WHY TO VISIT ISRAEL
Beyond the ideological conflicts that have affected Israel for so long, this is a country with a variety of beautiful landscapes and a wealth of historical richness.
Jerusalem is only one of the country's treasures: This is a thrice-holy city (it is so for Jews, Muslims and Christians), the importance of its history and significance cannot be ignored. You will certainly appreciate the colours of its stone, the various neighborhoods and the monuments full of symbolism. Admire the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount, visit the ancient walls of the old city, go to the Wailing Wall, visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, climb the Mount of Olives...
Tel Aviv, the modern city, cannot be compared to Jerusalem but you will surely enjoy its cosmopolitan and vibrant atmosphere. Visit the Diaspora Museum and relax on the beautiful beaches.
Do not miss out on the opportunity to float on the waters of the Dead Sea! After this experience, visit the Ein Gedi oasis before going on to the fortress of Masada. The Galilee is a green and fertile area, but also the birthplace of Jesus: Nazareth is, obviously, the most visited city, but you can spend some time in Beit She'an, a very important archaeological site, where everything has not been discovered, there you can find a Roman temple and amphitheater, as well as the Byzantine baths.
WHAT TO SEE IN ISRAEL
Top destinations in Israel are:
- Dead Sea
- Tel Aviv
- Sea of Galilee
- Ramon Crater
WHEN TO GO TO ISRAEL
Best period to visit Israel is from April to June.
A mixture of a Mediterranean climate along the entire coast and a desert climate in the desert, the dominant characteristic is the presence of two main seasons: Winter, between November and March, which can be very cold with snow in some areas; and summer, from April to October, which is very hot with cold nights in the desert regions. The weather is temperate on the coast during all seasons.
All season are good to explore the country depending on the area where you go.
Following a list of typical festival and celebrations of Israel.
- Eilat Bird Festival: March is the perfect time for birders to visit Eilat, in company with the many millions of feathered friends arriving during the spring migration season. Around 240 bird species use the surrounding countryside as their summer home, including the Pharaoh eagle owls, pied wheatears, McQueen’s bustards and Nubian nightjars.
- Red Sea Jazz Festival: A four-day international festival featuring all styles of jazz, this ever-popular Israeli event kicks off in Eilat at the end of July. Nightly jam sessions at bars and clubs and eight or nine concerts every evening make sure no-one misses their favorite.
- Jerusalem Beer Festival: This fun event has been running for eight years, getting larger and more popular at every turn. Held in August in downtown Jerusalem’s Hebron Road Old Train Station, its highlights include the 100 beer brands from across the globe, with micro-breweries well represented. Lots of food stalls, top bands and beer brewing demonstrations complete the picture.
- Karmiel Dance Festival: The Galilee city of Karmiel bursts at the seams with 5,000 Israeli and international dancers arriving every August along with many thousands of fans. Over 80 events and performances take place, and a huge bazaar and other activities are part of the fun.
- Safed Klezmer Festival: The soulful, exotic sounds of traditional Jewish Klezmer music are heard all over ancient Safed in August from the eight stages set up in the Old Quarter’s public squares and parks. For lovers of this iconic style, it’s a not to be missed event in Israel.
- Jerusalem Summer Culture Festival: The months of July and August are a great time to be in Jerusalem for the summer culture festival, which involves music, dance and theater performances held everywhere from the alleyways of the Old City through parks and gardens to the major theaters.
- Sukkot: One of the loveliest and most traditional of all the Jewish festivals is Sukkot, similar in origin to the Western Harvest Festival, but rooted in the ancient Israeli traditions of the 40 years spent wandering the desert as described in the Old Testament. During the festival, tents are erected and covered with greenery and produce, with families eating at least one meal in their sukkah each of the seven October evenings.
- Jacob’s Ladder Festival: Mid-December sees the start of Israel’s friendliest social event featuring bluegrass, country, blues, Irish, Scottish and folk music. Taking place over a long weekend on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, it’s a laid-back, cool event which draws regulars every year.
- Pesach (Passover): Passover in Israel is an important family celebration. It celebrates the Exodus when Moses freed the slaves from Egypt and is today remembered with a special dinner known as the seder, whereby symbolic foods are eaten and readings given. The 40 days and nights of the Exodus are commemorated by abstaining of eating unleavened bread.
- Yom Kippur: Judaism’s holiest day is a time of fasting, repentance and prayer. The country closes down for 25 hours and it is a special experience as the people visit synagogues, streets empty of cars, television stations shut down and children ride bicycles along deserted motorways.
- Purim: Purim is a fun and light-hearted festival in Israel celebrated in honour of Queen Esther. Charity is given to the poor, the Scroll of Esther recited, and Israelis – from children to young adults – don lively and creative fancy dress and enjoy a fun-filled evening of festivities and parties.
- Holocaust Memorial Day: A sombre and emotional day of remembrance for the six million Jews who lost their lives in the world’s worst genocide. The country is quiet and reflective, with memorial services held throughout the country and television channels broadcasting documentaries and movies.
- Gay Pride: In a country of such devout traditions and religious observance, Tel Aviv’s gay pride parade is much more than an expression of homosexual freedom. It is a chance for Tel Aviv to show off its liberal, secular colours in a fun, happy parade through the city’s streets.
