ISRAEL TRAVEL GUIDE
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.
FESTIVALS IN ISRAEL
BEST TIME TO VISIT ISRAEL
The best time to visit Israel really depends on your personal preferences and what you would like to do while you are there. Here are a few things to consider:
- Weather: Israel has a Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Summer temperatures can reach over 100°F (38°C), while winter temperatures can drop to the 40s°F (4-9°C). If you want to enjoy the beach or do outdoor activities, the best time to visit is probably in the spring or fall, when the weather is mild and pleasant.
- Holidays: Israel has many holidays throughout the year that are celebrated with parades, festivals, and other special events. If you want to experience these events, you might consider visiting during one of these holidays.
- Tourism: Israel is a popular tourist destination, and the country can get quite crowded during peak season. If you want to avoid the crowds, you might consider visiting during the shoulder season (late spring or early fall).
Ultimately, the best time to visit Israel is really a matter of personal preference. If you have any specific activities or events that you would like to do or attend, you might want to plan your trip around those.
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.
ISRAEL TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
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!
HEALTH RISKS IN ISRAEL
Be aware of possible health risks in
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
ISRAEL TRAVEL COSTS
The cost of traveling to Israel will depend on a variety of factors, including your mode of transportation, where you stay, and what activities you do while you are there. Here are a few things to consider when budgeting for your trip:
- Airfare: The cost of a plane ticket to Israel will depend on where you are coming from, when you are traveling, and how far in advance you book your ticket. Prices can vary significantly, so it's a good idea to shop around and compare prices from different airlines and travel agencies.
- Accommodation: Israel has a wide range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to budget hostels. The cost will depend on the type of accommodation you choose and the location. You can save money by staying in a hostel or Airbnb, or by opting for a more affordable hotel outside of the city center.
- Food: The cost of food in Israel will depend on where you eat and what you order. Street food and falafel are relatively inexpensive, while dining in a nice restaurant can be more expensive. You can save money by eating at local markets or grocery stores instead of dining out for every meal.
- Activities: Israel has many attractions and activities to enjoy, from visiting historical sites to participating in outdoor adventures. The cost of these activities will depend on what you choose to do. Some attractions, like national parks and museums, have entrance fees, while others, like hiking and visiting the beach, are free.
Here are some estimates for the daily costs of traveling to Israel, based on different levels of spending:
- Budget: If you are traveling on a tight budget, you can expect to spend around $50-80 per day. This budget would cover basic accommodation in a hostel or budget hotel, street food and grocery store meals, and limited activities.
- Mid-range: For a mid-range budget, you can expect to spend around $80-150 per day. This budget would cover comfortable accommodation in a mid-range hotel or Airbnb, dining in local restaurants, and a few activities or excursions.
- Luxury: For a luxury budget, you can expect to spend over $150 per day. This budget would cover luxury accommodation, dining in high-end restaurants, and a wide range of activities and excursions.
Keep in mind that these are just estimates and your actual costs may vary depending on your specific travel plans and preferences. It's a good idea to research the costs of specific activities and attractions you are interested in and factor those into your budget.
ISRAEL TRAVEL TIPS
Here are a few travel tips for visiting Israel:
- Bring a water bottle: Israel can get very hot, especially in the summer months. Make sure to bring a reusable water bottle with you and refill it throughout the day to stay hydrated.
- Wear comfortable shoes: Israel is a country with a lot of history, and much of it can be explored on foot. Make sure to bring comfortable shoes, as you'll be doing a lot of walking.
- Respect local customs: Israel is a country with a rich cultural heritage, and it's important to respect the local customs and traditions. This includes dressing modestly when visiting holy sites, taking off your shoes when entering someone's home, and avoiding public displays of affection.
- Learn some basic Hebrew: While many people in Israel speak English, it's always appreciated when visitors make an effort to speak some basic Hebrew. Even a few phrases can go a long way in helping you connect with locals.
- Use sunscreen: The sun in Israel can be intense, especially in the summer months. Make sure to bring sunscreen and reapply it frequently to protect your skin.
- Try the local food: Israeli cuisine is delicious and varied, with influences from a range of cultures. Make sure to try some local specialties, like falafel, shakshuka, and hummus.
