheap.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

The need for a small car. We brought a large one and sold it after about 6 months to purchase a smaller one.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. The family enjoyed it and it was great to be here a time when the peace process was active. That said, I'm glad I'm moving on.

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Jerusalem, Israel 08/13/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No - many other expat experiences in Middle East, Europe, and Latin America

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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?

~14 hours to the east coast of the U.S.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2013-2015

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing for families with kids were generally great. Nice big apartments, often with a view of the old city and/or a huge patio. Apartments for singles and couples without kids was a mixed bag. They were usually much smaller, though some were in a nice location.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are expensive. Expect to pay at least ~30 percent more than in the U.S. Fresh fruits and vegetables are not taxed, so they are a little better. There are lots of supermarkets, though they are often a little run-down by U.S. standards and the local staff is often gruff. There are many interesting Israeli foods that are worth trying.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Kids' birthday party presents. You can find almost anything, but it will be at least 30 percent more in Israel than the U.S., so its advisable to stock up on a lot of things to save money.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Lots of good food (though Tel Aviv is the best).
- Best upscale restaurants: Machane Yehuda, Mona, Smadar, Colony, Culinary Workshop, Notre Dame (mostly for the wine and view)
- Best medium-priced restaurants: P3 (best Pizza), Azzahra, Armenian Tavern
- Best cheap spots: Aroma (Israel's starbuck's equivalent), Lina's (old city), Abu Shukri (old city), Iwo's (non-kosher burger place)

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

We had a lot of little ants on our patio that were attracted to our plants. We had to call someone once to get rid of them, but overall not bad. At least not many big scary bugs.

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Daily Life:

1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The consulate I worked in had a gym that was underground, but had everything necessary to have a decent workout. I tried the YMCA gym but it was too small and crowded, and the changing rooms were grimy. There's a fancy one in Mamilla mall that costs around ~US$100

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Lots of atms and easy to use credit cards. Use cash in Machane Yehuda (food market) and old city.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

A lot I would imagine.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It is amazing how many people in Jerusalem speak excellent english. However, you will enjoy your time much more, and appreciate Israeli culture more, if you learn hebrew. At least learn the alphabet.

Arabic is a great language and will open doors as well, but it is really hard, and the local dialect is different from Modern Standard Arabic. Most Palestinians in Jerusalem speak decent Hebrew.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, especially in the older parts of the city.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Don't take buses or trains. The taxis are safe but not exactly cheap (similar to DC prices - maybe a little more).

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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?

Your car is likely to get dinged up, so don't bring something too nice. It is often difficult to find parking in Jerusalem, and nearly impossible in Tel Aviv without paying for a lot.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Our internet was dsl and not that fast, but other buildings may have better wiring. The price was reasonable.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Golan is cheap and has a package that gives you free calling to the US.

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Pets:

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?

No quarantine. There was a fair bit of paperwork, but I don't remember the details as my spouse filled it out.

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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 really, unless you have fluent Hebrew. There is a glut of many talented professionals - e.g. lawyers and psychologists - so even if you have the language it may not be a guarantee. Salaries are often at least 50% lower than the U.S. Also, if you are there with the USG, spouses can't travel to the West Bank, which seriously limits job and volunteer prospects all the more.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Israelis are quite casual. Decent pants and a button up shirt are fine for most meetings. I started off wearing suits, and quickly learned to dress more casually so I wouldn't stand out.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

There is a terrorist attack once every few weeks. Most are small scale (e.g. stabbings or vehicle attacks on pedestrians). They are definitely concerning, but when you factor in the low murder rate, the overall risk of a violent death in Jerusalem is lower than in many other places in the world. My family and I felt safe, though there are certainly neighborhoods we avoided.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Great medical care. Lots of good doctors with prices that are maybe 40% of U.S. prices. We found a bunch of great english-speaking doctors (GP and specialists) in a building called "Kiryat Wolfson" (most located on the third floor). Medicine is also 40% of cost in the U.S.

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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?

Great. Jerusalem doesn't have much industry and the city small by global standards (~800k people for the entire metro area) so there is not much pollution in the air

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Israel is a great place to be lactose-intolerant (you can just eat at the meat-kosher places) or lacto-vegetarian (avoid the meat-kosher). Plenty of vegan options.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Beautiful spring and fall. Summer is okay until late June, but July-August are pretty hot. But there is little humidity, so the temperature drops at night and it is much more comfortable than Tel Aviv (or DC). Winter can get cold, but it's much better than DC. It used to snow quite infrequently, but due to climate change, there have been some big snowfalls. It only rains in ~November through April/May.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Don't know - our kid was too little. I never heard anyone complain about the school situation.

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2. 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?

