Visiting U.S. companies find Israel’s business environment very similar to that in the United States. It is a professional and westernized business environment and most U.S. businesspeople feel very comfortable doing business in Israel. Appointments can be made on fairly short notice, but punctuality is desired. Israelis arrive well prepared for meetings and are very direct. Business cards in English or in English and Hebrew are recommended. It is very expensive and often a difficult task to have business cards made on short notice in Israel. Major hotels will likely offer to make photocopies of a sample card if you need additional cards; it is better to have photocopied cards than no cards. Email addresses and websites should be included with your contact information.
American business travelers will find business dress in both the public and private sectors to be much less formal than in the U.S. Israelis know that many U.S. businesspeople dress formally for meetings; however, this does not mean they will do the same, particularly in summer months. Business suits are appropriate for meetings with VIPs, some private sector companies, and senior government officials. English is widely spoken in the business community and in government offices, but knowing and using a few Hebrew words, especially introductory phrases and greetings, can be useful.
Israel's national and international telecommunications systems are constantly improving and are competitive internationally. Internet access is available from at least five different service providers. Calling cards have become very popular and can be used in most payphones for both local and international calls. All Israeli post offices, and some private vendors, offer calling cards in shekel denominations. Cell phones are available for rental at Ben Gurion Airport or through hotels. It is estimated that Israel has one of the highest levels in the world of people who own and operate a cell phone on a daily basis.
Telephone credit cards are also widely used and many Israeli companies have modern data communication equipment, providing an immediate business link with clients and customers both domestically and internationally.
Rental cars, taxis and limousines w/driver are readily available or visiting U.S. businesspersons. U.S. drivers may rent cars with a valid U.S. license or an international drivers’ license. Israel has an extensive road network that connects the entire country. Israel also has advanced inland (bus and plane) and international transport facilities. One of the most notable advances in transport in Israel in recent years has been the modernization of the train system, which is still undergoing expansion. The system currently runs along Israel's Mediterranean coast, being particularly useful for connections between Haifa, Tel Aviv and the airport, as well as the most recent link to Jerusalem. Commuter trains have become a popular means of travel between these points as the rush-hour traffic and congestion continues to grow around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Extensive freight services are available and most often used between Haifa, the port in the north, and Ashdod, Israel’s primary port in the south.
Ben Gurion International Airport is located between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and offers connections to several international destinations. Ben Gurion is the country’s center of air passenger and cargo operations. A new international terminal was completed and entered service in late 2004. Frequent internal air services connect the major cities of Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem to Eilat in the south and to the Galilee region in the north. Limited internal air service is available on Fridays and Saturdays.
The three main ports, located in Haifa, Ashdod and Eilat, offer full freight services for international shipping.
Hebrew and Arabic are the two official languages of Israel. English is the third and principal international language, and Russian is also prevalent. Many signs in public places are in all three languages. Most Israelis are multilingual.
Modern medical care and medicines are available in Israel. Service may be somewhat limited on Fridays and Saturdays so special attention should be paid to making arrangements in advance if possible for service on these days. Travelers can find information written in English about emergency medical facilities and after-hours pharmacies in the "Jerusalem Post" newspaper.
Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage has proven useful.
Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays
Israel is 7 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST), and observes daylight savings. Most businesses and government offices are open 40-45 hours/week, Sunday- Thursday. Business appointments for Friday morning may be possible, but no business is done on Saturdays. Common office hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Retail outlets are open Sunday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and on Fridays, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Shops in malls usually remain open until around 10:00 p.m. Banks are open in the mornings, Sunday through Friday and twice a week in the afternoon. The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv is open 8-4:30 Monday-Friday.