Israel

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The state of Israel has a long coastline on the eastern Mediterranean Sea and very limited access to the Red Sea at the Gulf of Aqaba (often called the Gulf of Eilat in Israel). Israel is a small yet diverse Middle Eastern country bordered by Egypt and the Gaza Strip to the southwest, by the West Bank and Jordan to the east, and by Syria and Lebanon to the north. It shares a border on the Jordan River and the Dead Sea with Jordan. The West Bank, often called Judea and Samaria in Israel, has been under Israeli occupation since 1967. Israeli annexed East Jerusalem and the part of the Golan Heights under its control. The annexations are not internationally recognized. Israel was established as a state for the Jewish people, following the Second World War. Israel is considered part of the Holy Land . The three major monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — all have historical ties to this region. Consequently, Israel has a vibrant modern history and culture, based in part on the diverse, immigrant origins of its inhabitants returning from the Jewish Diaspora. These aspects make Israel a fascinating destination for many travellers and pilgrims. As a result of this broad mix of cultures, in addition to the two official languages of Hebrew and Arabic, Russian and Yiddish are also spoken by a significant minority of Israelis. English, in many ways, acts as a third language (and can be found on most signs and many shops in Israel). Within Israel's pre-1967 borders, about 80% of Israelis identify themselves as Jewish, the remainder classify themselves as either as Christian, Muslim, Arab, Bedouin or Druze. Israel is a highly urbanized 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. (less...) (more...)

Population: 7,707,042 people
Area: 20,770 km2
Highest point: 1,208 m
Coastline: 273 km
Life expectancy: 81.17 years
GDP per capita: $32,800
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About Israel

History

Until the middle ages

While the current state of Israel is a relatively new country founded in 1948, the "Land of Israel" has a long and often very complex history stretching back thousands of years to the very beginnings of human civilization. It's been invaded by virtually every Old World empire including the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans and British. (Even the Mongols once raided cities on what is now Israeli soil.) It is also the birthplace of both Judaism and Christianity and has sacred cities for both those religions and Islam.

Israel has been inhabited for tens of thousands of years, with Neanderthal remains from the region dating back 50,000 years. Its strategic location serving as a land bridge from Asia to Egypt and Africa had made Israel an ideal target for conquerors through the ages. The first nation to have influence was the great Egyptian civilization. Approximately 1000 BC, an independent Judean Kingdom was set up under King Saul. The land lay to the south of Phoenicia. After intermittent civil war, the land was conquered by the Assyrians and Persians and in ~330 BC by Alexander the Great. A newly independent Jewish state, ruled by the Maccabees, was conquered in 63 BC by the Romans. Around 30 CE, Jesus of Nazareth began his ministry in the Galilee.

Following and during the Great Revolt (66-73 CE) against the Romans, the Jews were persecuted by the Romans. In the second century Emperor Hadrian changed policy toward the Jews, including changing the name of Judea to Palestina Prima and its capital to Aelia Capitolina. Along with expelling the Jewish population from the city, many found their place in other areas of the world, creating a substantial Jewish diaspora. This, however did not completely rid the country of its Jewish population. Over the following centuries, although persecuted there continued to be a Jewish presence Jerusalem and throughout the land. When the Byzantines arrived in the fourth century, the Jewish population began to increase, although not to previous proportions; they lead a relatively good life with less persecution than under the Romans. The area was captured by Arab conquerors in the 7th Century. In the Middle Ages, European Christians invaded in a period known as the Crusades and established a small kingdom, which lasted less than 200 years. Since 1290, when the Crusaders were expelled by Saladin, the land was ruled by Moslems until the League of Nations awarded a mandate to the British, following the defeat of Ottoman Turkey in the First World War.

Since the middle ages

During the 1920s the British were handed a mandate to prepare the future State of Israel to lay infrastructure and learn how to run a sovereign state. This after the Balfour Declaration which stated that the British agree to support the idea the Jewish people returning to their ancestral homeland. The first two major waves of Jewish immigration were in 1882 and the early 1900s, under Ottoman rule, followed by refugees from Nazi Germany in the 1930s and from Nazi-occupied Europe in the 1940s during and immediately after WWII.

