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

Personal Experiences from Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv, 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, third post abroad with US government.

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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 to New York, Washington, Miami - all about 11-12 hours. There are multiple different American airlines that go there daily, along with El Al.

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3. How long have you lived here?

A little more than a year.

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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?

I (along with most families of school age kids) live in the suburbs so can speak more to that. Housing in the suburbs is generally in large houses with a yard. A few US embassy houses have pools. There are a few apartments, but most people are in houses. Some of the houses have layouts that are a little unwieldy depending on family size (for example, some kids sleeping downstairs and the parents upstairs). The beach is a 5-30 minute walk depending on where you are located. Most houses are within 5-10 minutes walking distance of at least some shops/restaurants. Everything in the neighborhood is accessible by bike. The commute to the embassy by car is about 25 minutes in the morning, and 30-40 minutes in the afternoon depending on when you leave. Many people choose to commute by bike - the weather is generally good and most of the way is on a bike path along the sea. This takes 25-50 minutes depending on how fast you go. The commute to the school by school bus is 20-30 minutes both ways for kids, since they go against traffic. If you have to drive with traffic to the school in the afternoon/evening, it can take up to an hour.

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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 get pretty much anything here and often, even specific brands. It seems like half of Israel has immigrated here from the US, so there is a big market for imported American products. Groceries do cost somewhat more; I'd say imagine doing all of your grocery shopping at Whole Foods in the US and it's about the same. Produce is mostly grown in Israel and is seasonal, so you can't always get specific items at all times of year. The flip side of that is that it's exciting to see what's in season each week at the market.

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

Nothing, for embassy staff with access to DPO. For everyone else, specific toiletries/medications (things that are over the counter in the US are not always here), and if you really care about it maybe paper towels (the ones here are either not good, or really expensive).

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

Restaurant food is amazing here; it's very healthy (lots of fresh vegetables) and delicious. It is also expensive; we rarely spend less than $100 at a restaurant for our average sized family. There are not a lot of cheap/fast casual places in the suburbs. Israel's population hails from all over the world within the past few generations and "Israeli" cuisine is a melding of foods from many different places. There are many very creative high end restaurants here, but the everyday places are terrific too. You can also find pretty much any ethnicity of food you are craving. Tel Aviv has the world's third most sushi restaurants per capita after New York and Tel Aviv.

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

Some people have cockroaches. We've had a problem with fire ants in our house a couple of times, and we see the occasional gecko. It doesn't tend to be a major issue. There are more bugs in the summer, and then they seem to disappear in the winter.

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Daily Life:

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

We use DPO and pouch at the American embassy. DPO is fast (4-8 days) and pouch can be very slow (weeks to months). Israeli post is not that reliable (we had something "overnighted" that took 10 days) and people who live on the local economy often complain about it.

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

This is something that has been very different from other posts or from the US. Nannies are available, but they are expensive and are not an all-in-one person who also cleans. It is very difficult to find a cleaner who is in Israel legally, or who does a good job. Many people here just clean their own houses. If you are a diplomat, it is possible to bring a domestic employee with you from elsewhere.

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

There's not much need for a gym here, as the weather is generally great, the air quality is good for outdoor exercise, and there are tons of parks and green space, many with free outdoor gym equipment. If you want to join a gym, there are lots of options both in the suburbs and in Tel Aviv. They can be expensive. I have gotten the most exercise of my adult life at this post.

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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 and ATMs are pretty safe. I've heard of one instance of credit card number theft in the time we've been here. Buying some things online like concert tickets or signing up for events often requires an Israeli credit card, which is not possible to get without an Israeli ID number (you will not have one if you are here as an expat). This seems archaic and I'd imagine it will go away eventually.

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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's not required (probably 90% of people you will interact with speak enough English that you can communicate adequately, and many people are fluent/near fluent). However, it's appreciated to be able to have a basic conversation in Hebrew, and useful for figuring out what things are in the supermarket, especially the many hundreds of dairy products that are somewhere in the intersection between yogurt, cream cheese, and sour cream and are all just slightly different from each other. English is taught in school here as a required language so most people who grew up here speak it; however since there are many recent immigrants from all over the world who came here as adults, not everyone does. There are intensive Hebrew courses called Ulpans, or other options as well. You will find the photo option on Google Translate to be very useful.

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

It's somewhat disability friendly. There are audible walk signs at some intersections, I have seen markers on some sidewalks in Tel Aviv for people who have impaired vision, and curb cutouts are the norm. However, these are certainly not consistent. The sidewalks are sometimes narrow and crowded with trashcans and bikeshare scooters, so it could be hard to navigate in a wheelchair.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are easily available though an app similar to Uber. They are equivalent to Washington, DC prices, maybe a little more. Intercity trains are modern and reliable, but it always seems to be faster to drive so I've never taken them. I don't have personal experience with buses but many people use them and they are modern and efficient. They do not run from Friday afternoon until Saturday evening. There is a shared taxi-van system that runs along bus routes and does function on Shabbat. It's a small country so you can get anywhere fairly quickly in a car; the farthest point is about 4 hours away. In Tel Aviv, there are many bike share/scooter options to get around.

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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?

Having a small car will give you more parking options, as sometimes it can be tight. Larger cars or SUVs are fine, though. For US embassy housing in the suburbs, some larger SUVs may not fit in your garage. If you live in the suburbs, you will need a car right away, so if you are shipping one you should plan on renting until it arrives.

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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 is fast and reliable. I think ours has gone out once for about 5 minutes during the whole time we've been here. Ours was installed by the embassy before we arrived.

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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 have Golan SIMs which are inexpensive and reliable. For about $30 a month, we have lots of data, both Israeli and US phone numbers, and international roaming in many countries.

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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?

A nonworking spouse seems to be the most common here. Some spouses are somewhat isolated at home cooking and cleaning given the lack of domestic employee availability, although there are certainly plenty of social/volunteer/exercise opportunities. There are some spouse jobs at the embassy although they tend to be mostly menial. Some spouses do find work on the local economy but it seems more common to telecommute.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Helping with refugees, orphans, recent immigrants, environmental cleanup, food gleaning, and animal shelters.

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

This is a VERY informal country. Like more than the US. People wear jeans to weddings here, and bikinis walking down the street. You can pretty much wear whatever you would like, even if it doesn't fit that well or isn't flattering. I have really enjoyed this aspect of living here - not something I had thought about beforehand.

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Health & Safety:

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

We feel very safe here. Other than occasional bike thefts, there is little petty crime, and I've never heard of any violent crime in our community during the time we've been here. The threat of terrorism is in the background, but I feel it less here than I do in DC. There is a lot of security 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?

You can drink the tap water here. Health care is variable - some really excellent clinicians, and some bad ones. I find the younger ones tend to be more medically up to date and savvy than the older ones, but there are many exceptions. The hospitals do not feel like US/European level of cleanliness/care, but are adequate even for complicated issues. Many clinicians have done at least part of their training in the US or Europe.

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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 quite good most of the time. Some people have seasonal allergies.

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

It would be hard to live here with a sesame allergy. For people who cannot eat gluten, there are a fair amount of gluten free restaurants and most grocery stores have a gluten free aisle. If you have a peanut allergy, watch out for Bamba - like cheese puffs but peanut flavored, and ubiquitous 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)?

Some embassy staffers work long hours, which can be tough on them and families. This has been an issue for our family and something we will take into consideration for our next posting.

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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?

From July to September, it is too hot and sometimes humid. In the winter, it can rain (last year it was about 2x a week but I've heard it's not usually that much). When it rains, it can be quite stormy and last all day. The rest of the time the weather is beautiful - always sunny, and temperate. It is much greener here than I expected - a lot of areas are irrigated.

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Schools & Children:

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

Besides the lack of household help, the other potentially limiting factor at this post is the lack of school choice. With a couple of small exceptions, the American International School is the only choice for kids from about 1st grade to 12th. We have found it to be good but not great for elementary school. The classes are small, the teachers tend to be good, and there are a lot of resources in terms of arts, library, and technology. We've found it to be just average in terms of overall academics, and in particular there is not much science. The student population is a really diverse mix of kids from many countries, which has been a highlight for us. There are a few Israeli kids but most seem to have a connection with the US or a European country, and the school does not integrate much teaching about local culture - it seems to be a sort of island, including having a different weekly schedule than the rest of the country, who have a Friday/Saturday weekend (the weekend at AIS is Saturday/Sunday).

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

Different families have had different experiences, partially depending on the administration (which is currently in flux - the previous head of school and elementary principal left last year, and there are interim ones this year) and need. Some report being satisfied and some complain about not having enough accommodation.

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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?

The preschool at the American school is great - we have been very happy with it. It is Reggio-based with great teachers and a nice mix of kids from all over. It costs about the same as a DC-area preschool. Some families send their kids to the local Hebrew-language preschools ("gans"). These do not start until age 3, can have very large class sizes, and have school Sunday-Friday, but most families are happy with them, and they are inexpensive and an opportunity to experience local culture more in depth. Note that there are very limited options in Herzliya for kids under 3 - mostly just in-home daycares. There are a few more options in Tel Aviv, but they tend to have long waiting lists and are hard to get into.

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

Sports: for elementary age kids, not as much as in the US, especially for girls. There is some as afterschool activities, but no actual teams until middle school. There is swimming, gymnastics, horseback riding, soccer, martial arts, and baseball available off campus. Other activities - lots of art/music/dance classes available. Many are in Hebrew, which some kids are ok with and will be limiting for others.

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Expat Life:

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

There are a lot of expats here, and even many Israelis seem to be originally from somewhere else. Morale is generally good - it's a terrific quality 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?

The Diplomatic Spouse club is very active. Being a parent at the school, exercise groups, volunteer groups, there are some sports groups, book club, etc. There are so many English-speaking Israelis that you can likely find a local group for whatever you are interested in.

