Summary: Cultural Competence for Professional Travel in Israel
Note: In general, there are few cultural/behavioral codes governing protocols and social interface during
business interactions in Israel. It is appropriate to follow American professional conventions while paying
attention to local subtleties. However, there are significant cultural differences between observant and
non-observant Jews in respect to food, dress and social norms.
Handshaking is routine including with women. (Cross-gendered handshakes are not appropriate
between observant Jews).
Addressing by first names is common and important for creation of a comfortable communicative
atmosphere. Shift to a first name basis as soon as situation allows.
Israelis appreciate humor and also closely follow many global current events. Humor, especially
reflecting "popular" issues (in the US) can be used to your advantage but diligently refrain from
word plays that may not be understood. Avoid using American idioms and try to steer clear of
sensitive topics such as race, religion and politics (particularly having to do with Israel).
Israelis love to talk about traveling, cuisine, the arts, technology, sports and shopping. They
appreciate hearing about a guest's home country, his/her family and the attributes of his or her
Measured, well placed compliments are always appreciated by Israelis.
Foreign visitors tend to stereotype Israelis as "aggressive communicators". Communications
among Israelis are commonly misinterpreted as aggressive because the physical sounds of the