The Jewish nationalist movement was strengthened significantly because of the events of World War II. Many major powers, including the Americans and the Soviet Union, endorsed Jewish independence in Palestine as the only way to ensure the survival of the Jewish people. The British were more hesitant, however, as they worried about a possible Arab revolt. The Jewish nationalists, emboldened by support from the Americans and the French, grew impatient with the British delay in granting independence and started several armed uprisings of their own against British rule.

After two years of growing violence, in the fall of 1947 the British decided to withdraw their troops from the area. The UN recommended that the territory of Palestine be partitioned into two states: A Jewish state, and an Arab state. The Jews accepted the plan, but the Arabs firmly rejected it. Nonetheless, half a year later, on 14 May 1948, Jewish nationalists declared independence as the State of Israel. The Arabs responded with a military invasion. The Israelis won a decisive victory. As a result of the war, approximately 600,000 Arabs were displaced from the territory of the newly proclaimed Jewish state. A comparable number of Jews were displaced from Arab nations in the late 40's and 50's, and many of them settled in Israel.

Further fighting continued over the next few decades, and in 1967 the Israelis won another decisive victory against the Arabs. Following this victory, a slow movement towards peace and reconciliation began. In 1979, peace was concluded between Israel and Egypt, and in 1994, a similar peace treaty was signed with Jordan. Both agreements have held to this day. Attempts to create similar treaties with Lebanon, Syria, and the Palestinian Arabs have failed, and in 2000 violence resurfaced when Palestinian-Arabs launched a violent insurrection against Israel. By 2007, the violence due to this insurrection had mostly died down. With the exception of the Gaza area which has seen continued violence, most of the country is now at peace, although underlying tensions somewhat remain.

Climate

Many tourists visit Israel in the summer, not realizing the potential of other seasons. Summer in Israel is very hot, the coastal areas are humid as well as hot, and the landscapes are parched brown since it never rains in summer. The other three seasons, in contrast, have absolutely beautiful weather. In spring and autumn the temperature is near-perfect every day and nearly all days are sunny. Winter is a mixture of cold rainy days and cool, sunny days which are great for hiking and touring. So while summer may be the most convenient time to visit Israel, any other season is much more enjoyable.
Especially in summertime, suggestions to wear a hat and drink more water than you're used to are important.

Activities

A large number of major attractions in Israel are located some distance from large towns and cities:

  • Hike in the wilderness, but keep in mind the important guidelines
  • Israel National Trail — a marked leisure trail (hiking or cycling) covering 940 kilometers from north to south.
  • Jesus Trail, a hiking trail from Nazareth to Capernaum covering 65 kilometers that connects major Christian sites in the Galilee.
  • The Nativity Trail, The path that Joseph and Mary followed to get to from the Sea of Galilee to Bethlehem
  • Rappelling or offroading in the Negev
  • Visit Israel's Parks and Reserves. Well maintained, brimming with beauty and history, these sites often come with interpretive material and maps in English and other foreign languages. [1]
  • Ski at the Hermon Snow resort (available only in mid-winter)


Many Israeli website guides have an English version and can used for making plans:

  • Tiuli - hiking and field trips
  • KKL-JNF
  • Timeout Tel-aviv -digital edition

Food

Israeli cuisine is as diverse as the population which makes up this country of gastronomes. Food is generally of a very high standard, and immigrants from around the world brought almost every genre and type of food to Israel. Kosher food is widely available. Even restaurants without Kosher certificates follow some guidelines of Kashrut to some extent. Not tipping in sit-in restaurants that have waiters is frowned upon, but is accepted for signalling atrocious service. It is standard to give 10%-15% (or more for exceptional service). 20% tip is considered generous. Including a service charge in the bill is no longer legal in Israel and should not be paid. In recent years, restaurants have been charging a "security fee" - roughly ₪1-2 per person. However, this fee is not mandatory, and it is common to ask for the fee to be removed from the bill, as well you should. Most restaurants accept credit cards, but do not accept personal checks. If you wish to include the tip in your credit card charge, state this before paying. As of 2012, restaurants are required to allow this.

