Back to School, Israel Style

This post is from 2006, and prices have gone up.

The summer vacation is ending in about two weeks. School is supposed to start on September 1, but the students in the north asked to start on Sunday September 3, so in solidarity with them all the schools are going to start then (or so I heard).  Call me cynical, but it’s probably because of the teachers. “Zeh lo fair” if the teachers in the north get an extra day off, right? Although I personally don’t see the point of starting school on Friday in any case.

Anyway, summer is that time of year when the refrigerator and the wallet are never closed. And after this outlay for camp, vacation and other entertainment (although we got off easy this year), we have school expenses to think about. Let’s see what we are looking at in my town:

Private yeshiva high school for boys: NIS800-1100/month.
Public ulpana for girls, fee for long day (mandatory): NIS300+ per month.
Private elementary school: NIS 400-500/month.
Public elementary school: Free.
Public kindergarten/gan: Mandatory (ages vary but where I live it applies only to 5 year olds) NIS 150/month. Non-mandatory, ages 3-4: NIS 850/month. No refund for strike days, and we are hit both when the Misrad Hahinuch strikes and the municipality, as there are staff members from both groups. Hours are 8-1:20, six days a week (12:45 end on Fridays).
Private gan: Don’t ask, it’s one of the reasons I don’t work.

By the way, if you are lucky you can find a good mamlachti dati (state-religious) school, even though they are suffering from the swing to the right. But for high-school age, there are not really inexpensive options available.

Transportation: Thankfully not all my children need it. Public transportation (NIS100). Private bus services are double the cost of public transportation.

School Fees:
Private schools: included in tuition, except for up to NIS 50/year for “Kupat Kitah” or a fund for parties, prizes etc.
Public Ulpana: NIS 80/month for optional academic program with additional hours.
Public elementary school: about NIS 200/month. This includes school trips, parties, insurance, library/computer fees, educational pamphlets produced by the schools, etc.
Gan: Depends on the neighborhood. This really deserves a separate post but where I live parents are expected to provide toilet paper, paper towels, money, and a slew of other things. Parents already pay for food through the city but when they make a birthday party they need to provide the food for that day, prizes, and a gift for their own child (typically a clock or mug with the the child’s picture or some other useless item that breaks within minutes). Also, every week the teacher asks the parents to bring in some other item. Don’t know if the public ganim are still allowed to have private classes like gymboree; this was a major sticking point when my last kid was in gan. I am starting again with my 5yo so we will see.

At the end of the year parents are again asked to contribute to a gift for the teacher and possibly an end-of-year party.

Books: Israeli children are expected to bring their own books. Younger children’s books are cheaper, but they are mostly workbooks that cannot be reused (although I often try to). Older children’s books are more expensive but they can be bought used and resold. The best arrangement I have is with a friend whose youngest is a year ahead of my daughter. She routinely passes on to me what I need. Usually at least one book is new for my daughter’s year. The publishers are also notorious for “updating” the textbooks every few years. Sometimes she asks me to pay her, sometimes not. Even if I pay her we avoid the middleman of the used bookstore and it is a good deal for both of us. Some books I have from my older children; this year I have about half. Another option is to trade back and forth with a family with different aged kids. I have found full price books run about NIS400-700 per child. It’s been a long time since I bought all full-price so that may be an underestimate. Anyway, if anyone has some high school physics books please let me know; I need them. Will buy or trade!! I have some chemistry books.

Clothes: Israeli schools are quite casual. If there are uniforms (in state or state-religious schools, at least) they are t-shirts or sweatshirts with the school logo. I was also often able to acquire some hand-me-downs, but the uniforms were not so much more expensive than other clothes would be. Perhaps less so, if you have a child who is particular about clothes.

School supplies: I haven’t found the requests to be exorbitant. Unused notebooks can be saved, although there are at least three different-sized lines required for different elementary school grades. The notebooks are small and can cost NIS1.00 each or less. If only a few pages of the notebook were used they can be cut out. One year they asked for special notebooks in first grade that were barely used. Older children’s are more expensive but they don’t need so many. The school doesn’t ask for anything in particular.

Can’t wait to get through this and start thinking about Rosh Hashanah!


  1. Have you ever tried covering the workbook page with a plastic sheet. the children can write with a “marker”. It can be erased and used over and over.

    Myrna in Montreal

  2. mother in israel says

    Thanks, Myrna, for stopping by!

    I don’t want to do that for several reasons:
    1) It’s extra trouble and expense, if you are talking about covering each page. If not, and the child has to remember to put the sheet on each time, it would never work for my kids.
    2) The workbooks are relatively inexpensive.
    3) They usually don’t get written in that much and can be erased.

    But I hope your suggestion will help someone else.