What you should not do when traveling in Israel
Israelis are very welcoming and open-minded individuals. However, Everywhere in the world has its accepted rules, and Israel is no exception. Here is the strict list of don’ts if you are planning to travel to the holy land of Israel.
1. Dress code
Although Tel Aviv is a very liberal city, even in comparison to the major cities in Europe and the United States, it is not a secret that some of the other cities of Israel are different. Do not walk around in revealing or provocative attire in Jerusalem, Tiberias, and many possibly religiously owned cities. This applies to all Arab villages and towns in Israel.
2. Don’t leave a restaurant without paying a tip
In many of the restaurants in Israel, a tip is the wage of the waiters. A 10% tip is considered in advance to the minimum possible by the serving waiters. 15% or more tip is welcome, but yes, there is no such obligation. In some restaurants, the service cost will be included in the bill to be served for the meal. In that case, no tip should be paid. It is already included in the bill.
3. Do not surprise police or armed soldiers
It is valid for any country, but it more applies in Israel. Security forces are usually alert and respond very quickly to what seems to be a threat or danger. It is not a topic that is joked about in Israel. Of course, one can approach a police officer or a soldier, and they will usually be very kind, but without surprise, it may end very badly.
4. Do not enter local politics
Do not become a human rights hero in Israel. If you feel that it is awful for you, you can always go to Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or Afghanistan, where the human rights condition is challenging.
But do not think about it in Israel. An overwhelming majority of Israeli citizens, apart from a very few exceptional ones, will not welcome patronizing political intervention.
The history of Israel is complex, long and is of course related to the history of the Jewish people. You are of course welcome to get to know her and a good starting point will be the book “From time immemorial” by Joan Peters.
5. Do not parade in violent demonstrations in Judea and Samaria
There were quite a few cases of tourists who came to Israel to march in violent protests in Judea and Samaria. Some were injured, some were arrested. Same as in the previous paragraph, those who feel very high urge to participate in violent demonstrations can travel to Turkey or Jordan and from there to cross the border into Syria.
In the context of this issue, it is also possible to note the warm recommendation not to despise Jewish symbols in the context of a political struggle or for any other reason. The Jewish symbols can be a Star of David, a Menorah, tefillin, a tallit and a rather long list. Keep them out of any political issue and avoid intentionally hurting emotions, just as you would avoid hurting religious symbols in China, India, or Saudi Arabia.
6. Do not drive a car on Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur is one of the Tishrei holidays (usually September or October) and is considered the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Many individuals are strict about fasting, while many go to a synagogue on Yom Kippur evening. The streets are empty, and usually, no car can be seen except ambulances or police vehicles. Because of this, masses of children ride bicycles on empty roads.
7. Do not enter the head exposed to holy places for Jews
Do not enter sacred places without a skullcap or headgear. If you are visiting a synagogue or the Western Wall, you must put on a headdress. Men put on a Kippa, and women put on headscarves. Of course, you must dress accordingly.
8. Do not bless religious people with physical contact
Almost everywhere in the world, it is customary to advertise with some physical gesture, a handshake, a kiss, or a hug. If you are a woman, you can greet another woman like that. If you are a man, you will bless another man. But a woman cannot sanctify a man, and a man cannot bless a woman like that.
9. Do not use hitchhiking with people you don’t know
Until the early 1990s, it was ubiquitous to use hitchhiking in Israel. Most of the soldiers hitchhiked. But following some events, everything changed. It’s quite rare to see people hitchhiking, but it still exists primarily among Jewish settlers in Judea and Samaria.
10. Don’t order non-kosher food in a kosher restaurant
Most restaurants in Israel are kosher. Tel Aviv is probably the only exception in Israel. The non-kosher menu includes seafood, pork, any meat other than chicken, lamb or beef, meat mixed with milk, pork steak, butter steak, cheeseburger, clams, and prawns. Kosher restaurants usually have a kosher certificate in Hebrew, and you are unlikely to recognize it.
However, nothing to worry about too much, and nothing will happen if you make a mistake. They won’t do anything to you. They will politely tell you that the restaurant is kosher and no non-kosher dishes are sold here.
11. Don’t miss the old city of Jerusalem
If you only have one day in Israel, don’t miss the ancient city of Jerusalem. It’s one of the most essential and spiritual places on earth.
12. Don’t dive in the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is full of salt. The specific gravity of the water is higher. That’s why people usually take pictures of someone reading a book or newspaper without looking at the sea. It’s possible, but nobody does that. It’s suitable for the image but not comfortable. If there is an open wound, it will burn from the salt. The salt contact with the eyes hurts and can be dangerous. Don’t try it.
13. Don’t be tempted to overeat
The food in Israel is delicious and very varied. If you are staying at a hotel, the breakfasts are enormous. They are more significant than any breakfast you will eat anywhere else in the world. And even if you are not staying in a hotel, but eat outside, breakfast will always be great. There is a wide variety of pastries, cheese, bread, and cakes. It is effortless to gain fat.
14. Don’t keep walking or driving if you hear a siren
There are two memorial days with a siren in Israel. On Holocaust memorial day, a siren will be played at 10 am. One week later, on Memorial Day for IDF fallen soldiers, two sirens will be performed, first on Memorial Day evening, at 8 pm, and second at 10 am, on the morning of Memorial Day. If you’ve heard the siren when you’re out, respect us and don’t keep walking or driving. Wait until the end of the siren, and then continue. It’s about a minute or two.