We LOVED our daycare - the Peace Preschool at the YMCA. Instruction is in Arabic and Hebrew and the teachers are both Arab and Jewish. The parents there were all very cool, open-minded people. We will really miss that place.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large and varied. There is a huge U.S. expat community, mostly Jewish. I would say 3/4 employees and families affiliated with my consulate liked the Post. 1/4 did not like it, generally because of 1) rudeness on the roads and in public spaces, 2) ethnic/religious tension, and/or 3) their apartment was in a remote, bad location.

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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?

I like to go to Machane Yehuda at night - it is lively and there are a lot of bars. There is a fun speakeasy downtown called 'Gatsby'. There was a fun music club near us called the Yellow Submarine. Overall it is not a big party city. The city is more orientated towards families, and partiers head to Tel Aviv.

Be warned the city is quite dead on shabbat (Friday night to saturday night). The few restaurants that are open are often overpriced and/or packed.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

In general, good for all of the above, though I have heard from some non-jewish singles that it was hard to find long-term dating material because of the religion issue. This is an ideal city for families - people have a LOT of kids in jerusalem (the average fertility rate in the city is 5.4) so many things are geared towards children. No one will bat an eye in a restaurant if your baby starts crying.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There are many religiously conservative people in Jerusalem and there is a lot of intolerance towards homosexuality. Two weeks ago an Israeli terrorist stabbed 6 people at a pride pride. However, I will say that I had several gay friends (diplomats) and they all loved the post. Tel Aviv is a very gay friendly city and they traveled there frequently (it's only an hour with no traffic). Also, I think they found solidarity among fellow gay people (Jewish and Palestinian) who faced intolerance.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. Individuals of Arab or Muslim descent are likely to experience significant prejudice in West Jerusalem, and Israel in general. There is a lot of anger and hatred in this city, and sometimes it gets to you, no matter how happy-go-lucky of a person you may be.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

1) The view of the Old City and surrounding hills from our home
2) Getting to know every nook and cranny in the Old City
3) Palestinian hospitality
4) Going to Tel Aviv all the time
5) Day trips to hike or visit archeological sites

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

In addition to the things mentioned above, I recommend:
1) Hiking around Wadi Kelt, Ein Gedi, Mitspe Dragot, Wadi Og
2) Explore the desert in including sde boker and makhatesh ramon, gadol, and qatan.
3) Masada.
4) The Golan and Galillee for visiting vineyards, ancient sites (like Beit Shean), swimming in the Sea of Galilee, hiking, and view of Syria. We liked the town of sfat a lot - just don't go on shabbat.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Most of the unique items are made by Palestinians (including Judaica), there are great ceramics (mostly made in Hebron), olive wood products, and Palestinian embroidery.

There is a lot of cheap junk sold in the old city that is chinese-made.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

1) Great food. Israeli cuisine combines middle eastern and european food and is delicious and not tooo unhealthy.
2) Fascinating city and country - politically, historically, culturally. There are many natural and historical sites to visit in close proximity. You can cover 2/3 of Israel on a day trip.
3) Tel Aviv is a fun, cosmopolitan city with nice beaches, good restaurants, and beautiful people
4) Nice weather - not too humid
5) Walkable, low-crime

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10. Can you save money?

With the additional hardship and danger pay, and the COLA and tax rebate, we should have saved a lot. But things are expensive and money seemed to disappear as fast as it came in.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

There is a lot of history here - you'd be foolish to come here for a tour and not do some background reading beforehand. People who are shy or very polite need to be prepared for a culture where people are very direct, and do not say thank you. Many people are wonderful and helpful, but you often have to get through a prickly exterior.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, I doubt I will have a tour this interesting professionally or personally in a long time.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Belief that you can heal the world. The animosities here are deep-seated, and the political environment can often be very frustrating. If you come here with a healthy dose of cynicism, you will be better off. The tension and security situation seems to get worse in the summer.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Jerusalem: The Biography,

- A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, and "The Source" (not all that accurate, but fun nonetheless)

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5. Do you have any other comments?

This is a great place, just come prepared for a culture in which you need to be a little pushy, and don't expect the local population's animosities to disappear anytime soon.

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Jerusalem, Israel 05/13/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, we lived in England for three years before this.

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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?

Newark. To Jerusalem it was about 10-11 hours. Flying back to the States could take anywhere from 12-14 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 years

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Husband's work

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

When we stayed here, we lived in a very tiny apartment. The apartments we visited were average sized.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything here seemed really expensive. I saw a box of cereal for about US$12. Fresh fruit and veggies depending on the kind and can be relatively inexpensive unless they are shipped in. The butchers are awesome and chicken and beef are fairly priced. You will have a larger grocery bill no matter what though - so be prepared..:)

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Bacon, no just kidding...Not really sure on this because you can find pretty much anything if you know where to look. Toothpicks and Qtips are a MUST! You will not find any quality ones there!

