For me — and for many — this calendar year has been one dominated by staying at home.
And as much as I hate their tendency to derail my productivity (my focus is brittle), Facebook groups have been an amazing companion during the long days of working from home with nowhere much else to be.
If you’re new to Israel, then my recommendation is to work on your Hebrew as fast as possible! Joining Facebook groups in Hebrew is actually a good way to do this (as well, of course, as actually getting out and using the language).
But having a friendly community of English-speakers can be invaluable when you’re just trying to figure out your left hand from your right. Or when you’re not feeling up to the linguistic challenge of typing and communicating in a second language.
Here are some of the popular forums.
Secret Jerusalem, Secret Tel Aviv, Secret Netanya (Etc)
Nobody really seems sure while publicly accessible Facebook groups are prefixed by the word ‘Secret’ (maybe their origin is shrouded in mystery?), but Secret Jerusalem, Secret Tel Aviv etc have become staple sources of information for the English speaking community in Israel.
Amazingly, there’s one for almost every major city in the country.
These tend to be large groups. At the time of writing, for instance, Secret Jerusalem has more than 89,000 members! Their focus also tends to be generalist. But if you want to get a good handle on what’s available in your city, then these are usually good places to start.
For many olim managing finances can be a major challenge. Israel’s cost of living is extraordinarily high, salaries in general aren’t, and a lot of people, including newcomers, struggle to make ends meet.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that this is a widespread “problem.” Which means that a lot of people are thinking about it.
Living Financially Smarter in Israel, run by financial consultant Rifka Leibowitz, is a sort of sounding board for all things money related in Israel.
You can find in there lots of discussions about the differences between a pension fund and a keren hishtalmut and plenty of opinions on the cost of living, how to exchange foreign currency, and how to negotiate your first employment contract.
Some olim run their own businesses. LFSII has an offshoot group, LFSII: Entrepreneurs, intended for the types of questions and answers that are more of interest to this community.
Freelance writing is a popular occupation among English-speaking immigrants to Israel.
Israel’s booming high-tech sector creates plenty of demand for English-speaking writers.
Freelance Writers in Israel is run by Leigh Hartzman, a freelance writer and course author.
You’ll find lots of discussion here about finding clients and managing a freelance business in Israel.
Finally, one of my own invention.
I set this group up last week because I felt a little isolated.
On the one hand, I don’t believe in pretending that everything in Israel is perfect. An extreme defensiveness prevails in many parts of the English-speaking Facebook world. On the other, I try (and fail) to refrain from just being negative about certain aspects of life here. Because I don’t think that helps either.
I set up Make Israel Better as a Facebook forum for those interested in having frank discussions about constructive ideas to ameliorate certain issues in the country. I have suggested for discussion the cost of living, the housing crisis, and noise pollution, among others.
English speaking Facebook groups are good online fora for connecting English-speakers and other second language communities in Israel.
There is a separate ecosystem of groups in Hebrew and the focuses often overlap with the English groups. Often, unsurprisingly, Israelis have better information about the country than immigrants. So it’s worth being active in both sets of communities — and it’s a good way to slowly improve your Hebrew.
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