Fast and popular

Falafel was officially adopted as the national food. These are small fried balls of mashed chickpeas and/or fava beans, usually served inside a pita bread with hummus-chips-salat (hummus, French fries and vegetable salad) and tehina. A selection of more salads is usually available, and you can fill your pita with as much as it can take. This is usually the cheapest lunch available (₪10-15), and it's vegetarian (and often vegan). You can also order half a serving ("chat-TZEE mah-NAH"). If you don't know which falafel joint to go to, pick one with a good flow of customers, because falafel balls are tastiest when extremely fresh.

Another popular option is shawarma, sliced turkey or lamb meat, also served inside a pita, or its larger cousin lafa, with hummus-chips-salat. Many other things can fit your pita: for example, Me'orav Yerushalmi (Jerusalemite mix), which contain several types of offal meat, or Schnitzel, a batter fried chicken breast somewhat inspired by the Viennese original.

Hummus, a cream of chickpeas, tehina, lemon and olive oil, is also served on a plate, and scooped up with small pieces of pita. At places that specialize in Hummus, you can find the dish topped with chopped lamb, fried chicken breast and many other different toppings.

Another street food gaining popularity is the Iraqi-origin Sabich, a pita bread stuffed with a hard boiled egg, batter-dipped deep fried eggplant, hummus, tehina, potatoes, and salad.

Dietary restrictions

Kosher food

Israeli cuisine is heavily influenced by the ancient Jewish laws of kosher food. When associated with food, it means anything that is allowed by the Jewish religious laws concerning food. Among other things Kashrut requires complete segregation of meat and dairy foods, dishes and utensils; select types of fish are kosher but most 'sea foods' are not; and all foods must be prepared under controlled and monitored conditions. Kosher restaurants and hotels display a valid, dated certificate issued by local rabbinical authorities; kosher restaurants close for the Sabbath. Because of the meat-and-milk restrictions, kosher restaurants will also generally bill themselves as בשרי (b'sari, "meat") or חלבי (chalavi, dairy). Dairy restaurants will also serve fish, as Jewish law does not consider fish to be meat. This also means that all sorts of Western staples like cheeseburgers and pizzas with meat toppings are considered not Kosher, unless made from soy or other substitutes.

Having said this, due to the secular nature of much of Israel, many foods can be found, and many restaurants aren't kosher depending on the region. Kosher laws do not usually apply to Arab areas of Israel (unless they cater to a mixed clientèle), although Halal dietary laws (the Muslim equivalent) do.

Most of the hotels in Israel are Kosher, so breakfast is dairy, and during lunch and dinner you'll not be able to get milk for your coffee or butter for your bread (although soy milk and spread are common substitutes). Most big supermarkets sell only Kosher products, but more and more non-Kosher supermarkets and convenience stores have appeared in recent years, due in part to the huge numbers of secular Jews who have come to Israel from the former USSR. With restaurants, things are more complicated: in Tel-Aviv, there are fewer kosher restaurants than in more religious cities like Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, on the other hand, Kosher cafés and restaurants are much more common. Bear in mind that restaurants that remain open on Shabbat cannot receive Kosher certification, so some restaurants that do not carry a Kosher certification are nevertheless kosher as far as the food is concerned, and could have kosher kitchens. So if you care, you shouldn't assume anything and always ask. Where restaurants are kosher, they will either be dairy or meat. Dairy restaurants are useful for vegetarian tourists, but are still likely to serve fish (which are not considered meat by Jewish Kosher laws) and egg products.

One attraction for practising Jewish (and other) tourists is the kosher McDonald's restaurants. Note that most of the branches are not kosher, so ask before ordering. Branches of Burger Ranch, an Israeli burger chain, are kosher. In addition, Pizza Hut branches in Israel are kosher, and thus will not serve pizzas with meat toppings, while Domino's chains are not kosher, and serve a toppings selection similar to their Western branches.