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

The food here is again "AMAZING!" There are some fast food places, McDonald's (kosher), Dominos (the sauce is different from the States so the taste is a lot different as well) and maybe another one or two but they are really not worth it. If you are going to do it, do it right and find the good places to eat! Facasia's was our favorite and was open on Shabbat. Eating out is pretty pricey. For two people to eat someplace nice it was around US$100.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not really any. Some ants in apartments; sometimes and flies but other than that no real issues.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO and Pouch; things take a little while so don't think one week will cut it when ordering things.

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

I never used them but I know they are available. Not sure of the cost.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We used ATM all the time with no problems. Not all places take credit cards so it is just easier to carry cash.

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4. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You don't really NEED to know any but it would get you farther if you did. The people here can be really mean if you don't know Hebrew. I have had people get downright nasty with me when I told them I could not speak Hebrew!

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5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I would think they would - yes. The sidewalks are not always great and traffic is chaos.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are fine but we never really used anything else. They are not too expensive either.

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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?

Do not take a new car if you can help it. We had a small (think old Kia sportage) 4 wheel drive that was perfect. The only problems you will find is that the heat will really get to the cars. Drivers here are all over and don't seem to pay too much attention. They park wherever and don't seem to be too concerned with little knicks and bumps.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes it is..not sure of costs but I do not believe it was much.

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Pets:

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?

Pet care is pretty good. Our dog did not have to be quarantined. The vet we took her to was awesome!

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Normal dress for public.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Just keep an eye out like you do in the States. I felt pretty safe here, even with my children. I walked at night by myself in well-lit areas and never felt threatened. I know there are some places that are not as safe as others. You learn where they are pretty quickly.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

I was told not to go in the water without Hep A shots..:) Other than that I was not concerned at all. Medical care was pretty good. We did not have a doctor at the consulate at that time so we used doctors on the economy and they were very nice.

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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?

The air quality seemed pretty good. There were sandstorms on occasion so if you have allergies you may just want to come prepared.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Climate felt like a normal four season year for the most part. We had a sort of spring, definitely summer, cooler fall and some snow in winter. When it was warm, it was very warm. Not too humid though. We saw snow in winter but it never stayed too long.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There were only two available that we know of and only used one. Our son was not thrilled with the school and I am not sure if I was either. The classrooms were small which was nice but it seemed like he was bringing more work home to learn than he was doing at school.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

None that I am aware of.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There are but you will have a hard time outside the schools finding English speaking ones. At least we really did.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Eh this is a tough one....the size was medium. Morale could use a little work. People either seemed happy here or were just ready to get out. A majority did not like it here.

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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?

Picnics in the park, there are socials for wives and there was a wonderful Expat group that was amazing to be a part of. There are plenty of bars and dance clubs if you are into that kind of thing.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It can be a good city for any/all I suppose but I know a lot of the families were not happy here. We were not real happy here either. The city for all its wonderful attributes is not a welcoming place to outsiders. Nor does it offer enough to keep one occupied for three + years. Two years would be great here. I have heard great things about the nightlife for singles, though.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Not sure they would mind as long as it was not overly advertised.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Oh yeah, there are definite prejudices here. You will hear all about it from perfect strangers.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Seeing things I thought I would only ever hear about. Visiting and floating in the Dead Sea, The Old City, the museums here hold some amazing items that can only be seen here. Visiting outside the city. Traveling to Jordan. The beaches..:)

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

They have an awesome zoo that we spent a lot of time in. Restaurants! They may be expensive here but the food is amazing! The fountains are great for the kids to cool off in hot weather. If you get the chance to just wander in the city...do it, you can find all kinds of cute little nooks and crannies here.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Oh my what can't you get! Olive wood carvings, tiles, pottery, scarves, jewelry, glassware, you can find something new almost everywhere! Hookahs! You have to get a Hookah!

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Lots to do in and out of the city. There always seemed to be something going on and the history alone will keep you busy.

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10. Can you save money?

I guess you could...but again everything is expensive!

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

If the tour was shorter maybe...but thinking about it now, no.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter gear for the most part. Hunger for most things non kosher....

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3. But don't forget your:

Good attitude because you are going to need it...:) Sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, beach gear...anything warm weather related!

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Jerusalem, Israel 03/31/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, I've also been to Baghdad, Iraq.

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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?

