Life abroad

My experience of repatriation to Israel: “come to us – we’ll buy you an accordion!”

In mid-2022, Zhanna moved to Israel, to the city of Rehovot, under the short-lived emergency repatriation program. There are still opportunities for immigration into the country, although the accelerated procedure has been cancelled. We asked the girl about the nuances of adaptation that helped her become relatively her own in just a year and a half.

My experience of repatriation to Israel: “come to us - we’ll buy you an accordion!”0

– In April 2023, Israel curtailed its emergency repatriation program. What relocation opportunities are currently available?

– The first, the most famous and (probably) widespread, is repatriation according to the standard procedure. Suitable for Jews and their relatives up to and including the third generation – although, according to some sources, in the foreseeable future it will only apply to two generations. They have been talking about this for a long time, and the current government may well adopt an amendment to the Law of Return. In any case, special assistance for repatriates was cut precisely in the current budget.

A more complicated option is a work visa. Many young people come precisely for this reason, getting a job, for example, as nannies in large families (read about how to find a job in Israel – editor's note) .

The third way is to marry an Israeli citizen. The method is quite “working”, especially since there is a shortage of women in Israel who are not burdened with a family. However, in pursuit of citizenship, you will have to go through a certain procedure, which takes several years, and until then you will have to “make do” with a residence permit.

– And what is the method of immigration, in your opinion, is it better – more reliable, simpler?

– Of course, the most delicious option is the first one. Largely because the state provides enormous support to repatriates: material, organizational, and psychological.

The repatriate receives a so-called absorption basket – several thousand shekels, which can help, for example, rent an apartment. When the cart runs out, you will still be paid extra up to the minimum subsistence level if you don’t make it yourself.

There are also canteens with extremely cheap lunches (a few shekels), there are various “bases” where you will be given clothes and necessary household utensils. In some places they practice free distribution of vegetables and fruits – and this is not “substandard” from Pyaterochka, vegetables and fruits in Israel are wonderful!

– From the absorption basket, only housing and food are paid for, or are there any other bonuses?

– The state subsidizes learning Hebrew and even acquiring a new specialty. And not only “fitter-turner”, as many fear: they say, “whoever the country lacks, that’s what we teach.” The choice of profiles is large: from manicurist to IT specialist.


Funds also actively help repatriates – for example, “Bridges of Peace”, which also provide kitchen and bedding (everything is new and of high quality) .

Special assistance is provided for creative professionals. For example, one of my friends, also a repatriate, with whom we moved almost at the same time, was compensated for the purchase of a laptop. They may transfer money to purchase a musical instrument – if you clearly explain that you are a musician and plan to make a living from it. I read that artists were helped with their workshop, providing some premises for free…

– What, is this kind of heaven on earth right everywhere?

– Good question. Not really. A lot depends on the specific absorption department that operates in the city. But in any case, they will help you a lot with the arrangement in your new place.

– Let's get back to the apartments: after all, a roof over your head is one of the key questions that stop many people. What exactly can you count on in terms of prospects for buying your own home?

– In Israel there are “social apartments”, available, for example, to single mothers and pensioners. Not everything depends on the person himself: some get it quickly, others stand in line for years.

Read also: Buying a home in Israel: what to check before the deal

– How to find housing for rent outside the “state support program”?

– There are several options: brokers, friends and advertisements. The choice depends on your Internet skills and the presence of friends in a particular city.

Advertisements are published, as a rule, on social networks, specialized groups on Telegram or on specialized websites. In the case of websites, you still need to be able to more or less read and speak Hebrew.

An excellent Israeli practice is “ask your friends.” In general, I have the opinion that every second person here is a matchmaker and a brother. You are either acquaintances, friends, colleagues, or relatives. And not today, tomorrow you will discover that someone has a suitable apartment in mind. By the way, acquaintances will also come in handy when you need guarantees for rent.

I heard that previously, guarantors were required everywhere, and they were supposed to be Israeli citizens. When I moved, it was already possible to rent an apartment without a guarantee: the guarantor is a broker (intermediary).


– Why do you need a broker?

– It’s more convenient to rent an apartment with a broker, plus many issues regarding its maintenance can also be resolved with him. I’ll say more: during the first year of a repatriate in Israel, the broker “attached” to him is absolutely obliged to help in resolving these issues! The downside is the payment for its services, which can amount to a month’s rent. However, like many things in the country, it can be divided into several payments.

