Cell Phone Info, Pets, Shipping Your Stuff and Packing - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Cell Phone Info, Pets, Shipping Your Stuff and Packing

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Timeline (Before Departure) Action Check
3-4 months Decide if you are going to bring your pet  
1-2 months Decide if you are going to ship anything to Israel  
1 month – 2 weeks Choose your cellphone plan  
2 weeks – 1 week Pack your clothing, medications, and apartment supplies  
  Pack your electronics and hobbies  
  *Special note on packing for cantorial students  


Choose your cellphone plan

In previous years, HUC recommended that students use IsraelPhone. This remains a fantastic option for students studying for the year in Israel. They give excellent service in English, will deliver your phone to an address in the States or Israel and offer a good package.  Until a few years ago, the local phone companies did not offer cellphone plans to tourists, but this has now changed. Therefore, students now have other options besides Israelphone. Additionally, with the advent of Wi-Fi calling and texting via apps such as GroupMe, WhatsApp, or iMessage, plans that offer unlimited calling to the U.S., as well as the calling and texting within Israel, have become less necessary. Below is a list of providers who can provide you with a year of service in Israel. Their websites are mostly in Hebrew but, unless otherwise specified, provide customer service in English. Many offer multiple tiers of service, we have shown the most “middle of the road” plans below. Be aware of the small print on any contracts you sign, as they may obligate you for 12 months or more. If you order a SIM card or phone, try to arrange for shipment to either HUC in Jerusalem, or to your home ahead of time. 


Company Name


Talk (Within Israel)

Text (Within Israel)



IsraelPhone (Cellcom)





Includes 500 minutes to  US/Canada.






Data use with common social media apps is unlimited.






Includes 350 minutes to US/Canada.

HOT Mobile





Includes 120 minutes to US/Canada.

Golan Telecom





Includes 240 minutes to US/Canada.

Rami Levy






012 Mobile





Some plans include calls to the US/Canada


Some comments from previous students regarding different providers: 

IsraelPhone: "Fantastic customer service, very responsive. Good service, and a sufficient amount of data." "It's good. I don't really have an opinion on it so I guess that means they're doing a good job!" “I actually really like it. The calls home are great.” “The service is good. I actually got a bit cheaper service by going directly through Cellcom rather than IsraelPhones

Pelephone: “It’s decent service, but I have trouble getting in touch with English customer service.”

Golan: "Great, I love it. It's cheap, service is everywhere, and the data and texting works internationally as well." "Great service, and it's cheap" "It's good. I like being able to call home." "Doesn't offer a hotspot, but is otherwise cheap" "Super cheap. It's great, I can call home for free and that's all I need to do."

HOT Mobile: “It’s pretty good. We actually have our TV service through them as well.”



Decide if you are going to bring your pet to Israel

It can be very comforting to bring your pet to Israel but make sure you go through the proper procedures. You must have documentation of a rabies vaccine given more than 30 days before your flight but less than 1 year old. Your vet must check the animal within 10 days of your flight and send a form to your state USDA - Veterinarian office, for an official stamp. 

Make sure that the landlord of your apartment rental agrees to you housing a pet in the apartment and add this as a clause in your lease.


Buy a carry-on travel bag.  Tranquilize and bring your cat on board with you. Bring as much extra cat food as possible. Request bulkhead seating so you’ll have room for your cat on the floor. 

Fly direct or with as little layover as possible. Line the kennel with all your blankets and dog toys. Attach extra food to the kennel by tying it into an attached plastic bag. You can also attach a bottle of water. (This is for the workers during layover or just in case) Get your dog used to the kennel weeks before with treats! 

Only Swiss Air or El Al will fly animals in the summer due to the heat regulations. Make animal reservations directly with the airline (not through a travel agent) at the same time that you make your flight reservations. Confirm repeatedly – regulations change.

Once in Tel Aviv, rejoice and have a great reunion! Having pets in Israel is a blessing!!!


Decide if you are going to ship anything to Israel

Throughout the year, all mail, and packages can be sent to you at the following address:    

Name, YII program
c/o Hebrew Union College
13 King David Street
Jerusalem 9410125 ISRAEL

When the package arrives, the post office will send a notice to HUC-JIR which is put in your student mailbox on campus.  You will then pick the package up from the Central Post Office, a 10 minute walk from campus.  

