Amazon Hiring Hebrew Translators, Signaling Major Step Toward Israeli Market

E-commerce giant has begun advertising for native Hebrew speakers to translate material from English for its consumer localization unit, meaning it will begin selling in Hebrew

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is pictured inside the company's office in Bengaluru, India, April 20, 2018.
\ ABHISHEK CHINNAPPA/ REUTERS

Amazon appears to be taking a major step to deepening its presence in the Israeli market by selling products in Hebrew for the first time.

TheMarker has learned that the e-commerce giant has begun advertising for native Hebrew speakers to translate material from English for its consumer localization unit, meaning it will begin selling in Hebrew. The translators will work out of its European headquarter in Luxembourg.

The move into Hebrew comes as Amazon beefs up its presence in Israel. As reported in TheMarker this week, the company has quietly added one million more items for direct delivery to Israel over since last October, causing a 40% surge in orders to Israel in the first four months of 2018 versus a year earlier.

In November, there were unconfirmed reports that the company was looking to set up an Israeli-based logistics center and warehouse and was in talks with local property owners about leasing space.

That hasn’t yet led to an official announcement from the company about an Israel operations. However, Benny Buchnik, who heads the firm I Need It!, which manages personal imports for online shoppers, said Amazon’s Hebrew-language site means a local logistics center is probably on its way, although it might as an interim step use existing facilities in nearby Turkey or Italy.

“My guess is that what has happened in other countries will happen here, too. Amazon always keeps its cards close to its chest – no one really knows what’s going on and then suddenly it enters a local market,” he said.

Turkey is also filled with reports that the company will be launching a Turkish-language site and local logistics center. Before that it took the local market by surprise in Australia by opening a warehouse and local sites last December.

“In Europe, it’s been in countries like Germany, Italy, France, Spain and England and always arriving the same way – a site in the local language, local warehouses and a surprise launch,” said Buchnik.

A Hebrew site would put Israel in rarefied company. According to Amazon’s website, it operates sites in just 13 countries outside the United States.

The Amazon want-ad says translators will have a “key role” in ensuring that machine and human translations from English to Hebrew are up to the company’s standards. They have to be native speakers with a university degree, preferably in languages, translation or communications.

Amazon’s move into Israel comes as online buying by Israelis has exploded. Over the last five years, online shopping has grown by an average of 25% annually and the number of packages handled by Israel Post doubled in three years to 61 million in 2017.

However, the boom has come at a steep cost to Israeli retailers. Not only have they come late to online selling, but they are struggling to compete with overseas websites for price and selection.

One reason is that orders from overseas are exempt from Israel’s 17% value-added tax, from customs for orders up to $75, and from customers for up to $500. Last week a campaign in the Knesset by local retailers to end the VAT discrimination fell on deaf ears. They are also appealing to the High Court of Justice.