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Life in Israel

​​​​​Basic Info on Life in Israel

Whether you're planning to spend a semester at BGU, or several years, we hope that Israel will become a home away from home.

We've compiled information on different aspects of life in Israel. Have questions about a specific topic? Our team is here to help. Reach out to us at here4u@bgu.ac.il

What's it like to live in Israel?

Within Beer-Sheva

Beer-Sheva is a very walkable, pedestrian-friendly city and easily traversable by foot, bike, or scooter.  Additionally, Beer-Sheva has a reliable network of public transportation that runs all week outside of the hours of Shabbat.


A single bus ride within Beer-Sheva costs 4 NIS.  You can pay per ride, but it is highly recommended to purchase a Rav Kav card—you can refill this card as needed at a bus station or via the mobile application Rav-Kav Online, which you can download straight to your phone.

Aside from Google Maps to see bus routes, you can also use the app MoveIt to navigate accurate times of the buses in the city.


Taxi service is also available 24 hours, 7 days a week.  Just keep in mind that this will be more costly than other modes of transportation, and that most taxis will only take cash. If you wish to pay with a credit card, we recommend downloading the app Gett taxi to your phone, so that you can order a taxi to your location, track your ride, and pay with a credit card.

Outside of Beer-Sheva:

Train: There are two train stations in the city:

  • North-University Station near the BGU Sports Center
  • Beer-Sheva Central Station (Beer-Sheva Merkaz), adjacent to the Central Bus Station

There are only northbound trains (towards Tel Aviv) outside of Beer-Sheva.

You will need your train ticket in order to exit the station, so be sure to keep it available until you exit at your final destination.

On Fridays, the last train leaves around 12:30 p.m. and train service resumes 1–2 hours after Shabbat ends on Saturday night.

The main website for trains throughout the country, including detailed schedule information and trip planning, is available in English: https://www.rail.co.il/en


The bus is generally cheaper than the train, and sometimes faster. Tickets can be purchased from the driver and you can get a student discount when eligible, by bringing your Rav Kav magnetic card along and purchasing a round-trip ticket.

The Central Bus Station is located behind the Negev Mall (Kanyon HaNegev Shopping Mall) on Rager Street. On Fridays, buses run until a few hours before sunset and they start running soon after Shabbat ends.

The cost of living in Israel can vary depending on your spending patterns.

Beer-Sheva Housing

As a student at BGU living in the dorms, all of your bills, except an internet connection, are included in housing expenses.

If you are planning on living in a rented apartment, you can find a shared apartment with a roommate in Be'er-Sheva for close to 1100 NIS/month per person, or a single apartment unit for close to 2000 NIS per month.

Sde Boker Housing

Many of the programs at Sde Boker include accommodations on campus or include subsidies for on-campus housing. Please be in touch with your coordinator for more details.

Personal Expenses

Generally, it is important to consider the following:

  • Groceries: Approximately 300-400 NIS per person, per week (not including alcoholic beverages or meat)
  • Dining out: If you enjoy dining out in Israel, you'll notice that some restaurants will be pricier than others. In general, Beer-Sheva is a cheaper destination than other parts of the country, like Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, where restaurants will charge more.
  • Bills: Mobile phone, internet, gas, water, electricity, and municipal taxes will add up to around 400 NIS per month (some of the items may be included in your rent depending on where you reside)
  • Travel: Make a budget for traveling in advance of any trips that you take. Public transportation will be significantly cheaper than alternative options (renting a car, for example), and staying in hostels or campsites will be less expensive than hotels. Keep in mind that BGU International has tents and sleeping bags available to borrow at no cost!

The only currency accepted in Israel is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS), simply called “shekel.” 100 agurot equal 1 shekel.

Bank notes are available in denominations of 20, 50, 100 and 200. The following coins are available: 10 agurot, 1/2 shekel (equals 50 agurot), 1, 2, 5 and 10 shekels.

There are various options for changing money at exchange offices (also at the airport). Depending on your banking fees at home, it may be cheaper to withdraw cash from an ATM. In order to withdraw cash, you will need an international credit card and a 4-digit security code (PIN).

It is best to let your bank know that you'll be spending time abroad so that they do not place a hold on your ATM or credit cards while you are traveling.

Your safety and security is our number one priority. BGU Security works around the clock to ensure the safety of our students and the security of our campus.

In general, Beer-Sheva is a very safe city where petty crime rates are low. We ask students and visiting researchers to please be aware of their surroundings and never leave their personal items unattended.  While it is safe to park your bike or scooter on campus, we recommend using a strong lock if you park your bike around the city.

Military Presence

When you arrive in Israel, you will likely notice young Israelis dressed in uniform, some armed, on public transportation, in the streets, in restaurants, and other public areas.  While this may be surprising at first, it is a very normal part of Israeli life. From the age of 18, Israeli teenagers have a mandatory army service, and you will likely see many soldiers as you travel throughout the country.

Due to the increased level of security in Israel currently, you will also see older men and women in uniform, as they have been called up to serve as army reservists.

