I do not recommend relying on Facebook translations, and Google Translate to sift through apartment listings. It worked out, and we actually got a good deal on a very nice apartment in an unexpected but remarkable location (shout-out to Yannai for reading over our lease! Thank you!!). But the process itself was fairly excruciating.
More onerous and unwieldy, I think, than trying to piece together translations of apartment listings, were the emails I had to send in English asking about the apartments. Clearly, apartment listings should be written in the language(s) of the country, and the burden should be on me, the interloper, to translate. It was murky, doing the translations, but manageable. What was difficult was having to be so arrogant and bumptious to respond to the listings in Hebrew with English. English is very widely spoken here, yes, but responding to listings in a completely different language than the listing thrusted me farther out of my comfort zone than anything else we’ve encountered thus far.
Primarily, apartments seem to be found here through agencies, Facebook, or yad2 (which seems to be Craigslist-y). Yad2 is entirely in Hebrew, so I tried to dodge listings there as much as possible. In theory, you can tell an agency what you want, and where you want to live in the city, and they will find something for you. In practice, I found that agencies only could do this within the constraints of apartments they had listed within their agency. Agencies also charged a month’s rent (plus a bit more) as a “finder’s fee.” This is fine. However, I found many listings on Facebook without an agent, and then would find the exact same listings, through an agency with a fee.
All of this meant that I spent entire days on Facebook. I had not even logged into Facebook since April, so in order to do this, I had to spend a morning resetting my password since I had forgotten what it was. I also spent a solid hour scrolling through my News Feed, wondering who all these people were since apparently a lot of people had gotten married, and changed their names since April.
We ended up finding our apartment on Craigslist. Craigslist did not have many listings, but they did have a few, including ours. It was through an agency, so we had to pay a fee. Paying the fee and getting the apartment has allowed me to stop spending all day on Facebook though, so I’m considering it worth it.
Our landlord is supremely pleasant, the apartment is fully furnished (the landlord actually just showed up about 15 minutes ago with a kitchen mat, unprompted), and we live on top of a bar like we are in a sitcom. We had a frantic evening trying to get enough cash out for the first month’s rent (we did not have Israeli bank checks the night before we signed the lease), while not going over the daily limit of how much money can be withdrawn. It took several (very sweaty) hours of going to every ATM within a 2km radius, but we were able to hand over an envelope of cash the next day.
When we finally did receive our Israeli checks, we were able to write our rent checks. Rent check technology here is on par with the popsicle technology: lightyears ahead. Instead of writing a check every month, and sending it to your landlord, here you write all your checks at once, date them for the term of your lease, and hand the stack over to your landlord. So instead of paying rent the first of every month, we sat for about 15 minutes and wrote out checks for September, October, November, etc. The landlord then has all the checks ready to go, and just cashes them when the calendar catches up to the dates on the checks. Very efficient.