Direct flights from Tel Aviv to Newark (United) or to Philadelphia (US Airways). Direct flight is about 11 hours in length.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years - from 2012-2014.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Work at the U.S. Consulate Jerusalem.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Consulate housing is typical condos located in several areas within the city. A few larger families have houses. It's very rare to have any yard. Residences are typically located in City Center (5-10 minute walk to Consulate), near Consular Facility in Arnona, or in East Jerusalem with a few other residences scattered throughout the city.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything is very expensive here. You will spend a fortune on groceries and household items. A box of cereal is about US$8 compared to US$4 in the States. American brands are more expensive. A typical dinner for two with drinks will cost you about US$125.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Ship as much cleaning supplies, tolietry items, non-perishable food as you can. You most likely will not find all of your favorite brands and items are expensive.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Israel/Jerusalem has very few American businesses here. Only American brands you will find are KFC in Bethlehem, McDonald's (kosher), Pizza Hut, and Dominoes. There are many shwarma and schniztel places where you can grab something quick.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Nothing out of the ordinary. Small ants within apartments so it's good to have ant traps handy.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Use DPO/pouch. Sometimes it's a very quick turn-around, less than a week, when sent "Priority." Sending back to the U.S. takes twice as long.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The Consulate does have a new gym located in the basement of the Consular facility in Arnona which is 2 miles from the City Center. There are also private gyms where you can get memberships and some of the hotels downtown have memberships to use gym and pool area. These are typically very pricey about US$100+ for an individual.

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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?

Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMS are safe to use.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Notre Dame offers English Catholic mass.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Everyone pretty much speaks English here but unfortunately everything is written in Hebrew or Arabic which can be frustrating.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Sidewalks are constructed with Jerusalem stone and are very slippery. Some handicaped parking spots can be found. Handicapped accessible doors are very rare.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Buses are off limits to USG personnel. Taxis and trains can be used.

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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?

Any type of car is suitable but be forewarned if you bring something with larger than normal tires or with lift kits, you will have a difficult time registering it. Small cars are great for the tight streets and parking spots, but honestly having a SUV 4WD has worked out perfectly for traveling on bad roads, unimproved terrain, and I have had no issues parking it in parking garages or parking spots on the street. Do not bring anything new unless it won't bother you to get scrapes and door dings. Every car here is beat up.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes thru Bezeq or Al Quds at reasonable costs.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring your phone and just buy a SIM card to use here. Cost is about US$25 a month.

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Pets:

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?

No quarantine but it's advised to bring your pets with you on your flight or you will have to pay customs import fees. No fees other than airline charges if pets travel with a diplomat.

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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 really unless you can also speak Hebrew fluently.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business Attire at work. In public, Israelis tend to dress very casual even to more formal events such as weddings and Bar Mitvahs.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Chief of Mission personnel are not allowed to use public buses. Taxis, Sheruts, and light rail are all allowed. Sometimes security situations dictate movement restrictions to the West Bank (offical business and personal travel to approved areas-Jericho & Bethlehem).

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Quality of medical care is standard. The Herzliya Medical Center north of Tel Aviv will also take Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance.

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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 most of the time. Occasionally there will be sand storms that blow in. There are some allergens here so if you are easily affected by allergies, bring your allergy meds.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Very typical Mediterrean climate. Jerusalem sits up high in elevation so it is usually 10 degrees (F) cooler than in Tel Aviv. Very low humidity as well compared to Tel Aviv. Summers temps are in the 80s-90s F. Winters are typically low 50's F. Snow does happen, it snowed both winters since we've been here.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Most children of Consulate employees attend the Jerusalem American International School (JAIS) or Angelican International School Jerusalem (AISJ).

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

Yes, many use YMCA preschool which is located behind the Consulate

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large expat community as there are also many dual citizens here as well. Morale is good.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It is good for everyone. Plenty of things to see and do to keep singles entertained as well as families. Tel Aviv is just a 45-minute drive away if the Jerusalem night life is found to be lacking. There is a small handful of non-kosher bars and restaurants that are open on Shabbat.

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3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Probably not since Jerusalem is full of relegious Israelis that would frown on gay/lesbians. Tel Aviv has a very vibrant community though and seems to be very tolerant.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Prejudice is very prevelant here in Jerusalem, more geared towards religious and cultural. Israelis are very supiscious of Arabs and it shows. There is always an underlying tension here. Also Israelis are not very open to outsiders and very hard to break the divide.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Mediterrean beach, convenience to visit Jordan (Petra, Jerash, Wadi Rum, Dead Sea, Aqaba), great hiking, exploring Crusader castles, visiting historical and biblical sites.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Walking through the Old City, Temple Mount tours provided by the Consulate, hiking at Wadi Qelt.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Hebron glass and ceramics, vintage photos from the early 20th century/late 19th century of Old City, scarves, olive wood carvings, Palestinian olive oil, and dead sea spa products.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The amount of history at your finger tips is amazing! The weather is very comfortable and the fact that you can visit the beach, 45 minutes away is fantastic too. Easy access to visit Jordan. Easy to get to anywhere in Europe with a 3-4 hour flight.

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9. Can you save money?