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

Yes, I think for all of the above. There is lots of nightlife, outdoor activities, the beach is always there, and for families, kids roam pretty freely in the suburbs. This is a really kid friendly place - playgrounds everywhere, lots of kid-centered activities, kids' menus at restaurants, ubiquitous extra beds and cribs at Airbnbs and hotels, it's ok to pee pretty much anywhere if your kid really has to, and it's definitely a culture of kids are free to be seen and heard everywhere.

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

Yes, maybe one of the best. There were 250,000 people at the gay pride parade last year.

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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?

Yes, it is fairly easy to make friends with locals. Israelis are warm and in your business. I have heard several racist statements from Israelis about Arabs. We have a few Israeli Arab friends and expat friends from Arab countries, and they do not report daily harassment or discrimination, but I'd imagine it happens from time to time.

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

Yes, obviously. We are a bit sheltered from it in our expat bubble, but it's in the news daily. Living here is a bit unique in that it's a country with a government that is reviled by many of my friends back home. There are many parallels here to the US, and like the US, there are a broad range of beliefs here, and, in my opinion, the current government doesn't represent the beliefs of many of its people. Gender equality: outside of ultra religious groups, I find it to be better here than in the US. Women here work in all levels of all fields, are required to be in the military, and don't dress to impress anyone.

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

Spending much of the time outdoors, going to the beach, easy short weekend trips to national parks and historic sites, water hikes, camping, snorkeling in Eilat, taking in the city vibe in Tel Aviv, eating really well.

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

Get a national parks annual membership. There are so many great places to visit within an hour or two. Float in the Dead Sea, snorkel or scuba in the Red Sea, hike (or ski!) in the Golan Heights, ride a horse on the beach, walk through water-filled ancient Roman aqueducts, and the list goes on and on.

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

Yes, there are handicraft markets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and artisan villages elsewhere. There tends to be a lot of ceramics and glass. We often give olive oil and wine as gifts.

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

Great quality of life, with healthy and delicious food, ample exercise activities, good medical care, tons of fun events, and the beach. It's a small country and there is still a sense of people helping one another and being accountable to each other, even though Israelis complain that this has eroded. It's amazing to see what has been built here in just a few decades.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Make sure you have a good idea of how much you will be working in your job at this posting, and that it is acceptable for you and your family.

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

Yes - I think it will be hard to leave here, and a place that we miss a lot.

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

Winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sun hat, camping equipment, bike, beach towels, surfboard.

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

Exodus, Amos Oz, Fauda, Shtisel.

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Tel Aviv, Israel 11/17/18

Background:

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

No, this was our second post.

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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?

There are direct flights to New York that take about 12 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years, from 2015-2017.

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

U.S. 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?

Most embassy employees without kids live in nice apartments within walking distance (between 5-30 minutes) of the embassy. There are advantages to different areas of the city, but all apartments that we saw were quite nice. Apartments closer to the embassy are often on the beach with stunning water views, but the area doesn't have many open businesses at night and is somewhat run-down in areas.

Other apartments are closer to Sarona or Rabin Square, which is about a 30 minute walk from the beach/embassy, but closer to more restaurants and upscale, leafy neighborhoods. Most apartment complexes have pools. Most families live in the suburbs.

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

Produce is seasonal, local and cheap. We were extremely pleased with the quality and abundance of vegetables and fruits in particular. Our neighborhood had excellent vegetable shops, butchers, cheese shops, wine stores, etc. We found quality and service to be much better in those small independent stores than in the grocery stores.

While there are are large American-style grocery stores in the suburbs, the city center grocery stores are small and cramped, and service often left something to be desired. TivTam is open on shabbat, however, when most other stores are closed, so at least you have an option if you need something on a Friday evening or Saturday. Sarona market has excellent specialty grocery items available at a price. Levinsky market is good for cheap spices and dried fruits and nuts. There are a few small stores for Indian / Asian imports. Israeli wine is not particularly cheap, but at the $20/bottle range you can get some really excellent local wines.

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

Cleaning products and paper products are of lower quality and higher cost than the U.S. Many dry goods like pasta and baking products are available here, but much more expensive than buying in bulk in the U.S., so we were glad we stocked up.

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

Falafel, hummus and schnitzel are, as could be expected, cheap and delicious. Food is often fresh and healthy. Tel Aviv has excellent restaurants, but you'll pay dearly for it: think DC prices or more for a really good meal. In the middle-price range, quality didn't seem to match price for us, so we mostly cooked at home and splurged for nights out. Reservations are required at most restaurants.

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

There are lots of cockroaches in Tel Aviv housing. We had many in our apartment until we got a cat and never saw a cockroach again.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO. Shipping time to the States was extremely fast.

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

I imagine this is expensive. We did not have household help. It's available, but not common.

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

There are lots of facilities, though I'm not sure about price. Most apartment buildings have gym facilities. There are lots of sports and yoga classes held in English.

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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 and yes.

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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?

Many people in Tel Aviv speak English. Hebrew is appreciated though.

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Transportation:

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

Bus use was prohibited due to security concerns. Taxis are safe; you can call them through an app service, but can be expensive if you rely on them regularly. Trains are excellent, clean, safe and will take you to most major cities around the country or to the airport for a very cheap price. They do not run on shabbat. We used the train frequently to travel to other cities. You can also use Sheruts, which are shared minibuses that run on regular routes. Tel Aviv is an excellent walking city, and you can reach almost any point in the city on foot in 45 minutes or less. We walked everywhere, year-round.

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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 walked everywhere in the city, and took trains or taxis to other cities, so a car is not necessary if you live in Tel Aviv. We didn't have one, and were glad not to deal with the hassle. Streets in Tel Aviv are small and parking can be a pain, so it's often faster and cheaper to walk or take a taxi downtown. People who lived in Herzliya need a car, however. Many city residents liked having a car for weekend trips to the countryside, but it's not necessary.

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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?

Ours was installed before arrival. Speed was fine for normal use and streaming.

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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?

Mobile data plans are extremely cheap. We used Golan.

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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?

Israelis are extremely pet-friendly. There are lots of vets who speak English and provide excellent care. The city has many dog parks. Local shelters have good fostering programs. There are many, many street cats in Tel Aviv, who are generally healthy since many residents leave out food and water for them. Many people who arrive without pets acquire one here. It was fairly easy to export a pet and local vets are familiar with the process and can assist in all the paperwork for a small fee.

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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?

Local salaries are low compared to cost of living. There were EFM jobs at the embassy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Pet shelters; teaching English to refugees.

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

Suits and ties are very rare. Israel is quite informal.

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Health & Safety:

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

On the one hand, crime levels in Tel Aviv are relatively low. We felt safe walking around the city any time of day or night. On the other, terrorist attacks do occur. In the two years we lived there, there were several serious attacks within a few minutes walk of our house. Despite this, we generally felt safer than in DC.

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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 generally good. Dental care is to American standards.

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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. Blue skies nearly year-round. There are occasional sandstorms, but they usually don't last long.

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

The real threat of terrorism seems to affect people in different ways.

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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?

Tel Aviv has perfect weather. It's generally nice year round, with what would be considered "spring" or "fall" weather in the Eastern U.S. for most of the year. July and August are especially hot, and January and February can be chilly and rainy. We kept our windows open for the majority of the year.

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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. Lots of Americans and Europeans, both official and private. The community is large enough that you can find your niche.

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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?

Volunteer, take classes.

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

Good for all, I believe.

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

Excellent. This must be one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world.

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

There definitely seem to be many pervasive ethnic and religious issues.

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

Beach camping on the Mediterranean; visiting wineries in the Golan Heights; and meeting local friends. Keep an eye on flights, you can get great deals to Europe. Jordan is lovely, and it's a short drive away.

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

Our favorite meal in Israel was at Uri Buri, in Akko. Also, wine tasting at Pelter Winery along the Syrian border.

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

There are lots of handicrafts like pottery and rugs. Israeli wine and food products are excellent and make great gifts. You can go antique shopping in Jaffa.

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

Weather, produce, ease of travel, and historical sights. It's very LGBT-friendly.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Tel Aviv is a bubble, so the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may not seem visible at first glance if you stay in the city. I felt it was there, though, and can make this, despite Tel Aviv's laid-back appearance, a very stressful place to work. Racism and ethnic tensions are very real here. Also, friendly customer service does not seem prevalent here, and I think a thick skin is necessary.

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

Yes. I'm really glad we went and loved all of the experiences we had, and the extremely high quality of life. That said, I was also glad to leave, as it was a stressful few years.

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

Snow gear.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunblock.

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

You could fill entire bookstores with literature on Israel/Palestine. I really enjoyed A Tale of Love and Darkness, by Amos Oz. The Bubble (Ha-Buah) is an excellent movie set in Tel Aviv.

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Tel Aviv, Israel 08/19/17

Background:

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

No, I've lived in Mexico, Egypt, India, and South Africa.

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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?

I'm from Middle America, which can be expensive during the wrong season (summer), but usually doesn't involve more than one stop on the east coast, so it's mostly painless.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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

Worked for U.S. 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?

There are two main areas, and a few minor outlying areas, where the bulk of U.S. diplomats reside. If you're downtown, you're between a 5 and 35-minute walk from the Embassy. If you live in Herziliya, the commute time can run north of 30 minutes by car - quite a difference.

Housing tends to run on the smaller size for apartments, but still mammoth in big-city terms (i.e. NYC or DC). One common complaint is storage - it's just not very common to have closets (who needs a coat in Tel Aviv?). Bedrooms can be pretty small. One of the housing pool's main buildings is right on the beach and a five-minute walk from work - this building is a bit older, but you can't beat the location. The other main property is a bit further (15 minutes from work), but more modern and sleek. Most properties downtown are apartments. Most people who live in Herziliya are in good-sized houses.

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

One of the wonderful parts of Israel, and especially Tel Aviv, is the variety of fresh produce you can buy throughout the year. Few things will last even a week (maybe root vegetables) as everything seems organic and preservative-free. Almost everything is local. Sure, you can find imported apples and pears, but you'll soon be eating the cheaper, local varieties. You might rue bananas for going brown after two days, or strawberries for coming out only twice a year, but seriously - isn't that how it's supposed to be?

