Recommendations for newcomer foreign correspondents in Jerusalem
I. REAL ESTATE:
There is a wide variety of apartments or houses for rent, depending on what neighborhood you are interested in. Some of the most popular West Jerusalem neighborhoods are:
German Colony & Baka – Both near Emek Refaim, with lots of restaurants and cafes
Rehavia, Talbiyeh & Katamon – Leafy suburbs with some very nice homes
Abu Tor – one of the few neighborhoods that includes both Arab and Jewish residents; occasional problems with car burglaries, stone throwing etc.
Caspi – small sub-neighborhood of North Talpiyot with great views toward the Old City and easy access to the promenade that overlooks said views.
Yemin Moshe – Meticulously maintained mainly pedestrian neighborhood opposite the Old City; many of the homes belong to foreigners and are empty much of the year.
See also "Sales and Rentals" on this site.
Some of the real estate agents that cater to Westerners are:
Abu Tor Realty – Father/son team; Yossi 0545550641 and Yair 0545459571
Also very professional and lovely to work with is Henriette Avi Hai, who deals mainly in the Yemin Moshe area and understands refined tastes (054 450 6099)
You can also comb through the ads yourself:
Good to be aware of:
- In most rental transactions, the agent will collect a fee equivalent to one month’s rent plus VAT (about 17%) from both the owner and the renter. So if an agent who has listed a $2,000 property is also the one to rent it to you, he or she will collect close to $5,000 for sealing the deal.
- In addition to the listed rental price, there may be additional costs including arnona (municipal taxes normally paid by renter rather than landlord) and vaad bayit (a maintenance charge sort of like a condo fee)
- It is not standard for apartments to come with major appliances, such as a refrigerator, stove, and washing machine. For such appliances, as well as furniture and furnishings, the Hebrew classifieds site yad2.co.il has lots of great deals. Also janglo.net
- It’s recommended to have an Israeli lawyer look over any rental contract you are considering signing. That said, a bad contract with a good landlord is probably better in the long run than a good contract with a bad landlord.
- Most landlords require the agent fee, first and last month’s rent, plus a security fee equivalent to one month’s rent
- Some landlords prefer to be paid quarterly rather than monthly
Another option, which avoids the realtor fees and cost of furnishing a place, is living in the home of a professor who is on sabbatical, though this generally only works for those transitioning to Israel in the summer. This website is helpful re sabbatical homes for rent.
Short-term options include hotels, vacation rentals by owner (www.vrbo.com), and https://www.airbnb.com/.
Buying a car can be very expensive unless you can arrange a passport-to-passport sale, and usually you are required to get an Israeli driver’s license to own a car. Additionally, it can be complicated and expensive to insure it in both Israel and the West Bank, although it is possible.
A more popular option among foreign correspondents is a long-term lease from one of several companies in East Jerusalem, which carry insurance for both Israel and the West Bank. The most popular are:
Dallah – Excellent service, but you pay more. $750+/month for a basic car on a 2-year lease. Beit Hanina, East Jerusalem 0577 569 405 (Note: There is no longer an American Colony branch as advertised on their website.)
Middle East Car Rental – Sub-par service, long waits, unanswered phone calls, few people who speak English. $600/month for a similar car
17 Nablus Rd, East Jerusalem 02-6262777
The major banks in Israel tend to charge much higher bank fees than in the US, for example. So it’s a good idea to ask before signing up what the charges are for wiring and receiving money, maintaining foreign currency in your account, withdrawing or depositing foreign currency, cashing foreign checks, etc. Also, online banking is not as easy in Israel as in the US, so it’s worth asking how much you will be able to do online or from an ATM.
While major banks such as Bank HaPoalim offer the convenience of many locations, some expats in Jerusalem prefer dealing with U-Bank, where most people speak English and they have service options that cater to Westerners. (For example, cashing US checks is much cheaper and faster here.
For those who maintain bank accounts abroad, a cheap way to get cash out of those accounts is to visit one of the locations of Access Credit, where you can write a check to yourself from your foreign bank account. They used to do this for a 1% service fee but due to a recent change in Israeli policy on check-cashing, it now costs 2% and you have to be willing to put a signed check with the ‘pay to’ line empty in their Fedex package to the States, where a third party cashes the checks.
One of the few things that is actually cheaper in Israel is cellphone service, at least if you have an Israeli bank account. For example, a plan with Orange for two lines plus a free third line offers unlimited calling within Israel, the US, and Canada, plus 5 GB data for about $110.
Whatever plan you choose, be absolutely positive you know exactly what benefits it has, because if you call abroad without such a deal, your monthly bill could easily exceed $500.
Israeli phones work in many places in the West Bank since the companies need to service the settlers. But it can also be handy to get a Jawwal or Wataniya phone on a pay-as-you-go basis to make calls to 059 numbers and to get a broader range of service. In Gaza, Jawwal is the only option as of Nov 2013.
