Best time to go: Year-Round
Best for: Religious and Archaeological Sites
Israel means many things to many people. For millions of travellers around the world, this is the ‘Holy Land`, spiritually sacrosanct for the three great monotheistic religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
The mud at Dead Sea spa resorts is renowned for its health-giving properties. Go there to slather yourself in it. It`s impossible to sink in this ‘sea`, which is in fact an inland lake with intensely salty, mineral-rich water, lying at the lowest point on earth.
Immerse yourself in Tel Aviv`s fascinating Shuk HaCarmel, or Carmel Market, brimming with spices, fresh produce, cut flowers and trinkets galore.
The waters off Eilat are rich in coral and perfect for some underwater gazing. Scuba or snorkel on underwater trails, take a submarine tour, or just marvel at the scene through the windows of the Eilat`s amazing Underwater Observatory.The intricately beautiful glorious Dome of the Rock stands high on Temple Mount (Har HaBayit in Hebrew, Haram esh-Sharif in Arabic) in Jerusalem and is spiritually significant for both Jews and Muslims.
The beautiful Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) is surrounded by Christian sites such as Capernaum, Cana, and the Mount of Beatitudes. Nearby is Jesus` home town, Nazareth, now the largest Arab city in Israel.
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Official Name: State of Israel
Local Name: Medinat Yisra`el
Capital: Jerusalem (JRS)
Currency: New Israel Shekel (ILS). Certain foreign currencies including ZAR may be accepted as payment.
Language: Hebrew and Arabic. English is widely spoken.
Dialling code from SA: +972
Time Zone: UTC / GMT +2 (same time as South Africa)
Daylight Savings Time: from last Friday March to last Sunday October: UTC / GMT +3 (1 hour ahead of South Africa)
Side of the Road: Right
Plugs: 230 volts AC, 50Hz. Round three-pin plugs are standard; many European two-pin plugs fit the sockets
Drinking Water: Mains water in hotels and towns is safe to drink, but some travellers prefer bottled water.
Health: There are adequate and well-equipped medical facilities, however visitors are required to pay for these services and they can be expensive. Comprehensive health insurance is recommended. If you require any medication on your travels it is best to bring it with you, in the original packaging, with a signed and dated letter from your doctor detailing exactly what it is and why you need it. Precautions against mosquitos should be taken.
Customs: Israel is a predominantly Jewish society and respect to religious customs should be shown. Shalom is the usual greeting. Dress is casual, but more conservative clothing should be worn when visiting religious sites – especially for women. Women should take care to note the dress codes before entering certain sites and neighbourhoods (people wearing immodest clothing may be spat on or attacked). Male visitors are given a yarmulke when visiting certain sites. Shabbat (Sabbath) is from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. Banks, official and government buildings and most stores and restaurants will be closed. It is recommended to check in advance before visiting a certain location during Shabbat. Not all restaurants are Kosher, so do not take it for granted. Smoking during Shabbat is considered extremely disrespectful. Visits to the Gaza strip should be avoided. In Jewish Orthodox areas, photography should be limited, and it is best to ask permission before taking photographs.
Local Offences / Laws: Identification should be carried at all times. Military and government buildings should not be photographed.
Travel Tips / Warnings: Credit cards are widely accepted, and ATM’s are available throughout the country. Check the local political situation before finalising travel plans and before entering the Palestinian Authority. You can choose not to have an Israel stamp in your passport as records are being kept electronically.
Duty Free: The following goods may be imported into Israel without incurring customs duty (alcohol and tobacco can only be imported by persons aged 17 years and over):
• 250g of tobacco products
• 1L of spirits and 2L of wine
• 3kg of food (each item may not weigh more than 1kg)
• Gifts and other goods to the value of US$200
Prohibited Imports: Prohibited and restricted items include firearms, plants, raw meat, raw material, counterfeit currency or documents, and knives not intended for professional use.