In advance of your arrival, if at all possible, we recommend that you bring and pay for an extra suitcase, rather than ship.

If you should decide to ship personal items in advance of your arrival, make sure the boxes are sturdy and well reinforced.  Mark the boxes clearly - "Used Books" or "Used Clothing" and "No Value."  Israel Customs will let you clear parcels customs free ONLY if packages contain used clothing or books.  Otherwise you may have to pay customs duties and/or negotiate fees with customs authorities.  Consult your local post office for the latest rules, weight limitations and insurance policies.  Ask them about special rates for shipping books.

  • Do not ship electrical appliances; you will be charged hefty Customs fees. 
  • Bring a years supply of medications. You will have to wait weeks for medication sent to you through the regular mail or Fedex to clear Customs.  
  • It is very important not to overestimate the value of your package on the packing slip and not to insure the package for more than it is worth as you may incur unnecessary charges and delays at Customs.
  • During your stay in Israel, it is recommended not to order items from a mail order house to be shipped to you in Israel (e.g. Ebay, Amazon, Land's End).  You may have to pay full customs duties.  
  • Very important:  Inform family and friends that if they send gifts or packages, to mark the package “no value” and remove tags, otherwise you will have to pay customs fees.

Pack your clothing, medication, and apartment supplies

General Guidelines:
Believe it or not, there are a variety of opinions on how to pack for your year in Israel! Basically, anything you need can be bought here, but not always as inexpensively as in North America. Most students find that Israeli products are just as good as American name brands, but crave the comfort of what they know from back home.
Jerusalem is beautiful, sunny, warm, and dry from March/April through October/November. Most students live in lightweight pants or shorts and t-shirts through these months. The winter months, however, are cold, rainy, and windy! Although the temperature rarely falls below freezing, it feels colder because of the wind chill. Also, most buildings have stone or tile floors and are not as well-insulated or heated as in North America. Many apartments are not heated at all during the daytime hours until the late afternoon, so it is essential that you bring plenty of warm and "layerable" winter gear. This includes a real winter coat, a rain poncho or raincoat, waterproof boots, thermal wear, thick socks, warm gloves, warm pajamas, and warm slippers. This advice is especially true if you come from a warm environment and do not handle cold well!
Clothing in Israel, as in America, can be found in a range of quality and price. However, styles and sizes in Israel are different from North America and may not be comfortable or appropriate for all students. Jerusalem tends to be conservative and though women will feel comfortable in pants, crops or shorts, make sure to bring “longish” skirts and dresses for Shabbat and visits to religious neighborhoods. Women should also have clothing appropriate for visiting orthodox synagogues- longish skirt, long sleeve or ¾ sleeve blouses, higher neck line. Tank tops and short shorts, though acceptable in the coastal area, are sometimes inappropriate in Jerusalem. T-shirts and cool lightweight pants, shirts and skirts are better. Be sure to bring some dressy clothes for special occasions – you’ll want to dress up sometimes and there are plenty of dry cleaners!  . Men should bring dress shirts/sport coat and slacks, and necktie. Dresses or blouses and skirts, pantyhose, and thick tights are recommended for women. Though Israel has a reputation for being casual, if you like to look nicer on a daily basis, you will fit in just fine.
Also bring some clothes and shoes/sneakers you will not mind getting dirty or ruined on field trips. Water shoes may be useful. Comfortable walking shoes are essential – heels aren’t good for slippery Jerusalem stone!
