Sending your child to Israel, whether to Yeshiva or Seminary will be an incredible experience for them, but can often be very confusing when they land on the ground and not sure how to set themselves up. Here is some of the more common question you may have and how to go about it.
During the course of the year, it is possible that you may need to go to see a doctor at some point for something. Being on your own for the first time, it won’t be possible to ask your mother to drive you to the doctor. Therefore being somewhat familiar with the medical system in Israel will help you in case you need to see a practitioner. Your school will require you to retain some sort of medical insurance during your stay. If you are in a school that arranges the insurance for you, you should be very thankful for that. If you are required to arrange your insurance for yourself you should know your options as there are differences between the various insurance options.
Most schools will strongly encourage you to retain your American Insurance throughout the year in case any issues should arise and you should need to go back home for treatment.
Most schools will suggest an insurance or medical program for you to join. Some have prior arrangements with the carriers while others work through agents. Be aware of what you are covered for before you begin your year so you don’t get caught off guard when you need medical coverage.
Harel and AIM are two of the major medical providers in Israel that offer packages for students for their year in Israel. These programs are created specifically for students and are basic coverage that include sick visits as well as emergency coverage and limited medications. The cost of each is approximately $1.00 for each day that you plan on being covered (paid up front). Each of the plans also includes higher level plans that include more coverage as well as limited coverage for pre-existing conditions.
A.I.M. is not Medical Insurance but a Private Medical program of some 200 participating physicians throughout Israel, providing personalized medical coverage exclusively to students studying Torah. They have doctors throughout Israel and close to most Yeshivas as well as their own medical Center in Givat Shaul and Ramat Beit Shemesh which employ American physicians. They offer a Platinum Plan that covers pre-existing conditions. They also have an Eating Disorders Clinic and nutritionist on staff.
Harel is Israel’s largest health insurance company. The plan works with a good list of contracted English speaking doctors and specialists throughout the country. Therefore, there is no need to pay up front for any medical services.
The coverage includes hospitalization, doctors/specialists, x-rays lab tests, dental emergencies, etc. There is also an option for covering pre-existing conditions.
The Harel plan is marketed by Egert & Cohen Insurance brokers. They have over 20 years of experience with Yeshivot, students, Birthright programs etc.
For more information or for on-line sign up: www.egertcohen.co.il
This insurance company is one of the big HMO’s in Israel. They offer supplemental insurance for tourists. A plan with Meuchedet might be more expensive but covers more medical treatment. You can contact them at 1-222-3833 or *3833
For better or for worse cellphones occupy a very central part in our lives and in your year in Israel. Some of you will need your phone to SMS, text, BBM, play games, check your email, and some of you will even use them to make phone calls. Whatever you use your phone for, you will probably want to know what deals are available for you and how you can get the most for your money.
Note: Incoming calls are always free in Israel.
Cell Phone companies in Israel do not offer free nights and weekends.
WHEN WORKING OUT YOUR CELLPHONE PLAN, YOU HAVE A FEW OPTIONS.
- Rent a phone and a plan
- Bring your unlocked phone to Israel and purchase or rent a plan in Israel.
- Buy a phone in Israel with a plan and pay off the phone for 36 months.
- RENT A PHONE AND A PLAN
There are various rental companies on the market. Some have arrangements with different schools. If your school tells you to get a phone from one of these companies, it might be mandatory, so check with your schools rule book before arranging a phone.
- Usually have very good American style customer service
- You can arrange to receive your phone in America so you have a phone immediately when you arrive.
- Insurance covers broken phones.
- Billed to your (or your parent’s) American credit card, bills are in English
- Monthly fees and local calls.
- May be more expensive than getting a plan directly through an Israeli company
- BRING YOUR UNLOCKED PHONE TO ISRAEL AND GET AN ISRAELI SIM CARD GIVING YOU A PHONE NUMBER AND A CALLING PLAN.
You must have a phone that works with a SIM card, and your phone must be unlocked. To unlock your phone you can try contacting your carrier in America and telling them that you will be going abroad – they may unlock the phone for you. If not, there are many commercial unlocking services.
