Archive for January, 2012

Cultural Clues, Do’s & Taboos: Communication Guidelines for Israel

Posted on January 21, 2012 by 2 Comments

Most Israelis speak at a much closer distance than North Americans may be accustomed
to so do not move away.

There is also more physical contact, and conversations often involve gestures and touching.
Nevertheless, women business travelers should avoid initiating physical contact.

The standard greeting is “Shalom” or a cordial “Hello”, followed by a handshake.

Observant Orthodox Jewish men, whose appearance is usually distinguished by their
skullcaps (yarmulkes) or hats and black clothing, do not shake hands with

If an Israeli holds your hand, take it graciously as a gesture of friendship.

For Israelis, constant gesturing is acceptable. But pointing is considered rude.

Refrain from any gesture that requires you to extend the thumb, as this is considered
offensive (i.e. “thumbs up”/“thumbs down” signs, the hitchhiker’s signal,

Business cards are considered important, and should be printed in English. As an added
touch, some visitors have the reverse side printed in Hebrew.

Given the diverse nature of the population, business practices may reflect North
American, European, Russian, or other cultural influences.

Expect business to be straightforward and emphasize the “bottom line.”

In general, the pace of business is slower in Israel than in many places. You will
have to exercise patience and tolerance.

Subjective feelings tend to form perceptions of the truth. Faith in the tenets of Judaism,
including the conviction that the state must succeed, can also be a profound
influence in thinking. Feelings and faith are supplemented by empirical
evidence and other substantial facts.

Many Israelis tend to be confrontational and, at times, intensely emotional

In the Israeli business culture, it usually
takes a longer time to arrive at a final decision.

Israelis may delight in argument and tend to be opinionated. However, you don’t have to
feel compelled to openly agree with what they say.

There is a tendency among Israelis to downplay their professional titles.

It’s likely that you will quickly be invited to move to a first-name basis in

The Jewish Holy Day, the Sabbath, begins at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on

Welcome Topics of Conversation

  • Family, however don’t mix with business
  • Travel is always a good topic
  • Politics (if you know what you are talking about)
  • Sports – especially soccer, basketball and swimming
  • Food and drinks

Conversation to Avoid

  • US aid in Israel
  • Religion in general
  • Israel and Palestine
  • Sex and roles of the sexes
  • Any controversial social issue in Israel

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