Preparing for Volunteering and Living in Israel
Thorough preparation is the key to a successful volunteer experience. We encourage you to consult with SVFI’s director, Marla Gamoran, and your Israel Volunteer Coordinator, if you want to consult on any aspect of your preparations.
Taking care of things at home
As you’ll be away from home for an extended period, give some thought to how you’ll be managing your affairs while you’re away. Here’s a quick list of items to consider:
- Accessing your bank accounts online and making sure you can use your ATM card in Israel
- Stopping your mail
- Paying your mortgage or rent and other bills
- Stopping the newspapers
- Advising your credit card companies of your international location
- Providing family and friends with your Israel contact information
- Voting absentee
Cellphones are highly recommended for communicating while in Israel. Most apartments will not have landlines and Israelis freely share their mobile phone numbers with work and personal contacts. We suggest you obtain an Israeli simcard for use when in Israel to give you access to data services and to be able to receive and make local calls.
Consider the following issues when selecting a cell phone company and the different usage packages available.
1) Data for internet use
2) Minutes of telephone time – in Israel most plans do not charge incoming calls against minutes provided
3) International Calling Options – many plans offer a decent international calling option that enables users to make international calls without extra charge
4) International telephone number – some plans offer a “local” (home country) telephone number in which users abroad can call a local number which will ring on your Israeli mobile.
If you have an unlocked smart phone in the USA (and your provider can likely tell you if your phone is “unlocked,”) that uses a sim card, then you can simply order a sim for your Israeli phone with the package of your choice. Chances are that the sim can be delivered to you with your Israeli phone number before you leave for Israel.
We recommend selecting a company with experience in the Israeli market. One such company widely used widely by tourists and students is TalkNSave. There are other such companies as well and we list some of them in our PreDeparture Handbook.
What’s App for smart phones
Whether or not you select an Israeli cellphone package, we recommend downloading the WhatsApp application on your home cell phone. This application provides texting, video and audio options and is widely used by Israelis. Although it will allow you to make no cost international or local calls, the application only works with wifi if you don’t have a local Israeli cellphone provider.
Medical and Travelers Insurance
You must have medical insurance that covers you while in Israel. We suggest that you check with your home country insurance provider to determine if your company will provide you with coverage while abroad. Medicare, for example, does not cover those it insures while abroad. There are many travel insurance companies that can provide coverage. An Israeli company that provides local coverage at rates set by the Israeli government is Yedidim Har-El. Their Jerusalem plan is set up for tourists and students.