One pitfall with finding kosher food is that some con-men have found they can make money by setting up business selling fake kashrut certificates. Therefore someone looking for kosher food should look for a certificate from the local rabbinate or a recognized kashrut agency [4]. Certificates from unknown organizations [5] should not be relied upon.

The word for Kosher in Hebrew is Kasher (כָּשֵר), while the Hebrew word for "fit" is Kosher (in Israel, gyms are known as kheder kosher, i.e. fitness room).

Passover

Another series of strict restrictions come into force during the seven days of Passover, when leavened bread (hametz) — taken to include any grain product that may have come into contact with moisture and thus started fermenting — is banned. Some Jews even widen the ban to cover rice and legumes. The main substitute for the bread is matza, the famously dry and tasteless flatbread, and you can even get a matzoburger from McDonalds during Passover.

Vegetarians

Vegetarians/Vegans should have a relatively easy time eating in Israel. Due to "kashrut" (the rules of keeping kosher) there are many restaurants that serve only dairy food, which makes them popular with vegetarians. Be aware that these often serve fish. In some parts of the country you can also find vegan restaurants. Amirim is a vegetarian/vegan village in the Galilee with several restaurants.

Ethnic food

Jews immigrating to Israel from different parts of the world brought with them many different cooking traditions. Most of these are now served in a handful of specialty restaurants, so check the individual chapters and ask around. Among the selection: Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewish), Bulgarian, Turkish, North African, Iraqi, Iranian, and many others. One can also enjoy excellent local Arab cuisine served in areas with large Arab populations, mostly in the north of the country and in the vicinity of Jerusalem.

One dish, however, is known across nearly the entire Jewish Diaspora. Known in Europe as Cholent and in the Middle East and North Africa as Chamin, it is a sort of stew that has simmered for many hours over a low fire. It is traditionally a Shabbat dish, originating from the prohibition on lighting fire and cooking on Shabbat. The exact ingredients vary, but it usually contains meat (usually beef or chicken), legumes (chickpeas or beans) and\or rice, eggs, and vegetables such as potatoes, onions, and carrots. Chamin is served in some restaurants on Saturday, and can be bought in delicatessens on Friday.

Most Israelis enjoy instant coffee and will order it in restaurants and shops. The quality of this coffee is often quite high. However, Israelis also appreciate a café culture. While concoctions such as "botz" (mud) coffee, also known as "cafe turki" or Turkish coffee (an inexpensive extra-finely ground coffee, often spiced with cardamom, that is cooked on a stove and served unfiltered/unstrained) are popular, the coffee culture in Israel has become refined and the quality has drastically increased in the last couple of decades. High quality espresso has replaced instant coffee as the base of most coffee drinks. There are several highly popular local coffee chains and numerous independent coffee shops. Many Israelis like to just spend time sipping their café latté (the most popular coffee in cafés) and chatting with friends. You can also have a light meal with sandwiches and salads. Aroma is Israel's largest coffee chain that has good coffee. You can order sandwiches there in three sizes and choose from three types of bread. Arcaffé is slightly more expensive, but their coffee (some say) is a little better. Other chains include Elite Coffee, cafe cafe, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and Cafe Hillel (of which some branches are Kosher dairy). Israelis frown upon US-style coffee, and Starbucks failed miserably in Israel due to their coffee being considered inferior by the locals.

Krembo (A hybrid of the words KREM and BO, "Cream" and "In it", respectively) is a favorite Israeli chocolate snack. It is composed of a round cookie, on which cream (Most often Vanilla-flavored, but there is also a mocha variety) lies, covered with a chocolate shell. Krembos come wrapped in aluminum foil, and are very delicate. They are rarely found in the summer due to the weather. Krembos have been eaten in Israel for two generations now, and there is a well known argument as to the right way for eating it.

  1. Holding the cookie while eating the chocolate and the cream, and then eating the cookie.
  2. Holding the chocolate while eating the cookie and then eating the chocolate and the cream.
  3. Eating all of it at once.
  4. While holding the cookie, eating the chocolate. Then the cookie and "lastly" the cream.