If you are single then yes but you will still spend a lot of money on food, entertainment, and travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I had known how few American brands there are here. Jordan is more westernized than Israel. I wish I had studied up on more Hebrew to be able to read store signs

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, while it has been frusrating to watch the world revolve around this place, it's still a great place in which to have lived and worked.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Your ideas that this is a city full of love and tolerance for everyone because it's the Holy City. It's not - lots of prejudices here. Leave behind your brand new car and fancy clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Beach attire and beach toys!

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Any travel books relating to Jordan, Petra, Israel, Jerusalem, Old City.

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Jerusalem, Israel 08/02/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, Taipei, Buenos Aires, and Shenyang China.

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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, Newark, Tel Aviv, about 16 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Mostly apartments, very, very small, with no closets. We somehow managed to fit our king-size bed but you literally open the door, and walk into the bed. Most have balconies or patios. Some people who live further away get bigger houses with patios or balconies. Commute depends on where you live, but during rush hour it can go between 25 to 45 minutes to get to downtown.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can find almost anything here, but again, expect to pay 2 or 3 times more. A box of Barilla pasta costs between US$4 to 5. Fresh produce can be good quality but there's not so much variety. The fruits in season are very very good and you can find amazing pomegranates. One thing you have to be aware of is that last year there was some information released to the Consulate community about Israel's pesticide use being one of the highest in Western countries with pesticides that are banned in Europe. See report here:
http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/green-group-says-105-pesticides-taint-israeli-fruit-and-vegetables-1.475432

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Children's food, clothes, favorite snacks, etc. You can always order on Amazon if you need them but again, there's almost everything but expensive and sometimes local brands do not taste the same, like for example tomato sauce.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

KFC in Bethlehem and Ramallah, McDonald's, Dominos pizza, other local chains. There are nice high-end restaurants with good food, mostly local cuisine some French and Italian. Forget about Asian and Mexican. Everything is expensive here.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Ants are everywhere!

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The fastest DPO ever.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Between US$10 to 20 an hour. People sometimes bring domestic help from third countries.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, but very expensive.

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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?

Not really a problem, unless you go to the fresh produce market or small stores.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, English at least for Christians.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes for newspaper. Cable I've heard only shows programs 3 year old programs.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Tons. A lot of cobblestone, construction going on, roads blocked by cars just parked on the sidewalk, crazy fast drivers who don't really look. A lot of stairs and definitely not a lof ot ramps.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

We are not allowed to ride on local buses, the light rail is pretty good and taxis are pretty reasonable and for the most part safe. Make sure they turn the meter on though before you go.

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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?

Small or one you don't worry about getting a little damaged.There are limitations on what cars you can bring in.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, quite expensive but pretty good.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

We get one through work so I can't really tell.

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Pets:

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?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes.

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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?

Teaching I think. There are a few jobs within the Consulate but nothing too exciting.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Pretty casual. People here are stuck in the 80s.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

I've never felt unsafe and have never heard of petty crimes. There were a few burglars on expats' housings, people climbing onto 2nd floor apartments when people are away or asleep. Most of the concerns are on a bigger scale, like missile and bombs threats. All housing has a built-in bomb shelter somewhere. We are not allowed to travel to the West Bank (except Bethlehem and Jericho, sometimes) unless it's for official purposes and only in armored vehicles.

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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 and available.

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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?

Generally good, but there are dust and sand storms which has caused more than one of us to have sinus infections.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Very hot and dry during the day and breezy at night most year round. Winter can get a bit cold but never too bad. Always dry though. A lot of people (locals and expats) seem to have all sorts of allergies.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are several options and all seem to be very good, like the Anglican school and Alliance Francaise.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

Forget about U.S. standards of cleanliness which you'll not find here. The YMCA offers a pretty good curriculum including swimming, art and music for toddlers but only in Hebrew and Arabic. Expensive though.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, at school and at the YMCA or there are other local clubs, but again, very expensive.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Big.

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2. Morale among expats:

I'd say OK. The constant tension wears on you after a while. People are very rude and pushy here, it's the "Me first" rule, so that can get tiring. The way to do this without going insane is get out of Jerusalem on the weekends and travel as much as you can outside the country.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Nothing too exciting. I've never really seen many new released movies coming this way, there are a bunch of outdoor activities, concerts and such but all in Hebrew. Nightlife opportunities are pretty slim, except for a bunch of bars and clubs. Again Tel Aviv is close by.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Definitely good for families. There are tons of playgrounds and green spaces everywhere, tons of day trips, etc. Singles find it a bit harder specially to date because of religious barriers. A lot drive to Tel Aviv on the weekend since it's only 45 minutes away.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

You definitely do not see them in the open, it's a rather conservative and religious place, with tons of pilgrims and religious tourism but I know there's some. Again, Tel Aviv is very close.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

