Life in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv coast

Tel Aviv has long been the center of secular Israeli culture. Recently, the city’s popularity has spread world-wide: Tel Aviv is now well known for its beaches, its non-stop night life, and its growing food, music, and dance scene.

In the wake of Tel Aviv’s expanding global reputation, many have sought to highlight the city’s intrinsically Jewish and Zionist character. In the last decade, independent prayer groups, learning circles, and Shabbat activities have organically emerged across the city. This bottom-up movement has been dubbed Tel Aviv’s Jewish Renewal–  and its popularity is increasing around the city. This movement represents the city residents’ desire to create a Judaism that is personal, modern, and flexible.

Kab Shab beach

Learning at BINA contributes to the renaissance of the Jewish Renewal movement in Tel Aviv. Our program is part of the increasing motivation to take Judaism into our own hands, creating an informed Jewish identity that best fits our modern and secular lives. And even more than this: learning with us indicates an understanding that the future of Judaism relies on diminishing the ever-growing polarities between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, religious and secular. There is nowhere better than Tel Aviv to be part of this revolution!

“As a Rabbinical student studying in Jerusalem for the year, I loved traveling to Tel Aviv to learn in the beit midrash at BINA. It enriched my understanding of Israel to see the Torah learning happening in Tel Aviv, and to see how secular Jews relate to our beautiful textual tradition.”
– Rachel Marder, Rabbinical Student, Ziegler School

Why is BINA in South Tel Aviv?

BINA has been running activities of Jewish learning and social action in south Tel Aviv-Yafo since 2001, and it was with great intentionality that our first Secular Yeshiva was established specifically in south Tel Aviv in 2006.

The neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv-Yafo are among the most diverse in the country. They are also among the most challenged, and in our eyes, among the most beautiful. The BINA Secular Yeshiva is situated inside Tel Aviv-Yafo’s historic “Ganei Hateva” (Nature Gardens), a green oasis in the southern heart of the city, in between the neighborhoods of Florentine, Shapira, Kiryat Shalom, Neve Ofer, and Jaffa, and a short walk from Tel Aviv’s commercial center and Rothschild Boulevard. These neighborhoods are home to Israeli Jews of diverse backgrounds (Mizrahi, Ashkenazi, Ethiopian, and other) as well as Arab citizens of Israel, and thousands of migrant workers and asylum seekers. Many residents of these neighborhoods are of low socio-economic status, and many receive service from the country’s welfare networks, while others are unable to access such services. BINA works with all of south Tel Aviv-Yafo’s diverse populations without discrimination.

Despite all of their challenges, each of these neighborhoods are home to their own rich culture, with cultural centers and activity, not to mention bars, cafes, and some of the best food in all of Israel!

What other activities are happening in South Tel Aviv?

Tel Aviv is the city that never sleeps. There are always new activities and events to take part in. Our recommendation is to join local Facebook groups that will keep you updated on all the latest concerts, parties, markets, and other Tel Aviv adventures.

Tel Aviv is home to synagogues of all denominations, as well as non-denominational or “secular-Israeli” prayer communities. To view a list of some of these communities, click here. Some of our recommendations include:

Where should I live?

While studying at Beit Midrash TLV, you’ll get to enjoy life in Israel’s cultural capital – Tel Aviv! But being Israel’s most exciting city, Tel Aviv is also well-known for its challenging environment for apartment hunters. But you can do it! Here are a few tips to help you out:

  • BINA’s Secular Yeshiva is located in south Tel Aviv between the Kiryat Shalom and Shapira neighborhoods. If you would like to live near the Secular Yeshiva, you might look for an apartment in Florentin, Shapira or Jaffa. Kiryat Shalom and Neve Ofer are also close by, but are much quieter and less traditionally “Tel Avivi”.
  • If you live with roommates, you can expect to pay around $600-$800 per month, not including utilities.
  • The rent cost does not include va’ad bayit (tenant’s association fee) which can be an extra 100-200 shekels per month. Additional costs include arnona (municipal tax), utilities and internet. Internet is comprised of two payments – infrastructure and internet service. Arnona and utilities are paid bi-monthly.
  • We recommend clarifying with the landlord which parts of the apartment are included in the lease – which items are your financial responsibility, and which are the responsibility of the landlord.
  • The number of rooms advertised in an apartment in Israel is for the total of all rooms – not just the bedrooms.
  • Most apartments in Tel Aviv come unfurnished – this means they do not include a refrigerator or stove/oven. Sometimes it is possible to purchase these items from the previous tenants.
  • When looking for an apartment, be sure to ask if the apartment being advertised is through a real estate agent (metavech). If you rent an apartment through a real estate agenct, you will likely need to pay a fee (d’mei tivuch, or just tivuch). This is normally about the cost of a full month of rent. We recommend looking for apartments offered directly by the landlord to avoid this cost.
  • Some landlords will ask for a security deposit, or a co-signer. You may be able to negotiate with your landlord to ease these demands.

Finding an apartment:

Most Israelis use sites like yad2.org to find apartments. If your Hebrew is good enough, or if you know someone who can help you out, we recommend looking on a Hebrew site. The prices are usually better, and you have more chance to find an Israeli roommate.

Other Housing Tips:

  • Va’ad Bayit – Most buildings have a tenants association that covers costs of cleaning the stairwell and entrance, electricity for the stairwell lighting, gardening, or other costs. This usually costs 200-300 shekels per month, and is paid to one of the other tenants.
  • Laundry – most apartments do not have washers or dryers. Most Tel Avivim purchase their own washer (around 1200 ILS new or 500-600 ILS used), and air-dry their clothes on window lines, or with a drying rack. There are also laundromats around the city.
  • Heat and AC – most apartments in Tel Aviv do not have central heating or air (although some newer ones might). Buildings in Tel Aviv are built to stay cool in the summer, but they can get very cold in the winter. If you have an air conditioner, you can switch it to heat, or use a space heater. Both methods can be very costly. Plan to invest in a heavy blanket during the winter time, when temperatures can get to around 45 degrees fahrenheit or 7 degrees celsius.
  • Hot water – when apartment hunting, ask the landlord what kind of water heater (“dood”) the apartment has. Many apartments have solar water heaters, which cut down on electricity costs significantly during the spring and summer months. Other times, you will need to rely on the electric boiler. Be careful to turn the boiler off when you’re finished showering – the electric boiler costs a lot to run, and can burn out if left on for too long.