Israel: business as usual

Israel has an advanced technological market economy and posted growth of 5% from 2004 to 2011.

Israel is an economic enigma. It’s a rare democracy in its neighbourhood and has almost no bordering countries — save Egypt and Jordan — with which to trade. Despite that, it has an advanced technological market economy that posted average growth of 5% a year between 2004 and 2011.

Israel’s main exports include cut diamonds, technology and pharmaceuticals; imports include crude oil, grains, raw materials and military equipment. It makes up for trade deficits with tourism, other service exports (such as banking, insurance and telecommunications) and foreign investment inflows.

Its challenges include income inequality, high poverty rates and rising housing and commodity prices. Meanwhile, it faces potential labour shortages in some communities and wage pressures in the service and manufacturing sectors because of global competition.

FACTS FOR INVESTORS

  1. Tel Aviv, and the surrounding area, is the business hub. Haifa and Jerusalem have high-tech business parks, while Be’er Sheba is becoming a cybersecurity hub.
  2. In 2014 Israel ranked 40th on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index.
  3. It ranked 26th on Forbes’ list of best countries for business in 2013.
  4. Israel is the world’s 44th biggest importer and 55th biggest exporter (out of more than 220 countries).

BUSINESS ETIQUETTE

  1. Just like home. Israel is a Western-oriented country for business. Because it is a small economy with few neighbouring trading partners, it looks to Asia, Europe and North America.
  2. Let’s be friends. Israelis warm up quickly, even in business, and may seem very forward to more reserved Canadians. For example, they may show up at a second meeting wearing a T-shirt. Don’t be surprised if they invite you to their home or offer a tour of Jerusalem.
  3. Get to the quick. Israelis want agreements finalized quickly. You may take some time to build trust but Israelis develop trust in a hurry.
  4. Be practically punctual. Israelis are generally on time, but the inevitable big-city traffic snarls may cause them to be late. They will often call if they’re running late.

TRAVEL TIPS

  1. Safety first. Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are relatively safe, but travel advisories are in effect for the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
  2. Bring your sunscreen. While regional weather varies, in most months, temperatures top 20 C, save January and February, when they dip to 10 C, and November and December, when they hover between 10 C and 15 C. Snow is a novelty.
  3. English everywhere. Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages but English is spoken by everyone from taxi drivers to waiters.
  4. Here’s a tip. Tipping in restaurants is expected — 10% is average; 15%is for exceptional service.
  5. Getting around. Buses and taxis are what’s on offer for transit. A train travelling between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv will be replaced by a newer one in 2018 that will cut the current 2.5-hour trip to 30 minutes. Eventually, it will also connect to cities in the north.

Israel chart

About the Author

Jennifer Campbell


Jennifer Campbell is a freelance writer based in Ottawa.

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