- Data and texting plans are usually less expensive than with other options
- Billed by the second. (1 minute and 2 Second phone call is charged as 62 Seconds)
- Customer service Israel style.
- Your phone, your risk. (if it breaks)
- Billed in shekel so have currency fees on your credit card,
- BUY A PHONE IN ISRAEL WITH A PLAN AND PAY OFF THE PHONE FOR 36 MONTHS.
Note: This option is only worthwhile if you are getting a kosher phone. If you are going to need a data plan or texting it is wiser to bring a phone from home (see option 2) as cell phones in Israel are more expensive.
Kosher Phones-You might have heard of these things or you might not have but kosher phones have nothing to do with the fact that the ingredients of the cellphone have been checked out and certified by an orthodox rabbi. Rather due to the numerous issues that are possible with cellphones, a group of rabbonim have joined together to help make cellphones just that: cellphones only. Kosher phones have no cameras nor texting nor games nor internet capabilities. All major companies in Israel offer kosher phone plans which tend to be much less expensive than regular phone plans. Kosher phone plans are very inexpensive and include free minutes to all other kosher phones. Many of the plans also offer packages where the phone will be free and include minutes to non- kosher phones as well, although expect to pay a much higher per minute rate for calling non-kosher phones. Some schools require kosher phones in order to avoid unnecessary distractions.
- Could be the least expensive option.
- Phone is paid off with the plan which lasts 36 months
- Fewer distractions.
- Good for when you’re learning in Israel for a few years
- No texting/data option
- Insurance costs extra
- Continue paying off the phone after one year, or pay exit-penalty for leaving contract early
OTHER THINGS TO THINK ABOUT:
International calling- Arrange how you will call your family back home. Some companies have a relationship with a long distance carrier which might save you a lot of money in long distance.
American number-you might want to arrange that your cellphone carries an American number as well, so people in America can reach you easier.
(Since information changes all of the time, the Pre-Israel Students Guide cannot assume responsibility for the accuracy of any information printed herein)
Airlines have decided that you might weigh the plane down with too much baggage so they are slowly but surely permitting less baggage to be checked in. This issue might save you some schlepping in the airport but it will also limit how much stuff you are permitted to bring with you to Israel. Therefore some of the seforim stores through the graciousness of their hearts have arranged for you to order your seforim that you will need for the year so you can free up your luggage space to allow room for your favorite teddy bear. If you have a siddur or Tehillim that you like using you should certainly bring them (see packing list for the plane). However, any other seforim can be purchased in Israel. Hebrew seforim are definitely less than you will get them in America. English books should be comparable, depending on where you purchase them. Besides, again, no schlepping and weight issues. Ordering them online or by phone has a distinct advantage as well because:
1)Your parents will cover the cost (when you pay for it out of your budget you’ll feel it) 2)The seforim will be delivered to your school
3) You’ll be able to relax since your seforim will be in school before you will, so you’ll have them for the first day of class/shiur.
4) The stores will know exactly what your school expects you to have. We suggest arranging your seforim purchase from Shanky’s Book Store because they have all seforim and books that you will need in stock. They also provide very good customer service, so this will minimize your complications if you order the wrong book or if any other situation occurs. They are also the cheapest and biggest seforim store in Eretz Yisroel, so you’re sure to get the best prices (even better than the sales in your school). So when you receive your book list from your school contact Shanky’s and order your books now.
Arranging A Dira
If the housing in your school is pre-arranged (i.e. school run apartments, dorms etc.) consider yourself lucky. If however you are attending a yeshiva where you are expected to arrange your own living quarters, there are some things you might want to know before making any arrangements. Some things you’ll want to know when choosing an apartment (“Dira”) are:
- Who will your dira-mates be? Are they neat (yeah, right)? Are they serious guys or do they enjoy late nights with loud music?
- How much will the dira cost you?
- Are utilities included? Do we have to split the utilities and how is payment arranged?