BINGO! Tension, tension tension is ever present in the air. As one of my LES colleagues put it: "people here are too busy hating each other and being angry". You have the 3 major monotheist religious groups here but there are divisions among each one of them too. Then you have Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza, Armenians, Russians, Ethiopian Jews and Christians, etc, etc, etc all living in close quarters, fighting over who gets what land and who gets the what holy site for each religion, etc. It is fascinating and draining at the same time.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Visiting all those places you read about in the Bible, history books, etc. This might be the only place you'll find a church on one side, the holocaust center on the other and nestled in between a Muslim cementery all within steps of each other.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Visiting, sightseeing within Jerusalem, Israel, and the surrounding countries. The beach and the desert are only an hour away from each other.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Olive wood products in Bethlehem, some beautiful jewelry and furniture. Amazing Palestinian and Armenian pottery.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It's Jerusalem, tons of places to visit, rich in history and culture, a very interesting and unique place. There's always somewhere to go and since it's relatively small, you can do daytrips pretty much all over the place. It's also easy to fly to various destinations in Europe, Middle East and North Africa.

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11. Can you save money?

Some.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Thought that you are coming to the Holy city. This is as unholy as it can get. People here are racist, intolerant and angry. All the "religious" people are hating people from other "religions."

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle and Helge Dascher.
Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Living in the face of constant tension and seeing injustice everyday is tiring. Even our colleagues who live in Tel Aviv, 45 minutes away cannot understand what life is like for some Palestinians under occupation and discrimination.

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Jerusalem, Israel 07/28/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is not my first expat experience. I have also lived in other cities in the Middle East, as well as Latin America and South Asia.

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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?

My home base is the east coast of the United States. A non-stop flight from Newark or New York City takes approximately 12 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I have been living in Jerusalem since the summer of 2011.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I work at the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most people live in apartments, although homes are available in certain older neighborhoods in the center of the city or in newer developments on the fringes of the city. Traffic can be significant during peak hours, but it is also easy to walk or take public transportation, such as the light rail.

Most diplomatic missions and NGOs scramble to rent houses or apartments in East Jerusalem for political reasons. As a result, rents are artificially elevated there even though the quality of housing is lower, in general, and the municipality provides only spotty public services.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can find nearly everything here, with a few small grocery stores specializing in imported products. Prices are comparable to western Europe, probably due in part to the 18% VAT, which diplomats can get refunded. Fruits and vegetables are not as expensive, and they are generally high quality. Breads, pastries, and prepared coffee is particularly good here.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

There is no need to bring anything if you have access to diplomatic mail. If you don't, bring kid or baby items since they are generally expensive here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are few international fast food chains, although McDonald's is here. Most restaurants in Jerusalem are cafes that are part of Israeli chains. The quality is generally high. There are also a few higher-end restaurants, but Tel Aviv has many, many more. An average meal at one of the higher end restaurants will cost as much as a meal in Washington, DC.

The vast majority of Jerusalem restaurants are kosher, which means that they serve only dairy products or only meat products. Moreover, they are closed on Shabbat, which runs from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. There are about 10-15 quality non-kosher restaurants in West Jerusalem that ignore these rules, but this small scene can feel monotonous after awhile, especially since most of the restaurants are owned by a few conglomerates.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Insect problems are minimal since this is a desert environment. Occasionally there are mosquitos in the summer, but that depends on where you live in the city.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I use the military postal system or the diplomatic pouch. DPO mail arrives in around one week and pouch in just short of three weeks.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Some Palestinians provide cleaning or childcare services, but you generally must be able to speak Arabic to communicate with them. Foreign domestic workers cost more but are widely available. The minimum monthly wage is around US$1,000/month, but it is difficult to obtain visas, unless you are a diplomat. Most domestic workers care for elderly Israelis, and they generally may not stay for more than five years.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are several gyms open to the public in the center of town, but I understand that they charge exorbitant prices.

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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?

Both are commonly and widely used.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I think so, but I don't really know. I know there are Anglican and Mormon services in English, and I'm sure there are others, as well. Most local Christians attend services in Arabic. I'm sure all Muslim services are in Arabic, and I assume that is the case for Jewish services, as well, although it appears that some synagogues have predominantly English-speaking members.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There are two major local papers in English: Ha'aretz and the Jerusalem Post. The local cable packages have some English channels, I think, although I don't have cable or satellite. Arab satellite service is widely available.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can get by with English with no problem. Obviously, the more Arabic or Hebrew you know, the better off you are. Neither language is that easy for English speakers to learn, although Hebrew is probably simpler. Palestinian Arabic resembles other Levantine dialects.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Recent renovations to roads and sidewalks in the city center have greatly increased its accessibility, but this is an old city that was not built with the handicapped in mind. Remember that it is also built on a series of hills.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

They are safe, except when they blow up. U.S. diplomats are not permitted to take public busses for this reason, although they can ride the light rail, take shared taxi busses (sheruts), and normal taxis.

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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?

