With increasing competition in the start-up nation’s hi-tech market, knowing Hebrew gives you a competitive advantage against other immigrants. If you think you can get away without Hebrew, you’re living in a movie (חיים בסרט) !
Let’s start with a story: Two weeks ago, we got a call from a team leader of one of Israel’s biggest hi-tech companies. He said that despite being a global company, and most of the work itself is done in English (emails, job interviews etc), he felt that one of the workers, an American, who didn’t speak basic Hebrew, was affecting the team’s atmosphere. “We can’t even have a basic conversation about how our morning was without her rolling her eyes because she doesn't understand anything,” he said.
In the same conversation, he asked us to find her a suitable course, even starting in the middle of the semester, so that she can feel more a part of the team. The American employee was not meant to work in Hebrew, yet most of the office banter, informal meetings or cafeteria chat takes place in Hebrew.
Don’t get us wrong. We welcome the fact that it’s possible for new immigrants to work in their native language. It’s a new development of recent decades, enabled by the hi-tech boom. However, there is one big grievance: that employers are Israelis, most of which speak Hebrew as a native language. Even if you get accepted for a job at an international company, there is the expectation that you can communicate in basic Hebrew. We heard from one of our students who works in hi-tech that all the staff were invited to an Israeli comedian’s show, and he was frustrated and embarrassed that he didn’t understand anything - not the best feeling.
You probably already know that the job market has become increasingly competitive due to the layoffs in many hi-tech companies in Israel. So even if you’re working in English, it’s a competitive advantage to speak in Hebrew, not to mention in some roles it can be a requirement to present in Hebrew, understand meetings in Hebrew, or have to speak basic Hebrew to be a part of the office life. We already wrote about how it’s so important to speak Hebrew to be able to do basic life tasks in Israel.
If you work in English, Hebrew, French, or any other language - don’t give up on Hebrew. Believe us, this will only increase your added value in the workplace.