This page will assume you are coming as an immigrant. It's not the only option, you could come on a 3 year temporary resident visa or an extended tourist visa (both offer some subset of these benefits).
As a new immigrant you are eligible for immigration assistance from the Jewish Agency (Sochnut Yehudit in Hebrew), immigration benefits from the Ministry of Absorption (the Misrad HaKlita), and citizen benefits as all other Israeli citizens. Plus there are other sources of assistance as well (such as the AACI - Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel).
Some of these benefits are free, some have strings attached, and some are a rope you put around your neck and hope to get off before it chokes you to death. The trick, of course, is knowing which is which.
Warning note: This information is constantly changing (particularly the
specific monetary amounts), may differ depending on marital status and family
size, and may be subject to the "interpretation" of the office/clerk
with which you are dealing. Therefore accuracy for your particular
situation is definitely not guaranteed!
How Current Is This Information?
These pages were written about an aliyah experience in 1996. Much has changed since then and Israel has officially become part of the ranks of first world countries. Organizations such as Nefesh b'Nefesh have arisen to streamline and smooth the aliyah experience, providing English speaking helpers on both sides of the experience (before and in Israel), performing some of the previously complex government steps, and even providing some direct funding assistance in making the transition.
The Jewish Agency has a long history of helping immigrants come to Israel. They allocate resources and set rules depending on country of origin. So, they assume that an immigrant from Ethiopia needs much greater help than one from Canada (probably a safe assumption.) Over the past 15 years they have had a new problem of many immigrants coming, collecting benefits, and then leaving. Therefore they have placed many restrictions on their benefits (which may only be noted in the Hebrew fine print on the back page of contracts which you sign to receive the benefits). Buyer beware (actually, receiver beware), the restrictions can be severe.
Registration with the Jewish Agency
Anyone receiving any benefits from The Jewish Agency signs that they will register their current address with the Jewish Agency and keep them informed of any change of address for their first 3 years in the country (in writing, within a couple days of moving).
Anyone immigrating from the US (meaning, filling out immigration papers and getting approval while in the US) may receive a 1-way plane ticket to Israel (on El-Al airlines) free (well, almost free, you must pay a deductible per ticket, $100 in 1996.)
To receive this benefit contact an Aliyah Shaliach (immigration representative) in the US and request it.
The Catch: Repay if you Leave
The catch? If you permanently leave Israel within 3 years after receiving the ticket you're on the hook to repay the Jewish Agency for the cost of the ticket.
The Jewish Agency will give a no-interest loan no-payments for 2 years loan to assist in moving (in 1996 the maximum amount was $1,200). All that is required is filling out and signing a contract for it in the US (with the money to be picked up in Israel).
To receive this benefit, in theory you only need to contact the Aliyah Shaliach while in the US and sign a few papers (but read below).
The Catch: Israeli-based Guarantors Required
Although all US paperwork states that nothing more is required, it's
wrong. The Israeli financial branch of the Jewish Agency will not give you
this loan without having 2 co-signers in Israel. Oh, and catch #2, no
interest it may be but it is pegged to one of the Israeli cost-of-living
indexes, which increases 10-15% per year (a 15% no interest loan, neat huh?)
The Jewish Agency will place you in a temporary housing center (usually an apartment building of some sort) for new immigrants for up to 6 months free. However, this benefit can only be exercised if the reservation is made before arriving from the US and has age and marital status restrictions.
Another alternative is to be placed in temporary absorption housing (usually small mobile homes). The difference being that absorption housing is actually low-cost housing set aside for use by new immigrants whereas an absorption center is an institution run by the Jewish Agency.
To get placement in a Jewish Agency temporary housing center (a Mercaz Klita) you must contact an Aliyah Shaliach in the US before coming to Israel.
Absorption Center (Mercaz Klita) Catch #1: It's NOT Free, It's a Loan
The value of the rent is accrued as a loan which you must begin to repay after being in-country for 2 years. Again, is a no-interest loan pegged to the cost-of-living (up to 15% per year). Oh, and the conditions in absorption centers range from rather nice to welfare hotel level. Plus you have to pay utilities. Granted the cost is about 40% of market prices for rent.
A true story by an immigrant: "We arranged to be placed in an absorption center on arrival. The Jewish Agency representative said he found us a nice center in the area we wanted (Haifa as I had some job prospects there) that catered to Americans. On arrival (with our young children) we found a run-down building with worn out rusty metal frame furniture, a refrigerator the size of a 2 drawer filing cabinet, a hotplate with 2 burners (no oven or any other appliance), no bathtub (a shower-head in the side of a wall with a hole in the floor for showering), and 4 washing machines (2 of which were broken) for 300 families. And, everyone was speaking SPANISH. Seems that it was an absorption center for South Americans. If they want to send you to Mercaz Klita Sapir in Kiryat Yam, DON'T GO!"
Now I have also heard about some nice absorption centers for Americans (specifically in Kfar Saba and Rannana), but again immigrant beware!
Absorption Center (Mercaz Klita) Catch #2: Age and Marital Status Restrictions
"It's next to impossible for a 51 year old, single person to find place in an Absorption Center." So says a very recent US immigrant. "Understand that there is a distinction between Klita (absorption) and Mercaz Klita (Jewish Agency absorption centers). A Mercaz Klita does NOT take people who are single and in their 40s or 50's."
