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FACTFILE


Time: GMT+2
Dial code: 00 972
Area: 20,770 sq km
Elevation: Lowest point: Dead Sea -417m | Highest point: Mount Meron 1,208m
Population: 7,766,000 (2011)
Capital: Jerusalem
Government: Democracy, Parliamentary system
Language: Hebrew, Arabic, English

ISRAEL COUNTRY GUIDE


Modern day Israel encompassed some of the oldest and most significant religious and historic sites in the world. A melting pot of religious beliefs, Jerusalem is the heart and soul of the country and offers a great base to explore further into the intriguing country and the neighbouring Palestine territories. With famous site in the city such as The Wailing Wall, The Temple Mount, Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Tower of David there is plenty for the interested visitor to explore. Heading out of the city, sites to explore include the nearby Bethlehem the birthplace of Jesus, the ruins at Masada, Jericho, the unique experience of floating in the Dead Sea and the beaches of the Red Sea. Head north and the Sea of Galilee awaits, along this Nazareth, the home town of Jesus. Along the coast sit the ancient port towns, and hidden crusader castle, of Acre, Haifa and Jaffa, and the more modern Tel Aviv, famed for its lively nightlife.

Highlights

  • Jerusalem - The Wailing Wall, Dome of the Rock, Church of the Holy Sepulchure, Tower of David
  • Masada - Famous Jewish hill top fort
  • Dead Sea - Float in the salty waters and smother yourself in mineral rich mud
  • Red Sea - Enjoy watersports, snorkelling or diving, or just relax on the beaches
  • Mediterranean coast - Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Haifa, Acre
  • Sea of Galilee - Relive the bible stories
  • Nazareth - Basilica of the Annunciation
  • Bethlehem - Birthplace of Christ

When to go

The best times to visit Israel are spring (May) or autumn (October) when the climate is warm but not too hot. If travelling in autumn you must be careful to avoid the many Israeli holidays, as hotel availability can be a problem. Travelling during the summer months can be uncomfortable as temperatures reach the high 3's. Also July and August are peak months in Israel, as this is the school holiday period and tourist numbers at the popular tourist sites will be much greater. The winter months often bring rain and sometimes snow which can make sightseeing a bit of a drag, especially as much of Israel’s best sites are outdoors. Israel does have a pretty good ski season so if winter-sports is your thing, then the winter season is an excellent time to travel.

If you are considering travelling to Israel over Christmas or Easter, then book early as this is a very busy time of the year and availability can be an issue. Christmas is a magical time to visit Israel for all Christians and there are many celebrations in and around Bethlehem and Nazareth. Likewise during Easter, pilgrims from around the world descend on Jerusalem. For Orthodox and Catholic Christians, celebrations focus on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where six historic denominations have marked the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus since the fourth century.

Geography

Israel is located in the heart of Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Lebanon to the north, Jordan to East and Egypt & the Red Sea to the south. The geography of Israel is divided into four general areas: the fertile, humid, and densely populated coastal plain, which stretches along Mediterranean Sea; the central highlands, including the Hills of Galilee in north with the country's highest point at Mt. Meron (1,208 m), and arid Judean Hills in south; the Jordan Rift Valley with the lowest point (-417 m below sea level) at the Dead Sea; and the Negev Desert, which accounts for about half Israel's land area.

Weather & climate

Israel benefits from long, warm, dry summers (April-October) and in the main mild winters (November-March) with the weather being drier and cooler in hilly regions, such as Jerusalem and Safed. Rainfall is relatively heavy in the centre and north of the country, with much less in the northern Negev and negligible amounts in the southern areas.

Regional weather conditions vary considerably throughout the country, with humid summers and light winters on the coast; dry summers and moderately cold winters in the hill regions; hot, dry summers and pleasant winters in the Jordan Valley; and year-round semi-desert conditions in the Negev.

Weather extremes range from occasional winter snowfall in the mountain regions to periodic hot, dry winds that send temperatures soaring, particularly in spring and autumn.

Click for Jerusalem, Israel Forecast
Jerusalem
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Rain (mm)
132
132
64
28
3
0
0
0
0
13
71
86
Sun (hrs)
6
7
7
10
11
14
13
13
11
7
7
6
Temp (Max)
25
27
31
39
39
42
38
39
39
36
31
26
Temp (Min)
-3
-3
-1
2
6
8
10
11
10
8
4
-3
Days of Rain*
9
11
3
3
1
-
-
-
-
1
4
7
Hum (%)
72
66
59
49
40
40
44
47
49
48
58
67
* denotes number of days with at least 0.1 mm of rainfall

Money

New Israel Shekel (NIS)

1 NIS = 100 Agorot
1 US$ = 3.62 NIS (April 2017)
1 UK£ = 4.52 NIS (April 2017)

Common Coins

  • 10 Agorot
  • 50 Agorot
  • 1 NIS
  • 2 NIS
  • 5 NIS

Common Notes

  • 20 NIS
  • 50 NIS
  • 100 NIS
  • 200 NIS

Unlimited sums of local and foreign money may be brought into Israel as cash, travellers' cheques, or credit cards. Foreign currency of all kinds may be exchanged at the airport, banks, post offices, most hotels or licensed exchange agencies in large cities. A passport is required when exchanging travellers' cheques. The rates vary from place to place, and banks charge a commission. It is recommended, though not obligatory, to carry a small amount of US dollars, since certain tourist sites, especially in the Old City of Jerusalem, take payment in dollars.