Some clothing that we recommend:
  • Jeans and winter slacks
  • Shorts (keep in mind that Jerusalem is a modest place. Short shorts might be a spectacle)
  • Wash-and-wear shirts and blouses (long and short sleeved)
  • T-shirts
  • Sweatshirts
  • Sweaters (lots - including a few really warm ones)
  • Lightweight jacket
  • Heavy coat
  • Raincoat (a warm one - it only rains when it's cold)
  • Scarf
  • Gloves
  • A lot of underwear and socks (laundry gets worn out easily in Israel)
  • Warm, thick socks, stockings/tights/leggings
  • Warm pajamas
  • Bathing suits
  • Sunhat or baseball hat (you will need a hat for trips in the summer!)
  • Dress shoes
  • A few pairs of comfortable walking shoes
  • A comfortable pair of winter boots with rubber non-slip soles
  • Waterproof boots or shoes with non-slip soles
  • Hiking shoes/boots
  • Bring a few pairs of sneakers (they are very expensive in Israel)
  • Warm slippers (a must for those cold ceramic or stone floors)
  • Shabbat clothes, both summer and winter 
Professional laundries wash, dry, and fold for about $9 - $10 a load. Not only are there few places where you can conveniently wash your own clothing (unless you get lucky and rent an apartment with a washer), but doing that does not always save money. The laundries are reliable, but very tough on clothes. Bring lots of socks, underwear and plain white t-shirts – they will be washed out by the end of the year. Wash-and-wear clothes are highly recommended.
Medications, Toiletries, and Cosmetics:
It is highly recommended that you bring a year’s supply of any medication or birth control pills that you normally take. You will need to discuss this with your doctor, as some prescriptions cannot be filled in such large amounts. If this is the case, ask your doctor for a prescription that can be filled here during the year. Depending on the prescription you can get it filled either directly at a local pharmacies or by having a doctor here write you a prescription for a local equivalent. Common medications like anti-biotics are surprisingly inexpensive in Israel. Please note that, if you have someone send you prescription medicine by mail or Fedex you will have to wait weeks for it to be cleared from Customs and it most likely will be taxed.  One student recently brought a year's supply of medication. In order for insurance to approve it and pay, she had to purchase a year’s worth of elected COBRA benefits. For the sake of convenience it was worth it, and buying medications in bulk from her mainstream pharmacy saved her a significant amount of money.
Israeli laws pertaining to the use or possession of narcotic drugs are extremely severe and firmly enforced. Punishment for using or possessing even small quantities of "light" drugs (marijuana, hashish) can be a heavy fine, a jail sentence, and permanent expulsion from Israel. This will also jeopardize a student’s continued tenure at HUC-JIR.
Apartment Supplies:
Small shops near the Mahane Yehuda Shuk and Ben Yehuda Street, as well as malls carry all kinds of kitchen and bath items. Pots, pans, dishes, all kinds of plastic ware (plates and cups, etc), tablecloths, silverware, hairdryers, toasters, coffeepots, microwaves---everything you need is sold here—and can be found reasonably priced if you shop around.
Bedding and Linens:
First, check and see what will be waiting for you at your apartment. If you know your apartment does not have bedding, definitely bring what you will need while you look for bedding that fits your bed properly. We advise that you bring some towels, pillowcases, and flat sheets anyways, just in case. You may find it comforting to have linens that feel familiar, as the quality and style of bedding and towels is different here. Cost and quality of linens can vary in Israel. Buying bedding in the shuk will certainly be less expensive than at department stores. You can purchase blankets and down or cotton comforters in Israel, but they can be expensive. If you have room, bring your own.