As a rule, the lease agreement is drawn up for a year, but “assignment” is possible – you never know, you decided to move to another city where you were offered a better job, or you just don’t like the apartment… Therefore, I personally would advise those who come to Israel for the first time for a long time , look for just such options, “by assignment”. In a few months you can quite understand whether you like the apartment and the place in general. If all is well, the contract is usually extended for another year.

When concluding an agreement, the tenant can pay the amount for a month or two months, and also attach a check for the payment of expenses associated with subsequent repairs of the apartment, if necessary – an analogue of a deposit in Russia. To conclude a lease agreement, checks are required, which can be ordered at the same time as opening an account. I saw offers from brokers to pay for an apartment in cash before obtaining citizenship, opening an account and a checkbook.

– The eternal question: rent or buy?

– As a person born in the USSR, I am a supporter of purchasing my own home.

However, in Israel, as in the United States, real estate is often rented, moving from city to city, moving in and out. This is convenient because it provides mobility.

On the other hand, low-interest mortgages are widespread in Israel, which allows you to buy an apartment or house without significant savings: housing here is still expensive.

And there are also lotteries that allow you to reduce the cost of real estate, there are some kind of government compensation. In short, if a family moves, selling an apartment in the country of origin or simply having a large sum on hand, then it is definitely more profitable to buy.

– Are there any pitfalls with housing?

– What has spoiled a lot of blood for my friends is the land tax ( Arnona): It is very important to know its size. Rates vary from house to house, even in the same area, not to mention different cities. Arnona can be high – several thousand shekels (payments in Israel are usually billed two months in advance).

It is good to find out how much they pay for electricity and water, whether energy-saving lamps and electrical appliances are installed. Electricity costs can be very high, because heating is required in winter, and air cooling is required in summer. In Israel, as in many countries with a sunny climate, apartments do not have central heating.

It is also useful to find out if the house has a vaad bayt – a house manager who collects money for electricity in the house and water for watering the house site, cleaning common areas, resolves all current issues. This is a very useful person who will advise on the points mentioned.

If there is no house manager, it’s sad. Then be sure to find out if “by chance” your home has a debt for utilities. The fact is that such a debt accumulates for a very long time, but then the case will be taken to court – the residents will be charged in full. And no one cares that you are not the one who owes the debt: formally, the owners of the apartment will be responsible for payment, but during the rental period, it is you who must pay the bills, so they can get to you too. The sensations, according to acquaintances who have found themselves in such situations, are not pleasant.

And so are the basic expenses – utilities, payment for the work of the vaad bayta (a hundred or two shekels), the Internet.

More One annoying feature of many old buildings is insects. The broker, of course, will not tell you about this matter, nor will the landlord. Therefore, at least ask the neighbors.

It happens that the house has been completely treated for insects, and this is often indicated in the rental advertisement as a “bonus”. Then you don’t have to worry for several years: the apartment will be clean.

If the house is very old, there is no waad byte, and the neighbors have long been “oblivious” to cleanliness and order, daily wars with cockroaches will become your personal hobby, believe me. Fortunately, any large store has plenty of disinfectants; the main thing is not to get poisoned yourself…

– What else would you recommend to pay attention to?

– On where the bomb shelter (mamad) is located: alas, in the realities of Israeli life, such a bomb shelter is your best friend. It’s somehow calmer with him, especially considering the current situation. It can be on the ground floor, on your floor or even in an apartment.

For more “quiet” chores:

  • Check where the storage room (makhsan) is and Do the owners have keys to it?
  • Where is the mailbox: You will definitely need it. Yes, in terms of medicine and defense technology, Israel is ahead of the rest, but all letters from authorities and banks still go through the mail, and bills, advertisements, and important messages are delivered in envelopes. You also need to get a key.
  • When inspecting the apartment, be sure to check all the electrical appliances and even all the burners on the stove: they may be in place and even look brand new, but not work. And if by this time you have carelessly signed an agreement that does not indicate that they are faulty, there may be difficulties. Which? The fact is that without the owner’s permission you cannot repair/change, for example, a refrigerator, and local landlords are lazy and can delay this matter indefinitely. Living without a refrigerator or with a non-working stove in Israel, where it is outright scorching for several months of the year, is such a pleasure…

Read also: How people live in Israel. Facts about real estate that will surprise you

– We’ve sorted out housing, but what about the social aspects? People, mutual assistance?