All that said, it's expensive. Particularly if you shop at Tiv Taam or other smaller grocers. But people make do by shopping at the outdoor shuks or one of the huge supermarket chains in the suburbs where you can get deep discounts.

Paper products are a problem. I mean, it's the desert, right? Consider the tree situation. Lots of people ship toilet paper and paper towels from the US through Amazon or Costco or what have you. But you can get bleach, soaps, detergent locally.

American and international products - think peanut butter, cereal, oats, chocolate bars, etc. - are widely available, but again expensive, and most people ship these things from the States.

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

If you have DPO through the Embassy, you can ship just about anything to Post using Amazon, Costco, WalMart, whatever.

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

Street food is popular for lunch. Folks regularly eat falafel, chicken schnitzel, or big salads. Tel Aviv is becoming a food mecca, as "Israeli food" starts to become a globally-recognized and appreciated cuisine. There are tons of restaurants from basic to fancy (though it never gets too fancy, despite what you might think when you see the bill...). You won't be surprised to spend $75 per person regularly at dinner, with maybe one glass of wine. For me, food was one of the great highlights of this tour. I loved every meal.

You can get Asian food, though it's not great. You can get American food, like McDonald's, fast food, burgers, pizza, and the like.

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

We had ants, but then we securely packaged absolutely everything and the ants went away. Not sure if that is normal, but otherwise we had no problems. If you buy bulk food products, you will not be surprised to find moths or other things have ‘sprouted’ in your lentils or sesame seeds after a few days. We stopped buying anything that couldn’t be boiled, and everything else we bought packaged.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO works really quickly - often times you can get a package from Amazon less than a week after you order it. Pouch is also an option if your DPO address doesn't work for whatever reason, but takes 2-3 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?

Household help was too expensive for our budget.

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

The Embassy no longer has a gym. There are a few options nearby that many frequent (if you don’t mind working out next to your colleagues). Most of the residences have adequate gyms. There are lots of free options along the beach that are regularly occupied with muscley types.

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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 very easy to use and accepted practically everywhere. ATMs are everywhere, too (bank fees stopped us from using them in favor of cash from the Embassy cashier).

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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 had Hebrew and never used it, but I could have if I had tried harder. Many people take language lessons either at the Embassy or in ‘ulpan’ (local language classes) for work or personal use. The vast majority of the countrymen speak at least a little English. You can get away with no Hebrew, though it will be difficult to sort through the 500 yogurts at the supermarket without being able to decipher Hebrew characters (you earn your hardship differential here...).

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Transportation:

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

Buses are still prohibited. There are vans called “sheruts” that follow similar routes to the buses and pick up passengers at the same stops for about $1.50 a ride, though the routes aren’t easily laid out (you can ask anyone waiting and they’ll help you with which number sherut to use). Taxis are usually safe, though the drivers seem to be the only people in Tel Aviv who have limited English capabilities.

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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 did fine with a sedan. We did not do research in advance, but luckily found a dealer who specialized in parts for our car, which came in handy a couple times. It was not cheap, but the service was good, professional, and fast.

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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?

40 mbps isn’t unusual for less than $20 a month. The Embassy assisted us in setting it up before we arrived, which was really helpful.

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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?

SIM cards and local service are also inexpensive - maybe $15 a month for unlimited calls/data, as well as free calls to the US and 50 other countries (with a virtual US number).

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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?

When spouses are permitted jobs (the hiring freeze is ongoing currently), there are lots to choose from in the Embassy - full or part-time. There’s a good scene for those that choose not to work, particularly if you live in Herziliya.

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

Israel is very informal. The Prime Minister wears suits, but few else. At work, many people forego ties. Local staff wear T-shirts and jeans to work! Men can get away with polos, though most still wear button-downs. Ties are optional, but off-limits by Israeli government edict in the summer. Women have more options for clothes in general, and tend to wear the gamut of options.

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Health & Safety:

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

City smarts are required everywhere in the world. Terrorism is real in Israel, and knife attacks have occurred in broad daylight. That said, it’s very low for petty street crime. Lots of people are walking around well after midnight (that’s when all the bars open!) and it does not feel unsafe. Locks and alarms are essential in houses as there have been several reported break-ins.

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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 decent, though spending a night in a hospital in Israel will inform you why hospitals in the US are so exorbitantly expensive. No one working on Shabbat, for instance (i.e. bring your own water from home because the water faucets are off limits). But you can find doctors, dentists, and specialty care facilities, which the medical unit in the Embassy is happy to help you with. Speaking of, the nurses at the Embassy are roundly adored by the Embassy community.

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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?

Save a few days a year, the air quality is wonderful - cool, Mediterranean breezes are a thing, and they are amazing. Seasonal allergies affect most. There are a few bad days a year related to sandstorms. Pollution can get obnoxious during the dry period of the year (March to October), like any city.

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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?

It’s perfect weather. Hottest and most humidity in July and August. Perfect weather -- rarely above 85F degrees -- the rest of the year, but warm, so you have to like warm weather. The average winter temps are in the high 60s F and can get into the 50s F at night. It rains periodically throughout the day usually from December to February.

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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’s large. You can easily hide and no one will notice. Or there are lots of different groups to join. Morale seems to be pretty good here, depending if you like your job. For those who don’t, they will find a reason to complain (the commute, the Israeli attitude, the smells). Lots of people try to find a way to extend, though, because it’s a really easy way-of-life. How often do you live next to a white sand beach with perfect weather and great food, really?

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

It’s a city. Everyone can find their niche. Non-Jewish singles might have the most to complain about, especially those trying to date.

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

Great. Very easy to make friends. The expat community is big. The U.S. Embassy corals various LGBT groups together every few years, but they do so locally on their own also. Popular and fun Pride activities. Not a lot of bars, but several roaming weekend dance parties.

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

We must have visited Jerusalem 40 times. You can never see every nook and interesting cranny. It’s one of the great cities of the world (though I personally wouldn’t want to live there). Probably went to the Dead Sea a dozen times with guests, which is always one of the exciting highlights. Petra is a great weekend trip option, though guests can make a daytrip out of it by hiring a tour company.

There are nearly 100 parks in the Israel National Park system, some of which are no more than a 100 square meters, but highlight some historical moment, battle, site, or vantage. There are dozens of wineries to visit. More secluded beaches all along the coast. Lots of outdoor hiking opportunities. Overnights for camping in wilderness, on the beach, in mud huts in the middle of the desert. Water activities abound - snorkeling and scuba in the Red Sea, kite surfing the Sea of Galilee, yachting from Jaffa. Plus swimming and beach lounging.

Tel Aviv is also a great jumping off point for regional travel. Turkey is about $150 r/t to any number of great locations. Jordan is fairly straightforward (once you navigate the border crossing, which can be a struggle) once you arrive and has tons of historical and religiously significant sites to visit. Cyprus is a $100 flight away and a real hidden gem. There are more expensive, but short, flights to Greece and Egypt. Plus, there are dozens of cities in Europe you can visit for less than $200 if your timing is right. Lots of budget carriers now have stops in Tel Aviv, including RyanAir and EasyJet, but also lots of others that will get you all over Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and Italy for cheap. Flights to the east coast of the US can be as cheap as $600 r/t if you catch a good deal.

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

Tel Aviv is not a ‘site’ city - it’s relatively young (only ~100 years), and you go for the beach, food, and nightlife. Restauranting was my favorite local activity, though you can’t do it so often because it’ll break the bank.

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

Many go to Jerusalem for handicrafts, like Armenian pottery, Judaica, Christian relics, and the like.

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

Weather, food, beach, laid-back vibe.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Do not expect Europe, because it’s not Europe. The streets can be dirty, there are lots of street cats (and the smells that come with them), the driving can annoy you, and Israelis are often perceived as loud, entitled, rude, unhelpful, difficult, or oblivious. Those things are all superficial, and Israelis really are warm, lovely people. If you know what to expect going in, the minor annoyances probably will bother you much less than if you came here thinking you were moving to a typical European or US city. It’s just similar enough to confuse you into thinking it’s fully Western, but just different enough to make you scratch your head sometimes.

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

I’m grateful for the experience.

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Tel Aviv, Israel 10/24/16

Background:

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

No-- I have completed several tours in the Foreign Service.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2+ years.

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

US 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?

I have a nice downtown two bedroom apartment. Embassy housing is typically a two bedroom downtown apartment for singles and couples without kids and then single family homes about 9-10 miles away in Herziliya or Kfar Shmaryahu for families with school-age kids. Living in the suburbs means a decent commute for the kids, but can leave the parents with a 45 minute- to an hour or more commute during rush hour depending on traffic. In general the housing is quite good especially based on my experience with previous tours. Apartments downtown are small relatively speaking, but compared to locals the Embassy units are uniformly considered very posh by local standards as they typically are in the nicest areas and buildings.

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

All available, but all expensive. Despite relatively low local wages, with relatively few exception goods and services are not that cheap. As a single officer I use a housekeeper sponsored by another family on a part time basis (twice a month) and pay for 5 hours at 250 shekels (that's about $75). Using the duty-free vendors for things like sodas and bottle waters (and definitely any liquor as that can be very expensive locally) saves me a lot, and like many, I also use the DPO to order off walmart.com, amazon and drugstore.com, etc, for some staples.

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

Most things are readily available if at a premium price. I do think if you have a favorite cleaning item it would be best to ship that along with any specific baking goods. I typically can find hard to find items when I'm abroad back in the States of Europe and just put them in my suitcase. Thinking ready-made pie crusts here and some shower cleaners that can be hard to find in Israel.

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

It's an excellent and growing foodie scene. They have basically everything, though it can be expensive. Delivery services are plentiful. I concur with others on here who say skip the few American joints and enjoy amazing produce and Middle Eastern places. Amazing, tasty options in the market, and Tel Aviv has also become something of a vegan/vegetarian haven.

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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 most of the time it's quite reliable with packages taking around a week and sometimes less.

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

See above.

