Israel stands at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Israel’s longest coastline (and its western boundary) is the Mediterranean Sea. It shares its eastern border-and the Dead Sea-with Jordan. Egypt lies to the southwest, and Lebanon and Syria border Israel’s northern tip. The Gulf of Aqaba at Israel’s southernmost point leads to the Red Sea.
At 7,992 square miles, Israel is about the size of New Jersey. It is hilly in the north, where the highest peak, Mt. Hermon, (10,000 feet) is in the Golan Heights. Mountain ranges run from north to south. The Golan Heights and Galilee stretch southward to the Jezreel Valley. Farther south are the ranges and hilly areas of Samaria and Judea in the east. The Negev Desert region occupies the southern half of Israel.
Founded in 1948, Israel is a parliamentary democracy, with an elected prime minister and a cabinet made up of various government portfolios.
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Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages. English is the most common second language and appears on road signs.
5.5 million, comprising a Jewish majority and sizable communities of Muslims, Christians, Druze and other minorities.
Seven hours later than Eastern Standard Time.
Tourists need not worry about consuming the water or fresh foods in Israel. Several hundred restaurants in Israel have been listed by the Ministry of Tourism and display their emblem prominently.
Kosher means food that conforms to Jewish dietary laws, so meat and dairy products are not served during the same meal. While kosher food is predominant in Israel’s hotels, many restaurants are not kosher.
Today’s Israeli food is an eclectic mix of the tastes and ingredients indigenous to the region. Elegant restaurants can be found alongside small cafes and pizza or falafel stands.
A new Gault-Millau guide to Israeli hotels and restaurants is now available, and one can find the cooking influences of France, Italy and California in the new “Med-Rim Cuisine.”
Stores are open Sunday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., although some close for a midday break between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. On Fridays and the eves of major Jewish holidays, shops are open in the morning and close early in the afternoon. Moslem-owned stores are closed Fridays, and those run by Christians are closed on Sundays.
Flea markets and bazaars: The market in Jaffa remains a venerable institution. All the old towns of Israel, such as Akko and Nazareth, have bazaars, but the ultimate is to be found in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Value Added Tax (VAT) Refunds: A 18.25 percent VAT is placed on all goods and services and is included in the quoted price. At hotels, a service charge of 15 percent is added. VAT is added only if guests pay in Israeli currency.
Tourists are exempt from taxes on the following services if paid in foreign currency: accommodations (hotels, youth hostels, field schools and camping); organized tours; car hires with driver-guides; car rentals; flights and tours operated by domestic aviation companies; meals provided by tour operators during organized tours; and meals eaten by guests in hotel restaurants (and included in the hotel bill). All goods and services that tourists purchase in Eilat are exempt from VAT.
Tourists who purchase goods with foreign currency exceeding $50 at shops listed by the Ministry of Tourism are entitled to a discount of at least 5 percent off the purchase price at the shop and a VAT refund at the port of departure.
At other departure points, the customs official will stamp the invoice and the refund will be sent to your client’s home address, as indicated on the invoice.
It is customary to tip hotel personnel, guides and drivers. Service charges are often included in tour packages. A 15 percent tip is the average in restaurants. While tipping is not mandatory in taxis-locals usually don’t- visitors are free to do so.
Good weather makes Israel’s tourist season a year-round one. It’s three seasons are:Israel Weather By Locations
Summer (June through early September):
Temperatures run in the high 80s and 90s (Fahrenheit). Tel Aviv, the Mediterranean coast and Tiberias are humid. Jerusalem is drier and cooler, particularly at night; even in July, a cotton sweater might be needed. Masada and Eilat are extremely hot, often reaching 110 degrees or more, but dry.
Spring & fall (late March through May; late September through November):
Daytime temperatures for most of Israel will be in the 70s, but in Jerusalem they can drop to the 60s or 50s. Evening temperatures remain pleasant, except in Jerusalem, where it can be quite cool. There are occasional rain showers throughout the country, but nothing torrential.
Winter (December through early March):
Weather fluctuates, with some winters mild and sunny and others severe and overcast. Usually there is substantial rain and possibly snow in January and February. Most daytime temperatures will be in the 50s or 60s, but Jerusalem and the Galilee Hills average 40 degrees with very cold nights.