Introduction to Israel

Israel Travel tips and information can be found here. But a brief introduction about Israel first. Israel is a small, narrow, semi-arid country on the southeastern coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. It entered history some 35 centuries ago when the Jewish people forsook its nomadic way of life, settled in the Land and became a nation.

Israel is a land and a people. The history of the Jewish people, and its roots in the Land of Israel, spans some 35 centuries. In this land, its cultural, national and religious identity was formed; here, its physical presence has been maintained unbroken throughout the centuries, even after the majority was forced into exile. With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Jewish independence, lost almost 2,000 years earlier, was renewed.​​​​​

ISRAEL'S MAIN CITIES

Jerusalem, Israel’s capital (population 788,100), has stood at the center of the Jewish  people’s national and spiritual life since King David made it the capital of his kingdom some 3000 years ago. Today it is a flourishing, vibrant metropolis, the seat of the government and Israel’s largest city.

Tel Aviv-Yafo (population 404,300), which was founded in 1909 as the first Jewish city in modern times, is today the center of the country’s industrial, commercial, financial and cultural life.

Haifa (population 268,200), a known coastal town since ancient times, is a major Mediterranean port and the industrial and commercial center of northern Israel.

Be’er Sheva  (population 195,400), named in the Bible as an encampment of the patriarchs, is today the largest urban center in the south. It provides administrative, economic, health, education and cultural services for the entire southern region.

WEATHER IN ISRAEL

Israel’s climate is characterized by much sunshine, with a rainy season from November to April. Total annual precipitation ranges from 20-30 inches (50-70 cm.) in the north to about an inch (2.5 cm.) in the far south. Regional climatic conditions vary considerably: hot, humid summers and mild, wet winters on the coastal plain; dry, warm summers and moderately cold winters, with rain and occasional light snow, in the hill regions; hot, dry summers and pleasant winters in the Jordan Valley; and semi-arid conditions, with warm to hot days and cool nights, in the south.

ISRAEL LANGUAGES

Although Hebrew and Arabic are Israel’s official languages, just standing at a street corner can be an experience: Passers-by conversing in Hebrew, Arabic, French, Russian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, Hungarian, Italian and English – Israel’s adopted second language, spoken so extensively that even street signs are also in English.

ELECTRICITY IN ISRAEL

Power supply is 220 volt, AC 50 cycles, although most major Hotels usually offer a built-in 110 volt electric razor transformer.

ISRAELI BANKING/CURRENCY

Banks are open every morning from 8:30 am – 12:30 pm. Some Commercial and Tourist branches are open until 2 pm, and most banks offer afternoon banking hours from 4 pm – 6 pm two days a week (varying according to the bank). All banks are closed on Saturdays and Jewish Holidays, but most have automatic tellers accepting most major international credit cards, against which cash may be withdrawn. The unit of currency is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS) usually referred to as “shekels” and come in a variety of denominations.

ISRAEL'S GEOGRAPHY

Long and narrow in shape, the country is about 290 miles (470 km.) in length and 85 miles (135 km.) in width at its widest point.

Although small in size, Israel encompasses the varied topographical features of an entire continent, ranging from forested highlands and fertile green valleys to mountainous deserts, and from the coastal plain to the semitropical Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. Approximately half of the country’s land area is semi-arid.

ISRAELI CULTURE

Israel’s climate is characterized by much sunshine, with a rainy season from November to April. Total annual precipitation ranges from 20-30 inches (50-70 cm.) in the north to about an inch (2.5 cm.) in the far south. Regional climatic conditions vary considerably: hot, humid summers and mild, wet winters on the coastal plain; dry, warm summers and moderately cold winters, with rain and occasional light snow, in the hill regions; hot, dry summers and pleasant winters in the Jordan Valley; and semi-arid conditions, with warm to hot days and cool nights, in the south.

ISRAELI CUISINE

Israel has become an internationally recognized country for its cuisine and world-renowned chefs. Tel Aviv is now atop the world as a must visit city for foodies. Wherever you go in Tel Aviv it is filled with an exceptional abundance of conventional and unconventional choices of restaurants. From its quality street food most notably its falafel, shawarma, and sabich (eggplan pita sandwich) to high quality gourmet places ranging from Indian, Japanese, Thai, French and Italian influences.

Jerusalem’s Machne Yehuda market offers a delightful experience where you can enjoy quality food of all cuisine from fast food to gourmet dishes. When you walk through this market the scent of the spices or bakeries producing mouth watering delights will leave you wanting more.

Furthermore, due to the cosmopolitan composition of its population, cuisine in Israel is equally varied and restaurants may be found offering delicacies from all over the world. Based on traditional Jewish dietary law, Kosher cuisine, or “Kashrut”, is observed in almost all hotels and many restaurants.

For more information on where to eat, reviews about Tel Aviv and Jerusalem restaurants feel free to check out www.telaveat.com

SHOPPING IN ISRAEL

In Israel’s major cities, shops are usually open from 9 am until at least 7 pm from Sunday through Thursday. The afternoon break or siesta between 1 pm and 4 pm is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. More and more shopping malls are being built around the country, offering even more flexible hours and a cool, air conditioned environment in which to browse items such as leather, gold, jewelry and diamonds (Israel is the No. 1 exporter of diamonds). On Fridays, shops usually close between 2 pm – 3:30 pm and most Jewish establishments do not open on Saturdays.