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

I find this to be the exception, as low-cost gyms that are otherwise decent are on the rise. You can pay anywhere from $25-$50 a month for very good gyms. Not much different from those Stateside though they tend to be a bit lower standard though also quite a bit cheaper than gyms in big US cities. Tel Aviv is a beach town and thus the gyms get lots of activity (as do the beaches and parks where you see many trainers with clients as well as impromptu courses).

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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, yes and yes. ATMs also offer the best exchange rates.

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

There are Christian churches in Herziliya.

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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?

Not completely necessary, but those that do know at least some Hebrew will have a much better experience. Tutors fall into the rare category of being affordable, so I'd recommend trying to get at least some basic Hebrew to improve the experience at post. Many options and many will come to your home or meet at a coffee shop. Those eligible for the Embassy post language program should take full advantage.



if you aren't going to take the language, my best advice is to learn a bit about the Jewish high holidays as you'll have a fuller appreciation of their significance while posted here. Those unfamiliar with Judaism are often surprised that the evening before the holiday (sundown) marks the beginning of the holiday, so often the day before any holiday many local shops and businesses will close as early as 1 p.m. to get ready for the holiday.

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

Decent here but could be better. Again there are groups dedicated to improving access for those with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Buses not allowed for USG personnel, but GETT taxi app dominates here over Uber and is decently-priced. Shared taxis (sheruts) are permissible and are an excellent way to get around the city easily for the equivalent of less than $2 a ride. I use them all the time.

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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?

Israeli drivers are aggressive. Recommend a used car you don't mind getting dinged up-- because you will likely get some dings 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--can be ready when you walk in from the Embassy. Very nice service, though with only two providers sometimes people complain it's not as fast as they are used to. Otherwise this is a very wifi-friendly place with most restaurants and shops freely sharing their wifi passcodes. Ditto for the city as you can often get wifi from the city for free right on the beach.

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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?

As of 2013 competition with cell phones resulted in no more expensive long term contracts. Bring your unlocked phone and you can get extremely good rates (anywhere from $10-$30 a month) for unlimited calls and texts to the States with generous internet roaming in country. Only complaint is that automatic billing doesn't always happen automatically and that can mean your service will be interrupted if you havent verified with your credit card bill that payments have been made.

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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-- extremely pet friendly place with dogs commonplace in restaurants and cafes (same with cats).

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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?

EFM jobs are usually available, but timing determines a lot. Typically, qualified EFMs usually find a spot. Some home-based businesses exist. Not many work on the local market because of limited Hebrew combined with the fact that wages are considerably lower.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty! Just depends on your area of interest. Lots of people get involved to help with refugees in south Tel Aviv from Sudan, Eritrea, South Sudan, but there are plenty of ways to get involved in a variety of causes.

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

Very informal. As a guy I love not having to wear a tie unless on a special occasion. I've saved tons on not having to dry clean so much. Even a wedding in Israel a guy can wear jeans and a nice t-shirt! Work is usually a collared polo or button down (no tie) and pants.

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Health & Safety:

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

Crime is extremely low, but like any urban city there are certain areas you need to keep your wits about you. I'm pleasantly surprised that the beaches are relatively safe. I've never heard of someone getting their stuff stolen as most of the time you can ask a stranger to keep an eye out while you take a dip. The biggest risk may be from a renegade dog blowing sand all on your blanket!

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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?

Very good and available. Helpful Embassy health unit and local providers typically speak good English.

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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?

Excellent-- just a stray sand storm a couple of times a year makes the air a bit gross.

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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?

Pretty nice though from May until October it's pretty warm (hot even in July Aug and September). This is a beach town with weather very similar to Miami. Can rain in the winter. Typically never colder than the upper 40s in the winter. Weather is a definite plus 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?

The American School in Even Yehuda is highly-regarded with many families stating it's one of the best in the system.

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

Need to check with the CLO first to make sure the school can provide accommodations. Most can be accommodated, but it's best to check well in advance.

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

Yes-- also very family friendly. Activities run the gamut for the 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?

Quite large. With so many Jews from the diaspora having "made aliya," which means immigrating, you have a large amount of the entire population with strong roots abroad-- and that includes quite a few Americans.



Morale in general tends to be very good, but it can vary. While it is true you can come to Israel and do fine without Hebrew, I often think that making a bit more effort to understand Hebrew would improve the overall experience for those that struggle. I've noticed that single female non-Hebrew speaking employees often end up struggling here. I suspect that's because it can be easy to view this as a bit of a vacation spot, but if you're going to be here for a number of years I think a bit of an investment in learning more of the local language, culture, traditions will help you feel more a part of the community .

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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?

Plenty of groups and tours from the CLO. Volunteer groups are also abundant.

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

I would say for all though as noted above it requires a bit of initiative and a willingness to step outside one's comfort zone.

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

Excellent-- and the Ambassador sets an extremely inclusive tone.

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

Of course-- but there are also opportunities to engage all facets of the political spectrum to learn more about the occupation, minorities, etc.

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

As a posting, this place has it all as professionally. It is career-enhancing when you do well in Israel. I think it's a great place to live as long as there's not an active conflict (and even then in many regards life goes on fairly routinely save the daily trips to the bomb shelters). That the country is so small and offers so many incredible day trips would be a a group highlight.

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

Don't forget to check out the wineries!

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

Judaica. Also, the Armenian tiles in the Old City in Jerusalem are often used to make tables, wine racks, etc.

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

It's great because you can ditch the car and enjoy the sunshine, parks, beach, etc.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

That what is called Israeli rudeness is often just people being straightforward. It can still be rude, but often you can just strike it up to cultural differences.

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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:

Ties!

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and favorite toiletries as they are expensive here.

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

Check out ynetnews.com as it's the best free Israeli news source on the internet.

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Tel Aviv, Israel 07/25/16

Background:

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

First with the US Embassy!

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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?

D.C. is about 12 hours

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3. How long have you lived here?

A little over a year.

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

US 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?

Almost everyone that I know is either in Herzliya (suburbs) or in Tel Aviv near the beach. However, we ended up more in the center of the city and couldn't have been happier. The apartments in Tel Aviv all vary by size and the view one gets. Some are on high up and have the ocean in front of them some are low and can see another building in front of them.

In Tel Aviv one can walk everywhere as it is quite small and easy to get around, if you end up living on the beach your commute to work will be 5 minutes.

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

Produce is very fresh here, the best I have seen anywhere in the world and cheap. But everything is seasonal so at times hard to make dinner plans until you make it to the market or know what is available. Other than that meat and cheeses are expensive here. We order household supplies from Amazon.

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

The food is GOOD here, nothing has blown us away but nothing has been bad either. All kinds of cuisines are available here, but again nothing more then GOOD. You will see falafel stands on almost all streets some are okay and some are good.

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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.

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

Pretty expensive, not sure of the exact rate but some people have them and some don't!

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

Gyms are available all over the city, there in one right next door to the embassy for about U.S. $25 a month, but I think this is a special for the first year they have opened. But if you are an active person and looking for options you will find them here.

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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 accepted everywhere and safe to use we have never had issues here. Also ATMs are common and again no issues and both seem very safe to use.

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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?

NONE!! Everyone speaks English and are very nice about it. But reading Hebrew is helpful, but you will be fine if you don't

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are safe! if you use Uber or their local app Gett taxi, those are great options too, but they are not cheap.

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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 and it works! Embassy has it ready the first day we stepped into our place.

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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?

There are options here and I went with a local provider, Golan. About U.S. $7.00 (no not a typo) a month, they have a plan for U.S. $25 which gives you a U.S. number and can use it in the other countries.

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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?

Israel is a very animal friendly country, we adopted our cat here and get vets are available. Not sure of the process to bring a pet in or take a pet out (at least not yet). Pet stores are available on almost every street too.

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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?

Some partners work in the Embassy, but the EFM jobs are not all that great here. Some do telework.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

TONS!! If you want to volunteer here, you will find something to do!

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

Typical dress code is shorts, a tee shirt and flip flops.

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Health & Safety:

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

Just like being in any place important to be aware of your surroundings, but we feel totally safe walking at night and haven't had any issues, we have heard of some home robbing in the suburbs.

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2. 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 here but every now and then in the summer expect a sand storm which may make it hard to go out for some people.

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

Weather is great here. March to June is just awesome, July gets hot and August gets HOTTER, then September to February is may rain a little and get a little cool/cold

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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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Expat Life:

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

Clubs, bars, restaurants, beaches, and may activities are available. You will be fine if you are an active person.

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

Seems like everyone is fine here!

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

Tel Aviv is a GREAT city for LGBT! Everyone is very open minded and accepting here.

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

Ummm... yes.

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

Travel is very easy from Tel Aviv! Only problem can be Friday nights.

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

Safe city and fun! Whatever activity you are looking for there is a good chance you will find it here. I have heard people going from the opera to cross fit to art class!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

YES!!!

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

Winter clothes and jackets.

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3. But don't forget your:

Flip flops.

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Tel Aviv, Israel 04/12/16

Background:

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

No. I've completed U.S. Embassy tours in Africa and Europe.

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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. It's a 15-18 hour trip using the United city pair connecting through either Newark on United or Frankfurt on Lufthansa.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

U.S. 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?

Get ready for life in suburban Herzliya (and other nearby towns) if you have a family and want a house. Tel Aviv real estate prices are rocketing and the Embassy can no longer afford anything but small, but nice downtown apartments that only couples and singles can endure. Rush hour traffic is awful. Expect a 45-minute to 1-hour drive (or more) between the suburbs and Embassy.

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

Most consumer goods are imported and the VAT is generally 15%+. City grocery stores are tiny and a huge rip-off. Most people try to shop in cheaper suburban grocery stores. Carmel Market is a good stop for quality produces though prices are not much better than local supermarkets.

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

Everything is available here. Prices are just higher than the U.S.

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

McDonald's is here and a Burger King just opened, but why eat there when you can enjoy cheap and tasty falafel, hummus and schwarma at every street corner. Foodies will love many of the higher end options.

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

Typical problems that you see elsewhere -- ants, roaches, mosquitoes (but no malaria).

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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.

