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The Israeli Week
Israel is slowly moving into five day work weeks – Sunday-Thursday. Commercial enterprises are open in Israel from Sunday to Friday. Friday is the Sabbath eve, and by 14:00 almost every store, museum, tourist site and kosher restaurant has shut down. The main exceptions are National Parks and Nature Reserves – the kind that charge an entrance fee. They stay open until later in the afternoon.
Nature and Recreation
The Jewish National Fund has developed hundreds of marvelous trails and recreation areas that are absolutely free and many of the paths are wheelchair accessible. For information when in Israel call the hotline (see handy phone numbers). It operates seven days a week. Nature Reserves and National Parks are supervised by the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority (INNPPA).
Media: English-language newspapers: The Jerusalem Post comes out daily. So does an English translation of Ha’aretz. Both are on-line:http://www.jpost.com andhttp://www.haaretz.com. News is broadcast in English on several television channels (Israel Channel One, Middle East and Israel Channel 33) and on the radio (1458 A.M and in Jerusalem and the central region on 88.2 FM)). Times change frequently, and you should check your newspaper for information.
Israeli money is called shekels, and there are 100 agorot to a shekel. There are shekel coins, new two-shekel coins, five shekel coins, strange 10-shekel coins, 20, 50, 100 and 200 shekel bills. You can exchange money and travelers’ checks at banks or at your hotel, but you may prefer to change your money at a major Post Office and you will not be charged commission.
If you are driving a car, note that speed limits between cities are usually 80-100 kph. There are occasional changes, so watch the signs. During the period from November 1 to March 31, the law requires you to drive with headlights turned on while operating a vehicle outside of city limits.
Transportation from Ben Gurion Airport
Public transportation: Buses, shared public taxis and private taxis
a) Buses: Israel has first-rate, inexpensive public transportation. You don’t need exact change to purchase a ticket on the bus. Almost all inter-city buses in Israel belong to a company called Egged. Inside Tel Aviv the buses belong to the Dan Company.
Transportation from Ben Gurion Airport:
Buses, taxis and trains. Egged buses run until late Friday afternoon and on Saturday evening to many cities in Israel
http://www.egged.co.il/Eng You can also call: see handy phone numbers.
Trains do not run to Jerusalem from the airport but do go to many other venues
http://www.israrail.org.il/english There are private taxis and shared public taxis available seven days a week 24 hours a day at the airport.
Almost all public phones are operated with phone cards that can be bought at all post offices, at hotels, kiosks and newsstands. Information, (144) and the overseas operator (188) do not require a card. Shops and restaurants often have coin-operated phones that take only shekel coins..
For years we have suggested that you keep a roll of toilet paper in your purse or car. Fortunately, this is hardly ever necessary. In fact, many public bathrooms – including those at gas stations – are at last as clean and well-supplied as those in the USA.
Wheelchair accessible restrooms are becoming common all over Israel.
Many tourists are surprised to discover that not all restaurants and hotels in Israel – even in Jerusalem – are kosher. Even if the kitchens are kosher, if they operate on the Sabbath they can not get a kashrut certificate from the local rabbinate. Look for the sign in the window. Restaurants often include service in their price; this will be written on the menu. If it is not, the amount of the tip is up to you.
Israeli dress is extremely casual. Outside of the synagogue, and ultra-orthodox neighborhoods, you probably won’t see any men in suits. On formal occasions like weddings and Bar Mitzvas, men generally wear nice pants, a good shirt, and possibly a tie. Women wear pants’ suits, dresses, or elegant skirts and blouses. The rest of the time, almost every Israeli wears jeans!
While it is hot in summer, in the hills the afternoons and evenings cool off and you might need a very light wrap. Humidity in summer is high along the coast. In winter the weather is wonderful for traveling, usually sunny and cool, with only a few rainy days. Spring and fall weather is excellent – and the fields are full of flowers!
Weights and Measures
Israel uses the metric system. A kilometer is a .62 miles (and a mile is 5/8 of a kilometer). A kilogram equals 2.2 pounds.
Citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa do not need visas to visit Israel – just a passport that is valid for at least 6 months. The same holds true for visitors from most European countries.
Some countries have a grading system for hotels, inns, and zimmerim – rented rooms or studio apartments with or without breakfast. And if you are really lucky, you can get onto one State-run website that lists all of the officially approved lodgings.
In most cases, tipping in Israel is optional. It is not customary to tip your taxi driver inside the city.
However if you hire a driver to take you to the airport, or to another city, he/she will appreciate a tip (again, tipping is optional). So will your private or group bus driver, and your guide: it makes them feel appreciated if they have gone out of their way to be helpful and to make sure that you have a great time. Again, this is optional.