When I moved to Tel Aviv, one of the first unwritten rules I learned about newcomers is what I’ve dubbed the “3-and-Flee” Rule. In other words, many people who move to Tel Aviv tend to leave around the three-year mark.
I swore this wouldn’t happen to me, but sure enough, when my three-year anniversary came up in 2016, I fell mercy to this trend. (I’ve since come back to Tel Aviv, but when I left, I didn’t think I’d return.)
Looking back on it, the “3-and-Flee” Rule makes sense; the first year is kind of a “honeymoon phase.” In year two, you finally start to find your footing. And then, in the third year, everything starts to become routine, which can breed apathy, boredom, or frustrations with certain aspects of Israeli culture, bureaucracy, et cetera.
In my experience, here are three ways to avoid falling prey to the “3-and-Flee” Rule, and to ultimately ensure long-term success in Tel Aviv.
1. Join a micro community.
Communities allow us to feel a sense of belonging, and while it’s true that Tel Aviv, and Israel as a whole, are inherently communal, I believe it’s important to seek micro communities as well.
Some of my favorite examples of micro communities in Tel Aviv include:
- Heseg Foundation (for lone soldiers)
- Mindspace (or any of the shared workspaces)
- School of Shine (for women)
- The Stage
2. Learn relevant, street-smart Hebrew.
Yeah, you’ve heard it before: Hebrew is the secret to success in Israel. But here’s an even better-kept secret: Not all Hebrew is created equal. There’s academic, textbook Hebrew you can learn at an ulpan. And then there’s the everyday, “street-smart” Hebrew the average Israeli speaks.
Let me tell you from experience: The latter is what will actually make you feel like a local. The latter is what will help you fit in at the office, make friends with and date Israelis, and differentiate you from the might-as-well-be-tourists who live in Tel Aviv. And the latter might just make or break your success in the White City.
Before falling mercy to the “3-and-Flee” Rule, I took Hebrew somewhat seriously; I attended the government-sponsored Ulpan Gordon, and even hired a private tutor. However, I still largely lived my life in English: I worked in English, socialized in English, dated in English, and so on.
Upon returning to Tel Aviv, I made a conscious decision to live more of my life in Hebrew, from dating in Hebrew, to consistently watching Israeli TV shows and listening to Israeli music, to investing in higher-level Hebrew learning by enrolling in Citizen Café’s 10-week courses.
3. ‘Hack’ the Israeli culture.
Credit: Roxanne Desgagnés
I’ll be the first to say there are many aspects within modern-day Israeli culture of which I’m not entirely fond. But, once I started to understand why Israelis think and behave the way they do, I began to feel less like an outsider.
Tamar Pross, the cofounder of Citizen Café, has a terrific lecture about how to hack the Israeli culture.
For example, why Israelis don’t understand internationals who move to Israel:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Josh Hoffman was born and raised in Los Angeles, and moved to Tel Aviv in 2013 after accidentally falling in love with someone on his Birthright trip. (Her name is Tel Aviv.)