- Clarinet and Klezmer in the Galilee: Held in August, this week-long festival sees evening performances by top Israeli classical, Jazz and Klezmer performers. It is held in the Jewish holy city of Tzfat, known as the Mystical City for its long Jewish heritage.
- Easter Parade: In commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus, thousands of Christians gather to follow in his last footsteps. Carrying large wooden crosses they walk along the Via Dolorosa – a ceremonial route in Jerusalem’s Old City – finishing at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built over the site believed to be Golgotha.
- Independence Day: Israel declared independence on 14th May 1948, and has fought hard to retain it ever since. At the close of War Memorial Day the country erupts into vibrant festivities in celebration of their declaration of independence. Street parties are held throughout the country, notably Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.
- War Memorial Day (Yom Hazikaron): In a country that has lived through so many wars, battles and attacks, and where military service is compulsory, War Memorial Day is an important and emotional day in Israel that commemorates the country’s fallen soldiers. Services are held and it is a sad event that touches the lives of all those who live in the country.
- Taste of the City: Every May Tel Aviv’s finest restaurants offer residents the opportunity to sample some of their most delicious cuisine in a three-day long festival. Small portions are served for 25-30 shekels, bands play in the park and celebrity chefs show off their skills.
HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH ISRAEL
To travel within the country, buses are the most convenient and cheapest means of transportation: Take note, the Israeli buses do not run on Saturday (Shabbat).
by plane, main airports are
GENERAL INFORMATION ON ISRAEL
country entry requirements: passport + visa (EU nationals do not need the visa, no visa is issued to travellers that have previously travelled to Iran, check your visa requirements)
health tips & vaccination: none
local currency: Israeli New Sheqel
local time zone: GMT+2 (+3)
electricity: type C, H and M (230 V, 50 Hz)
mobile phone operators:
WHAT TO DO IN ISRAEL
typical food in Israel
- Falafel: deep-fried balls of mashed chickpeas and herbs) in a pita bread, with hummus (ground chickpeas), tahini (sesame seed sauce) and salads
- Shishlik: charcoal-grilled meat on a skewer
- Shwarma: slices of grilled meat served in a pita bread with salad
- Ashkenazi: classics like cholent (Shabbat meat stew) and gefilte fish, a white fish dish
- Tahini: a condiment made from toasted ground hulled sesame seeds. Tahini is served as a dip on its own or as a major component of hummus, baba ghanoush, and halva
- Kanafeh: a cheese pastry soaked in sweet sugar-based syrup
- Burekas: small pastry parcels) eaten on Friday mornings. They can be stuffed with mushroom, cheese, potato or spinach
- Lechem bread
- Kubba: dish made of bulgur (cracked wheat), minced onions, and finely ground lean beef, lamb, goat, or camel meat with spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice)
- Kubba bamia: Kubba made of semolina or rice and okra cooked in a tomato stew or soup
- Kubba seleq: Kubba Stew or Soup made of Beet
- Kebab: minced lamb, beef or chicken flavored with parsley or coriander, spices, nuts and date, pomegranate, tamarind or carob molasses
- Kufta: meatballs made of minced meat, spices and herbs cooked in tomato sauce, tamarind or date molasses alongside beans, peas, vegetables, etc.
- Bamia: Okra stew cooked in hot tomato, pomegranate or tamarind sauce with onions, served with meat and rice
- Tilapia: St. Peter's fish, eaten in Israel and especially in Tiberias fried or baked spices.
- Merguez: spicy sausage, mainly grilled in Israel
- Moussaka: oven-baked layer dish of a ground meat and eggplant casserole
- Shakshuka: a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions, often spiced with cumin
- Schnitzel: Fried chicken with breadcrumbs or flour, in the flour version the chicken can be flavored with lemon juice, turmeric, cumin, sumac, paprika and more.
- Ktzitzot Khubeza: a patty made of mallow, bulgur/bread crumbs, eggs, onion, olive oil
- Malawach: Big bread eaten with fresh grated tomato and skhug
- Hamin: variety of Shabbats stews
- Jakhnun: Pastry served at Shabbat morning with fresh grated tomato and skhug, eaten for breakfast especially in Shabbath
- Ziva: puff pastry topped with sesame field and filled with cheese and olives
- Mujaddara: Lentil and bulgur casserole
- Orez Shu'it: white beans cooked in a tomato stew and served on rice
souvenirs from Israel
- dead sea products
- gold and silver jewellery
- Judaica and Christian items: jewellery, icons, books, devotional pictures, ritual items
- Armenian pottery
- design items, jewellery and accessories
- Shalom decorations
- arts and crafts goods
- spices, coffee, oils, condiments
- olive wood carved items
Hello: مرحبا (marhba)
Goodbye: وداعا (wadaeaan)
How are you?: كيف حالك؟ (kayf halk?)
Thank you: شكرا (shukraan)
What is your name?: ما اسمك؟ (ma asmak)
How are you?: كيف حالك؟ (kayf halk?)
Sorry: معذرة (maedhira)
How are you?: Mah Ha’Inyanim?
Thank you: Toda
What is your name?: ma shim-kha?
How much is it?: kama zeh oleh?