Aliyah Preparation: Shipping ABC'S
World Zionist Organization | WZO
Resources » Aliyah » Aliyah Preparation
Author: Dov Raviv
For some people, including myself, choosing a mover was a most difficult task. Before I begin you should know that, in reality, you are the shipper; the company you ship (move) with is called the carrier.



What should you keep in mind when choosing a carrier?

The Jewish Agency has a list of shipping (moving) companies. This is by no means an endorsement.There are other companies, including international moving consultants in the yellow pages of your phone book which are highly competent.

Everything, including price, is negotiable.

Each shipper (carrier) you call will ask to come to your home for a "no charge, no obligation" estimate on price and cubic footage. Let them. They will give their pressure "shpeil" to give a deposit and try to make you to feel cheap, saying, "what is $25? The price is going up in a few days. For you, if you give me the deposit, I will personally guarantee yesterday's price."

Once they have your money, they will try their best to hang on to it by almost any means.

Estimates should have the additional 10% rough extra for crating space written on the contract. The shipping company should be responsible for more than 10% of the complete estimate, of course, without any further additions by you.

Clarify this point, if possible, in writing. Some companies, including international moving consultants will do this but only upon request. Don't be gullible and don't make any commitments.

Visit the company's warehouse. Don't rely on letters of recommendation by "famous" people.

There is nothing wrong with playing one company against the other to get the lowest possible price.

After the lift is sent, request a status report which should include: name of steamship line; name of vessel; date of departure and date of arrival.

If the ports in Israel are not on strike, allow about five weeks. You usually cannot take your lift out of the port until you have an apartment.


Before signing a contract, clarify these points:

Boxes should be free. Packing should be done at your home (some will only pack breakables). Free pick up from home, warehouse storage, customs agent for clearing, delivery to new home, unpacking and removal of cartons. There is a port tax in Israel which is extra as well as housing charges.

Most of the moving companies offer the same quality of service, despite their claims to the contrary.

If the contract includes packing, beware that packers will not pack as neatly and as compactly as you would. Before you run off and pack everything yourself, remember that the savings will be no more than a few cubic feet.


Lift-Van -- a solid wooden box , usually made of plywood which is set on a pallet, a three inch base. Some companies are starting to use a heavy cardboard.

Container -- a large metal box provided by the steamship company to the moving company for the transport of one's belongings.

If you are sending a relatively small amount then the Lift is probably better. If you are sending a large amount (a house) then the container is probably cheaper. You can even save more money by packing the container yourself. Remember you are renting the container. If you do not plan on taking the container out immediately, then you might want to consider buying the container and reselling it. Check with the company on how long you have possession before you have to pay additional fees.


Make separate piles in parts of the house. Caution: Don't keep items in shopping bags; the packer will just dump the entire bag in the box.

If you own valuable books, you may want to put them in plastic or line the boxes with a garbage bag. Make sure the movers know about it before hand.

The shippers use the standard size boxes. Bags of Pampers are useful space stuffers for those with babies.

Each box should be color labeled to room and numbered. A notebook should be used to list content of each box. Note the official box number (from the shipper) at the side of your number. This is of vital importance when the lift is packed at the warehouse.

Loading your crate: you will be allotted a pallet at the shipping company where all your items, both shipped directly and brought from your house will be placed. At least 2 people should be present and each item checked off as it is loaded. Do not let yourself be pressured.

Once the lift is loaded and sealed, the bill of lading becomes an official document for customs. If upon arrival and unloading you discover that an item was not packed, you have a problem since it is already stamped on your teudat oleh that you brought it in. If this happens immediately get a letter from the shipping company that your item was forgotten abroad.

Cabinets and all "natural containers" can be filled, so can the shelves of bookcases. You can place light clothing or pictures in the spaces and fill around them with towels, so they are well padded and secure. Do NOT put heavy items, such as books, linens, jeans, into furniture. If the piece is too heavy the movers might refuse to take it. Pillows, blankets, and towels are both bulky and light. Pack them before the shippers arrive, once they are there you won't have time.

If you have a good rug, roll it up the night before or it might be ruined by mud, dirt, and boxes. You may make suggestions to the mover if you think it important, but don't overdo it.

You may want to leave out a few blankets or pillows for the movers to stuff under a chair, for example. Make sure that NO TAPE is wrapped around good wood as the finish will come off with the tape.

Be extra careful about legs of chairs; they should be wrapped with heavy paper. If the packer refuses, call the boss immediately.

Dishes should be packed by the movers for insurance purposes. Pieces which are very valuable should be packed in a sheet of plastic bubbles. All boxes which you pack will be marked PBO (packed by owner) and noted on the inventory list as such.

Have a lot of beer on hand, especially during the summer. The movers all expect a tip but keep in mind that a tip is a reward for good work and not part of the regular pay. If you feel that a lousy job was done or is being done, call the company immediately and complain. The foreman should get more than the other packers. If they come back the next day, you can give a smaller tip if you wish. Packers are masters at hinting at how they might pack the actual lift and save you money by packing it tighter if you tip them. In my opinion, it is unfortunate that when a person could be spending as much as $3,000 he is also expected to tip.

Leave your tools out until the end and keep an eye on them. Then pack them in a locked tool chest. If you are taking wall brackets and standards, packers may remove them for you but with a notable lack of finesse.

Watch that everything receives a label, is noted in the Bill of Lading, and is removed from your home. As with the entire procedure, it is best to take an active interest. If you are going to oversee the move by yourself, you may have many more problems. As a rule it takes at least two people or more to carefully record your personal inventory and to make sure everything is moved onto the truck.

Your inventory should also serve as a basis for your insurance. The more detailed the list, the easier it will be to claim if there is any loss or damage. If you try to sneak something past Israeli customs, it is easier for you to get caught if they ask for the official list.

