You basically have 3 choices when it comes to cell phone providers here
Cellcom - www.cellcom.co.il
Orange - www.orange.co.il
Pelephone - www.pelephone.co.il
There's a 4th company - Mirs (www.mirs.co.il)- but they're not very popular
with private consumers....used more by businesses....similar to what Nextel
was in the U.S. before it merged with sprint (with the "walkie talkie"
Cellcom & Orange work with GSM technology - meaning they use SIM cards in
their phones (like Cingular & T-Mobile in the US) while Pelephone uses CDMA
(like Verizon in the US).
As far as coverage - I think all 3 have descent coverage throughout the
country (if anyone knows otherwise, please correct me). If you're looking
for coverage in a specific location, I would ask people that live/work in
that area if they have a preference.
As far as calling plans - for the most part, all 3 companies offer similar
plans - you'll need to speak to a rep to figure out what's best for you and
your family. If you are religious, look into a shabbat plan. If you don't
care about SMS, ask about a kosher phone/plan which will reduce your cost.
Keep in mind - normally, plans here are for 3 years.
Bringing unlocked phones from abroad -
My personal opinion - Look into it if you'll sign up with Orange/Cellcom but
don't bother if you go with Pelephone. The only requirements (for
Orange/Cellcom) is that the phone supports their frequencies. All quad-band
phones qualify. With tri-band phones you'll need to look at their specs.
If I remember correct, for Cellcom you'll need a phone that supports GSM1800
and for Orange a phone that works on GSM 900/1800.
*NOTE* - an unlocked phone from abroad is ok at first but unless you can get
hebrew support on it, I wouldn't use it for too long - unless you don't care
for SMS messages. I say this because a lot of businesses here offer to send
you alerts/reminders/confirmations + you can get useful info -like bus
schedule/route- all via SMS...and yes, usually in Hebrew. When you first
get here, this might not be relevant but as you, presumably, get more
comfortable with the language I believe most will find it to be useful.
(again, just my opinion)