Drinks

Alcoholic

The drinking age in Israel is 18. Drinking and driving is illegal and prosecuted.

Beer

There are three main brands of Israeli beer:

  • Goldstar — a Munich-style dark draught, it is the most popular Israeli beer in Israel. Can be found in bottles and cans of 0.5 and 0.3 liters (1 pint and half a pint, respectively), or KHE-tsi and shlish (Hebrew for "half" and "third". Referring to the amount based on litres, as Israel uses SI). It is also available from tap (meh ha-kha-VIT, Hebrew for "from the barrel"). Some say it is delicious with Bissli, a snack food indigenous to the area.
  • Maccabee — a pilsener, lighter and smoother than Goldstar. Comes in bottles, cans or from tap. This beer has a bad reputation in Israel as being of foul taste. Recently, its recipe was changed and the beer has been regaining popularity in Israel. Still, due to its bad reputation many bars do not serve it. Be aware that the local variety of Maccabee tastes differently than the exported one.
  • Nesher — comes in bottles, mostly malt.

Palestinian beers are also available:

  • Taybeh. — made in the first micro-brewery in the Middle East, "Taybeh Beer Brewery" is from Taybeh village, a short taxi ride distance from Ramallah, an extremely fresh and delicious beer that is popular with many Palestinians, Israelis and tourists alike. It is mainly found in Israeli Arab communities, Jerusalem, and Palestinian cities. Taybeh Brewery offers free tours of the facilities and has 5 shekel beers for sale at the brewery. Taybeh village also hosts it's very own Oktoberfest-style beer festival held annually during the first week of October. The festival well-attended with foreign tourists and is growing in popularity.

Lately, several brands of micro-breweries have established themselves, and a wide selection of boutique beers such as Sins-Brewery, Bazelet, Golda, Laughing Buddha, Asif, Dancing Camel and many others can be found in selected alcohol houses and in some chain retail stores.

In addition, a wide variety of international brands are available throughout Israel, some of which are locally brewed. Among the most popular are Heineken, Carlsberg and Tuborg.

Liqueurs

A common liqueur in Israel is Arak. It is clear, and anise-flavored, quite similar to Pastis or the Colombian Aguardiente. It is usually served in a glass of about 0.3 L, mixed with equal amount of water and ice. Some like to drink it mixed with grapefruit juice. Arak is usually kept in the freezer. A common brand is called Aluf Ha-Arak and Elit Ha-Arak (both of the same distillery) with the former of higher alcohol per volume and the latter of stronger anise flavor. They are of slightly different volume although the price is accordingly different.

Wines

There are several local big vineyards and a growing selection of boutique ones, some of them of high quality.

Soft drinks

Most of the regular western sodas are available, and many have local variants that aren't very different in taste. The Coca-Cola Companym RC Cola and Pepsico fight for the soft drinks market aggressively. Israeli Coca-Cola is thought by Cola connoisseurs to be tastier and more authentic than elsewhere. This is because Israeli Coca-Cola is made with sugar, and not with high-fructose corn syrup. Tempo (not to be confused with Tempo Industries, Ltd. which is the brewer of most Israeli beer and bottler of most soft drinks including the local Pepsi) and Super Drink are dirt-cheap local variants, at times sporting very weird tastes.

The generic name for Coke or Pepsi is "Cola", and it usually implies Coca Cola; if the place serves Pepsi, they will usually ask if it's fine. Also note that "Soda" generally means "Soda Water", and is not a generic name for carbonated soft drinks.