A last note on packing: Don't pack any aerosol cans or flammable items. The insurance company may give you trouble in case of fire. Also, do not pack loose plastic containers of liquid detergent. We know someone who ended up with broken gallons of Wisk all over their furniture.


Insurance rates are less perplexing than the shipping rates. Here too there is the omnipresent list at the Jewish Agency.

It is advisable to insure your goods with an Israeli company that specializes in Personal Effects and Household Goods Marine Insurance because, should your goods be damaged in transit to Israel, the fastest and most efficient claim-service will be provided by an Israeli-based company.

The most advisable type of insurance is an all-risk door-to-door insurance coverage.

The Marine and/or Air Insurance policy requires that the goods be insured for their actual replacement value in the country of destination. It is best for you to insure your goods for their retail value in Israel (regardless of whether or not you have customs rights), which includes the cost price, transportation expenses, customs, purchase tax, and V.A.T.

When goods are insured for less than their actual value in Israel, in case of a claim, reimbursement will be awarded proportional to the value at which the goods were insured and there will be no sufficient insurance coverage to pay for the cost of replacement or repair.

The insurance companies recommend multiplying your cost by several factors for different items:

  • Electrical appliances = value in the U.S. x 2 (changed from 2 because of the reduction of duties).
  • Furniture, kitchenware, clothing, etc... = value in the U.S. x 2
  • Books, pictures, cd's, videos, etc... = value in the U.S. x 1.5

An all-risk insurance coverage does not cover marring, denting, and scratching for used appliances and furniture.

An insurance policy should be in effect from the time that the first item enters the custody of the export shipping company or when the shipment is taken from your home.

Paintings and other high-value items should be accompanied by a detailed assessor's appraisal. Pianos and organs should be individually packed and crated.

All insurance should include at least 180 days of storage coverage in Israel.

Some insurance companies include warehouse insurance coverage for up to 240 days in Israel, at no extra charge, provided that the insured goods are stored at the original warehouse and/or the Israeli port.


Whether you send your belongings by a lift or a container, allowance must be made for the outer box (10% in a lift). This additional cubic footage is added on to the total.

Regarding export crating for major appliances, the crating -- done either by the appliance company or your shipper and the former is cheaper -- consists of cross boards on the side and corners along with a platform to prevent dents. The price depends on the size of the appliance. In a lift, this extra packing is probably superfluous, yet necessary in a loose packed container. Inform the carrier of all expected allowances and check to see which arrived.


Before discussing these, let me note that there is also port to port but the savings are minimal, meaning only, that you save the initial pickup charge, if there is one. Before that take into consideration that most people plan on only a short, six month stay in an absorption center or furnished rental. Today most places in absorption centers are reserved for olim from countries in distress and Ethiopians. Unfortunately, waiting for an apartment can take a very long time.

As such make sure you have enough clothes and household goods with you when you go. Always consider the possibility of not seeing your lift for a year or so. As a side note, there is something called `sidur mukdum,' whereby you may be able to buy an apartment while still in North America. It is highly advisable to investigate this further with your shaliach.

Door to port should include free pick up from your home and delivery to port facilities. When you have an apartment, you go to the warehouse and either arrange for a customs clearing agent beforehand or take it through customs yourself. Storage at the port is prohibitive.

It is possible to use the Agency to obtain a loan to supply a truck and driver. You pay for porters to carry the goods to your apartment. There are usually plenty waiting near the port where you bargain for their services.

If you wish to avoid the hassles, arrange for a private mover when you are readyto take out your lift. Remember that you are entitled to free transportation of the items that you have with you from your hostel or absorption center. Of course this only includes a truck and driver.

In each move, be sure to confirm with the porters which floor you live on to avoid problems later.

In Door to Door the agreement is usually only for two walk up flights; anything more is extra unlessyou have it in writing and the agent has agreed before hand.

Be sure the porters agree to bring everything up to your apartment. This may include maneuvering through a balcony if you have very large items. Pianos usually have an extra charge.

If you are shipping a large amount and can afford it, door to door may save you some aggravation.Services should include free customs clearing agent, delivery to your apartment, unpacking and carting away of cartons. If they don't want to cart away the packing and cartons of major items -- don't tip.

If your lift is wood, the wood should belong to you (check with the shipping company); don't be pushed into donating it to the porter if you need it. Albeit, the quality is not the best, it may still be useful.


As soon as possible before the arrival and upon arrival make sure that you have the following documents:

"Original on Board Negotiable Bill of Lading" (In case of consolidated shipment in "house-to-house container;" this will be with your mover's Israeli agent who will obtain for you delivery order(s).

Teudat Oleh for all members of the family.

Passport -- for all members of the family (if one was an A1/Oleh in the past, then old passports as well).

Inventory and value of goods in the lift, in four copies (This inventory is required for customs, electric appliances and other items normally subject to duty should be listed with make and serial numbers).

Invoices for new items are helpful.

Insurance policy. Make sure that it is adequate for time of possible storage in a warehouse.

List of boxes eg. 10 boxes clothing new/used.

Proof of residency.

Sum of money required for necessary payments.

You should be receiving an "arrival notice" either from the steamship agency oryour mover's agent.Do not depend upon this, call yourself to avoid unnecessary port and possible demurrage charges. For shipments in cases and liftvans the initial port fee includes either 2 or 4 weeks (depending on weight) free storage.

Upon arrival of ship (arrival date published in the newspaper):

Find out when goods will be accessible at the port by calling the steamship agency.

1-3 days after the ship's arrival take documents and get a "delivery order" from mover's agent if it is a consolidated shipment. Go to the port where you can arrange for customs clearance and the "gate pass" (one for each shipment) as well as transportation to your home.

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