15. In markets, do not rush to pay the price they asked for
There are quite a few markets in Israel, out of which some are very interesting, such as the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, the Flea Market in Jaffa, the Old City of Jerusalem market, and other markets. Item prices in markets are usually negotiable, especially if you are a foreign tourist. It is not customary to bargain on the costs of fruits and vegetables, but it is a must to negotiate on souvenirs.
16. Don’t be alarmed by people with guns
For Israelis who grew up in this reality, it’s one of the most obvious things. Still, for tourists and visitors who come to Israel for the first time, there is no doubt that this is an out-of-the-way play, young soldiers with machine guns, especially in the big cities and most in Jerusalem. There is nothing to be scared or afraid of. It is normal in Israel.
Uber does not work in Israel but instead, there is a similar application called Gett taxi. Using this app, you can pay by credit card in advance. Do not get into non-taxi cabs, and even when you board regular cabs, do not let the driver ask for exorbitant prices. You can use Waze to know the distance and time for each of your travel destination.
18. Do not dare to enter the Golan Heights minefields
The Golan Heights minefields are the remnants of the Syrian presence in place before 1967. The Golan Heights is one of the most well-known and popular touristic sites in Israel, which includes bungalows, restaurants, hiking trails, winter snow, horses, and springs.
Everyone loves the Golan Heights. You can travel there safely, but one rule must be kept in mind: no fences should be crossed, no hiking trails descend to unmarked trails, and no cross fields.
19. Do not buy drugs in small kiosks in Tel Aviv or forest parties
Israel has trance parties and forest parties in various locations around the country. At some parties, different types of drugs are sold. On top of the dangers of drug use, the source of the pills and their composition is usually not clear. It adds to the risk, and the police often intervene at such parties to find the drug dealers. Enjoy these parties without drugs.
20. Do not harm nature
The State of Israel is trying to preserve the little nature it has, whether it is in vegetation or wildlife. Hunting is allowed in Israel but only with a hunting license. Do not hunt animals, and do not light fires in dry forests in the middle of summer. Help us keep the nature we have as it is.
21. Don’t travel in the desert on a hot summer day
This is a seemingly trivial warning, but there are still people walking on desert trails in the south of the country during hot summer days. The heat in the desert climbs above 40 degrees Celsius. It is possible to dehydrate and get seriously injured.
22. Do not travel on the roads in the south of the country when there is a flood alert
The floods in southern Israel are one of the most beautiful and compelling natural plays, and there are people who are particularly keen to see the waves. But the floods can be very misleading. It is a massive stream of water, not high, full of mud and rocks, which carries everything that stands in its way.
Unfortunately, there have been quite a few disasters in Israel, and people have paid with their lives when caught in a flood. The flood appears suddenly, and those who are not careful may get trapped inside.
23. Do not touch the border fence
In different areas of the state of Israel, you can get close to the border, sometimes a distance of 1-2 meters from the border fence. The fence is electrified to alert every touch. It is an electric power that does not kill or cause bodily harm but provides an alert to the army, and within a short time, military forces will reach the fence. Since Israel takes the security issue seriously, do not touch the fence.
24. Don’t be inconsiderate when you visit a Mea Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem
The Mea Shearim neighborhood is one of the most charming places in the state of Israel. Its residents are mainly anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jews who keep a distance from the State of Israel. The neighborhood houses are shallow and crowded. The residents are dressed uniquely.
There are crowds of children running around the alleys, and the neighborhood walls are draped in dramatic awareness. Residents of the neighborhood do not like visitors, and even less, visitors without modest attire. If you come to visit there, dress modestly. A headdress will also help and do not blatantly take pictures.
25. Do not come empty-handed
Israelis like to host and be hosted. If during your visit to Israel you make social connections, you will probably be invited to dinner, maybe even a Saturday dinner that is more family-oriented. It is not appropriate to arrive empty-handed. The best gift is a good bottle of wine that you can find in any neighborhood supermarket.
You can easily buy good wines in the price range of $ 10 to $ 15. Of course, if you do not have a budget problem and want to invest more, you can also find more expensive wines. Almost any other option besides wine will be more expensive and not really needed unless it really is a very strong relationship that you feel committed to. In this case, Judaica items, hamsa, Star of David of various kinds, can fit (of course depending on the type of family). Beautiful art items can be purchased mainly in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Safed, or online
If you are invited to a wedding, you can come with money and this is also what is acceptable in most cases. If the wedding is held in a ballroom or garden, it is customary to bring at least NIS 250 (~$80) for one person and if you are a couple, it is customary to bring between NIS 300 (~$90) and NIS 400 (~$120). If it is a close friend and someone dear to your heart, the amount will, of course, be higher, but it all depends on your financial situation. If you have chosen not to bring money but a real gift, you can see here ideas for gifts for a Jewish wedding.
26. Do not be afraid and do not believe everything you hear in the media
The media is usually interested in what is unusual, and what is terrible, so the news about Israel will typically focus on the security situation in the State of Israel, which at certain times is less than that of other countries in the world. But in contrast, Israel is much safer to walk at night than most major cities in the United States and Europe.
In Israel, children are much safer walking around the streets without fear of being kidnapped. In Israel, it is much safer to go to a hospital and receive excellent treatment. So take it all in proportion and, most importantly, enjoy everything Israel has to offer you.