- Be aware of your surroundings: Like any major city, Israel has its share of crime. However, as long as you use common sense and stay aware of your surroundings, you should be safe.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF ISRAEL
Israel is a small country with a diverse landscape and a rich cultural heritage. Here are the main regions of Israel and some highlights of each region:
- Tel Aviv and the central region: Tel Aviv is the largest city in Israel and a popular tourist destination. Highlights of the city include its vibrant nightlife, beautiful beaches, and rich cultural scene. The central region is also home to the ancient city of Jerusalem, which is considered a holy city for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Other highlights of the region include the Dead Sea, the Baha'i Gardens in Haifa, and the Masada National Park.
- The north: The north of Israel is home to the Galilee region, which is known for its beautiful landscapes, including the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights. The region is also home to a number of historical and religious sites, including the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth and the Tzfat (Safed) synagogue.
- The south: The south of Israel is home to the Negev Desert, which is known for its beautiful landscapes and outdoor adventures. Highlights of the region include the Be'er Sheva market, the Ramon Crater, and the Timna National Park.
- The coast: The Israeli coast is home to a number of popular tourist destinations, including the city of Haifa, the ancient port city of Acre, and the Rosh Hanikra grottoes. The region is also home to a number of beautiful beaches, including the beaches of Tel Aviv and the Sea of Galilee.
Israel is a country with a rich cultural heritage and a diverse range of attractions and activities. Here are a few of the best things to see and do when visiting Israel:
- Visit the Old City of Jerusalem: The Old City of Jerusalem is a must-see for any visitor to Israel. The city is home to a number of important historical and religious sites, including the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
- Explore the Baha'i Gardens in Haifa: The Baha'i Gardens in Haifa are a beautiful and peaceful place to visit. The gardens are home to the Shrine of the Bab, which is an important site for followers of the Baha'i faith.
- Visit the Dead Sea: The Dead Sea is a unique and fascinating place to visit. The water is so salty that you can float on top of it, and the area is known for its natural beauty and therapeutic properties.
- Take a dip in the Sea of Galilee: The Sea of Galilee is a beautiful and peaceful place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. The sea is also home to a number of historical and religious sites, including the Church of the Beatitudes and the Mount of Beatitudes.
- Hike in the Golan Heights: The Golan Heights are a beautiful and rugged region in the north of Israel. The area is known for its stunning landscapes and outdoor adventures, including hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
- Visit the Masada National Park: The Masada National Park is home to the ancient fortress of Masada, which is a must-see for any visitor to Israel. The park is also home to a number of other historical and cultural sites, including the Dead Sea Scrolls.
WHAT TO EAT IN ISRAEL
Israel has a rich and diverse culinary scene, with influences from a range of cultures and traditions. Here are a few dishes and foods that you should try when visiting Israel:
- Hummus: Hummus is a popular dip made from mashed chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste), and various spices. It is often served with pita bread and vegetables.
- Falafel: Falafel is a popular street food made from ground chickpeas or fava beans that are shaped into balls or patties and deep-fried. It is often served in a pita with vegetables and a variety of sauces.
- Shawarma: Shawarma is a dish made from thin slices of marinated meat (such as lamb, chicken, or beef) that are cooked on a spit and shaved off to be served in a pita or on a plate.
- Baba ghanoush: Baba ghanoush is a dip made from roasted eggplant, tahini, garlic, and various spices. It is often served with pita bread or vegetables.
- Israeli salad: Israeli salad is a simple yet delicious dish made from diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. It is often served as a side dish or topping for sandwiches.
- Shakshuka: Shakshuka is a popular breakfast dish made from eggs that are cooked in a spicy tomato sauce with onions, peppers, and various spices. It is often served with bread or pita for dipping.
These are just a few examples of the many delicious dishes that you can try when visiting Israel. Don't be afraid to try new things and explore the local cuisine.
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.
WHERE TO STAY IN ISRAEL
There are many options for accommodation in Israel, ranging from luxury hotels to budget hostels. Here are a few things to consider when choosing where to stay:
- Location: Consider where you want to be based during your trip. If you want to be in the heart of the action, you might consider staying in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. If you want a more laid-back atmosphere, you might consider staying in a smaller town or on the coast.
- Budget: Determine your budget and look for accommodation options that fit within it. Keep in mind that prices can vary significantly depending on the location and the time of year.
- Type of accommodation: Consider what type of accommodation you prefer. Israel has a range of options, including hotels, hostels, guest houses, and vacation rentals.
- Amenities: Think about what amenities are important to you. Do you want a hotel with a pool, or are you looking for a more basic hostel? Do you need a kitchen or laundry facilities?
Ultimately, the best place to stay will depend on your personal preferences and budget. It's a good idea to do some research and compare different options to find the best fit for you.
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