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The bywords for clothing in Israel are casual and comfortable. For evening, the most formal event requires no more than a dark suit for men (with a shirt and tie being much more the norm), and a cocktail dress for women.
Temperatures during the summertime hit the high 90s (38-40c) on a regular basis, so dress sensibly: natural fibers are recommended, and a hat, sunglasses and sunblock are essential. In the evenings, a light jacket or cardigan is a good idea if you're visiting in higher elevations such as Jerusalem.
Late autumn through early spring, plan to "dress like an onion". Layers that can be peeled off (or added back on) as the day or evening progresses are always a good bet.
At all times of the year, bring head coverings for protection against the sun (and the requisite sunglasses and sunblock--don't say we didn't warn you), comfortable walking shoes, and a bathing suit.
PLEASE NOTE: It's imperative to dress moderately if you plan to visit observant areas or religious sites. For women, this usually means a head covering, long sleeves, and a skirt at least mid-calf in length. For men, trousers and a short-sleeved shirt are customary.
In this age of instant information and communication, visitors to Israel in general, and business travelers in particular, are pleased to find they are never out of touch. Not only does Israel enjoy a broad communications-technology infrastructure, but it is one of the world-leaders in developing new communications technology. Most hotels offer upwards of forty cable television stations, including the world's major news organizations and a variety of local, regional and European channels. Internet access and satellite-broadcast systems for tele-conferencing are readily available; the reception staff at your hotel should be able to arrange these in advance of your stay.
Major international credit cards are honored in most hotels, restaurants and places of business. These include VISA, Mastercard, American Express and Diners Club. Service for each is provided by designated Israeli banks, with cash debits to your credit card available from most ATM (Automatic Teller) machines.
The past five years have seen a quiet revolution in the kitchens and dining rooms of Israel's restaurants. Foodophiles who once lamented the limited range of cuisines on offer now thrill to a thriving and boisterous restaurant community that embraces every style of cooking. Regional specialties abound: Morocco, Greece, Turkey, and Spain have brought Israel the best of the Mediterranean. Bistros featuring excellent regional French and Italian cooking can be found from Tel Aviv all the way up into the Galil, and Russian and Eastern European restaurants serving time-honored classics have become all the rage. From casual Thai noodle bars and top-notch sushi to sizzling Schezuan, the Far East is amply represented, as well as Indian, Ethiopian and even Mongolian kitchens. Israel is also home to a wide variety of prize-winning wines and liqueurs from the Golan Heights region; these are heavily favored in local wine cellars, but frequently, fine European and Californian varieties are also on offer.
A note about kosher dining in Israel: the food in virtually all of the country's hotels and many of the country's best restaurants are kosher. When dining out, simply check with your concierge, or call the restaurant in advance to confirm. More about kosher food later, under the "Kosher" heading.
The New Israeli Shekel (NIS), comprising 100 agorot, is the country's freely traded currency. Coin denominations are 5, 10 and 50 agorot, and 1, 5 and 10 NIS. Banknotes are available in denominations of 20, 50, 100 and 200 NIS. US dollars and various European currencies are also legal tender, with change made in NIS. Travellers' checks are widely accepted. Israeli currency can be re-converted in airport or border banks at the end of your stay.
Israel's electric current standard is the European 220/240 V/50Hz. Most hotels provide 1l0-V outlets for shavers only.
By air: Ben-Gurion Airport, located between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
By sea: at the ports of Haifa and Ashdod, on the Mediterranean.
By land: at the Taba border between Egypt and Israel near Eilat, and the Rafiah crossing near the Mediterranean; via the Arava bridge between Jordan and Israel near Akaba and Eilat; via the Allenby bridge near Jericho and the Jordan River; and via the Sheikh Hussein Bridge in the Galilee region. All border crossings, ports, airports are open daily except for certain religious holidays.
Israel is situated at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea on the "land bridge" between Europe, Asia and Africa. Its topography is a microcosm of the world's topographies, including mountain ranges, plains, savannas and deserts. The notable points of the Jordan River, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea and the Red Sea are part of the continuum of the great Afro-Syrian Rift Valley and include the lowest point on earth at the Dead Sea.