- Is there heat/air-conditioning
- Location Location Location? Is it very close to Yeshiva? Is it in a noisy area? Are there issues with the neighbors?
- Be aware that in many apartment situations you can switch apartments when you need to. So if you end up in a less than desirable apartment you can leave. It is a good idea however to try to find a good dira before you get on the plane since the good diras are often taken early.
HOW TO FIND A DIRA.
The dira situation can be complicated, but knowing some basic ideas will help you get on your way. Many diras are inhabited by bochurim who came from the same Yeshiva in America. There are WITS diras and Ner Yisroel diras and Darchei diras etc… If bochurim from your yeshiva are in the yeshiva you are planning on attending you should find a way to contact them in their dira as the dira may very well be reserved for graduates of your yeshiva. If you cannot find a place in the dira or you would like other options there are some people who take care of numerous diras and can let you know if there will be space available for you. One of these people is Gershon Levy whose can be reached at (050)419-3319.
Many bochurim prefer to find a dira when they are already in Israel. This can be complicated since you will need a place to stay until you find a dira. If you have a friend or family member with whom you can stay for a few days you can count on seeing signs in your yeshiva listing available beds in apartments. Good luck in finding a good dira. As they say, “Finding the right dira can be the difference between a good zman and a great one.”
What do you think will be the most important factor of your growth in Israel? Many of you might answer Good teachers, some will say various types of classes, comfortable dorms, seeing how people live in Israel etc. Well, we asked students learning in Israel what they feel is the most important aspect that helped them grow in Israel. And many of them accredited their good roommates with their successes in learning and growth. A good roommate who makes sure to get up early in the morning will help you get up in the morning even when you’re not sure you want to. A roommate who respects others will make sure not to make too much noise when you are trying to sleep and will be respectful of your needs. A good roommate will make a very good friend and will help you through issues that you might need to work through. The importance of having a good roommate cannot be underestimated. If you are in a school that lets you choose your roommate/s, be smart. Choose someone who shares similar goals to you. If someone you know is interested in just going to Israel to hang out and you really want to buckle down it would be advisable, even if it is your very good friend to find someone who will share your desire for growth so that you can work together to gain what you want. Looking over in the morning and seeing your roommate fast asleep won’t help you get out of bed so fast, but looking over and seeing your roommate up and dressed and ready to start a new day might give you the extra push that you need to get up, even on a day that, “I don’t really feel like it.” It obviously goes without saying, that as important as it is to choose a good roommate it is that much more important to be a good roommate. So if you choose, and choose you may, choose wisely!
There are various ways to set up your money situation for the time you will be spending in Israel. It is not a very good idea to come with all of the cash that you need in hand since cash can be lost and/or stolen. You should however come with enough money to get you started. If you have decided that you would prefer to bring all of the cash that you need for the year you should immediately find a “safe” place for the money to be stored until you need it. Most schools are equipped with a safe for students use. Ask about it right away so you can minimize your risk of loss.
WAYS TO SET UP YOUR MONEY SITUATION:
- Have your parents’ give you a debit card or checks for an account that they will deposit money into. Check with your bank to find out what fees they charge when withdrawing money from an A.T.M. overseas. Make sure to let your bank know that you will be using the card overseas for a year so you don’t experience any unnecessary difficulties.
- Bring a reasonable amount of money at the beginning of the year to hold you over and have your parents send money when you need it with people traveling to Israel.
- Some parents prefer to write-out a bunch of post-dated checks which their children can cash when the checks become valid.
REASONS WHY YOU MIGHT CHOOSE ONE OPTION OVER ANOTHER.
- Risk reduction (losing cash, debit card).
- A.T.M. fees vs. Check cashing fees.
- Convenience. (depending on proximity to check cashing office, cash machine etc)
Some people come to Israel with an unlimited budget and are always going out and buying things. If you are one of those people you probably don’t need to look at this section. But if you are not, it is a good idea to figure out how to make your funds stretch further. During your first month in Israel you will most likely spend a lot of money because of your additional settling in expenses. Keeping this in mind will help you keep track of your money and not overspend unnecessarily.