– What was pleasantly pleasing in Israel is that it not only makes sense, but ALWAYS makes sense to ask for help. Surprisingly sympathetic people live here, who themselves once went through the difficult process of repatriation. Moreover, many were in much more difficult conditions: they began their journey in so-called caravans, essentially trailers for housing in the middle of the desert. So they will always help in any way they can.


Naturally, people are different, and jokes about Israelis on the topic “friendship is friendship, but tobacco is apart” did not arise out of the blue. I had a funny incident. I needed a photocopy of the rules for living in a hostel, and one friend just photocopied these rules in abundance (in reserve). When I asked for a copy, I heard: “That’s three shekels.” Despite the fact that the remaining copies would most likely never have been useful to him at all!

In general, locals can help, give something unnecessary (but something you really need, like a frying pan), tell you something useful, take you somewhere by the hand – no problem.

– What about the language? Is it true that you can live in Israel without Hebrew?

– In fact, Hebrew is very necessary. Of course, knowing English helps, and many people speak Russian. So, in principle, it is possible to get a job with only one Russian. But mostly for simple, unskilled positions: cleaners, factory workers, etc. Slightly more complex work requires at least English, but as a rule – Hebrew.

And the standard of living directly depends on this. At a factory you can earn 5-10 thousand shekels ($1.3-2.7 thousand), and at a skilled job, with language and confirmed educational documents, 20-25 thousand ($5.5-6.8 thousand). ) and more. A progressive tax rate applies.

– Can you cut your nails at home?

– Yes, private entrepreneurship is widespread and comes to the rescue of repatriates: some bake pies, some lead round dances with children.

– How to look for work in hire?

– There are no particular differences compared to Russia: from friends or from advertisements on the Internet. The absorption department can also help. At first, many work in unskilled positions. Those who make money remotely continue to do so. Now it’s more difficult – there are problems with withdrawing money from the Russian Federation, but this is Israel – here everything about the exchange of money is resolved perfectly.

It is possible to live on benefits, but it is not necessary. This is a fairly low standard of living. It’s clear that when there’s an ulpan (intensive Hebrew courses. – editor’s note) there’s no time for work. But families often get out of it, learn the language in turns: someone works, someone studies, then they change. I found an ulpan with classes three times a week via Zoom; the state paid for it.

There is a lot of work in Israel, and, as a rule, it is related to production. It is possible to get a job in a specialty acquired in the country of origin, but for this you need to confirm your diplomas (the absorption department also helps with this).

– What about hiking see a doctor?

– Medicine in Israel is really at a high level, but there are not enough specialists, especially those who speak Russian: appointments with some specialized doctors take up to several months.

I was lucky: they quickly diagnosed a disease that was not too critical, but very detrimental to my life, and immediately prescribed medication. In Russia, I went to a therapist for several months with the same thing – and it was useless: “smoke less, walk more.” I don't smoke! And I do sports every day!

– What do you like most about Israel? What's annoying?

– Israel is considered an expensive country, but in general it is not difficult to adjust to a new price level – you just need to decide on work/earnings, in addition to the absorption basket. And then everything will be fine. An “expensive” country when compared with the level of Russian salaries.


Fast food lovers should keep this in mind , that there is a division into kosher and non-kosher. And in kosher ones – for meat and dairy… In short, you won’t be able to eat a cheeseburger in a kosher burger shop – or it will be without cheese.

It makes sense to go not to chain establishments like McDonalds and KFC (they are twice as expensive as in Russia), but to local cafes where they will prepare you unique falafel or shawarma. Here, Israel has no equal.

Intercity and urban transport are well developed, and now a modern metronite system is being introduced: something between a bus and a metro. But, of course, having your own car is a completely different level of comfort.

What is especially pleasing? Attitude towards children, warm winters, abundance of flowers, sea, autumn holidays.

Perhaps the local bureaucracy is annoying: for example, the fact that to open an account you had to register with the bank a week in advance; that you need to register in a special application in order to go to the post office, send or receive a parcel…

– Zhanna, and the last question: how to quickly join the Israeli society?

– In my opinion, there are no special “Israeli” specifics, rather the general principle of moving to another country. Namely: do not compare, “how was it there with us” and “how is it here.” Understand that this is the East, with all its features. That not everything is perfect here, but there is something that makes Israel a pleasant place. It is very good to understand the importance of the religion and history of the Jewish people as the basis for the existence of the country… In a word, try to accept Israel as it is.

See also: Conditions for immigration to Israel for ethnic Jews

Photo: courtesy of the heroine of the article, Unsplash (Zhenya Scherbakov)