The best options are small to mid-sized European or Japanese models, although service is available for most makes now. Fords are also widely driven. Gasoline is twice as expensive as in the U.S., although diplomats can buy it at approximately half-price due to tax exemptions. I would not recommend SUVs since gas is expensive and parking spaces are generally small.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, internet infrastructure is pretty good. 10 MB/s costs around US$50/month, although competition seems to be driving prices lower.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

The Israeli cell market has major competition now, so shop around to get a great deal. The most you should expect to pay is around US$50 a month for a full data package.

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Pets:

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?

No. They never even looked at our cat's papers.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

No idea, although I see pet shops and vets. Some friends kept their dogs at a kennel between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv when they would travel.

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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?

There are plenty of international aid workers. You generally must speak Hebrew to work locally otherwise.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Israelis are generally informal and rarely wear suits and ties. Most people in Jerusalem dress relatively conservatively, although some do as they wish. I recommend wearing "modest" clothes if you decide to go to a religious Jewish neighborhood or wander through East Jerusalem.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Street crime is negligible. The main concern is political or ethnic violence, especially mass terrorist attacks against civilians by Palestinian extremists. There are been no significant attacks in the city for several years, but terrorism could return with political tension. There are also occasional ethnic attacks, such as violent attacks and intimidation by extremist Jews against Arabs or those they assume to be Arabs.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The level of health care is very high, as long as you have the money to pay privately to skip the queues that most Israelis endure.

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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?

The air quality is generally excellent because Jerusalem is built on a mountain that has a steady wind. Once or twice a year, a major sandstorm will blow in from the desert.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

During the summer, temperatures generally top in the low 90s Fahrenheit, but the heat is dry and the temperature falls into the 70s at night. There is also a nice breeze most of the summer. The rainy season is in the winter, and it can drizzle for several days on end, but the overall rainfall is low. Winters are cool, and temperatures can reach into the 60s during the day, although snow falls once every several years. The sun is out nearly every day.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Most people send their children to one of two schools: the Anglican School and the American School. I don't have school-age children, so I can't offer much insight into the pros and cons of either school.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

Nearly all Israeli children go to daycare, and local daycares are spread throughout the city. The cost is low by U.S. standards, but most programs are in Hebrew (in West Jerusalem) or Arabic (in East Jerusalem). It is possible to hire nannies, but you most earn more than the U.S. minimum wage and it is complicated to obtain a work visa for most of them due to increasingly strict visa rules.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Don't know. It's not a big sports culture, though, aside from soccer. Space is also at a premium in the city center.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Moderate. There are many Jewish-American immigrants, but they tend to not mix with non-Jewish expats. Most Palestinian-American expats live in the West Bank and face difficulty entering Jerusalem. There is a sizable community of foreign expat aid workers and diplomats who live in Jerusalem and work in the West Bank.

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2. Morale among expats:

Seems to be pretty good. Life is easy here, although see the section above on the problems that singles face. Some people allow the local political conflict to poison their outlook, and others find the aggressiveness of Israelis to be unbearable. It's best to not get too invested in the conflict and try to ignore the aggression at the market and on the street, which can be tiring.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

See the section above on socializing.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a city for couples or families, not singles. Most families seem to be happy, but singles consistently complain of a lack of social outlets and the difficulty of meeting possible partners. Palestinian culture is relatively conservative, and the majority of Jews in Jerusalem are also conservative. Bars and nightlife exist, but they cannot compare to the scene in Tel Aviv. Jewish expats seem to have no problem meeting people to date. On the bright side, the international expat community has gotten larger over the years due to the number of NGO workers in the West Bank.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

As noted above, Tel Aviv is the place to be for singles or gays and lesbians. There are plenty of gays and lesbians in Jerusalem, but it is a conservative city without much of an overt scene.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Absolutely. Most Jewish Israelis in Jerusalem are conservative and nationalistic. Same goes for most Palestinians in East Jerusalem. All of the logical results, including occasional violent clashes, ensue from time to time. The city has a lot to offer, but it also has the underlying tension of a place struggled over by two peoples.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Exploring the Old City and the nooks and crannies of West Jerusalem, hiking in the Galilee, and popping down to Tel Aviv to go to the beach or explore Jaffa on the weekends.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Explore the city, eat, hike, go to the beach an hour away, visit wineries.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Armenian pottery. Bedouin rugs. Tasty wine from micro-wineries.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

There are many great things about living in Jerusalem. It cannot be topped for history, if that is your thing, the weather is great (dry, cool in the evening, not too cold in the winter), the food and produce is fresh and tasty, the city is relatively kid-friendly, and the municipality has done a lot to improve the general aesthetic quality of life over the last few years. Moreover, it is one of the few places where significant Israeli and Palestinian populations exist, so you can take advantage of the best aspects of both cultures.

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11. Can you save money?