A mandatory two-year preliminary study program, plus regular continuing courses put Israel's government-licensed guides in a superior class. Guides and guided tours are available in all of the world's major languages, as well those from many Eastern European, African and Far Eastern countries.
No special inoculations are required for entering Israel. Visitors are urged to bring sufficient quantities of any medications which they take regularly. Anyone requiring unexpected medical attention, however, can be assured that the level of medicine practiced in Israel, as well as the facilities available, rank with the very best in Europe or the United States.
Israel's hotels offer the visitor superior levels of comfort and convenience. Whether affiliated with renowned international chains or domestically operated, all offer well-appointed guest rooms, and excellent banqueting and conference facilities.
There is nothing in flavor or style that distinguishes kosher food from any other. Kosher food is simply any food which complies with Jewish dietary laws. These are observed by Israel's hotels and some restaurants. Basically the laws require that meat and dairy foods not be served at the same meal, and they forbid the serving of pork or shellfish. What is certain is that the many talented chefs in the hotels and restaurants serve up delicious meals, and substitutes created for dairy products assure that nothing is lacking from any menu.
Israel's official languages are Hebrew and Arabic, with English spoken by most of the population. A myriad of other languages including French, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese and Amharit are widely spoken or heard on the streets of Israel.
Israel's mandate guarantees total freedom of religion and free access to holy places of worship for followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Each religion has autonomy over its holy places and houses of worship, and establishes the hours and rules of conduct for visiting them. Visitors are expected to demonstrate respect and dress modestly at religious sites.
The Jewish "shabbat", observed from Friday evening until Saturday evening, governs many activities in hotels and some public places. Special events in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv hotels should therefore, not be planned for Friday evenings or Saturday during the day. Hotels continue to function normally and all non-kosher restaurants remain open throughout. Some sites are closed on Friday afternoon and Saturday. Restrictions on the rental and use of conference equipment apply on the Sabbath and on and Jewish holidays. Similarly, Moslem sites are closed on Friday, the Moslem Sabbath, and Christian sites on Sunday.
There are a number of genuinely good buys to be made in Israel, where trade and tariff agreements with many countries eliminate customs duties. Purchases most favored by visitors include jewelry--the diamond and precious gemstone industry is one of the worlds most actively traded-- leather accessories and furs, religious articles, works of art, registered antiques and antiquities, carpets, and fashion items, particularly beach wear.
An advanced telecommunications infrastructure permits convenient and easily accessible international telephone communications. All hotel rooms have telephones for domestic and international calling, including credit card calls. Public telephones using "telecards" are found on virtually every corner, as are kiosks selling the cards. Rental cellular phones are also readily available.
Israel is in the European Standard Time zone; 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and seven hours ahead of US Eastern Standard time. Daylight- saving time is observed from late March through the end of August.
No tip is expected for taxi rides; a 10% tip in restaurants is considered "correct", with 15% or 20% given for superior service. Convention dictates that you tip your tour guide and coach driver at the end of your visit. Hotel rates include a service charge, though tips are usually given to porters, maids, waiters and front desk staff.
BY BUS:Israel boasts two main providers of bus transportation; each maintains fleets of buses for both citywide and nationwide travel. For citywide travel, tickets may be purchased singly or in blocks; for a long stay, a monthly bus pass might be a good idea. If you plan to travel across Israel, modern, air-conditioned touring coaches provide comfortable transportation to all points. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the bus terminal or from the bus driver. Information about destinations and schedules is usually posted in both English and Hebrew. BY TRAIN: Israel's Rail Service is a lifesaver for commuters and travellers along the coast, from Nahariya to Ashdod. South of Ashdod, the service veers inland and continues south to it's final destination of Beer Sheva. The trains are, at this writing, definitely the most comfortable way to travel--fast, quiet, and air-conditioned, with comfortable, assigned seating and soft drinks or snacks available on board. Train stations are well-appointed, with tickets available from computerized vending machines (your choice of Hebrew or English) that accept cash and credit cards.
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