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General Information

Israel in brief

Israelis a land and a people. The history of the Jewish people, and its roots in theLandofIsrael, spans some 35 centuries. In this land, its cultural, national and religious identity was formed;here, its physical presence has been maintained unbroken throughout the centuries, even after the majority was forced into exile. With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Jewish independence was renewed. Although small in size,Israelencompasses the varied topographical features of an entire continent, ranging from forested highlands and fertile green valleys to mountainous deserts, and from the coastal plain to the semitropicalJordanValleyand theDead Sea, the lowest point on earth. Approximately half of the country’s land area is semi-arid.

Jerusalem,Israel's capital has stood at the center of the Jewish people’s national and spiritual life since King David made it the capital of his kingdom some 3000 years ago. Today it is a flourishing, vibrant metropolis, the seat of the government andIsrael’s largest city.

Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 as the first Jewish city in modern times, is today the center of the country’s industrial, commercial, financial and cultural life.

Haifa a known coastal town since ancient times, is a major Mediterranean port and the industrial and commercial center of northernIsrael.

The People of Israel

The State of Israel has some 7.8 million inhabitants (2012)
The most prominent characteristic ofIsrael’s the population is its high diversity. Besides the main division of the country’s inhabitants into Jews (80%) and Arabs (20%), there are many more subdivisions. The Jews, for example, are divided into religious and secular, while the latter include various immigrant communities who preserve their culture. Likewise, the Arabs are divided into Moslems and Christians. Alongside these groups,Israelhas additional small ethnic religious groups such as the Druze, Circassians, Samaritans and Bahai. In many towns one can find mixed populations of Christians, Jews and Moslems living side by side.

Emergency Services

  • Police - dial 100
  • Magen David Adom (Emergency medical services) - dial 100 http://www.mda.org.il/menu.asp
  • Fire Department - dial 102 http://www.102.co.il/
  • Cardiac Emergencies
  • Shakhal is a private service that provides emergency care in cardiac emergencies.
  • Shakhal - 1-800-444666 or 1-800-221818
  • Tourist Police
  • Tourists can also call the tourist police at 03-5165382 if an emergency arises. The tourist police office is located on the corner of Geula and Herbert Samuel Streets, in Tel Aviv.

“Tour Phone”

  • Tourphone" - A 24 hour service for tourists. By dialing *3888 from any phone, tourists can receive immediate answers and assistance regarding tourist services as well as assistance of the Israel Police, Ministry of Interior services, Airport Authority and more.

  • Public Transportation

  • For schedules and fares of buses in Israel, please visit: http://www.egged.co.il/eng/
  • For train schedules and fares, please visit: http://www.rail.co.il/EN/Pages/Homepage.aspx
  • For information about all domestic and international flights, please visit: http://www.iaa.gov.il/Rashat/en-US/Rashot

  • Hotspots

  • Hotspots are local WiFi wireless Internet network connections that allow subscribers to surf the Internet via personal computers equipped with a wireless Internet card.
    Israel has about 800 sites that provide wireless Internet services to mobile computer owners. Every year the number of hotspots in Israel doubles, with new spots added every day, offering visitors Internet surfing services either for a fee or free of charge.
  • Fast food restaurants and coffee bar chains offer free WiFi services at their branches throughout the country. Hotels have made WiFi connections a standard feature for the benefit of their guests, and over 100 hotels and guest houses already provide this service.
    Another 100 or so hotspots are located in convenient stores beside gas stations, and even more WiFi areas can be found at universities, colleges, museums, visitors' centers, convention halls, marinas, tourism sites and shopping malls.

    Food & Wine

    Restaurants

  • Most restaurants and food stalls are open non-stop from the morning until the evening hours.
  • Restaurants that are also bars remain open until the small hours of the night. In the major cities, especially in Tel Aviv, you can find something to eat at any hour of the day or night.
  • Reservations are a must at the top restaurants – particularly in Tel Aviv. A great deal for tourists are the Business Lunches at restaurants – particularly the top-rated places – in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. These lunches are special ‘prix fixe’ menus with several choices – at prices a third or half of the same meal in the evening.

  • Breakfast

  • Every hotel serves a version of the “Israeli Breakfast” – invariably a large dairy buffet of vegetables, salads, cheese, eggs, smoked fish, breads, pastries, yoghurts, cereals and fruit.

    Kosher

  • "Kosher” is the word used to describe food that is “fit” or “clean” or, in other words, prepared and served according to Judaism’s 3,000-year-old dietary laws.
  • In general, prohibits the eating of pork and shellfish, or the mixing of meat ingredients with dairy ingredients.
  • Almost every hotel in Israel is kosher, but the majority of Israeli restaurants are not kosher.

    Wine

  • For, 3,000 years, vineyards and wine have been part of the celebration of Jewish holidays and the Sabbath.
  • There are more than 200 wineries in Israel – some tiny and several selling more than 1m bottles a year.
  • Many wineries have received awards at international wine competitions.