There are several more authentic soft drinks:

  • Tropit — cheap fruit flavor drink which is usually grape. Comes in a tough aluminum-like bag with a straw. The bag is poked using the straw to make a hole through which you drink. A very portable drink (until holed), which has become very popular in summer camps. In the newer varieties there is a marked area where the straw should be inserted. Even then it can sometimes take practice to insert the straw without the juice squirting out, if you are from the US it is just like the Israeli version of "Capri Sun."
  • Chocolate milk — there are a number of brands of sterilized chocolate milk (SHO-ko) which comes in plastic bags and small cartons. The tip of the bag is bitten or clipped off, and the milk is sucked out. As with Tropit, it is very portable (although due to its milky nature, not as much) until opened, after which it is impractical to reseal. It should be noted that chocolate milk in a bag is usually served cold, and it would be a very bad idea to warm it.
  • Spring Nectar — fruit flavored drinks that comes in cans or 1.5L bottles. Sold in most supermarkets, convenience stores and petrol stations, as well as many take-away stands. Comes in a number of flavors such as peach, mango, and strawberry.
  • Prigat — fruit flavored drink that comes in plastic bottles. Is sold at pretty much every supermarket, petrol station and corner-store around Israel. Comes in many flavors including grape, orange, apple, tomato and a few more exotic options as well.
  • Primor — fruit juice in plastic bottles. Sold pretty much everywhere. Comes in many flavors, mostly citrus and apples.

Shopping

Money

The Israeli currency is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS). ISO 4217 code: ILS. Colloquially, it is called a shekel (plural: shkalim) or sha-ch. Each shekel is divided into 100 agorot. The common symbols for the shekel are ש״ח or ₪. In Israeli articles we use ₪, placed before the amount, but Hebrew signs and publications will show it differently.

These banknotes are in circulation: ₪20 (green), ₪50 (violet), ₪100 (brown), ₪200 (red). Newer ₪20 notes are made of polypropylene and are almost impossible to rip or tear.

Paying with large notes for small charges is frowned upon; if you must, apologize profusely.

Coins in use: 10 Agorot (copper), 1/2 Shekel (copper), 1 New Shekel (nickel), 2 New Shkalim (nickel), 5 New Shkalim (nickel), 10 New Shkalim (bi-metallic; copper core, nickel rim).

ATMs are available everywhere. Credit cards of all kinds are widely accepted. Note that the showing of the Visa logo by an ATM does not especially mean it takes all types of Visa cards, at the moment the ones with Chip-and-Pin technology seem to be only accepted by Bank Leumi ATMs (the rest use the magnetic stripe).

You can get VAT refunds when leaving the country, though be prepared to queue at the airport. Additionally, VAT refunds are only available for individual receipts in excess of 400 shekels and subjected for a few other conditions. Eilat is a VAT-free city for citizens as well as for foreigners, but being a resort city it is often more expensive to begin with. Please refer to VAT refund guidelines at the Ministry of Finance website [2] and consult the Israel Post website, which is performing the refund in practice ([3])

US dollars are accepted in some tourist locations, particularly Jerusalem, at a rough exchange rate of ₪3.5 to the US dollar. If you are asked for dollars or euros outright, you are most likely being ripped off.

Costs

Living and travelling costs in Israel are almost on a par with Western Europe, North America and Australia, making it by far the most 'expensive' country in the Middle East region outside the Gulf area.

Small food kiosks (pitzukhiot) offer various snacks such as freshly roasted peanuts, sunflower, and melon seeds, soft drinks, cigarettes and candy. Take note that currently (July 2013) the price of a soft drink can is between 5 and 10 shekels and a 0.5L bottle is generally one shekel more expensive than a can. Prices in tourist areas in big cities, especially tourist cities like Eilat can be up to 20 shekels per 0.5L bottle, however often a small walk will reveal the more local places that will sell you 6 1.5L bottles for as cheap as 32 shekels. In fact, it is possible to buy a 6 pack of 2 liter "Ein Gedi" bottles for a preset price of 12 shekels.

Fast food wise, a shawarma in lafa should cost roughly 24-30 shekels (drink not included), while a regular meal at a burger chain (McDonald's, Burger King and the local Burger Ranch) will set you back at least 35 shekels—and there is no such thing as a "free refill" anywhere in the country.

Restaurants generally are in a high standard of taste and style, a first course averages 25–45 shekels, a main dish about 50–100 (good meat can go from 80–150) and the desserts are usually 25-35 shekels. Soft drinks are somewhat costly and usually go for ₪10-12 for an average sized glass without refills. Bottles of wine in Israeli restaurants are generally very expensive, usually at ₪100–300 for regular wine.