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

Available at a cost of about US$10-15 per hour.

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

Gyms are available at costs comparable to large U.S. cities. Free outdoor workout facilities are available at many public parks. Many apartment complexes have no-cost gyms.

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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?

U.S. credit cards are widely accepted. I think you can use credit cards at more places than in Europe.

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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?

English is widely spoken in Tel Aviv and most of Israel, but Hebrew is the lingua franca. You may run into problems reading signs, menu, instructions, etc. without some knowledge of Hebrew.

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

Older buildings are probably not easily accessible by those with disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Embassy personnel are still not permitted to ride buses though we can use taxis and sheruts (shared taxis). Taxis and sheruts are fairly affordable. You can get most across Tel Aviv for about US$15 in a taxi. Sherut prices are comparable to local buses, but seats can be hard to find at rush hour.

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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?

Roads are good quality so all terrain vehicles are not needed. Tel Aviv street network is largely composed of narrow side streets so beware bringing a large car.

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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?

The two major companies are Bezeq and HOT. I've heard complaints about both. Our service often slows at peak usage periods.

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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 cell and data service prices are generally cheaper than the U.S. Major local companies include Pelephone, Golan and Partner. Golan has very good English-language support.

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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?

Very, very casual in public and at work. At work, Israelis avoid ties most of the year, but this becomes a rule in the summer. In fact, the MFA sends out a notice every summer informing the diplomatic community that ties are not required for business meetings through the high holiday period.

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Health & Safety:

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

YES! The crime rate is low in Tel Aviv, but you never know when violence from the Israel-Palestine conflict will escalate. What's been termed a "stabbing Intifada" has occurred over much of the last year with random stabbings and car rammings. Most attacks occurred in Jerusalem and the West Bank, but even the Tel Aviv area has witnessed acts of violence, including a bar being shot up. There are travel restrictions if you travel near Gaza; no one can enter Gaza. You are expected to inform the RSO in advance of visits from the Negav to Eilat region and the Golan. We can only visit Bethlehem and Jericho in the West Bank. All of these areas may be declared off limits at any time because of the local or neighboring security situation.

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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?

Healthcare is high quality, but watch out when crossing the street. Israels are horrible drivers so pedestrians generally do not jaywalk or cross the street without a green light.

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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 Mediterranean Sea breezes help mitigate the dust, but beware when the prevailing winds switch from West to East. In the last year, we've had two horrible dust storms that lasted several days and made it very unhealthy to be outside.

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

Beware the dust.

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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?

It's your typical Mediterranean climate. July-September can be hot and humid. It is cool and rains intermittently in the winter.

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Schools & Children:

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

The American school is located in Evan Yehuda, about 20 minutes north of the Herzliya area. Another English-large speaking option is the Tabetha School in Jaffa.

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

I have heard some complaints about the American school's ability to accommodate kids with 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?

There are many English-language or bilingual "gans" (Anita's, City Kids, Rainbow Nursery) in the region that provide daycare for small children. They are generally cheaper than U.S. daycare. I have heard complaints about Anita's, but City Kids an Rainbow Nursery have good reputations.

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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's hard to ascertain the size of the expat community because almost every Tel Avivan appears to have some tie to another country. Morale runs the gamut.

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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?

The beach, bars, clubs and restaurants. Bar drinks can be expensive so many Israelis pre-party at home.

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

It's a great country for all to enjoy, especially families because Israelis love children. There are lots of going out options and the beaches are wonderful. The downside is that urban-loving families are generally not easily accommodated in the Embassy housing pool.

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

Tel Aviv is one of the most LGTBI friendliest cities in the world. That said, some of the conservative communities that you find in other parts of Israel are not so welcoming.

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

Yes -- it's Israel.

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

Great food and nightlife, wonderful hiking, exploring thousands of years of diverse history in a country that's about the size of New Jersey.

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

So many that it's hard to list them all -- the beach, exploring the Jaffa and Carmel markets, hiking up Masada, climbing old tanks at the armory museum at Latrun, visiting worn Crusader fortresses, exploring the Old City, shopping for unique varieties of pottery and glass objects, etc.

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

Art, including paintings, pottery and glassware. Lots of judaica too.

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

The weather is beautiful almost year round with only about two months of August-September hot summer. The beaches are beautiful and clean. Tel Aviv has a great food and nightlife scene. It's also one of the most liberal cities I've ever visited. A recent NYTimes 36 Hours quote sums it up best: "Young, modern Tel Aviv and ancient Jaffa pulse with energy and combine to offer bustling markets, night clubs and a beachside promenade just right for two wheels." Tel Aviv is nicknamed "the bubble" because it often feels far removed from the pervasive conflict in Israel.

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10. Can you save money?

Not really.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How prickly Israelis can be to strangers or in first encounters. In fact, native Israels are call "sabra" (prickly pears). They're prickly on the outside, but great friends once you get to know them.

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

Sure.

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

Winter parka.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

"Zero Motivation," a humorous take on life in the Israeli military.

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Tel Aviv, Israel 03/23/16

Background:

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

It was the first time I lived in another country.

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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?

Nowadays, my home base is in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. I visit Israel regularly, as I have family and many friends there. Takes about 4.5 hours by plane.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Lived here for 2 years, between 1999 and 2001.

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

I came to Israel in 1991 (aged 12), with my family, in the big immigration wave from the Soviet Union, and lived there until 2003.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Depends on what one includes as Tel Aviv. The city itself is small and housing is also small; the outer rings of the metropolitan area contain many typical sleepy neighbourhoods with more spacious accommodation, but the commute time is also longer.

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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 prices are ridiculously high.

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

The American fast-food chains are present but who needs them when local fast food is abundant? Tel Aviv has a lively dining scene. Every Israeli has a favourite falafel place, but the best one is of course Dr. Saadya on 45 King George street.

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

Cockroaches. Big, flying ones.

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Daily Life:

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

Everything is available, from free public gym facilities at the beach to private teachers of every sport you can think of.

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2. 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.

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

Most of the local people know sufficient English to get by without knowing any Hebrew. Many signs are Hebrew-only, so learning the Hebrew alphabet is useful.

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

Challenging. Sidewalks are crowded with parked bicycles and motorcycles, public buildings are not necessarily fitted with ramps.

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Transportation:

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

Reasonably affordable and safe. The national railways do have issues with the unions, so sudden strikes can be a plague.

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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?

I'd suggest bringing a tank, but the fuel prices would kill you.

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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?

Without a job permit chances are probably low.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Numerous. Not sure how diverse the options are without knowledge of Hebrew or Arabic.

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

It depends where you work, but usually "casual-plus."

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Health & Safety:

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

Uhm... Yes. It's Israel. BUT the crime rates are quite low compared to other Western countries, and besides nowadays the chances of becoming a victim of a terrorist attack are higher in Paris, London or Brussels. The Israeli traffic is the most dangerous part, and even that is not as dangerous as it used to be.

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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?

Israel has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, so healthcare must be good.

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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 the breeze from the sea clears the pollution. When the wind is from the East, can get very bad, but it's only a few days in a year.

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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?

July-August are hot and sticky humid. December to March is the rainy season, but it almost never rains more than 2-3 days in a row.

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Expat Life:

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

That's a difficult question, as it depends much on what is included in the expat community. There are millions of foreign-born Israelis, hundreds of thousands of (mostly Asian) foreign workers employed in construction, agriculture and nursing, tens of thousands of African infiltrators/refugees (depends on who you ask), a constant influx of volunteers working in the Kibbutzs and so on.

If expats include only Western diplomats and such, then it's probably small, I can't say much about the morale among them.

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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?

The beach. Huge clubbing scene. Mountain biking is growing in popularity. Barbecuing.

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

For singles the city centre is the place to be. If you can find a good house in the city and your family can handle the city life, go for it. But housing prices are high.

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

One of the best, I hear.

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

Yes. But that's the simple answer. Compared to the severity of these issues in the neighbouring countries, like Syria, they are not worth mentioning.

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

The whole country is one big live museum of nature, culture and history. For Tel Aviv itself I'd suggest checking out http://www.spottedbylocals.com/telaviv/. As a former resident who has done his best to explore the city, I can certify that the locals are doing a very good job unveiling spots that are usually under the radar.

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

The weather is great for at least 10 months. It's a unique opportunity to experience the place that gets so much attention, and see for yourself what the fuss is all about.

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8. Can you save money?

No.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

Anything you thought you knew about the place and anything anyone has ever told you about it. It's nothing like you thought it is, no matter what you thought. And don't bring your politeness either, it will go unnoticed at best.

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3. But don't forget your:

Balls of steel, elephant skin, all the sarcasm and cynicism you can find. A huge supply of sense of humour. And, of course, your hiking boots. Israel is best explored by foot.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

"Lebanon" - OK, it takes place in Lebanon, but it's set exclusively inside an Israeli tank in Lebanon.

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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 lover" by A. B. Yehoshua.

Works of Bernard Lewis, such as "The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years."
and "1948: A History of the First Arab Israeli War" by Benny Morris.

Take them all with a huge pinch (better yet, a bag) of salt; everyone's view is politically coloured.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Don't be like the American presidents and Secretaries of State who think that all it takes is for people to shake hands and stop being so childish. It's not up to you to bring peace, nor is it up to you to lecture the locals how they should behave and think. Just try to enjoy the good parts, and ignore the bad ones; that's what everyone else is doing.

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Tel Aviv, Israel 11/18/14

Background:

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

4th tour - other tours include Africa and Central Europe.

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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?

DC - 14 hours - connections through U.S. East Coast, Frankfurt, occasionally Paris.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years.

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

U.S. 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?

Singles, couples, and (to a lesser extent) families without school-age children are housed in Tel Aviv or Ramat Aviv (next to Tel Aviv). Commute time differs - some folks can walk but some are far enough to drive. There is also a great shuttle as long as you are able to be fairly routine in your arrival/departure to work - so 10 to 30 minutes.