Various banks have branches in the large cities and in smaller communities. Most banks are open from 8:30 am until 12 noon Sunday to Thursday, and 4-6pm on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. On Fridays and Jewish holiday eves, banks are open from 8:30 am until 12 noon. All banks are closed on Shabbat. Most of the large hotels have banks which often offer additional, more convenient hours.

Holidays

Variable Jewish Holidays (2017 dates)*

Purim - 12th March
Pesach (Passover) - 10th April
Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence day) - 2nd May
Shavuot (Pentecost) - 31st May
Rosh Hashanah (New Year) - 22nd September
Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) - 30th September
Simchat Torah - 13th September
Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) - 5th October
Hanukkah (Festival of Lights) - 13th December

*These religious festivals have no fixed dates and vary each year.

For exact dates of holidays and festivals for the coming year please click here.

Religions

Judaism, Islam and Christianity are the main religions in Israel. Judaism accounts for approximately 75.4% of the population, Islam (mainly Sunni) account for approximately 16.9%, whilst Christianity (mainly Greek Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Maronites) account for only approximately 2.1%. Other religions account for the remainder which includes a small Druze community.

Vaccinations

We do always recommend that you seek professional medical advice when considering holiday vaccinations but the ones that are normally recommended for travel to Israel are listed below:

  • Diphtheria
  • Hepatitis A
  • Tetanus
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow (A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required when arriving from an affected area)

For direct, up-to-date information on vaccination requirements for Israel please click here

Customs

  • As with much of the Middle East, it is recommended that you should dress conservatively when visiting religious sites of places where a lot of local people may be gathered (such as markets and bazaars). In general Israel is very westernised and has no real dress code.
  • A warm way to greet a person is generally a big smile followed by a handshake whilst saying Shalom to Jewish Israeli's and Marhaba to Arabs.
  • Putting your thumb in between your middle and index finger while making a fist is an obscene gesture.
  • When dealing with the Muslim community in Israel, avoid showing the sole of your foot or using the foot to move or pass anything to someone. Avoid giving & receiving objects with your left hand as well.
  • Israelis are very hospitable and may take offence if you do not accept an invitation. When eating in someone's house, they will offer you more food then you can eat, so it is important to be grateful and compliment the chef without forcing yourself to overreact.
  • It is considered rude to be excessively drunk in public.
  • As with other countries in the Middle East, haggling is an integral part of Israeli life and you should expect to knock off around 20-30% of the original price. When shopping in larger shops prices tend to be fixed.
  • Tips are always appreciated in Israel (not just from foreigners) and in many establishments, expected (when good service has been provided). In restaurants and other nightspots it is customary to leave a tip of 10-12% of the total bill amount.

Security

We advise you check your local consular advice for up to date security information before you travel. Israel is a friendly and generally trouble free country with little crime affecting tourists. Tensions can rise suddenly though following changes in the Israeli/Palestine situation and in the whole Middle East in general.

Know before you go

In association with the 'Know Before You Go' Campaign, we are working with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to do all that we can to help British travellers stay safe overseas. Before you go overseas, check out the FCO website at www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo. It is packed with essential travel advice and tips, and up-to-date country information.

Know before you go

Visas

Manynationalities (including UK, European, Australian, New Zealand, South African) do not need to obtain a visa to enter Israel as a period as long as your stay is for less than 3 months. Other nationalities should check with their local consulate. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the appropriate visa to enter Israel if one is required.

How to get there

By air

The main international airport in Israel is Ben Gurion on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. All scheduled flights fly in and out of Ben Gurion, with a wide range of European and international airlines flying every day. We usually start our Israel tours in Tel Aviv and end in Jerusalem, which is also quite close to Ben Gurion airport. We can also combine Jordan and Egypt to make a more comprehensive tour of the region. It is possible to fly from Amman (Jordan) to Tel Aviv with Royal Jordanian however it can be expensive. The journey by road is approximately 5-6 hours, and travelling overland does tend to be the preferred option if you are not too short on time. Flights between Cairo and Tel Aviv operate irregularly with Air Sinai.

Flying from the UK:

There a number of direct flight options from London to Tel Aviv including EasyJet, El Al and British Airways. The flight takes around 5 hours. Fares range from around £300-400 if you book well in advance, but do increase significantly during busy periods. If you are happy to fly with EasyJet you can sometime find fares as low as £150. Prices are often cheaper if you choose an indirect flight with a European airline such as Ukraine Air and Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines are also a good option when considering flights from regional airports such as Manchester.
In general, the earlier you book the better, as flights tend to get more expensive closer to departure. Flying from regional airports such as Manchester, Newcastle or Glasgow will require a stop-over in London or Europe and normally is a little more expensive than flying from London.

Where to book:

We hold an ATOL, and you are welcome to book your flights with us. Please discuss your ideal dates and departure airport with our sales staff, and we will send you a selection of airlines, flight times, and prices. You can then choose whether to book your flights through us, or to make your own arrangements. If you book your own flights, we will still include both your arrival and departure airport transfers.

By land

Jordan

The drive from Amman in Jordan, to Jerusalem in Israel, takes around 5-6 hours including border crossings at the Allenby (King Hussein) Bridge border crossing. Crossing the border into Israel from Jordan can be a time consuming process and it is very difficult to predict just how long it will take. We therefore suggest allowing plenty of time and recommend a lot of patience.

Lebanon

You cannot enter Lebanon if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport.

Egypt

It is also sometimes possible to cross into and out of Israel via the Taba/Eilat border. The crossing is usually pretty good but as with all Israeli border crossing, it can be unpredictable and liable to close without notice, depending on the prevailing region situation.