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“What To Leave Behind On Your Year In Israel”


Packing for a beach vacation is easy: sunscreen, sandals, swimsuit, sunglasses, something else starting with S and you’re all set! Packing for six months or even a year studying in another country – well, that’s a bit higher on the difficulty scale.

Your seminary, yeshiva, study abroad program, program alumni, friends and well-meaning relatives are likely to have plenty of advice for you about what you should bring, but it can often be just as difficult to make tough decisions about what to leave at home. Whether it’s worries about whether you’ll be able to find your favorite conditioner in Israel or the emotional trauma of abandoning your teddy bear at your parents’ house, it can seem like there are just too many things that need to go in your suitcase.

There are some things that just don’t need to come along for the ride

Heavy Liquids In Bottles”

Sure, travel-size containers are a rip-off, but for the most part, you’re going to be able to find a version — or at least a passable approximation — of the toiletries and other products you normally use in your study abroad country. If you’re absolutely in love with a specific moisturizer and not having it is going to destroy your quality of life, then by all means bring it, but it’s not the most efficient use of your limited suitcase space or weight to fill it with Costco-sized bottles of shampoo and face wash when you’ll be able to buy those in your study abroad city.

Best to buy in Israel. Yes, everything is more expensive in Israel, but you can get a decent bottle of shampoo for 12 shek which is about R39 – not terrible.
It’s a lot better than paying for overweight luggage or having exploding bottles of gooey stuff in your neatly packed suitcase. As a guide, I used 2 big bottles of shampoo the whole year. (Americans – As for blow-dryers or irons, it’s probably better to get in Israel or borrow because they’re not likely to survive the difference in voltage, converter or not.)

“How Many Pairs Of Shoes Do You Really Need?”

  • Here’s what you really need, unless you’re moving to Paris for a fashion show. 1 pair of daily shoes
  • 1 pair of exercise/outdoorsy/hiking shoes
  • 1 pair of shower shoes
  • Maybe one nicer pair for Shabbat

Any more than that, and you’re probably over packing.

“Culturally Appropriate Clothing”

This should be a no-brainer, think Shabbat clothes maybe bring something fancy just in case you have an event/simcha. If your staying in Jerusalem think about the very windy winters and maybe invest in a good poncho.

“Do You Really Need Tons Of Electronics?”

Obviously, some things, especially laptops, are a necessity for a semester abroad. If you plan on using your phone while studying abroad, of course you’ll want to pack that too. If not, it can be nice to have an iPod or other music player for those days when you’re stuck in hours of traffic trying to get home or maybe that e-reader for traveling.

Beyond that, try to think really strategically about which of your devices you actually need. Electronics are probably the universal number one target for theft — you’re way more likely to get a phone stolen than pretty much anything else you own — so don’t bring more targets than you absolutely need, especially if you would be really upset to have any of them stolen.

Besides, you should be spending your free time outside getting to know your new city and country, not inside playing Candy Crush!

“Lots Of Food Or Snacks”

Look, I get it — the idea of going months without peanut butter eats me up inside (no pun intended) too. But while you think you may be unable to get through your semester abroad without constant access to Doritos — which, news flash, they probably sell there — weaning yourself off your favorite snacks can help you discover tasty new treats that you might never have tried otherwise.

Besides Israel has its own unique snacks, and part of the fun of living abroad is finding out which ones you wish you could bring home with you and which ones you’d prefer to stay a continent away.

Part of the fun of living abroad is finding out which [snacks] you wish you could bring home with you and which ones you’d prefer to stay a continent away.

“Leave The Diamonds Behind”

You don’t need to assume that everyone is going to try to rob you or that you can’t bring anything that’s special to you, but objects of value are big targets, so really ask yourself whether the possibility of losing something is worth the risk of bringing it. Maybe you haven’t taken off that necklace your grandmother gave you in five years, but it’s worth thinking about if you can get by without it for a few months, knowing it’ll be safe and waiting for you when you get back.

“Leave the Books Behind”

The last thing is not to send books or sefarim– cheaper to buy them in Israel than pay for their weight, unless it’s a special book. There are lots of used bookstores for novels etc. and definitely seforim stores there.  Unless you want English-Hebrew books- those are hard to find. Especially English -Hebrew machzorim.

“Linens: Stay Or Go?”

Buy/borrow from relatives in Israel unless you have the space.  Additionally, in most semminaries girls from the previous year leave everything behind, so if you don’t mind, ask your semminary if they offer bedding/sefarim second hand. There are also companies in Israel like, Tamarim that offers an array of services from gifts to student dorm packs. So no matter what you can buy everything you might need once you arrive.

“School Materials: Leave It”

Get files, dividers, paper and any other bulky stationery items in Israel (max Stock)
(For Americans – Israeli binders and paper have 2 holes as opposed to 3, and the paper is larger too, so get your paper, binders and hole makers in Israel to avoid having to send home for more when you run out.)

A file is 10 – 15 shek which is about the same as here, so please don’t shlepp several files along in your suitcase!

Keep in mind that most seminaries will most likely help set you up with really nice families for Shabbat. Remember that you will need to do most of the calling and arranging–but thankfully by using Talknsave you have unlimited calling. Plan what to say before you call. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for a place to go—Israeli mentally with regards to guests is very different than Americans. Guests are a part of life in Israel, whether you know them or not, eating by strangers is normal. You will meet amazing people from all over and see how different people celebrate Shabbat. Shabbat will be the high of your week!

Beth Zuckerman
Beth Zuckerman
Beth is a former Upper Westsider, who made aliyah 8 years ago. She is a coffee addict and a lover of classical rock. Beth is the content and marketing manager at talknsave, in that order.

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