Almost all families with school-age children are housed in Herzliya - Pituach (on the west side of the 2 closer to the beach) or Bet (the east side of the 2). Houses seem to be equally nice(-ish) or not on both sides of the highway. You should disabuse yourself of the notion that you will have a house on the beach. You may score a house 5 or 10 minutes from it if you request it and are lucky. If you are a die hard beach person, go for it. Houses in Herzliya are mostly single family, some are spacious apartment/townhome setups.

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

Expensive but most everything is available.

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

Swim items, sports items, any specialty food items. Really, pretty much everything is here if you look.

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

Decent to good food. People rave and there are places to rave about but in general I am medium-whelmed. McDonald's is here but it's not that great.

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

Mosquitoes in the heat of summer and make sure to treat pets for fleas if they are outside at all.

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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?

Expensive. If you are around awhile you will figure it out. Diplomats can sponsor someone and HR is good about help with the process.

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

Yes and it depends. Holmes Place is the big player - negotiate with them. Also, ask questions about cancellation - fees and getting your money back.

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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.

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

Catholic and there's a non-denominational Christian community. Not sure of the rest.

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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?

Not much if I'm any example. Most people in Tel Aviv speak English. READING Hebrew would be more useful, in my opinion.

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

Sort of - sidewalks are uneven, buildings are small.

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Transportation:

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

Buses aren't allowed for Embassy folks. Trains and taxis are safe and there are shared buses - sheruts. I drive everywhere.

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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?

Oh man. A tank?

Look, smaller is better as far as parking, etc. Out of anywhere I have been to, your fellow drivers here just DON'T CARE. It's kind of like letting your 6 year old drive while watching the Lego movie. There's some semblance of order until there's something totally crazy that you are supposed to be cool with.

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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, and the Embassy will set it up so it's ready when you arrive - truly brilliant! It's pretty cheap - like US$20 the first year and then US$30 a month after that.

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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?

You will need one. If you bring an unlocked one you can check around for deals from local providers.

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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 is outrageously expensive to bring them in even more so if you use an expediter. Vets are good. Not sure about kennels.

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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?

I don't think so and definitely not without Hebrew.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

I don't have specifics, but there are opportunities.

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

Casual to business casual. Suits on occasion, ties rarely. In public, VERY casual. Nothing like an Embassy where you run to grab lunch in your suit and heels and everyone else is wearing their swim trunks or bikini and flip flops.

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Health & Safety:

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

Hm. It's highly unlikely that you will be the victim of a mugging, home invasion or assault, but there's a reason the homes have 3 foot thick concrete bunkers. Also, the place is just always on the edge of something happening.

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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 real health concerns. Medical care seems high quality but very expensive.

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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?

Fine.

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

Bring your allergy medicine. For food allergies - learn some Hebrew. You can find a lot of gluten free stuff here.

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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?

VERY hot and humid in the summer, "winter" is pleasant and mild and when it rains it's refreshing and welcome.

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Schools & Children:

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

I think WBAIS (in Even Yehuda - north of Herzliya) and Tabeetha (in Jaffa) are the two to choose from. We've had a child in WBAIS in elementary school and have been extremely happy with the school and the teachers. I feel like the teachers are true professionals - they are from North America but are in Israel permanently so they are not transient. I have consistently been impressed by how much they are experts in their area, their passion for particular teaching programs and frankly, how well they know my child. I know my child won't forget them and her parents will not forget them either.

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

I really don't know, but there are lots of services available.

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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?

Short answer, yes. We chose to pay for full day preschool at AIS for our younger child and we could not be happier with that choice - she loves it and is learning a ton. Like I said, right choice for us but it is expensive. Other options are Anita's, Gan Ora or a local gan. My understanding is that you can put your 3 year old in a local gan for minimal or no cost.

For single parents or a family with two working parents some level of babysitter/nanny may be necessary. Minimum wage for a full time nanny are about US$1,200 month. Some people have live-in help. Talk to the CLO - he/she will know who has a nanny. If you are going to need full-time help it's best to start looking early and try to take over a nanny from a departing family or bring someone in that you sponsor. HR knows all the rules and are very helpful.

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

Not so much. You have to seek it out.

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Expat Life:

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

Huge and generally good. This is the first posting where I haven't made a lot of local or other diplomatic friends but there is a Diplomatic Spouses Club that seems good.

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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?

Outdoor activity at the beach, movies, eating out - plays, ballets, art galleries, sightseeing. We gather with close friends at least once a week. This is not a cohesive Embassy community - too big, too spread out.

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

All. Despite the prickly outer armor of most Israelis if you can't make a friend, then that's more on you.

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

Tel Aviv is - there's a pride parade. More conservative areas might not be ok with it.

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

Yes, for the last few thousand years...

I will save you the ancient and even recent history, but yes, there are problems, to put it mildly. Once you get here and start reading the press every day you'll get it. That's all I'll say - it's depressing.

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

Seeing the Mediterranean Sea every day, the Golan Heights, Haifa, the Old City in Jerusalem, the Negev, proximity to Jordan - Petra, the Dead Sea.

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

Open any tour book. There are some things specifically for kids and they are ok. Children are pretty welcome most everywhere.

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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 just any number of things - Roman glass jewelry, art, outdoor adventure, olive wood stuff, dining out, wine.

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

The history - both ancient and recent.

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10. Can you save money?

Sort of. A two income family can.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How much of it is off-limits to Embassy personnel. kind of a bummer, but it is what it is.

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

Probably. The Israelis are friendly one on one but as a whole it's stressful to deal with them. We chose not to extend our tour. I find this is a "love it or hate it" post. People either want to stay forever or two years is quite enough.

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

Optimism for peace in the Middle East.

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4. But don't forget your:

Aggressive driving moves.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Gatekeepers,
Bethlehem (Subtitled),
Munich.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

I never would have imagined being posted to Israel and frankly I only knew the bare bones of its history. It really is a fascinating place on many levels and I'm glad I've seen the things I've seen. I'm even sort of glad I was here for Protective Edge on some insane level.

It is the Middle East and it's not totally first world. That kind of surprised me. The Israelis can be brusque, aggressive and pushy - and also fun and kind. Come and enjoy!

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Tel Aviv, Israel 04/10/13

Background:

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

This is our third overseas country as US Embassy personnel, and our fifth including military overeseas assignments.

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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?

DC, about a 12-hour flight.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

U.S. 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?

The homes are small --- think Tokyo small. The homes in the suburbs for families are larger, and many have nice yards.

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

Expensive: 2 times more then Europe. The only food item that I could not find has been canned soup.

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

Soup, steak sauce, makeup, lotions and face creams, bar soap, hair ties, and brushes.

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

All kinds.

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

A few roaches, ants, and other minor insects. Nothing like what you find in some of the other countries we have seen.

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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?

Available but fairly expensive,. 8 hours of work costs $100-$150.

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

Some of the apartments have really good amenities. There are also gyms all over the place.

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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 issues for us so far.

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

Yes.

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

Jeruslem Post. HOT or YES cable costs 50-70 dollars monthly. This also includes internet.

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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 should always try and learn a few phrases. Many people speak English in Tel Aviv. Farther south, not so much.

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

Many. This is not a handicap-friendly country.

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Transportation:

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

Trains are okay to use as are the Sheruts (small buses). No regular buses are allowed for US Embassy employees or their family members.

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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 small, old, and ugly car. It will roll out of here dinged, dented, and looking small, old,, and ugly.

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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.

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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?

I have a work one, so I am not sure.

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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)?

AMAZING! This is a pet-friendly area. Expensive but good. People even take their pets into some of the cafes.

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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 some jobs but not very high-paying ones.

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

Casual to very casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Missile attacks are still a threat, as are bus bombings. That being said, there is nowhere else that I have lived where I have felt safe walking my dog late at night as I do here.

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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?

Some dust in the air. Medical facilities are clean, and the doctors are pretty good. I opted to have surgery here instead of in London. It really is that good.

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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?

Moderate. Many people seem to be affected by the dust in the air.

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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?

Beautiful hot summers, light rain in the winter.

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Schools & Children:

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

WBAIS is a pretty demanding school, almost like a Harvard prep school.

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

Not many.

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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?

Many are available.

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

Yes.

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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 to huge.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mostly high.

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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?

Many bars, clubs, restaurants. You need to make your own fun sometimes.

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

This city is good for all families.

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

Yes, very friendly and accepting.

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

Most people here are Jewish. There seem to be some underlying issues that rarely come to the light. But they are there, just below the surface.

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

The dead sea is amazing. Visiting some of the places that I heard about in bible studies. The local wine is great.

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

Beaches, travel, wine and cheese tastings, shouk, walking or biking down the beach bike paths, eating out. You just need to get out and do things.

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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, hand-made jewelery, pottery.

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

The amazing history, beaches, shouks. The weather is wonderful. However, this is not a money-saving post --- unless you skip all of the perks, do not travel, and eat raman noodles every day.

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11. Can you save money?

This post is expensive, but (like anywhere) you can save money if you try. If you never go out to lunch with your coworkers, dinner with friends, don't drink alcohol, eat only pasta, (veggies are pricey), don't drive a car, and do no traveling --- sure, you can save plenty.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, this really is a pretty country. Some of the people are rude (think New York), but I love it here---as does my teenager.

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

fancy car, winter gear, and half of your belongings. Apartments are small.

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3. But don't forget your:

sense of adventure and 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?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Tel Aviv, Israel 08/14/10

Background:

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

no, china, venezuela, bosnia, japan, cote d'ivore

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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?

Tel Aviv. 12 Hours to USA via Frankfurt, or direct to Newark or Atlanta

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3. How long have you lived here?

one 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?

It's apartment living for most, some houses. Infrastructure is poor for the most part. Apartments are small no closets, European-size appliances. Repair technicians skill level is moderate to low, usually simple repairs require many trips and visits before the issue is adequately resolved. Embassy families commute about an hour, they are looking at moving further out due to high housing costs.

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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 probably double to quadruple the prices of the States. You will order most non-food items Amazon.com.

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

More food items and staples. Amazon.com works well for anything else you need.

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

It's mostly local fast food, falafel and humus pitas, pizza. Quite expensive however.

