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5 Cultural Tips for Doing Business in Israel

By Contributing Author

Whether you provide professional services, build software, run a banner sign company — or do anything else on the business landscape —  you may find that your journey leads you to a place that is known for its rich history, and also for its thriving business scene: Israel.

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However, before you head to the airport — or even send an email or make a call to a potential partner or customer — it’s wise to do your research and ensure that you’re on track for long-term success. To that end, here are 5 cultural tips for doing business in Israel:

  1. Understand the Workweek

Israel is the world’s only Jewish-majority nation, and as such follows the Hebrew calendar in which the workweek is Sunday through Thursday; not Monday through Friday as it is in many other countries around the world, including the U.S. Keep in mind this may also mean that you are expected to return emails and calls on Sundays — and if you aren’t, it’s wise to proactively mention this vs. risk being perceived as unresponsive or uninterested.

  1. Respect the Shabbat

If you plan on scheduling a call or meeting with a counterpart in Israel, or if you send a time sensitive email that needs an immediate response, then be aware that the sunset on Friday marks the beginning of Shabbat. From this point until sundown on Saturday, for the most part no business is conducted. The exceptions are per a recent (and very controversial) High Court of Justice ruling that has permitted 164 businesses in Tel Aviv to remain open on Saturday.

  1. Understand the Holiday Schedule

Just as it’s important to adjust to the workweek and respect the Shabbat, it’s necessary — and for many folks in the U.S., Canada and other countries somewhat of an eye-opener — to realize that there is an abundance of public holidays throughout the year in Israel. The tourism site has a full list.

  1. Casual yet Formal

One of the defining features of Israeli workplace culture is that is it both relaxed and, to some degree, formal. For example, workplace attire is typically on the casual side, and colleagues often refer to each other by first names vs. titles. The overall vibe can also be on the casual side; especially with start-ups. However, at the same time, it’s vital to be professional and respectful; especially in the early stages of a relationship.

  1. Directness is the Direction

In some countries such as Canada, Japan and Austria, direct speech is often only used in tense or unpleasant situations. This is even somewhat true in places like the U.S. However, most Israelis have a different paradigm: they tend to speak in a straightforward and direct manner. It’s important to note that this is actually an illustration of respect, and not a lack of manners. It is about ensuring that people feel comfortable and safe to express their views and opinions, even if the message is disagreeable or controversial. As such, if you find yourself on the receiving end of a direct (or just plain blunt) comment, then don’t feel offended. You should feel flattered, because you are being treated with respect.

The Bottom Line

Doing business in Israel is highly rewarding on both professional and personal levels. But as always, when entering a new marketplace — even if it’s virtually over-the-web — it’s important to understand, appreciate and respect cultural differences. The above advice will help you build positive relationships that turn into mutually beneficial partnerships. And if you aren’t sure of something (i.e. what title to use, what to wear, etc.), then don’t hesitate to ask for guidance. You will always get the help you need.







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