There are a huge variety of places to go grocery shopping in Jerusalem, with an equally wide range of quality and price. Among the cheapest are the stalls at Damascus Gate on Saturday evening, Mahane Yehuda shuk on Friday late afternoon, or ultra-Orthodox supermarkets in Givat Shaul or elsewhere. Rami Levy (Talpiyot) is also reputed to be cheap. Supersol-Deal, despite the name, is actually quite expensive though the one in Talpiyot is better than Abu Tor.
There isn’t a good English-language Yellow Pages or Yelp for Jerusalem online, but the Newcomer’s Guide can help point you in the right direction.
VI. ORGANIZATIONS OF INTEREST FOR THE MEDIA
Government Press Office (GPO), located in Building 4 of the Technological Park across from Jerusalem’s Malcha Mall, issues temporary and permanent press cards for foreign journalists. They also provide letters which you can take to the Ministry of Interior to get a B-1 work visa. And they have recently arranged a deal under which foreign journalists do not need to obtain an Israeli driver’s license provided they leave the country at least once every 12 months. Press contacts are listed here: GPO
The Foreign Press Association in Tel Aviv publishes a yearly list of members, organizes events throughout the year, and helps coordinate press coverage of visiting dignitaries with the Government Press Office. The FPA also issues complaints when journalists are mistreated by the Israeli authorities. Executive Secretary Glenys Sugarman can be reached at 03 691-6143 or email@example.com
The Jerusalem Press Club is located in Yemin Moshe and for about $50/year provides a lounge that is open for members on a daily basis and features speakers on a regular basis.
The Israel Project, which is based in the Technological Park near the GPO, frequently offers briefings and conference calls with high-level officials, as well as occasional field tours – and helicopter tours designed to give participants a better view of the security threats facing Israel. They also put together an annual contact list of English-speaking sources on a wide variety of topics, which can be helpful for incoming correspondents.
press contact 054-551-7376
Media-Central, located off Yafo St. near Kikar Zion, holds occasional talks and debates, and organizes field tours on a variety of topics for a small fee.
VII. REGIONAL TRAVEL
It is possible to travel to Egypt and Jordan with Israeli stamps (or a visa) in your passport, although with the increasingly tense atmosphere in Egypt it is recommended to use a second passport with no trace of Israel if possible. The same is true for the rest of the region.
In order to keep your second passport “clean,” it is important not to use it on ground crossings into or out of Israel/Palestine, such as the Allenby Bridge, because that will immediately link you to Israel even if you don’t have any Israeli stamps in your passport. Likewise, make sure your entry/exit visas in Jordan don’t indicate an extended period of stay if you don’t have a long-term Jordanian visa – i.e. If you fly into Jordan and get a one-month visa on arrival, travel back to Israel on your other passport, then come back to Amman and fly out three months later, any discerning passport control officer will realize that you must have left Jordan during that time and there’s really only one place you could have gone and that’s Israel.
Most countries seem to have a policy of not making a big deal about it as long as you use a second passport and don’t rub your Israeli connection in their face, but some, such as Syria, are very thorough in their examination of your passport for the sort of discrepancies mentioned above.
To travel to Allenby, an easy option is shared taxis that leave from Damascus Gate. There’s one company several blocks east of Damascus Gate in a parking lot on the north side of the main road that charges 47 shekels one way, and you can take them on the way back as well (although they are sticklers for waiting until the whole bus is full, which can take up to three hours at Allenby). Then you take a 5 JD bus ride to the Jordanian side of the border, where you can get a taxi or bus to Amman or the airport. PLEASE NOTE: You must have a Jordanian visa before arriving at Allenby, as Jordan does not issue visas there. You can obtain a single- or multi-entry visa from the Jordanian embassy in Tel Aviv or the Jordanian consulate in Ramallah, which is just up the hill from the Grand Park Hotel.
To travel to Egypt, call Air Sinai, which is the only airline that has direct flights to Cairo. Their number is 03 975 4015 or 03 510 2481. You can also fly Royal Jordanian from TLV to AMM to CAI, or travel overland to Amman and then fly to Cairo but that takes a lot longer.
If you want a travel agent who can arrange Air Sinai tickets and/or flight options that obscure the fact that your point of origin was Israel, one option is Tali Taperberg: 050 550 7112 or 02 623 477.
For determining the visa requirements for other countries in the region, this is a good resource:
VIII. LANGUAGE CLASSES
Best places for learning Hebrew are Hebrew University or Ulpan Mila (though it recently got overhauled and the quality may have changed). Ulpan Morasha gets high reviews for conversational Hebrew. There are also more specialized (and more expensive) programs, such as tutoring at Ulpan-Or in the German colony. Two great resources for learning news-related vocabulary are Ulpan-Or’s E-tone weekly newspaper, which includes slow and fast audio as well as transcripts and vocab lists, or www.foreigncy.org, which includes vocab lists, flash cards, study games, etc for real Israeli news articles (no audio though).
Popular places for learning Arabic are Al Quds’ programs in the Old City and Sheikh Jarrah, Bir Zeit University (particularly the summer intensive classes), and Bethlehem Bible College. For those who already know Hebrew, the Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center offers subsidized year-long classes for Hebrew-speaking professionals who need Arabic for their work.
Foreigncy.org offers the same service mentioned above for Arabic as well.
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