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

A few ants, a few mosquitoes. Nothing worth being concerned over.

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Daily Life:

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

APO generally. Mail to Israel is fast, to the States takes 2-4 weeks for some reason, seems to be a bottleneck with USPS in New York.

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

Readily available but fairly expensive. Fairly expensive, you can't hire anyone part time. Government requires you sponsor your help, pay insurance, pay for trips back home.

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

Not at the embassy. Local gyms are not up to par with the rest of the world, very basic. You can get a good workout, but don't expect muchbeyond that.

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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 and ATMs abound. High fees for using however.

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

Probably not, everything would be in Hebrew.

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

Local cable TV providers are pretty basic, choices of channels are poor, many end up canceling after their contract is up and rely only on AFN, although the military ads drive you bonkers after a while.

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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?

No thought to making the life of the disabled easy.

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Transportation:

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

Can't ride a bus, but trains, taxis, and small commuter buses are fine and cheap.

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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?

Just like being in the US, any car is fine as long as you don't park on the street. Israelis have no respect for personal property. If you park on the street you car will be bumped and dinged. Routine way to exit a parking spot is to ram the car in front of you and back of you until you clear a space to get out. On the road, Israeli's drift from lane to lane aserting their dominance of the space about them.

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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 speeds and reliability is improving. Overall its a shock to many to find out Israel is really a third world country on all levels. However internet service is fine, about $30 a month.

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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?

Not really. Local contracts are easily obtained. Rates are comparable to USA.

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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?

unknow

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

Seems to be 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?

No. Wages are low, jobs are difficult to find. Embassy tends to require qualifications for family member jobs that no one can meet. So difficult even there. They also pay very low wages.

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

Casual at the embassy.

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Health & Safety:

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

None, danger pay for the embassy folk has been reduced and will probably be reduced until it's gone. Tel Aviv is like living in any normal big city. Locals joke about the next war,but the level of concern is the same as sitting in your home county and watching a war in someone else's country on CNN.

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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?

None. Basic health care is good. For anything major head back to your home country. Doctors here like to be called professors not doctors, quality of major operations reflects this. Dental work is primitive, cleanings are fine.

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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 good, certain times of the year there are dust storms, but most of the year is clear and quite humid.

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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?

Humid and warm in the summers 90-100 degrees. Winters are quite cool, but you only need a light jacket.

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Schools & Children:

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

None. Families seem happy with the schools.

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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?

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

Yes. Families seems to find lots for the kids to do.

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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.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good on average. You will be surprised however to find out how much you are on your own. There is no support community with the American Embassy. CLO is quite good at lip service, poor on delivery. You're on your own.

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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?

If you are not outgoing, you won't be happy here.

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

Good city for singles. Embassy personnel stay to themselves don't socialize much, you're on your own. But restaurants are good. If you live downtown, life is good. Families are isolated in the suburbs. Embassy has a REC center, but they never make much use of it, Americans are not a social bunch.

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

Unknown, but the gays I've known seem pretty happy here. It's a prejudiced society, so if you aren't Jewish or Caucasian it will be a difficult tour.

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

If you are black or Asian, life will be difficult. This is not a tolerant society. Local people are quite tense. It spills over into our life. Embassy staff are tense and not customer service oriented. They enjoy making your life and their own difficult. Skill levels are low, so getting anything accomplished is quite a feat.

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

Hiking in the Negev desert, exploring Golan Heights, seeing Masada and Petra

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

Roman ruins are pretty much piles of rocks. To see the sights go to Jordan or Egypt. Masada is interesting, Dead Sea on the Jordan side is great. Israeli side not so much. Religious sites and the beach are the place to be and see. Restaurants are quite good.

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

Haven't seen any. TDYers search for days for something representative of the country to take home, usually they don't find anything.

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

Beach for the beachgoers, hiking in the desert, driving to Jordan, driving to Egypt, touring the Golan Heights, touring the dead sea and Galilee areas. Expensive to survive, you won't save money.

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11. Can you save money?

No, quite the contrary

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No. Because of the argumentative and Domineering nature of the Israelis, you burn out quickly and find yourself wishing you were somewhere else.

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

ideas that this will be an interesting tour. It's just like everyday normal life in a big dirty US city. Hot, sweaty and not exotic at all.

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3. But don't forget your:

bathing suit and your bicycle, bring a big lock.

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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

No matter how hard you try, it never gets any easier here. Simple life is made so complicated and issues never die in the Embassy. Everything develops a life of its own, it wears you down quickly from shopping to work, life is complicated here.

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Tel Aviv, Israel 07/26/10

Background:

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

No - also lived in Port-au-Prince, Paris and London.

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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?

US - about 11-12 hour direct flight from NY.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5 yrs.

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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?

Apartments in Tel Aviv - about a 20-minute walk from the embassy. Bigger apts in Ramat-Aviv and anywhere from a 20 to 45-minute drive depending on traffic. Houses in Herzliya Pituach to the north - about a 30 to 60-minute drive.

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

Vegetables and fruits aren't too expensive, and dairy and breads are subsidized by the government. Cleaning supplies and meat/fish are not as good as in the US and are very expensive.

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

Cleaning supplies and laundry detergent.

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

Decent is a stretch. The restaurant scene has gotten much better, but it is very expensive. And of course, many fast-food places are kosher, so they don't open on Saturdays or mix meat and dairy. Thankfully, TA has many non-kosher options available, and cafés are plentiful, even if they all serve the same kind of food.

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

None that I can see, except for fleas from the street cats.

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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?

Third-country nationals are available, usually for about $10/hr.

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

Israelis love to work out. Lots of gyms and outdoor gyms.

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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 used. There are a lot of ATMs, but bank fees here are so expensive that most people use credit or debit cards.

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

Yes, although the nearest Catholic church is in Jaffa. No churches or mosques in TA proper.

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

Yes - but very expensive. Cable is about $90/month.

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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?

More than you would think. Every Israeli learns English in school, but many refuse to speak it or are shy about it. Street signs are legally required to be in English, Arabic and Hebrew, but pretty much every other sign is in Hebrew only. There are English newspapers, but the news they report is often quite different than the Hebrew version of the same paper.

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

A lot - most buildings are not handicapped-accessible and Israelis regularly park in handicapped spots, even though they don't have permits. Nice.

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Transportation:

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

We can't take local buses, but taxis are cheap unless the driver is trying to cheat you (which they will do unless you insist on the "monay" or meter). Sheruts (shared taxis) are plentiful, but they only run on certain routes.

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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?

Think small. Parking is tough to find. The roads are in very good shape, so a 4X4 isn't necessary.

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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 - again, not cheap but available and works well. You need high-speed service, usually from the cable company, and a separate service for an ISP.

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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 one. Israelis live and die by their cellphones and iPhones. Roaming charges to the US are incredibly 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)?

Vets are great, and there are lots of options for kennels.

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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?

It's very difficult to find a job outside the embassy, and there is a lot of hostility towards "foreign" workers, thanks to the religious right which controls the Interior Ministry and blames them/us for the entry and spread of diseases and the corruption of Jewish Israel, among other things.

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

Very casual and unkempt. What can you say about a society where the website of their government specifies what color Crocs are ok to wear at work?

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Health & Safety:

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

Not at all - you get used to clearing security to do your grocery shopping, etc.

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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 usually pretty good and affordable.

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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?

Fine - a lot of allergens in the air from plants, though.

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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?

Humid in the summers, but warm all year around and little rain. Think Miami.

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Schools & Children:

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

American International School in Netanya, about an hour or more from TA. It has a good reputation, but there is a lot of infighting among the parents.

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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?

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

Lots - especially soccer.

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Expat Life:

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

Huge if you include those who make aliya.

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2. Morale among expats:

It's not easy living here, and it is very hard to fit in if you are not Jewish. Israelis are as hostile, stubborn and argumentative as you have heard, and it gets exhausting on a daily basis. You can't even buy groceries without someone trying to run you over with a shopping cart and starting a fight.

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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?

Restaurants, bars, lots of cafés right on the beach. Israelis are not big drinkers, so good luck finding a decently-mixed cocktail, but beer and wine are plentiful and often good.

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

From that standpoint, it's not bad for anyone. Families have their place, and singles do, as well, although b/c of the living conditions, this is a family posting.

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

Very good - TA is very open and accepting compared to other parts of Israel.

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

Very much - as a person of color, I have been called the n-word repeatedly by Israelis (in English and Hebrew), spat upon, followed down the street and shouted at, etc. In my building people think I'm the maid, and at work, people have demanded to speak to "an American" when they see me. It's a horrible, racist environment. And don't even try not being Jewish. They hate Gentiles here. Diplomats here have had rocks thrown at them for "violating" the Sabbath.

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

Getting out - Israel is a very easy country to travel.

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

Jaffa is lovely - very charming. Wines are big, as is hiking. Everything is usually within driving distance.

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

Bedouin and Palestinian handicrafts, jewelry.

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

The beach, when it's clean and not crowded, is lovely.

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11. Can you save money?

I've been able to. There really isn't much to buy locally, other than day-to-day items. My money goes for travelling, esp. to Turkey (2-hr direct flight), Cyprus (1 hr), Jordan (3-hr drive) and Egypt (2-hr flight to Cairo).

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Hell, no!

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

sweaters and coats.

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3. But don't forget your:

bathing suit.

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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 Bible. It is pretty cool to read about Moutn Gilboa and realize that you can drive there in about 45 minutes or less.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

You Don't Mess with the Zohan. Seriously. It's a documentary.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Never, never forget that Israel is first and foremost a Middle Eastern country. It is not New York. Many people come here and make that mistake and end up disappointed and upset.

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Tel Aviv, Israel 02/27/09

Background:

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

Experienced expat.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Over 1 year.

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

Affiliated with the American Embassy.

