Israeli Culture

Business Culture

Meetings

  • Though time and punctuality are important, Israelis are quite flexible. It is common for some people to arrive at a meeting 15 to 20 minutes after the designated time, especially if they are in upper management. However, it is advised to aim for punctuality and inform your Israeli counterpart if you are running late.
  • People tend to shake hands or wrap their arm around their colleague’s shoulder when greeting each other before a meeting.
  • When meeting a business partner for the first time, it is considered polite to use formal titles. Though people move on to a first-name basis pretty quickly, it is important that you allow your Israeli counterpart to invite you to refer to them by their first name.
  • Exchanging business cards is quite common in Israel. Those who do use business cards tend to exchange cards at the start of the meeting. It is polite to examine the received business card before putting it away.
  • In some businesses, meeting agendas are common and are usually closely followed. On the other hand, some businesses prefer meetings to be flexible and unstructured.
  • Meetings tend to focus on a task at hand rather than cover numerous topics. In turn, meetings tend not to last long or go over time. Israelis would generally rather schedule several meetings in a day. Most meetings close with action items as well as a schedule and set of responsibilities for those in attendance.  
  • Though there are defined , management styles in Israel tend to be collaborative. As a result, everybody is given an opportunity to express opinions and contribute to the decision-making process.
  • Israelis are often keen negotiators and bargaining is very common. Expect the first offer to be unreasonable as a way to begin the negotiations and barter the price down. It is common for Israelis to lead the negotiations. Making your agenda and purpose of the negotiations clear will help balance the negotiation process.
  • The informal and relaxed nature of Israeli business culture means that meetings are at times interrupted by people taking phone calls or visits from other people.
  • People often prefer to meet in person as opposed to communication via email or phone call.


Relationships and Protexia (Protection)

Making personal connections and building relationships are viewed as extremely important. Colleagues and business partners invest time into building rapport, which often includes socialising outside of the office. Business partners and clients may be treated more like a friend rather than a formal business relation. Indeed, Israeli business often centres around building strong business networks. This is known as ‘protexia’, which refers to the idea of knowing someone who can connect you to other important and relevant people. Protexia occurs in a wide range of contexts, such as seeing a bank manager who is seemingly unavailable, getting a bargain on an item, or gaining an opportunity to have a job interview.


Building strong networks usually requires ‘chutzpah’, which means assertiveness, boldness, directness and confidence. For instance, an individual might approach a new acquaintance for a favour. However, protexia may automatically be formed if it’s a very close relationship, such as one’s father being the head of a branch in the military. Thus, the individual is already known among various circles. It is important to note that outright is not common in Israeli business culture. People do not necessarily gain jobs simply because of who they know; rather, it enables someone an opportunity to prove themselves. Aside from social and business networks, other factors such as merit and experience also play an important role.


Other Considerations

  • The Israeli working week is typically six days (Sunday to Friday), although most stores and services close early Friday afternoon in preparation for Shabbat. As such, Friday and Saturday make up the weekend.
  • Many Jewish holidays fall between September and October. It may be best to avoid scheduling meetings during this time.
  • Israel is divided into three separate sectors: private, public and the Histadrut (an abbreviation for HaHistadrut HaKlalit Shel HaOdim B’Eretz Yisrael, which means ‘General Federation of Laborers in the Land of Israel). The Histadrut is ultimately an umbrella organisation for trade unions. The three sectors are not isolated; rather, many important enterprises are partners with either or both the Histadrut and the government (i.e. public sector).
  • English is widely spoken in Israel’s business environment, but learning a few Hebrew expressions and greetings is likely to be appreciated.
  • Importers require kosher certificates if they want to import any foods to Israel. 
  • The level of seniority an individual gained during their compulsory military service and level of university education are highly regarded in Israeli business culture.
  • Business attire for men includes suits with ties in formal situations. In most industries, business casual is acceptable. Men often wear a suit with an open-collared shirt, and usually wear darker colours.
  • Business attire for women tends to be suits, dresses or smart-casual blouses with a skirt or trousers. Religiously observant women tend to dress modestly, covering their arms, and wear skirts or dresses that cover most of their legs.
  • Gift giving is common in business contexts. People usually give simple gifts and avoid giving anything overly expensive or elaborate. See Gift Giving in Etiquette for more information.
  • On the (2019), Israel ranks 34th out of 180 countries, receiving a score of 61 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is somewhat free from corruption.

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