15 of the Most Important Things to Know When Working in Israel

4 min read
Yonatan Engler
Yonatan Engler

Interested in working in Israel? Here are some tips that will help you navigate your workplace in Israel.

1. Dive deep into your own company.

Get to know other projects and different teams, and network internally – this shows involvement, motivation, and rosh gadol (see number two). In addition, it’s a good way to gain mentors and allies in the company.

2. Be rosh gadol.

This means going beyond the expected minimum and going above and beyond the bare minimum. Israeli managers and colleagues will appreciate it if you try to assist and help out even when you’re not explicitly asked to do so.

3. Your job description is just a suggestion.

Don’t get too attached to your job description. In Israel, you’ll want to take into consideration that you’ll probably have additional tasks and projects that may fall outside of your original scope of work. See this as a blessing – with it comes opportunity for promotions and an exciting career.

4. Open communication is key.

Is there something on your mind? Communicate it in an effective and direct way – and don’t wait weeks to speak your mind.

No one is a mind reader, and expressing yourself builds trust. Pay attention to how Israelis communicate: They’re very honest, direct, and open. This is a trait many internationals learn to develop after they arrive in Israel.

5. Work is life (in a good way).

Compared to other countries where there may be more of a divide between work life and private life, Israelis more often see the workplace as an integrated part of their daily lives. For example, friends from work could be friends to have drinks or Friday night dinner with.

6. Manage your expectations.

Expectations and timelines are often different in Israel — don’t be surprised if the meeting that was supposed to start at 12:00 end up starting at 12:25. If someone promises to send you something by end of the day – don’t be surprised if you get in the next two days. These situations can be frustrating for internationals who are used to a different workflow, so it’s important to come prepared and try to adapt to a more casual approach.

7. Hit the nail on the head.

Israelis are very straight forward; they don’t sugarcoat anything. Feedback and advice will be direct — so be prepared for a more honest communication style. When you’re new to this style of communication, it can feel “harsh” or “rude” at times, so try to take everything with a grain of salt and remind yourself that you are learning a new cultural language as well.

Don’t put yourself down, and don’t be afraid to push back in these types of situations – clearly explain your stance.

8. Be assertive.

When relying on a colleague to get something done, walk right into their office or pick up the phone to discuss. These are more direct forms of communication, which are appreciated here in Israel. It’s possible that your co-workers won’t respond to your email right away, so don’t feel bad about approaching someone directly.

9. Say thank you, but only when needed.

Give credit to the people who deserve it, but no need for over-politeness, such as saying “please” and “thank you” after every request. When someone helps you and really makes an effort, make a point to make them feel appreciated.

10. You’re different.

Understand that, as an international, you bring special traits to the team; it’s an advantage to have a different outlook and workplace customs. Be humble, but know your value and be outspoken. Emphasize your own approach and ideas.

11. Work because you enjoy it, not because you need it.

Work hours in Israel are more flexible; don’t be surprised by the late hours. On the positive side, Israeli employers are much more willing to let you get something done during the workday if it’s important and/or urgent (e.g. a doctor’s appointment).

You’ll soon notice that everyone works hard and feels a belonging to their team. They see significance in their company’s purpose and give for their greater good.

12. Complain?!

Complaining is the national sport in Israel, so feel free to chime in. Israelis don’t complain because they intend to bring down the mood, but more so to offer their advice on how to make things better.

13. Stay curious.

Learning opportunities are plenty in Israel; there are so many free meet ups and workshops in Tel Aviv. This is a great way to network and learn new skills.

Try going to at least one workshop or meet up every other week — it’s worth the time.

14. Unleash your inner roar!

To get things done with Israelis (especially at work), you need to shout. Well, we mean this only half literally, but sometimes you really will need to raise your voice to be heard, in a meeting for example.

Ever heard the saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease?” Again, Israelis are always willing to help, but you have to speak up to get it. This might take some time to get used to.

15. Always say you love hummus.

Never insult an Israeli by saying you don’t like hummus (or tahini). Otherwise, you’re sure to get “the talk” from everyone at work. At a certain point, you’ll have to have your own favorite hummus place, and stick to it no matter what.

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