Business culture in Israel is diverse, with surprising contrasts between warm hospitality, a direct and no-nonsense business approach, aggressive negotiations and slow-paced meetings. Expats doing business in Israel should feel at ease in the casual culture but should nevertheless be prepared to be flexible and patient.
Important industries in Israel include technology and communications, agriculture, manufacturing, transport and tourism.
Typical office hours are 8.30am to 5pm from Sunday to Thursday, while many businesses also operate on Friday mornings until noon.
International business is conducted in English, while local business is more often conducted in Hebrew. Arabic is also an official language, although it will more likely see use between Arab-run businesses.
Business casual is common in most jobs, although women should avoid wearing revealing clothing, especially if they work with religious colleagues.
Business associates usually greet each other by shaking hands. Expats should note that religious associates don't typically shake hands with members of the opposite gender. Business cards may be exchanged for convenience, typically at the end of an introductory meeting. It's appropriate to have them printed in English.
Companies typically send gifts to their customers at holiday times. The holidays include Passover in the early spring and Rosh Hashanah in early autumn. Those with Muslim or Christian colleagues might consider giving gifts during holidays like Eid or Christmas. Champagne or flowers may be appropriate after closing a large deal.
Israeli business culture is generally egalitarian, and women are treated as equals. Despite this, Israel has a high gender wage gap, and women tend to earn less than their male counterparts.
Business culture in Israel
Israel as a modern state is a young country with few natural resources, and it frequently faces adverse conditions. These factors play into its business environment. Known as the 'Start-Up Nation', Israeli business is pervaded by technology and innovation. Israelis prize intelligence and creativity and show respect for experts and prominent specialists in their field.
Many Israelis have a direct, assertive and persistent approach. Business can feel both informal and fast-paced, and it is often conducted with an inherent urgency. At the same time, personal connections are of the utmost importance. Colleagues and business partners take time to get to know one another, socialise and drink coffee together.
Egalitarian work structure
The management style in Israel is often collaborative, and hierarchy isn't always strongly enforced. Israelis are interested in solutions and results, and everyone is given the opportunity to voice their opinion. The culture places an enormous emphasis on hospitality, and Israelis will make an effort to be accommodating to other cultures.
When working with Jewish religious colleagues, it's important to be aware that they will not be available on the Sabbath (sundown on Friday until Saturday evening). It is customary to ask if there are special requirements when serving food or drink, as some Israelis observe the dietary laws of Kashrut.
Dos and don'ts of doing business in Israel
Do offer drinks when hosting a meeting, and prepare snacks when hosting long meetings
Do respect diversity and individual opinions. Avoid politics in general conversation and vocalising generalisations about Israel's culture and people.
Do be prepared for everything to be negotiable and be assertive
Don't offer to shake hands with a religious person of the opposite sex
Don't be surprised by sudden changes in plans
Do make polite conversation and be friendly, flexible and accommodating
►For an overview of the job market, read Working in Israel
►Work Permits for Israel provides essential visa information for potential expats
What do expats say about work-life balance in Israel?
"Again, there is the understanding that employees do have a life outside work. Family time is highly regarded as most Israelis have their own children and the society values children in general. Although employers are only legally obligated to offer 10 days of paid vacation per year, many companies are slightly more flexible. Employees are often invited to co-workers' religious and familial celebrations. Holidays are also very important here. The country is closed basically on the Jewish New Year in September and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)." Learn about Aviva's experience living in Israel and any tips she has for expats making the move.
Are you an expat living in Israel?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Israel. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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