Meeting styles in Israel

Written by Jasper de Winter, Tsovik Gasparjan, Parla Öcal January 2014. Posted in Int. Skills, Meeting styles

Meeting styles in Israel

Meetings should be scheduled with the Israeli business hours and holidays in mind. Business hours are from 9 am till 6pm, the workweek is from Sundays to Thursdays. During lunch, from 1 pm till 3pm it is common to meet over lunch for business purposes. Always keep in mind that Israelis celebrate important Jewish holidays in the months September and October, so therefore be careful scheduling business meetings in these months (Bridging Cultures). It is always necessary to reconfirm the appointments because the Israelis have many things on their minds. Local meetings might be planned spontaneously - which is a reflection of the informal and family orientated culture planning; however, from a visitor they do not appreciate cold calling. Therefore it is best to always schedule an appointment in advance.
When Israelis plan a meeting they are well prepared. It is appreciated if the topics are planned in a well-organized agenda though during the meeting the agenda is not followed closely. Usually meetings are started with small talk, and English business cards are exchanged, using only the right hand. Israeli Arabs prefer extensive and prolonged inquiries regarding health and family whereas Jewish Israelis do not discuss family matters and prefer professional subjects.
During the meeting, straightforward discussions that emphasize the bottom line are preferred. Some humour might be appreciated but mostly business is not a laughing matter in Israel. When giving a presentation regarding the topics it should be short and concise, and it is especially important that there must be clear reasoning behind the ideas. The material should be attractive and accompanied with appropriate and clear visuals. The handout material can be in English only, but it will be appreciated if it is also in Hebrew.
Meetings are regularly interrupted but not to indicate rudeness or an end to the meeting. These interruptions can include questions, phone calls, discussions of other matters and even visits. This is not a sign of disrespect or lack of interest, so remain accommodating and patient. Since Israelis are accustomed to doing many things at once, they might talk or email on the phone, sign papers and meet with you all at the same time. However, when coffee is served it is often an indication that the meeting is coming to an end (Katz, 2008). After an important meeting, participants commonly have lunch or dinner together at a restaurant. Israelis might even arrange interesting trips for you while you are staying in Israel, which are all signs that a relationship is formed and trust exists. They might even go the extent of inviting you into their home and displaying sincere friendship.

Seating arrangements
During meetings in Israel, seating arrangements are not governed by cultural norms and are at the discretion of both visitor and host (Zikit, n.d.). Professionals in Israel do not tend to come up with seating arrangements. Seating arrangements are not protocol or culturally driven.

Convincing strategies
While doing international business you see that collaborations sometimes fail because of differences in convincing strategies. The key to success is to understand the people that you do business with. The main reasoning style in Israel is what Brooks Peterson (2004) describes as straight-to-the-point. Israelis are known for their directness, and they are very straightforward. When you visit Israel, it will be highly appreciated if you speak plainly. The reason why Israelis tend to be very direct comes from the early pioneer culture, when the Israelis had to form strong bonds to build Israel and had to get things done quickly in hard times. Israelis like to save time and go straight to the point. Indirect communicators are not highly appreciated, and the Israelis will have hard time coping with these communicators.
When it comes to critical thinking, the Israelis prefer pro-active thinking. Pro-active thinking is an good approach when dealing with conflicts, since it is common for Israelis to debate forcefully arguments are passionate in Israel, and hard facts are very important, when weighing up arguments. However, it is also common to argue their cases from diverse perspectives and ways of thinking.

Patterns of information sharing
When an understanding is reached it will be followed up with a written agreement after the meeting. This must however not be mistaken for a final agreement. Before both parties sign the contract the agreement might still change significantly. The agreements can be quite lengthy as they spell out detailed terms and conditions. Signing the agreement confirms your commitment to your Israeli partners. Never bring an attorney to the meeting as this is perceived as an insult. It appears to the other party as if you do not trust them. Instead send the documents via fax or mail to your attorney afterwards.
Because of the flat structure in companies, employees share ideas and suggestion with each other or their superiors relatively easily. Not only by a company’s own employees but also by a nation with capital industry information is exchanged via various business forums. In general Israelis are happy to share any kind of information that will not directly impact their negotiating position. They will go to great extent to help others and make newcomers feel welcome in their country.