Tipping

Outside of the food industry, tipping is not common.

Restaurants - Tip 10%-15%. 15%-20% is considered a generous tip.

Hotel staff - No tipping.

Tour guides - 10% - 15% of the daily rate.

Bartenders - Tip 10%-15%. 15% is considered a generous tip.

Hair - No tipping.

Moving - Tipping is optional, usually up to 5%, (but often expected depending on the amount of work).

Food delivery - Tip 5 shekels.

Groceries delivery - No tipping.

Other deliveries - No tipping.

Handymen - No tipping.

Taxi drivers - No tipping.

Business hours

Business days are Sunday through Friday in Jewish towns, allowing for observance of the Sabbath ("Shabbat") from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday. On Friday, many shops will close at about 14:30-15:00 to allow ample time return home before sundown. Many shops, especially in malls, will re-open on Saturday evening, at about 19:00 in winter, and 20:30 in summer. Some shops, especially outside city limits or in tourist areas, as well as 24-hour convenience stores, remain open on Saturdays. In Arab towns, shops are generally open 7 days a week.

Shops in malls and on major shopping streets are generally open 09:30-21:00 daily. Banks and post offices, as well as some smaller shops, stick to traditional business hours of 08:30-19:00, with a lunch break from about 13:00 to 16:00, so do check.

Markets usually open and close early.

Bargaining

Bargaining in Israel is prevalent. Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult for foreigners to figure out when bargaining is expected and appropriate. A general guideline: Sales agents, high prices, or no displayed prices—bargain. Anything that looks established or corporate—don't. Although pushing through a bargain or requesting some freebies with communication companies (cell phone, internet, etc.) and the like often is a possibility!

Bargaining in bazaars and rural markets is common yet subtle. Vigorous bargaining which is common in developing countries will likely get you nowhere and is improper. If you are given a fair price, don't bargain for sport—it is frowned upon.

Bargaining in shops with sales agents is expected (for example, in an electric appliance store). Sticker prices are exaggerated for the purpose of bargaining. It is best to compare offers and figure out the true market price before purchasing. A common price comparison site is Zap.

Bargaining is improper in small mom and pop shops that sell low-cost items.

Bargaining with independent service providers (technicians, plumbers, movers, handymen) is common. It is not with non-independent service providers (hired employees).

In shops with displayed prices where you are not dealing with a sales agent bargaining is improper and will get you looks of bewilderment. This includes corporate shops (e.g. McDonald's), most stores in malls (without sales agents), and pretty much all businesses a tourist interacts with (with the exception of travel agents): accommodation, transportation, food (including food stands in markets). Some entertainment venues and most activity operators (especially extreme sports) can give you quite a sizable discount if you only ask.

If you are bringing a large group of people to a club or a bar, it may be possible to negotiate a discount before arriving with the group. If you are already there, bargaining won't get you anything substantial.

Prices in tourist traps such as the Old City of Jerusalem can routinely be haggled down to as low as 25% of the asking price. Usually it's easier to make a deal if you are buying multiple items rather than a single item.

When buying larger items (e.g. electronics), it's often possible to get a discount of about 3% for paying in cash, and additional discount depending on your haggling abilities.

Bargaining with taxi drivers over fare is possible, though rarely to your advantage. It is best to instruct them to use the meter (moneh) if they don't already do so as required by law.

Since the online coupon craze started in 2010, many businesses have stopped publishing real prices, and you can get a completely different price simply by asking for a discount ("yesh hanacha?" - "Is there a discount?") or bringing in a coupon you found on an online coupon site. It's not unusual to get lower prices by up to 50%. This trend mostly died down by 2013.

Souvenirs

Israeli wine, kosher products, t-shirts, diamonds. Almost needless to say, Israel is one of the best countries for purchasing Judaica and Christian pilgrim trinkets.

While it is legal to purchase antiquities from the small number of government-licensed dealers, exporting antiquities from Israel is strictly illegal, except with a written authorization from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Israel on Wikivoyage.

