Whether you want to embrace the nightlife of Tel Aviv, explore the banks of the Dead Sea, or sample some of the most outrageously tasty food anywhere on the planet, teaching English in Israel really has it all.
Jerusalem, the capital city for both Israelis and Palestinians, is a Holy City for Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities, with followers of all three religions making pilgrimages in their millions every year. In a sense, the diversity and iconographic importance of Jerusalem tells a much bigger story about the Holy Land. Over recent decades, the tourism industry in Israel has grown exponentially, in spite of the ongoing conflict between the two states – such is the allure and the significance of the region.
As tourism in a region grows, so too does the TEFL industry. With English being the lingua franca of business – including tourism – with growing influence around the Middle East, demand for English proficiency has only increased. However, the level of English proficiency in Israel is much lower than you might think, with the country ranked 74th of 111 nations by EF.
Within that melting pot of factors lies a major opportunity for TEFL teachers. Israeli territories have a demand for English lessons, in order to further job opportunities at home and abroad. In 2018, the Israeli government introduced a major initiative to improve English skills, to the extent that Israeli students were being offered payment to learn to teach English.
Needless to say, then, English teachers are very much en vogue in Israel, which brings us to a series of questions: what do you need to teach out there? What are salaries like, and the cost of living?
It might not be the first place that comes mind when we consider TEFL, but let’s have a look at Israel as a place to teach English abroad.
Israel: An overview
It would be remiss of us not to mention the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine, and the disputed regions therein. Of course, there are areas in Israeli and Palestinian territories where there is ongoing violence. Gaza and the West Bank, for example, are areas where TEFL teachers might be needed, but this would be on a voluntary basis, and carry some significant risk.
Both Israel and the territory defined as Palestine have safe havens, however. In Israel, there’s Tel Aviv, Haifa, Negev, the Dead Sea and Galilee, while Jerusalem is considered a capital by both states and is safe for travel. If you want to visit Palestine, Bethlehem, Ramahllah and Jericho are considered safe, according to advice from the UK Government.
That’s a lot of land in both states to explore TEFL teaching. What’s the school system like?
Across the Holy Land, there are Jewish schools, Arab schools and secular schools, as well as private schools and international schools, founded by British and American teachers. Private tutoring is big business, too, and there are also teaching programmes to help TEFL teachers to get started.
Elementary and junior schools in Israel are under the jurisdiction of the Israeli Ministry of Education. So when you’re applying there, you’ll likely be sending applications to the Ministry of Education as a whole, and be designated an area or school(s). The Israeli school system is generally co-ed, and is formulated much like the rest of the world, with elementary school (ages 6-12), middle school (ages 12-15) and high school (ages 15-18). Education is compulsory between kindergarten and grade 10, when a student is 16.
In terms of opportunities outside of schooling, it’s not uncommon for ESL teachers to be hired by private companies. These companies understand the business value of English, and so you might be tasked with running classes, either in groups or one-to-one.
Requirements for teaching English in Israel
To teach English in Israel and Palestine, you will need a TEFL certificate and a 4-year college degree in any field. You must also be a native English speaker. The average salary for an English teacher in Israel is about £580 – £1250 USD per month.
Let’s break this down into specifics, as well as talking about the level of experience you’ll need, and how the visa process works for foreign teachers in Israel.
Completion of a high-quality course is a must if you want to land jobs in Israel. The industry standard is 120 hours of training, so a 120-hour, highly accredited course is a fantastic choice. If you’re able to spend more time earning a TEFL qualification, a Level 5 certificate is well worth doing. Whatever you choose to study, having tutor support, 24/7 guidance and self-paced learning is integral to the experience.
Employers want the simplest possible hiring process. Having a TEFL certificate from a reputable source means a teacher is likely to be able to come in and immediately be successful. In Israel, where there’s considerable competition for jobs, not having a TEFL certificate puts you at a distinct disadvantage.
To teach English in Israel, you’ll certainly need a 4-year university degree in any subject. Of course, if your bachelor’s is in English or English Literature, you might find your CV gaining more favourable glances.
If you want to work at international schools or within the university system, you may require a master’s. This is a specific requirement for certain types of jobs, and is at the discretion of individual employers.
There’s no real hard-and-fast rule about whether or not you need experience to teach in Israel. For visa purposes, you don’t need teaching experience to get into Israel and teach. However, higher echelon roles in the teaching sphere, for example at international schools, universities and some private schools, are more likely to require at least a couple of years’ teaching experience.
If you’re a citizen of the United States of America, Canada, Australia or the United Kingdom, you don’t need a visa to stay in Israel for up to 3 months. This is great if you’re looking to teach on a temporary basis, either on a short teaching programme, or as part of a job exchange – but it’s crucial to let the Ministry of Interior know, so you can be given a different type of visa.
