4 Important things to keep in mind when traveling to Israel
January 26, 2023
Despite its small size, Israel is one of those countries that leave a lasting impression. There is simply something about the land that pulls people deep into its history. Israel is a land that’s holy to three major religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and remains one of the best places to visit for those who crave a rich experience.
Let’s take a look at 4 important aspects to keep in mind if you are thinking of traveling to Israel.
1. Beware of tourist traps in Israel
If you are traveling to Israel for the first time, it can be easy to get locked into the usual tourist traps (especially in Jerusalem) and have a rather superficial time. To avoid this, there are two options you can try:
Do your due diligence and learn about what the country has to offer and what is possible to experience with the time and resources you have.
Find an experienced guide or tour program.
The second option does have a few benefits since they reduce the amount of stress and decisions you have to make.
Some genuine programs also cater to specific groups. For example, the Masa Israel journey offers great tour options for Jewish foreigners (and Israeli nationals) and goes a little deeper into helping people understand the heritage and cultural history of Israel more than others.
You are able to try out a few different program options, such as heritage tours, adventure tours, volunteer and service learning tours, and even internship tours that aim to enrich your knowledge and provide cultural context to each site or location.
To many, such an experience beats simply visiting a handful of common tourist sites and listening to the same facts that you can easily find online.
This is most helpful as you might not get access to special sites and experiences if you decide to do things yourself. Having the safety, convenience, and knowledge that you are receiving unique insights that you might not get otherwise can be worth the little extra money you need to pay.
2. Be aware of general safety guidelines
Israel is generally considered a safe country, but as in any other place, there can be security risks, and you will probably see a lot of soldiers all the time. A common mistake that travelers make is having tightly packed and squared-away bags. Well, don’t do that. Your bags might be searched frequently, so pack them in a way that makes it easy to unpack and repack.
Try to stay informed about the general security situation in the country and follow the advice of local authorities. While most of the country is peaceful, there are some areas that are better to avoid. For example, it is best not to venture into Arab-dominated areas such as Lod or Jaffa, which have a far higher crime rate and are avoided by tourists for a reason. These areas are often plagued with gang violence and infighting between Jewish and Arab communities that you don’t want to get mixed up with.
Israel has a Mediterranean climate, and the weather can vary dramatically, even during the colder months. Summers can obviously be very hot, with temperatures often reaching over 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Be prepared for the heat by packing appropriate clothing and sunscreen.
If you’re planning to visit the beaches or the Dead Sea, then summer is the best time, but it may not be the most comfortable for sightseeing or hiking.
On the other hand, winters can be quite rainy and ruin plans if you are unlucky. This makes spring and fall arguably the best times to visit the country.
4. Respect cultural norms
Israel is a diverse country with a mix of different cultures and religions. If you are traveling to Israel, it’s important to be respectful of the customs and traditions of the people you’ll be interacting with. Don’t get into arguments at religious sites or when people tell you to cover up for modesty.
Men should be fine wearing long pants with full sleeves. For women, ensure your arms and legs are fully covered.
Israeli people take modesty and decorum at religious sites seriously. This also means not talking loudly or making noise in synagogues and mosques.
It is easy to mistake people for being rude when they are actually not. The culture is different from western norms of outward politeness. In Israel, you might get shouted at by someone, but the same person will rush to help you if you are in trouble. Don’t take things too personally.
Israel is a fascinating country with a rich history and culture that is well worth visiting. If you are planning a visit, try to also keep an eye out for holidays and festivals, as they can give you a unique and interesting cultural experience.
With a little bit of planning and preparation, your trip to Israel can be a memorable and unforgettable experience.
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