Public transportation in Israel is accessed via a personalized RAV KAV card, which can be obtained by presenting your passport and filling out a short form. It does not cost anything and can be loaded with money. It works for transfers between city buses and the light rail for an hour and a half. You MUST use a RAV KAV to ride the buses in Jerusalem - the bus drivers no longer accept cash.
You can obtain a RAV KAV card at Ben Gurion Airport, across the street from HUC at the HaPaamon Mall (3 King George) at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station (224 Yafo Street) or at the Hadar Mall in Talpiot. As an HUC student, you are not eligible for the student discount.
An anonymous RAV KAV is available for purchase without a photo ID. It is available on buses only. The card itself costs 5 NIS and you will automatically purchase one ride for 5.90 NIS. You can then use it to add money without having to buy another card, but if your RAV KAV is lost, it is not replaceable. A card with your photo is replaceable - you will get back any money you previously put on the card when you get a new card.
There are various locations to load your RAV KAV card around the city. (See: https://pti.org.il/ChargingMap.aspx for detailed location of where to load your RAV KAV. This includes many bus stops and minimarkets.) You load a certain amount of money into the value of the card. For example, at 50 NIS minimum, you will get a value of 62.50 NIS. You can then use that money for buses, light rail, or utilize it for rail tickets when purchasing at the train station. Your RAV KAV must be loaded before you get on the bus. The drivers will not accept cash. If you have an android phone, you can also load money onto your RAV KAV via the application. At the time of this writing, the iPhone app is not available, but it may be ready by the summer.
The main bus stops near the HUC campus are David HaMelekh / Hess (right across from HUC) that is served by the 13, 30, 49, 105 and 108 and Karen HaYesod / Shalom Alekheim served by the 7, 34, 38, 71, 72, 74, 75, 77, 78, and 103.
Many of these buses connect the Central Bus Station or Mahane Yehuda to Rehavia, City Center, Emek Refaim, Baka, Talpiot and Katamon. The best lines from the central station to these neighborhoods include 15, 18, 32, 34, and 7, 71-78. For more information on buses and times, download the application Moovit.
There are intercity buses that depart on a regular basis from the 3rd floor of the Central Bus Station, including to the Tel Aviv Central Station (405), Arlozorov Station (480) and nearly every other city. The fee varies based on your destination, but the buses to Tel Aviv are 16 NIS. The 485 bus leaves from a stop outside the Central Bus Station every hour directly to the airport.
There is one light rail in Jerusalem that runs from Kheil Ha-Avir to Har Herzl. The light rail connects East and West Jerusalem, runs through the City Center and connects to the Central Bus station and neighborhoods like Beit HeKerem. Light rail tickets can be purchased with your RavKav at each station and used by tapping the machines on the light rail. Patrols occasionally come through to check that you are credentialed to be on the light rail.
The new high-speed rail from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is finally running! The train leaves from the Yitzhak Navon Train Station (next to the central bus station) every half an hour, starting at 6:33am, 7:03am, 7:33am until 9:33pm in the evening, Sunday - Thursday. As of Winter 2020, the train does NOT run on Friday. The train makes two stops: at Ben Gurion Airport (17 NIS) and at Tel Aviv HaHagana (22 NIS). From Tel Aviv HaHagana, you can transfer to any other train in the northbound direction to access other stations in Tel Aviv for no extra fee. The train takes about 25 minutes to the airport and 40 minutes to Tel Aviv (with no traffic ever!). To purchase your train ticket, use your RAV KAV at the screens in the train station just past the security barrier. You can select your destination and use cash, credit, or a pre-existing balance on your Rav Kav.
Taxis can be ordered via the Gett Application. Taxi drivers may ask to charge you a particular fare, but is it always cheaper to have the driver charge you based on the meter. They may push you to accept a fare, but the driver is required to take you using the meter. Be pushy and Israeli! Tipping cab drivers is not customary.
If cab drivers are taking you to the airport or other cities, there will be a set fare, but the bus and train is almost always a better option.
Local cab companies: Smadar (02-566-4444) or (02-563-5111). Rechavia Taxi (02-625-4444/5/6). HaTayelet (02-672-2222). Malha (02-679-4111).
A sherut is a shared taxi van service. Sheruts are available between major cities and to and from the airport. In Jerusalem, the sherut station is next to HaRav Kook Street by Kikar Tzion. In most other cities, it is located next to the Central Bus Stations. The driver will wait until the sherut is full to depart. (If you have a group of 9 or 10 people, you can often have the driver drop you off in a specific location.) The sherut costs 24 NIS. They run on Shabbat and late-at-night after bus service concludes, so it is an effective way to travel between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv when the public transportation shuts down, but it is more expensive on Shabbat or late at night.
In addition to the train and the 485 bus, Nesher can be an excellent way to get to and from the airport. Nesher costs 67 NIS although the prices increase on Shabbat. The driver will pick you up/drop you off at your home, so this can be an advantage when you have several suitcases. You can call and tell them when your flight is and they will usually pick you up 4 hours before your flight. Nesher: 02-625-7227, 02-623-1231, 1-599-500-205.
Leaving the airport, depart the building and turn right and you will see a line of vans. Say you are going to Jerusalem and they will connect you to the right bus.
A taxi to the airport will cost almost 300 NIS.
You may want to rent a car to travel around some more remote places in Israel. You can rent with Avis, Budget, Hertz or Eldan, all of whom have drop-off/pick-up locations next to HUC. Rental car companies often close by Noon on Friday and do not reopen until Sunday morning. They will run out of cars during busy seasons, like Sukkot and Pesach! In addition, many of the cars are manual transmission. Make sure to specify that you want a car with automatic transmission.
Rental cars are not insured in Areas A and B (parts of the West Bank controlled by the Palestinian Authority). Please confirm your destination with them if you are traveling to the West Bank. Highway 6 is an effective way to get from the center to the north or south quickly. However, it is a toll road (via pictures of your license plate) and you will be charged extra for driving on Highway 6.