    Health Care

  • No vaccinations are required for visitors to Israel.
  • Israel is an entirely western country with an advanced level of health care, diagnosis and medicine.Almost everyone in the health care field understands and speaks good English.
  • As for all international travel, visitors to Israel should have travel insurance that covers them in case of illness or hospitalization. Pharmacies in Israel are to be found everywhere and are very well stocked with drug store items and all the over-the-counter medicines you may need.
  • Should you become ill during your trip, your hotel front desk can arrange for a doctor to visit you in your room, and prescribe medication if necessary. In case of serious illness or injury, the emergency rooms at Israel’s hospitals are western standard and you will receive the finest medical care, at cost.

    Languages
  • Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of the State of Israel.
    All Israeli school children learn Hebrew, Arabic and English, and good English is spoken by virtually everyone in the country. Israel, a country peopled by many who have come from some 120 countries, is a multi-lingual country, with vast numbers of Israelis also speaking Russian, French, Spanish, Yiddish and dozens of other tongues.
    Almost every highway and street sign is in English as well as Hebrew and Arabic, and English language newspapers, magazine and books are available everywhere.

    Holidays 2012

     

    2012 Inclusive Dates

    Holiday

    (name in Hebrew)

    All offices are closed

    Fri – Sat, plus:

    Apr 07-13

    Passover

    (Pessach)

     

    Apr 07

    Apr 13

     

    Apr 26

    Independence Day

     

    Apr 26

     

    May 27

    Pentecost

    (Shavu’ot)

     

    May 27

     

    Sep 17-18

    Jewish New Year

    (Rosh Hashana)

     

    Sep 17-18

     

    Sep 26

    Yom Kippur

    The entire country comes

    to a stand-still on Sep 26,

    starting midday Sep 25

    Oct 01 - 08

    Tabernacles

    (Succot)

    Oct 01

    Oct 08

    Dec 09-16

    Hanukkah

    Normal activities

    Markets & Shopping

    There are countless opportunities for shopping in Israel in the shopping malls that have sprung up in the past few decades as well as in the colorful markets, annual bazaars, street malls, and shops in the large cities.  Businesses that operate under government supervision and listed with the Ministry of Tourism display the Ministry of Tourism logo and offer a variety of items such as jewelry and diamonds, carpets, women’s fashions, leather goods, artwork, ceramics, and embroidery.

    Business Hours

    Banks and offices are normally open from Sunday to Thursday between 9:00 and 17:00.
    Most stores are open from Sunday to Thursday between 9:00 in the morning and 7:00 in the evening. Stores that close for a break between 2:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon have a sign with their hours posted on the door. In some cities, stores are closed on Tuesday afternoons. Stores close at midday on Friday and open again on Sunday morning. Stores close in mid afternoon on the eve of Jewish holidays and remain closed throughout the holiday. Coffee houses and restaurants that do not serve kosher food usually remain open on Saturdays and Jewish holidays.Moslem-owned businesses usually close on Fridays, which is the Sabbath day for the Moslem community, and Christian-owned businesses are closed on Sundays.

    Value Added Tax (VAT)

    VAT of 16% is added to all sales and services and is included in the price. All purchases and services in the city of Eilat are exempt from VAT. Tourists are exempt of VAT at all hotels of residence.

    VAT Refund
    Purchases can be made in Israeli Shekels, U.S. dollars or Euros. Tourists who have purchased items with a value exceeding $100 (including VAT) in stores that are registered with the Ministry of Tourism or in stores participating in the VAT-refund plan, are entitled to a refund of VAT when they leave the country. Stores that offer VAT refund service have a special sign. Additional information about VAT refunds is available on the "Change place Financial Servises" website: http://www.cpl.co.il/English/index.asp or at telephone 03-975-4020.

    Sabbath

    Shabbat, or Saturday, is the Jewish holy day of the week. Shabbat starts on Friday afternoon/evening and ends on Saturday evening. All public offices in Israel are closed on Shabbat, as are most private businesses such as stores. In most cities, public transportation does not operate. In mainly secular cities, like Tel Aviv, a lot of the restaurants and cafes are open but throughout the country many restaurants are closed. Radio and TV broadcasts operate as usual.

    The Kibbutz

    Israel’s kibbutz communities, nestled in its most scenic and fertile landscapes, are one of its best-known Israeli “products,” representing a unique, rural way of life whose historic hallmark is sharing. The kibbutz movement began around the turn of the 20th century when groups of young pioneers from Eastern Europe decided to combine their commitment to egalitarianism and their love of nature and working the land with their Zionist creed.

    Today there are approximately 270 kibbutzim throughout the country. Interestingly, as famous as the kibbutz movement is, only about 1.5% of Israel’s population has chosen this way of life, making it an even more special phenomenon you’ll want to learn more about when you visit.

    Since all kibbutzim began as farms, they are located in Israel’s most beautiful regions. That makes them an alluring destination for visitors, and many operate hotels and/or bed-and-breakfast facilities, craft shops, galleries and other attractions and tourist services. In fact, visitors who want both to meet these unusual folks and enjoy their hospitality can plan their entire Israel trip staying overnight only at a Kibbutz.

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