Israel, a Middle Eastern country on the Mediterranean Sea, is regarded by Jews, Christians and Muslims as the biblical Holy Land. Its most sacred sites are in Jerusalem where within its Old City, the Temple Mount complex includes the Dome of the Rock shrine, the historic Western Wall, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Israel is a land of incredible topographical contrasts with mountains, sub-tropical valleys, fertile farms and deserts. Climate, culture, history and religion are diverse making Israel heaven on earth, the proverbial Garden of Eden for tourists of discriminating, intellectual and adventurous tastes. Israel is a highly urbanised and economically developed society and is, therefore, best divided for the traveller into its main cities and towns, followed by the regions and other sites.
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ISRAEL QUICK FACTS
Capital: Jerusalem (internationally not recognised - United States as exception)
Currency: New Israeli Shekel (₪, NIS)
Area: 22,072 km²
Population: 8,884 million (2018)
Language: Hebrew (official), Arabic, Russian and English most commonly used foreign languages
Religion: Jewish 75%, Muslim 16% (mostly Sunni Muslim), Christian 2%, other 1% (2008 est.)
Electricity: 230V, 50Hz (Israeli plug)
Israel, which gained independence as a modern country in 1948, claims Jerusalem as its capital. But this is not internationally recognised because the ancient city is also the proclaimed capital of the State of Palestine. Jerusalem's unresolved status is one of the core questions at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict. A 1949 treaty following the Arab-Israeli war divided Jerusalem into two sections with the western half controlled by Israel, and the eastern half controlled by Jordan. Although Israel captured and annexed the entire city during the 1967 Six Day War, East Jerusalem – containing the famous Old City – is still claimed by Palestine. With many in the international community acknowledging East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, Israeli sovereignty over the whole city has not been recognised.
The holy city has been at the heart of violent conflicts throughout history because it is home to key religious sites sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The population of Jerusalem is roughly 850,000, with two-thirds Jewish and a third Arab. Most neighbourhoods are divided on religious lines.
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ISRAEL PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
The following are all movable holidays and you should for the exact dates every year:
- Hanukkah (Festival of Lights)
- Lag B’Omer
- Passover (Pesach)*
- Purim (Feast of Lots)
- Rosh Hashanah (New Year)
- Shavuot (Giving of the Torah)*
- Sh’mini Atzeret
- Simchat Torah**
- Sukkoth (Feast of Tabernacles)
- Tisha B’Av (Fast of 9 Av)
- T’u B’Shvat (New Year of the Trees)
- Yom Ha’atzma’ut (Independence Day)
- Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day)
- Yom Hazikaron (Soldiers Memorial Day)
- Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
- Yom Verushalayim (Jerusalem Day)***
* The 1st and last days of Passover and Shavuot are national holidays; many people do not work the full eight days of Passover as well as
the period from Rosh Hashanah to Sukkoth. ** Observed on the same day as Sh’mini Atzeret. *** Falls ten days after Lag B’Omer.
Also, most businesses are closed from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. Sunday is a working day.
ISRAEL WEATHER SYNOPSIS
Israel lies in a transition zone between the hot and arid southern part of West Asia and the relatively cooler and wetter northern Mediterranean region. The northern part of Israel is characterised by a Mediterranean climate, while the southern part is arid, with a narrow, semi-arid strip in between. Israel’s climate is characterised by hot summers and mild winters, and rainfall varies significantly across the country and from year to year.
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN ISRAEL
The snow sport season in Israel is from January to March when you ski at Mount Hermon.
HIKING & CYCLING IN ISRAEL
You can enjoy outdoor activities in Israel from November to April. The best month for hiking is March. June to September are very hot and not hiking friendly.
BEACH OPTIONS IN ISRAEL
The official beach swimming season in Israel is from May to October.
SURFING IN ISRAEL
Israel gets surfable waves all year round, although the surf is much more consistent from November to April.
KITESURF IN ISRAEL
There is good wind in Israel throughout the year. Just take note that in Tel Aviv kitesurfing is forbidden during July and August. During these summer months, most kitesurfers head to Eilat or the sea of Galilee. From April till June and also September and October you are not allowed to kitesurf in Tel Aviv during Fridays, Saturdays and on holidays. From November till March there are no restrictions. At the kite beach Beit Yanai there are no restrictions throughout the whole year.
For more details on kite surfing in Israel expand this section!
LGBTQ IN ISRAEL
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Israel are the most developed in the Middle East, and among the most tolerant in Asia. Same-sex sexual activity was legalised in 1988. Although same-sex marriage is not legal in Israel, Israel became the first country in Asia to recognise unregistered cohabitation between same-sex couples, making it the first country in Asia to recognise same-sex unions in any capacity. Although same-sex marriages are not performed in the country, Israel recognises same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation was prohibited in 1992.
Israel has an active LGBT community, with well attended annual gay pride festivals. The vast majority of Israelis support the recognition of same-sex marriage or civil unions. Tel Aviv has frequently been referred to as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, famous for its annual Pride Parade and gay beach. Pride events are also held regularly in Haifa, Petah Tikva, Hadera, Ra'anana, Eilat, and Rishon LeZion.