Israel Business Letter Etiquette

by Ploni Almoni ; Updated September 26, 2017
Business culture in Israel is casual.

Israeli business communication observes few formalities, and is generally similar to conventions observed in more relaxed U.S. business communication. This is especially true when writing in English, and it applies especially to secular Israelis.

Background

As of 2004, Israel had about 7 million people, of whom three-quarters were Jewish. A large minority of Israelis--about a third--were born outside the country, lending a distinctly European and American influence to an otherwise very Middle Eastern country. This diverse population is reflected in a more relaxed business culture for most secular Israelis, although the significant minority of Orthodox Jews and almost 2 million Arabs often observe more rigid customs based on their religious heritage.

Salutation

Israelis tend to conduct business on a first-name basis, and this is appropriate for business correspondence, particularly when writing follow-up correspondence after a meeting or telephone conversation. The U.S. practice of striking out a surname and writing a given name by hand is not recommended. There are several Hebrew honorifics that are commonly used in the Orthodox community--such as "may you live to a hundred and twenty"--but these are not generally used by secular Israelis.

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Body

Although Israelis tend to have a high degree of proficiency with the English language, avoid idiomatic expressions and slang, as the nuances may be lost on your Israeli reader. Be direct and clear in your writing. (A good practice in general, not just with Israelis!)

Valediction

Close your letter with a simple valediction such as "sincerely," and sign your name. Your given name alone may be appropriate if this is a follow-up letter. Type your full name and title below your signature.

Thank-You Notes

Thank-you notes are not especially common in Israeli business culture, and Israelis tend to be pleased by these small courtesies. Generally, thank-you notes should be handwritten, so take special care to write legibly for Israeli readers who may be less familiar with English cursive script. Do not include business information or requests with your thank-you note.

About the Author

Ploni Almoni began writing professionally in 1990. Since then, he has published widely in scholarly journals such as "Slavic Review," "Transcultural Psychiatry" and "Thought and Action." Almoni earned a Doctor of Philosophy in history from the University of Toronto.

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