Pack your electronics and hobbies 

Converters and Adapters:
Israel runs on a 220V power standard - different from the US and Canada. The standard plug in Israel is Type H, which can look like either of the plugs here, though the one on the right is more common. Either will fit into the sockets in Israel. Your first priority in determining your power conversion needs is to find a panel with information similar to this on it. Everything that plugs into a power outlet should have one, and though they sometimes look different, the information presented will be the same. Find the input voltage on the power supply. The number will most often be a range. In this picture, that range is 100-240V. As this encompasses the 220V on which Israel runs, all you would need is an adapter plug to change the physical shape of your plug, similar to this. This is known as a "dual voltage" power supply (it can run on both the North American 110V standard, as well the Rest-Of-The-World 220V standard), and the vast majority of laptop and cell phone chargers are dual voltage. Some more sensitive or older electronics have a smaller range of voltage they can accept (the device pictured here can accept an input of 100V to 127V). This device can not safely be plugged in without a step-down transformer, which will "convert" the voltage coming from your outlet, allowing the device to run safely. It is very important that you know the voltage needed for your device before plugging it in. If the voltage coming from the outlet is too high for the device, it can ruin your electronics, cause a power surge, or start a fire. If the voltage coming from the outlet is too low, the device will not power on or charge correctly. Either case is obviously not ideal, and both can cause permanent damage to your electronics. 
If You Need a Step-Down Transformer:
If you've determined you will need a step-down transformer for your time in Israel, you will next need to figure out the wattage that your device requires. To do this, look at the output section of the info on your power supply. To get your needed wattage, multiply the output voltage (12V in this example) by the output amps (17.9A in this example). For the device pictured here, 12V x 17.9A = ~215W. As power draw can vary throughout the course of using your device, you will want to get a transformer that can support more wattage than is "strictly" necessary. A good rule of thumb is 3 times the power draw, so in this case a 750W step-down transformer would likely be sufficient. It is better to have more than you need than not enough. You can't have "too much" available wattage, but you can very easily have too little. It is not a good idea to run multiple devices off of a single step-down transformer at once (via a power strip or similar), as the power drawn from the devices can easily run over what the step-down transformer can support. It is, strictly speaking, possible to run multiple devices off of a single step-down transformer, but this complicates the math of figuring out your necessary wattage. We would suggest asking for help for your specific case at the store if you find this necessary.
As an additional note, step-down transformers are expensive to purchase and difficult to find in Israel. They are also heavy, and as such would take up a lot of available weight in your luggage. Weigh your needs of cost versus luggage weight when deciding to purchase your transformer here in Israel or while you are still at home. One such store that sells step-down transformers and has staff with very good English is Mister Electric on Yafo St.
Computers are dual-voltage (110/220) and thus operable in Israel. Students have found laptops to be very useful and convenient and they can be plugged into a campus printer. Inexpensive printers are available in Israel. Make sure you bring all documentation in case of problems. “Davka Writer” (for PCs) and “Mellel” (for Macs) is useful for Bible and Liturgy classes, though not required. And, most computers have an option of adding simple Hebrew text to the operating system (and you switch back and forth between languages). 
Computers should not be shipped, but only taken as carry-on luggage. Sending a computer by Fed-Ex will result in high customs duties.
Israel is not a society that stresses hobbies but you can find materials for knitting, sewing, and other pastimes for reasonable prices. Past students have brought board games, cards, video games, etc. 
Sports Equipment:
Students recommend that you bring any sports equipment—including cleats—that you might want to use during the year.  A number of marathon races are held in different parts of Israel and students suggest bringing running shoes as they are expensive in Israel. Students have also participated in flag football, ultimate frisbee and softball leagues. Tennis, basketball, and swimming facilities are also available. Additionally, there are a number of health clubs/gyms near HUC that range in price and facilities. (More information on those gyms when you arrive.)
There will be a number of song leading opportunities throughout the year. Feel free to bring music, guitars and other portable musical instruments (remember: carry instruments on the plane to avoid damage). There will be ample opportunity for students to song lead or participate in Se'udah Shlishit events, for children in the Reform kindergarten, in campus-wide festival meals and events (for example, HUC-JIR Beit Cafe and Cabarets), etc.  Present students often sell their guitars to the incoming class (watch for emails about this) and there are  a number of music stores in Jerusalem which sell reasonably priced guitars, keyboards, drums, guitar cases, etc. 
Many students maintain blogs for themselves and friends and family back home. Popular choices are WordPress, Tumblr, or Blogger. It’s a free and simple process, and your loved ones will be thrilled to read all about your life in Israel. 

*Special note on packing for cantorial students

Bring concert and performance clothes. Concert blacks are not usually necessary, but you may want to bring them.
  • If you can get a keyboard from a current student you may find that helpful. But, if not, do not worry. There are several classrooms with pianos at HUC-JIR and there are also many apps for the iPad that may be helpful for practicing at home.
  • It is recommended that you bring any Jewish music (liturgical and non-liturgical) that you may find useful for solo performance. Bring your favorite anthology of Jewish songs, anthology of Lieder and Arias, and any music you have been using for services at home as well as “fun” music (pop, Broadway etc)