Public Security

In addition to the sight of soldiers, civil security at public venues can sometimes be surprising to those who are new to Israel.  You will encounter armed security guards and metal detectors at the entrance to the University campus, malls, train and bus stations, and other public places.

Do not worry, the security guards are there for your safety—they will perform a cursory bag check or wave a security wand.  It only takes a moment, and then you are free to pass.

Sirens and Shelters

Cities across Israel are equipped with warning sirens, which are sounded to alert the public in the rare event of a rocket attack or emergency. If you hear a siren in Beer-Sheva, you have 60 seconds to take cover in the nearest safe area.  After the siren ceases, wait ten minutes before exiting. If you are in doubt, ask or follow an Israeli to the nearest safe area.

Where do you take shelter? Modern buildings, including newer private apartments, have their own reinforced safe rooms (Hebrew: Miklat or Mamad). There are public shelters scattered throughout the university campus as well as throughout Beer-Sheva, inside shopping malls, bus stations, and most public spaces.

Israel has two official languages: Hebrew and Arabic.

The majority of the population speaks Hebrew. The Hebrew language is written from right to left and uses the Hebrew alphabet. Traffic signs and street names are generally written in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. Most Israelis have decent abilities to communicate in English, as it is taught from the early grades in elementary school, and many television programs are broadcast in English.

Israel operates with a socialized healthcare system. As a student in Israel, you are required by law to obtain a health insurance policy throughout your stay. See more about health insurance here (link to health insurance).

There are clinics in just about every neighborhood and even on campus.  Just call your insurance or check online to locate the most convenient one for you.

Beyond the clinics operated by your healthcare provider, there are several first aid centers located throughout the country and in Beer-Sheva.

In case of injury, your first step should always be to call your health-care provider, however, if you need urgent care, you may visit one of these centers below during evening hours or on holidays when offices are closed. You will be asked for a fee of approximately 80 NIS per visit. Ask for the doctor’s summary of the visit and a receipt of payment, which is non-refundable.

In case of emergency, dial 101 from an Israeli phone.


The Emergency Room (Hebrew: miyun) in Israel works differently than in other countries. If it is truly a life-threatening emergency, don’t hesitate to go to the ER. If it is not life-threatening (broken bone, minor accident, etc.), you may be charged around 1200 NIS if you do not have a referral from your family doctor, house-call doctor, or night clinic doctor. Always keep your health insurance card with you, and if possible, your passport. It will significantly expedite things when you get to the hospital in case of an emergency.

Israel enjoys long, warm, dry summers (April – October) and generally mild winters (November – March). Rainfall is relatively heavy in the north and center of the country, with much less precipitation in the Negev region (where BGU's campuses are located).

Weather in Beer-Sheva:

  • Summer (June – September): Extremely hot and dry. Very small chance of rain. Sometimes humid or hazy at night. Day: 32–41°C (90–105°F) Night: 21–27°C (70–80°F)
  • Fall (October – November): Warm and sunny, with infrequent/sporadic rain. Day: 27–32°C (80–90°F) Night: 15–21°C (60–70°F)
  • Winter (December – March): Mostly sunny, colder nights. Rain is surprisingly frequent during the winter. While Israel’s winter temperatures may not be considered cold by many people, most homes here are not heated or insulated, and it can get chilly indoors when there’s a strong wind. Some A/C units also have heating capability, but it is common for locals to rely on small space heaters. Day: 10–15°C (50–60°F) Night: 4–10°C (40–50°F)
  • Spring (April – June): Pleasant with warm and sunny days. Cool nights through June. Day: 21–29°C (70–85°F) Night: 15–21°C (60–70°F)

Israel is home to approximately 8.2 million inhabitants. The population of Israel is 75% Jewish, 21% Muslim, and 4% other religions, including Druze religion and Christianity, secular and observant alike.  Israel is a country made up of immigrants from all over the world.  You can expect to hear a variety of languages such as Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, Amharic, and English spoken at most urban hubs.

Beer-Sheva is a thriving city with a unique mix of immigrants from Morocco, Ethiopia, the former Soviet nations, and Eastern European countries, and is also home to a large Bedouin population.

Israel is home to many different religious communities - most notably Jewish and Muslim populations. As Israel was established as a Jewish State, the Jewish religion and tradition play a major role in shaping Israeli culture and lifestyle, while freedom of religion is anchored by law. The impact of the Jewish religion is noticeable to foreigners in day-to-day life, especially during religious holidays and on Friday nights and Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath (locally called Shabbat).

Shabbat is a weekly Jewish ritual lasting 25 hours, from sundown on Friday to just after sundown on Saturday. Observant Jews will not work, spend money, or use electricity. A festive meal is often shared with family and friends on Friday nights. Shops and many restaurants are closed, and public transportation does not operate from Friday afternoon (starting around 2–4 p.m.) until Saturday evening.

Please be aware that other religious holidays also follow the same observances as Shabbat, even if they fall in the middle of the working week. Take note of the university academic calendar for when such holidays are.

Our students traveling throughout Israel