Six million people, or about 73 percent of the population, enjoy access to the internet in Israel making it one of the most connected countries in the region. Israeli tech is widely ranked as some of the most futuristic and disruptive in the world, but that doesn’t mean there’s zero restrictions on content.
Pornography is blocked in the country as are social media posts deemed to be inciteful and hateful. The military censor has the authority to gag press freedoms.
Because of these restrictions we recommend you use a VPN while browsing the web in Israel. Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN encrypts all the internet traffic flowing to and from your device by routing it via an intermediary server. It’s sturdy software that guarantees anonymity and privacy of connection.
Our recommended VPNs in this list are based on the following factors:
Speed and reliability of service Strong encryption parameters No usage logs Unblocks geo-restricted content with ease Servers in Israel Apps for Android and iOS.
Best VPNs for Israel:
ExpressVPN ranks highly on our list of the top VPN services for its commitment to impeccable speed and neat user experience. There’s a user-first mindset at play here, with outstanding customer support and minimal headache.
ExpressVPN operates over 1,500 servers spread across 94 countries with quick and efficient connections to all and sundry. Servers are located in Israel too – ideal for residents of the country traveling abroad and wishing to access local content.
The company has a stated policy of not storing any traffic logs. It does, however, extract some minimal information such as the date (not time) of connection, choice of server location, and total bandwidth used.
If you’re feeling squeamish about this perceived violation of privacy, then don’t. It’s important to understand that your individual IP address won’t be logged at all. Additionally, you can sign up via a burner email account and pay through Bitcoin – this way there’s the minimal possibility of your internet activity being traced back to you.
ExpressVPN’s encryption parameters are a sturdy 256-bit AES-CBC with utilization of both HMAC authentication and perfect forward secrecy – which means previous encrypted communications cannot be retrieved even if a hacker cracks your password.
There’s an internet kill switch embedded within the app, called a network lock, which means all web traffic will be temporarily halted if the connection drops unexpectedly.
Hence, you’re getting what you pay for when it comes to ensuring a seamless experience.
ExpressVPN is also able to unlock geo-restricted content on Netflix with ease. It’s compatible with both Hulu and BBC iPlayer and supports torrenting.
There are apps for Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
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Here’s our in-depth review of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN is another handy VPN service that boasts a true zero-logs policy – with the result that it holds no data about user sessions, traffic, or timestamps of any nature.
In fact, its hardy commitment to this principle has thwarted attempts by foreign authorities to clamp down on it in the past. The company has revealed that it’s received multiple requests for information and user data but there was simply no way to comply. In one instance it also had its servers confiscated, but with zero outcome given the lack of incriminating data.
The company operates 976 servers in 56 countries making it a sturdy choice for the entire gamut of web activity. One of these is located in Israel. Finding a suitable connection shouldn’t be an issue.
NordVPN operates servers optimized for anti-DDoS, video streaming, double VPN, Tor over VPN, and dedicated IP – which renders it a robust choice for video streaming, strong encryption, and stringent privacy.
It’s able to skirt the Netflix VPN ban with ease, as well as unlocking content from Hulu and BBC iPlayer. An additional factor is that it supports torrenting.
NordVPN uses the 256-bit AES protocol encryption standard by default coupled with 2,048-bit SSL keys. DNS leak protection is on by default. A single subscription grants access to six devices – making it a good option to share with friends or family – with support for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
Here’s our full review of NordVPN.
Cyberghost states very prominently on its site that it maintains zero logs on user behavior and browsing habits so that should ease concerns about privacy and anonymity.
There are over 850 servers spread across the world including four in Israel so accessing local content shouldn’t be an issue. Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
The VPN service won’t unlock geo-restricted content on Netflix but does work on BBC iPlayer. It uses 256-bit AES encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default along with 2,048-bit RSA keys and MD5 HMAC authentication. There’s also an internet kill switch included which means web traffic will be halted if the connection drops unexpectedly.
Read our full review of Cyberghost.
Concerns about traffic logs or retention of user data are addressed by the policy of IPVanish to keep zero logs or metadata. The only time the US-headquartered company records any information is when an account is registered for the first time. Details of sessions after that are unavailable even to system administrators.
IPVanish also has robust encryption parameters, which means prying eyes such as snoopy government agencies or hackers are kept safely at bay. It uses 256-bit encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default, SHA512 authentication, and a DHE-RSA 2,048-bit key exchange with perfect forward secrecy.
The VPN service also includes an internet kill switch, which means traffic will be temporarily halted if the connection drops out of the blue. Servers are optimized for speed and security – over 850 of them spread across 60 countries, including two in Israel.
IPVanish doesn’t circumvent the Netflix ban on VPNs and is similarly incompatible with Hulu, but does come highly recommended for BBC iPlayer. There are apps for both iOS and Android as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
IPVanish permits torrenting on all its servers and is an excellent choice for Kodi because it allows users to download the Android APK directly to their device. The interface is also remote control friendly for Kodi devices that lack a keyboard and mouse.