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Jerusalem is the capital and largest city of Israel, though most other countries including United Nations do not recognize it as Israel's capital. It is a holy city to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, and one of the oldest cities in the world. Jerusalem of Gold, as it has come to be known in Hebrew, is a ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Church of the Holy Sepulchre
  • Golden Gate
  • Al-Aqsa Mosque
  • Dome of the Rock
  • Jaffa Gate
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Eilat is the only city in Israel at the Red Sea. Located at the southernmost tip of the country, with its "window on the Red Sea", Eilat is first and foremost a resort town devoted to sun, fun, diving, partying and desert-based activities. Some 320 km (200 miles) from the tensions of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Green Beach
  • Underwater Observatory Marine Park
  • Coral Beach Nature Reserve
  • Dolphin Reef
  • Shlomo Mountain
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Tiberias is a large town located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee/Lake Kinneret in the north of Israel. The view of the lake from the hills is simply fascinating - so much water, and so blue. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Tiberias received an influx of rabbis who established the city as a center ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Capernaum
  • Tabgha
  • Mount of Beatitudes
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Haifa is the third largest city in Israel and the major city in the north of the country with a population close to 300,000. It is a seaport located on Israel's Mediterranean shoreline, below scenic Mount Carmel.

Interesting places:

  • Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art
  • Baha\'i Gardens
  • Stella Maris Monastery
  • Railway Museum
  • Israel National Museum of Science Technology and Space - Madatech
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The Dead Sea (Hebrew: ים המלח, Hebrew transliteration:Yam HaMelach; Arabic: البحر الميت, Arabic transliteration: al-Bahir al-Mayyit) has its western coast in Israel and the West Bank. It is the lowest point in the world at 394.6 m (1269 ft) below sea level. Currently, 25 km of Dead Sea coastline lie within ... (read more)

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Herzliya is a city on the Mediterranean coast of Israel, directly to the north of Tel Aviv.

Interesting places:

  • Apollonia National Park
  • Open University of Israel
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8 hotels in this place

Netanya is a city in Israel. Many tourists come to visit its beach.

Interesting places:

  • Herzl Beach
  • Poleg Beach
  • Sar-Tov Stadium
  • Netanya Amphitheater
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8 hotels in this place

Nazareth is a city in northern Israel. With a population of 60,000, it is the largest Arab city in Israel proper with a mixed but quite harmonious Christian and Muslim population.

Interesting places:

  • Basilica of the Annunciation
  • Mount Tabor
  • Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation
  • Tel Megiddo
  • Belvoir Fortress
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Safed is a city in the Galilee region of Israel, and is one of the oldest centers for Jewish learning and spirituality, home to the Kabbalah movement which is popular with celebreties. Located at an altitude of 900 meters (2,953 ft), Safed, is the highest city in the Galilee and of Israel. Due to its high ... (read more)

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States in Israel

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Popular cities:

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panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

Points of Interest in Israel

  • Machtesh Ramon - The 40KM long crater-like landform offers some breath-taking desert vistas.
  • Rosh Haniqra - A a dazzlingly white coastal rock cliff formation on the far North Coast of Israel.
  • Jerusalem/Old City - A beautiful historical and religious landmark

Church of the Holy Sepulchre - Jerusalem

Jaffa Port - Tel Aviv

Masada National Park - Masada

Jezzar Pasha Mosque - Akko

Caesarea National Park - Caesarea

Basilica of the Annunciation - Nazareth

Capernaum - Tiberias

Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art - Haifa

Green Beach - Eilat

Rosh Haniqra Grottoes - Nahariya

Herzl Beach - Netanya

Moshe Aviv Tower - Ramat Gan

Negev Museum of Art - Beersheba

Ashdod MonArt Arts Centre - Ashdod

Nimrod Fortress - Neve Ativ

Apollonia National Park - Herzliya

Golden Gate - Jerusalem

Al-Aqsa Mosque - Jerusalem

Dome of the Rock - Jerusalem

Jaffa Gate - Jerusalem

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

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