HOW MUCH MONEY DO STUDENTS SPEND WEEKLY DURING THEIR YEAR IN ISRAEL?
For most of you this will be your first time taking care of your own finances. Therefore, it is a good idea to start learning how to maximize your “income” and make your dollar stretch further. Keep in mind that there is no way to give an accurate monthly budget because there are many different factors that define each person’s spending habits. If you are in a yeshiva where the food is very good, you will eat out less and if you are in a seminary where you have your own fridge and kitchen you will be able to save a lot of money by making your own meals. The Yeshiva and Seminary Students’ Guide conducted a study which found that on average students of schools in Yerushalayim spend around 100-150 shekel ($28-$42) a week or 400-600 shekel ($114-$171) a month. Keep in mind that these numbers may be slightly higher in the first month or two.
HOW CAN I FIND WAYS TO SAVE MONEY?
- Do your laundry at a family/teacher’s house. Many teachers or people in your neighborhood will avail their washing machines in exchange for babysitting or gan pickup.
- Think before you clean. If it’s not dirty it doesn’t necessarily need to go to the cleaners.
- Buy wrinkle-free shirts to save money on dry-cleaning.
- Buy a loaf of white or whole wheat bread and put it in your freezer. Take out a few slices when you feel hungry. It will thaw in a few minutes and taste as fresh as when you put it in.
- Get your body used to drinking water, and bring a water-bottle when you go out. Fruit drinks and sodas can cost you a lot of money.
- Eat more meals in school. Some schools serve good food, some serve decent food, and some serve really bad food, but no matter what, it’s better than eating P’tcha everyday.
- American products tend to be more expensive in Israel. You can easily find an Israeli cereal that you enjoy instead of always looking for your favorite American cereal.
- Cream cheese is a great spread, but for some reason it is expensive in Israel. If you really like cream cheese you can make it yourself. Take 1 container of “Shamenet” and put it in a strainer for 24 hours, add 1/4 tsp. of salt for taste and you’ll have a lot of cream cheese for 2 Shekel.
- When going away for Shabbos make sure to take the bus. It is almost always the least expensive way to travel.
- Buy less expensive host gifts. A package of Angel’s rugelach or a MAK’s Cake are relatively inexpensive and are a perfectly acceptable gift.
- For those of you who are daring and have an oven why not make a tray of homemade chocolate chip cookies? You can give most of them to your host and you can enjoy an erev Shabbos treat.
- Take buses. The bus system in Israel is efficient for traveling within the city and outside the city. Make sure to check out the Egged bus information found in your complimetary copy of the Yeshiva Seminary Students Guide. Remember to give yourself extra time since buses do take longer than cabs.
- To save money on bus fare, purchase a round trip ticket. This ticket is called a Haloch V’chazor and is available on most intercity buses. A cartisia or bus card can also be purchased to save additional money on multiple rides to the same location.
- Plan accordingly before you go out to minimize travel cost and frustration.
- Go out with friends who are in a similar financial situation. It is easier to hang out with people who are also trying to save money versus those whose parents have given them carte blanche.
- Buying food when you are away from school is generally going to cost you more than if you bring your own food. (Tuna sandwich from home = 3 shekel, sandwich from a store=15-25 Shekel)
- If you choose to go out to eat, decide how much you want to spend before you go out.
- Ask a teacher or someone who works in your school, if there are any jobs available for after school hours.
- Don’t carry around a lot of money when you go out.
- When taking out money try to keep track of the date and amount. Pay attention how long it takes you to spend it. When you keep track of your money you will spend more carefully.
- Try to buy seforim/fan/heater/plastic-drawers from people who were in your school last year.
- There are so many ways to relax and have a good time that are inexpensive. Do research to find cheap trips and hikes and remember to bring food along.
- Think in shekalim, not in dollars.
- Ten shekel coins are worth about $2.50, but since they’re coins you are more apt to spend them faster. Change that way of thinking. Coins are money too.
- Prices in Israel are not always set. Some stores sell products significantly cheaper than others. Research before you buy.