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Read our full review of IPVanish.
VyprVPN makes its logging policy plain and simple, stating that it stores “the user’s source IP address, the VyprVPN IP address used by the user, connection start and stop time and total number of bytes used.”
To ease user concerns, the company adds that all data is retained on servers for only 30 days and is used for troubleshooting and improving service standards. It insists that there’s no retention of traffic details or content.
VyprVPN is one of the few VPN services that skirt China’s Great Firewall with ease, thereby placing it in an exclusive and premium category. That’s no mean feat given the fact that thousands of government-appointed engineers work around the clock to make sure ordinary Chinese don’t access Google, Facebook, Twitter, and a litany of other Western sites.
The company owns and manages entire data centers, helping optimize things like speed and stability of the connection. All internet traffic flowing through its servers is secured by the OpenVPN protocol, 256-bit AES encryption, 2,048-bit RSA keys without perfect forward secrecy, and SHA256 authentication.
VyprVPN includes an internet kill switch by default which means web traffic will be halted temporarily if the connection drops – securing your privacy and anonymity. A premium version of the package allows access to the Chameleon ™ protocol, which scrambles OpenVPN metadata so deep packet inspection cannot recognize it.
There are over 700 servers, including some in Israel. Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
The company doesn’t permit torrenting and has terminated accounts in the past for attempting to do so. It does, however, unlock content on Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.
Read our full review of VyprVPN.
Free VPN options
It’s easy to find a free VPN if you don’t want to splurge for one.
But free VPN services come with several limitations. You don’t have a large network of servers to choose from. Encryption standards are weak, at best. And be prepared for speed throttling and bandwidth caps – there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Such services may come across as free but they have overheads too – staff salaries, office space, and server maintenance. At the same time they’re not charities – so it’s likely that they’re monetizing by selling your data to whoever can cough up the cash for it and inject tons of invasive advertisements.
If you’re okay with these infractions and lousy service then a free VPN isn’t half-bad. But paid versions are a class apart – with speed, privacy, and security guaranteed.
Is using a VPN legal in Israel?
There are some restrictions on accessing content in the Middle Eastern country, but the use of VPNs in Israel is perfectly legal.
Hence if you sign up for any of the services mentioned in this article you’re definitely not breaking any laws.
Is it legal to use torrents in Israel?
Laws are a little murky here, but a Reddit forum suggests authorities turn a blind eye when it comes to penalizing users who indulge in torrents. There have been no documented cases of arrests of people downloading copyrighted material. In fact, in 2013 the Israeli parliament debated making torrents completely legal. The bill, however, has yet to be passed.
What is the future of the internet in Israel?
The Israeli government has long touted itself as the only democracy in the Middle East but that doesn’t mean it’s a libertarian utopia with zero government intervention in public life.
Internet pornography is blocked in the country after legislators expressed concerns that unfettered access might result in children accessing such content.
Technically you can still view porn online but there’s a rather cumbersome and embarrassing process in place for users who wish to avail this option.
Anyone wanting access will have to inform their internet service provider, either by writing to them, calling their head office, or filling out a web form. The list of people requesting this option is also available online, which means a suspecting wife or girlfriend could easily check whether you’re guilty of said behavior. It’s just easier and less of a hassle to use a VPN.
Advocacy body Freedom House also ranked press freedoms in Israel as “partly free” in 2016, stating that media outlets and journalists are subject to military censorship – particularly when it comes to sensitive matters like the ongoing conflict with Palestinians.
The report pointed to the fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu chose to keep the communications ministry portfolio with himself rather than appointing a separate minister. This means the current Israeli administration looks at alternative voices with a watchful eye, preferring to weed out any discourse which it might not approve of.
Having said that, the Israeli supreme court usually rules in favor of pluralistic freedoms in the country. The constitution of Israel is protective of media freedoms and rights although there are acts like the 1948 Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance that forbids any expressions of support of “terrorist organizations or groups that call for the destruction of Israel”.
The wording of this law is vague and human rights activists have argued that it’s been used by some administrations to silence dissidents and political opponents.
A hard-hitting feature on Salon in 2016 severely criticized Israeli censorship on online and offline channels. It’s imposed gag orders on international journalists and routinely asks Facebook and Twitter to take down posts that it deems are contrary to the dominant ideology of the country.
And the Israeli government doesn’t just stop at that. There have been instances of using a broad notion of “incitement” to arrest individuals that have allegedly used social media to post dissenting views.
The military censor in the country has also demanded that individual bloggers submit all security-related posts in advance for review before they’re allowed to be posted online. This is similar to the laws that newspapers and television channels are subjected to.
For peace of mind, we recommend you use a VPN while browsing the web in Israel.