Not really. The cost of living is generally on par with Europe.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely. I worked here at the end of the '90s and vowed never to return due to the political tension. I chose to ignore politics this time, and that freed me up to enjoy all the great things about being here. If you're a U.S. diplomat, you also get a ton of allowances for serving here.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Hmmmm....ski clothes? That's not even true since you can ski in the Golan heights. This place has a wide range of climates and activities.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience. Don't let yourself get dragged into the local conflict. It will just just poison your time here, and you won't change the status quo in any way.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Israel has a strong film industry. Pretty much anything should help educate you.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

There are too many to name: Jerusalem, a Biography; Bitter Lemons;....the list goes on and on.

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Jerusalem, Israel 02/23/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

3rd after Mexico, Tunisia and Jerusalem.

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2. How long have you lived here?

3 years.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Spouse of a Foreign Service Officer.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Delta airlines from Telaviv to Atlanta, about 14 hours.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Mostly apartments in east Jerusalem (Arab zone), maybe the housing is not that good, but the people is more friendly. In West Jerusalem maybe you can get a better housing, but people is not gentle at all. Don't expect a big closet and a lot of storage place, some of the apartments in Frechhill are old but big, the average is 3 bedrooms for a family with 2 kids. The people who live in David Village don't even need a car, but the other people need it.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

As expensive or more so than some of European countries.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Baby stuff. The baby things here are very expensive and not of good quality. Gerber for babies: baby formula here is kosher and not good. Toys, clothes.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All of them, but most of them are Kosher, no peperoni pizza or cheeseburgers.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We have APO and an address in Virginia.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Yes, most of them are from the Philipines. They are good. You have to sponsor them and is really expensive, about US$950 to 1000 per month, 8 hours Monday to Friday. The insurance is US$400 to 600 per year.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, they are good but expensive.

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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?

No problems. Credit cards are accepted everywhere.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, a lot. Most Anglicans go to St. George Cathedral, close to the American Colony hotel. For Catholics, the Notre dame center is really good.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Everyone speaks English, and everything is in English.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

A lot, there are no sidewalks and most of the buildings do not have elevators.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

We are not allowed to take buses, and taxis are really expensive.

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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?

We have a GM and have had some problems with parts.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, the same as in the States, if you want wireless you need to buy the apple stuff.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

They are good and not too expensive.

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Pets:

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?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Good.

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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?

Yes, there are plenty of jobs for EFMs in the consulate.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

No shorts or miniskirts in Jerusalem. In Tel Aviv, it is much more like in the States.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

The same as in the States.

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

In 3 years, only 2 terrorist attacks here, and about 4 dead. It is not to bad, but we cannot go to the West Bank, or of course to Gaza. The consulate overprotects us a lot.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical quality is very good; the hospitals are not very confortable, you have to share room and bathroom. The nurses are very unfriendly, but the doctors are good.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

In the summer it is very hot, about 90 F. or even 100 F., in winter rainy and windy.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

Yes, in English they have Augusta Victoria and Sunshine School, and people really like them.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large, friendly, and close each other.

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2. Morale among expats:

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are some restaurants, but as every thing here they are expensive. The single people prefer to go to Tel Aviv. The international community is big.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think is good for families, if They don't want to travel frequently to the States, because the airplane for young kids is difficult. In the summer the kids really enjoy here, the American Embassy in Tel Aviv has a place like an hour away from Jerusalem where we can use with a pool, the beach in Tel Aviv is 45 minutes away. There are some public pools in hotels. We live in east Jerusalem and we use the Hyatt, they have a Kiddie pool and a nice playground. The local zoo is really a good deal if you buy the annual membership, and there is a Kibutz for kids about 30 minutes away.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Not in Jerusalem. There are the most orthodox people of both, Jewish and Muslims.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Absolutely, especially with orthodox Jews. (Most Jews in Jerusalem are orthodox.) Young Palestinian men can have issues with women, men who look European, and persons walking dogs. (Palestinian Muslims don't like dogs at all.)

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The old city, Mount of Olives, Galilee. You can travel to Jordan, go to the beach and to the dead sea.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Dead Sea products, religious items, Palestinian and Armenian pottery.

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9. Can you save money?

No, as I said before it is as expensive as some of the European cities, maybe more expensive than some of them.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I don't think so. It is expensive, the people here is not friendly (locals), and the 15 hour airplane trip with kids is just difficult.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Israelies and Palestinians, a 40 year war

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The israeli lobby, From Palestine

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The israeli lobby, From Palestine

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7. Do you have any other comments?

After 3 years, I am ready to go. Most of the people love here it here the first 2 years. If you want a big house with garden for your kids, to save money, Travel frequently to the States with kids, have interaction with locals, or if you are a single non-Jewish guy who wants to date girls or single girl, this is not the place.

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