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

Direct daily flights to NY/Newark/Atlanta (approx. 12 hours), regular flights direct to LA (15 hours). Daily flights to all over Europe.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Embassy housing can vary. The closer you are to the embassy, the smaller your housing. Some places do not have closets (literally, no closets). In Tel Aviv, all housing is between 5-25 minutes walking, many colleagues ride bikes to work or walk. Ramat Aviv in far northern Tel Aviv is about 5 miles from the embassy, most people drive from there. If coming from Herzlia, there is an embassy shuttle, or about a 15-20 minute commute by car (without traffic).

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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 here, but be prepared that things cost 2-3x what they would in the states. There are a few grocery chains that specialize in international food choices.

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

Barbecue grill, consumables. Everything is available here, but very expensive.

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

There is excellent food here- Tel Aviv has a huge cafe-culture, and plenty of choices from casual to fancy. There are plenty of 'ethnic' food options, although if you're a huge fan of Mexican or Asian (aside from sushi) you'll be sorely disappointed. The usual McDonalds, KFC, Dominos are here. The price for eating out varies from dirt cheap (hummus, salads, pitas) to really expensive. The pace of a meal is much slower than what you're used to in the US- service can be slow and once you're at the table, if you want to sit there all night, you're welcome to it!

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

Nothing.

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Daily Life:

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

We use the APO and Pouch for most items- APO takes between 5-7 days.

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

Help is available, costs about US$10/hour. If the help is a third country national, you need to sponsor the help, so if you leave post and haven't found them a new family to work for, you're on the hook for their return ticket home.

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

Next to the Embassy is a large, well equipped gym, plus free outdoor gyms along the promenade and in the park. Many of the buildings have fitness centers.

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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?

If you're going into a store, no problem using credit cards. Many of the little kiosks or simple food shops and the market only take cash.

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

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

Ha-Aretz/International Herald Tribune and the Jerusalem Post. There are 2 cable companies here which have all the major international channels (BBC, Sky, CNN)

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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?

In Tel Aviv, not much, most people speak some English. Outside of Tel Aviv Hebrew is very helpful to completely necessary.

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

Yes- pavement and curbs are uneven, there aren't typically ramps, crosswalks few and far between.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are plentiful and pretty cheap. AmCit embassy employees are not allowed to take buses or trains.

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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?

Gas is expensive here and typically Israelis drive small cars (VW golf-size). You'll see every make and model on the road. If you're planning on bringing a car, come to grips with the fact it will get dinged, scratched, sideswiped while here. Driving is erratic at best and for most fender-benders, drivers won't stop.

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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 about US$20 a month.

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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?

Prepaid SIM cards are available everywhere.

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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)?

This is a very pet-friendly place. Great vets and pet-care options. Dog walkers are pretty easy to find, but doggy-day care hasn't caught on here yet.

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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?

Recently, the government of Israel began enforcing its bilateral work agreement with the U.S., meaning you can now get a work permit as the spouse of an American diplomat (whereas before it took 1 year+). Wages are lower here than they are in the US and the tax rate is much higher. That being said, there are many high tech, medical jobs out there. Many jobs, however, require some knowledge of Hebrew

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

Tel Aviv is VERY casual. Work is typically business casual- men rarely wear a suit and tie.

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Health & Safety:

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

For most of the year, the pollution is relatively low, but we have our share of very, very smoggy days.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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

Aside from the big-picture security concerns, Tel Aviv is a safe city where I don't worry about walking alone at night. Just like everywhere, take the usual precautions.

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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 care is excellent.

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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?

Winter is mild, with lows into the 40s, highs typically in the 60s, although we have had a few freak 80+ days this winter. Rain is a possibility from about November to March, with heavy storms coming off the Mediterranean lasting a few days. Summer is very humid, with highs in the 80s and 90s.

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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 is an American school about 30 minutes north of the Embassy- it has a new campus, with great facilities.

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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?

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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?

Between diplomats and expats who have immigrated to Israel, it's huge. Herzlia and Ra'anana have large anglo populations.

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2. Morale among expats:

High- the quality of life here is fantastic, the weather is wonderful and there are lots of opportunities to travel around 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?

Clubs, music, bars, restaurants, sports- This is a first-world city with everything.

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

This is a great city for everyone

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

Yes.

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

This IS Israel. Within Tel Aviv, however, people generally get along.

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

The city itself has a wonderful network of paths, including a huge promenade along the Mediterranean where you can walk, run, bike, etc. There is also a large park that cuts across the city with outdoor gyms, tennis and basketball courts, a climbing wall, etc. along with a paved trail leading for miles. Within two hours of Tel Aviv you have access to Jerusalem, Dead Sea, the Golan Heights, lots of great wineries, hiking spots, etc.

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

Weavings, pottery, local wine

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, if you can live without American products.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely- our time here has been terrific!

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

Winter weather gear, expectancy that people will wait their turn.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience, sun screen, sports gear.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Walk on Water, James' Journey to Jerusalem, The Syrian Bride.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Tel Aviv really is great, but living here can be frustrating at times, particularly with the political situation in flux. Israelis can be very pushy and brusque, it's hard when you first get here not to get worked up about this.

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Tel Aviv, Israel 09/19/08

Background:

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

We have lived in Mexico as well.

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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.)?

Government.

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

10 1/2 hours to NY.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Houses in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv are very nice and have yards. The commute is probably 20-25 minutes in the morning.

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

Somewhat more expensive than in the U.S.

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

Swiss Miss Lite. That's it.

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

KFC, Burger King, Mcdonalds. But why bother with them when the local food is so good?Humus, falafel, schwarma, etc.

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Daily Life:

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

We use APO.

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

About US$12 an hour. Plenty of help 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?

Very accessible.

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

Everything.

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

Jerusalem Post, Herald Tribune/Haaretz and more.

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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?

It's useful to know some Hebrew though English is ubiquitous and people REALLY want to use it so you don't get much practice with Hebrew. But I can't imagine being in another country for years and not learning any of the native language. What's the point?

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

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

It's often hard to tell but usually the right.

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

We are not allowed to use public transportation but taxis are quite affordable.

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3. 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?

I didn't want to bring a minivan because of the lack of parking and narrow streets but I see that many people do drive them.

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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?

Of course available. My husband pays that bill.

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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?

Cell phone usage is quite inexpensive - you don't pay for incoming calls as you do in the U.S. But the phone itself is quite expensive.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage.

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Pets:

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

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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. Plus salaries are lower.

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

That's an interesting subject - Israeli women dress stylishly but rather scantily. Even those who perhaps should not be baring so much skin do so. And it's not always a pretty sight.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate.

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

Big question. Terrorist attacks are always in the back of people's minds here. However, in Tel Aviv nothing has happened in the time we have been here. Guards check bags at entrances to all restaurants, malls, concert halls, etc. Although they don't always appear to be with it, they apparently do serve as a deterrent. We feel very safe here and our children are very independent.

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

Great medical care - use all private doctors, all English speaking

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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?

Mostly sunny, very occasional rain in winter.

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Schools & Children:

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

View All Answers


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?

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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 but not cohesive in Tel Aviv. More Americans in Jerusalem.

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2. Morale among expats:

Excellent. This is a fun post to be at.

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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?

Local restaurants are plentiful and excellent.

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

Great for everyone - no limit to bars, restaurants, theaters, great beach hangouts, etc. Truly a 24-hour city.

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

Apparently very good.

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

I have experienced none.

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

Many city tours available to old city of Jaffa, and old parts of Tel Aviv. The Yarkon Park has a sportek with a climbing wall, trampolines, skateboard area with ramps, tennis courts, baseball and soccer fields, Israeli folk dancing on Saturday night, yoga also....The old port has a wooden boardwalk for skating and bicycles, lots of great cafes and restaurants.

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

Jewelry, olive-wood crafts, t-shirts, Armenian pottery, etc.

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9. Can you save money?

Not really.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely. In a heartbeat.

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

Impatience, polite driving, warm clothing, umbrellas. Rains less and less every year.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and 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?

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Israelis are somewhat pushy etc. like many other nationalities. I read this same comment often in reviews of other societies. This is not the U.S (though Israelis often make the comparison) nor is it England South Africa or Australia. This is the MIDDLE EAST. Scratch the surface of this advanced high tech society and that's what you get. That said, people can be very helpful and warm . Just don't get in the way when they are on the road.

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Tel Aviv, Israel 07/02/08

Background:

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

Korea and Germany {with the Military}.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

I am a FSO Spouse.

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

From the U.S. 11-14 hours {depending on your lay-overs and connections}.

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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 very nice.

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

Expensive..but isn't it everywhere?

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

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

All of it!

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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. It's very good!

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

I do not have any information on that except to say that some people do hire domestic help and seem happy with it.

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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?

They are the same as in the U.S.

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

Yes, all denominations.

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

Newspapers-no. TV- AFN is free, and HOT cable is about US$60 a month.

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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?

It always helps to know some.

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

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right.

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

Taxis- Yes, trains & buses are not allowed for embassy staff and families.

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3. 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?

Nothing NEW!! Highly recommend you buy here from someone that is leaving.

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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, US$10 a month.

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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?

Not very expensive. Many options available.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Bezeq international, arranged through the Embassy is very inexpensive for routine calls to the USA.

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Pets:

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

Wonderful vet service! We have never used a kennel here.

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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.

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

Semi Formal- Casual. Once in a while you will need to wear suits. Depends on your job but it's recommended you have at least two nice suits.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate.

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

It's not as bad as it used to be.

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

Medical care in this country is very good, and reasonably priced.

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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?

Winter: Rain/storms - Spring: very nice - Summer: very HOT & HUMID!! - Fall: hot until mid-December.

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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 is a new American International School, however our children are grown. But I have not heard any complaints.

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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?

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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.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good.

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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?

One formal event a year, and your social life is up to you.

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

Yes for all.

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

Yes.

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

Not to my knowledge.

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

This country is full of history, and has the typical attractions as most cities e.g., Amusement Parks, Museums, Zoo, Theater's- Dramatic, Music, and Movie.

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

Olive wood is big over here.

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9. Can you save money?

Sure, it you want to.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, but it would not be my first choice, I do not like the HEAT!

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

Winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor...you'll need it when you drive over here.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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