If you’re wanting to stay in Israel long-term, you’ll need to apply for a B/1 Work Visa. This can be a long process, so give yourself at least 4-5 months of preparation before you can expect to start a job. You’ll need approval from the Ministry of the Interior, a successful visa interview, a “verified certificate of good conduct”, a certificate of a medical exam by an approved clinic or hospital, fingerprints and a photograph, two completed work permit forms, passport-size photos and signed documentation from an employer, stating their offer to hire you. It’s a lot of paperwork!
A common belief is that, for the intrepid traveller who wants to explore the Middle East, a passport stamp from Israel can be extremely limiting. It’s actually the case that you can ask for your passport not to be stamped in order to avoid problems at borders in neighbouring countries.
Salary & cost of living in Israel
The average starter salary for a teacher in Israel is NIS 8,474 a month, which is currently equivalent to about £1,900/US$2,270. Additionally, teachers can gain tenure after just two years, which makes things much easier for those wishing to stay in Israel for the entirety of their career, and perhaps beyond retirement. This average salary can rise to NIS 9000 after three years, the equivalent of just under £2,050/$2,450 per month.
Teachers are highly valued in Israel, and the wages can rise considerably with experience. This is against a backdrop of Israel’s considerable cost of living, depending where you are and what kind of lifestyle you have.
Utilities in Tel Aviv, for example, cost around £205/$245 per month, while a one-bedroom city centre apartment will cost you £1,300/$1,550 to rent per month. If you’re willing to live a little off the beaten track, rents are closer to £1,000/$1,195. In Jerusalem, utilities cost nearer to £120/$143 monthly, while city centre rent is around £1,000/$1,195 for one bedroom in the city.
In terms of national averages, and day-to-day expenses, you can expect to pay £6.50/$7.77 for a pint of beer, £1.40/$1.67 for a litre of milk, a monthly travel pass is around £50/$59, and a cinema ticket for an international release costs about £10/$12.
The cost of living, and the type of salary you’ll be earning, are very much dependent on location. With Tel Aviv being such a thriving hub of culture and activity, you’ll find yourself wanting to go out and experience the nightlife, museums, art and restaurants. In smaller cities, it’s not quite the same, and rent can become a lot cheaper.
English teaching jobs in Israel
What kind of English teaching jobs are available in Israel? The language is prevalent there, with 84.9% of residents able to understand English; approximately 6.2 million Israelis. Additionally, with the influx of expats residing in Israel, there’s an increased presence of native English speakers.
What does this mean in terms of the types of jobs available? Israeli children are taught English from an early age, which means there are opportunities from kindergarten level up. At elementary level, a working week is typically 30 hours, outside of extra-curricular activities, engagements with parents, and other associated tasks. At junior high, the working week is marginally shorter, at 24 hours, and the same with high school.
Opportunities within the Israeli system are widespread across the public school set-up, as well as in private schools, and the many international schools that are dotted around the Holy Land. Private and international schools almost always require teaching experience from candidates, so it might be best to apply through the Israeli Ministry of Education to get yourself set up in a state school for your first teaching experience.
Private tutoring is another potentially lucrative option. It’s at the individual teacher’s discretion whether or not to top-up earnings from a teaching job with tutoring, but Israeli education is competitive. The demand for tutors is considerable. This is also true for adult learners, especially those who work in business. With Israel’s growing economy continuing to perform well, having knowledge of English is quite the advantage for those seeking further career opportunities.
Teaching Programmes in Israel
Finally, if you’re looking for teaching programmes in Israel, there are some opportunities, albeit they can be extremely competitive.
Fulbright English Teaching Fellowships are a great way to get into Israeli education. This programme is open to US citizens who want to work as ETAs (English Teaching Assistants), and is a way of fostering further positive relations between Israel and the United States. Applicants must be either degree holders or studying for at least a bachelor’s, show academic excellence and leadership skills. There are only six places up for grabs, so get applying!
Masa Israel Journey is also a good opportunity for TEFL teachers. It comes with a range of benefits, including air travel, accommodation and a monthly stipend for teachers. To be eligible, you must identify as Jewish, be between the ages of 21-35, have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree and be a native English speaker from North America, South Africa, UK, New Zealand, Australia or India.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What qualifications are required for teachers in Israel?
You’ll need a TEFL certificate and a 4-year bachelor’s degree to teach in Israel. In higher-earning jobs, such as in international schools or universities, a master’s degree may be needed.
Q. Do you need a degree to teach English in Israel?
Yes, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree – in any subject – to teach English in Israel.
Q. Do they teach English in Israeli schools?
English is taught from an early age in Israeli schools. There are also English-language international schools in Israel.
Q. Is English widely spoken in Israel?
Yes, English is widely spoken in Israel; 84.9% of residents are able to understand some English, which amounts to approximately 6.2 million Israelis.
Q. How much do English teachers make in Israel?
The average salary for an English teacher in Israel is about £580 – £1250 USD per month. Experience really counts where salaries are concerned; teachers can expect a bump in pay after two years, and another after three years.