Absorption Housing (Klita)
"Here's the deal on Klita (absorption) which is not in a Mercaz Klita
(absorption center). You receive the Ulpan (Hebrew training)
subsidy. You go to a mortgage bank with your documents and sign up for the
rent subsidy (rent subsidy is not
available to those in an Absorption Center). These are both total
subsidies. You do however, pay rent and utilities monthly for your
apartment. My deal worked this way, I paid 420 shekel a month rent (in a
Caravan - mobile home - area for new immigrants). I receive a rent subsidy
every 6 months of 1500 shekel. I received an Ulpan subsidy of 1100 shekel
a month. That equates with unemployment for a new immigrant for someone
who has never worked in Israel -- in the first year."
The Jewish Agency offers free language classes for new immigrants (actually the classes are funded by the Ministry of Absorption, but most are offered by the Jewish Agency). The classes are offered at 3 levels, beginner, intermediate and advanced. Each class runs 5 months (5 days a week for ~4 hours per day) and classes start twice a year. Classes are available at various locations throughout Israel. Plus, if you (and your spouse if your married) are both not working while taking the classes (and if you complete the full level 1 program) they will pay you ~10,000 shekels for having completed the classes. (However, only a daytime program, if you take a nighttime program they will assume you were working and not pay.)
To receive this benefit speak with a Jewish Agency representative after arriving in Israel. They will direct you to the nearest Ulpan, where you can register for the next term.
The Catch: None.
No catch, and it's a very good idea to take at least level 1 (Uplan alef) if
you are not conversational in Hebrew. However, note that there are other
organizations that offer these classes as well. Ulpan-Akiva (in Netanya)
is the most famous and considered the best language school in the country (but
it's not free). Some yeshivot in Jerusalem also offer language classes
combined with Torah study (for free).
The Ministry of Absorption provides a number of benefits for new immigrants. Most expire after 3 years with a few lasting 5 years. No benefits from the Ministry of Absorption have any strings or catches.
During your first 3 years in Israel you may import household goods from your country of origin 3 times tax free. 3 times means 3 shipments, you may only import a "reasonable" amount of "household" goods. A reasonable amount means 1 of most appliances, 1 bed per family member, 1 house worth of furniture, you get the idea.
Alternatively you may purchase any Israeli manufactured or Israeli assembled product 1 time tax free (again during your first 3 years). So, you can buy an Israeli made refrigerator paying no local taxes or import one (you can't do both).
For advice on whether to import or purchase appliances, see the Appliances page.
If you exceed what's "reasonable" to import you will pay customs duty. The definition of "reasonable" is purely in the hands of the customs agent (as is the definition of what's "household", for example, maybe since you don't use a lawnmower in the house it's not a household item and therefore subject to import duty).
To receive this benefit on purchases you must mention your immigrant status during a purchase. The store will provide you with some papers that you must take to the nearest Ministry of Taxation office along with your immigration certificate (teudat oleh). After having the papers stamped and returning to the store you may receive your purchase (except for a refrigerator which, when purchased tax free, can only be received via delivery from the factory, which takes a minimum of 3 weeks).
To receive this benefit on imports you will take your immigration certificate and your US passport to the shipping company after the arrival of your shipment in Israel. Their agent will handle the processing for you (for an additional previously unmentioned fee, of course).
Pre-School is from 3 to 5 years old. The Ministry of Absorption will pay 90% of the cost of the pre-school of your choice (religious or secular) for your first 3 years in Israel.
To receive this benefit you must request it and present your immigration certificate to the school.
For up to 5 years the Ministry of Absorption will help you pay your rent (if
you rent). The benefit is a decreasing monthly amount starting around $150
per month (for families with 3 children or more) and going down from there
To receive this benefit you must apply for it at a bank via their home mortgage division. You must present your certificate of immigration, US passport, Israeli ID card and a copy of your lease (in Hebrew and having been stamped as having paid the document tax). While it takes about a month, they will pre-pay you in 4 or 8 month increments.
As mentioned in the Taxes Page, technically all cities/towns are supposed to give a 90% reduction in property taxes for 1 year. Some cities/towns may offer some ongoing reduction for up to 3 years.
Why did I write "supposed to". Well, most cities in Israel have a very tight or deficit budget. They don't want to give this discount. One method of decreasing this benefit that I have personally encountered is only giving the discount on a portion of the tax on an apartment. Meaning, if the tax is NIS 1,000, they will give the 90% discount on only the first NIS 600 (after that no discount).
While a new immigrant is not working and not in an Absorption Center (Mercaz Klita), he may receive unemployment payments for up to 2 years.
I have no direct information on the amount or restrictions, but I have heard,
for an immigrant family (of 3 children) the amount was around NIS 2,500 per
month. (If anyone reading this has better information, please e-mail me
There is some significant home loan assistance/grant amount. It is dependent on family size and is available during your first 5 years in country only.
(I have no additional information on this area, if anyone reading this has
better information, please e-mail me at email@example.com)
|An Israeli at least one child under the age of 18, living in Israel.|
|An Israeli who supported a child who is not his child for at least 12 months.|
The Benefit -
as of January 1999 (in NIS)
|One child||Two children||Three children||Four children||Five children||Six children|
More than 6? Each additional child gets an additional NIS 556.
No strings, no income restrictions, tax free. A nice deal for families with children.
Here's some brief info on additional benefits available as a citizen:
|Unemployment & Severance pay are by law.|
|Demobilized soldiers get a special subsidy.|
|Big families can get a reduction on their water bill.|
The AACI offers all new immigrants a 6 month free membership. Benefits of an AACI membership include:
|Access to an English language library (if they have one in your area).|
|Free counseling and advice on aliyah issues.|
|Real no-interest emergency loans (but co-signers required and, I think, a $1,000 limit).|
|Various classes and social functions.|
|Discounts at a variety of businesses around Israel.|
It's worth your while as a new immigrant to check out the AACI and see if they offer some benefits for you.