It happens with all immigrants: you land in a new country, you mostly make friends with people from the old country. You use their networks to get established – either with the government, finding a place to stay or getting a job. You read, speak and think mostly in the old language. The Anglo community is no exception to this rule.
Now, there is logic in maintaining a command of English. It is after all the lingua franca of the internet and global business and research community. I often recommend to my Hebrew-speaking compatriots that they master the language.
However, mastery of Hebrew is important even for English-speakers for three critical – and practical – reasons:
1) Government – Prof. Ira Sharkansky has described the Israeli government apparatus as a “Cumbersome Giant” – almost everything you do will involve at least one visit to a government office. The overwhelming majority of clerks speak mostly Hebrew; the same is true with forms. The more you understand Hebrew (and Israeli culture in general), the easier it will be to deal with this generally unwelcome guest in your life.
2) Employment – Hebrew is important here for two reasons – finding job openings and getting jobs. The larger your social network, the more openings you’ll find – and there are far, far more Hebrew-speaking Israelis than there are Anglos. Furthermore, there are many jobs, even in the specialized professions, that require communicating with Israelis a lot – and that means Hebrew.
3) Politics – I hope I’m not offending anyone when I say that few Israelis read Times of Israel. In order to really make a political difference, it’s crucial to read what Israelis are talking about and debating and converse in the same tongue. You can’t do that by only reading English language websites which often focus excessively on Anglo concerns which don’t really interest the rest of the Holy Land Jews.
Yes, it’s hard. Yes, you’ll make mistakes while learning. But if you truly want to make it here, you’ll have to speak the language.