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Embark on a spiritual discovery in the ancient holy land

Whether you’re travelling to Israel for the history, the architecture or the culture, an enchanting myriad of discoveries await, that any traveller will find impressive for a country so small.

From the ancient city of Jerusalem to the metropolitan beach resort of Tel Aviv, and from the arid Negev desert in the south, to the Sea of Galilee in the north, Israel is a destination of stunning contrasts.

Despite its share of unrest, Israel has long been a place of pilgrimage, due to its religious roots in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Visitors have come to Israel for centuries, to look for answers and to explore the history and archaeology of this spiritual land.

Culture and history

Israel is holds historical significance in terms of Jewish and Arab religion. For Christianity, it is known as The Holy Land due to its association in the Bible, with the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of the Messiah. Jerusalem, the closest city to Judaism, is regarded the holiest city and in fact one of the oldest cities in the world.

Modern culture of Israel is predominantly Jewish, with other ethnic minorities such as Armenians, Druze and Circassians all having an influence. You will find Jewish museums, literature and art throughout the country.

Tel Aviv, situated on the metropolitan coast, is the second largest city in Israel, behind Jerusalem. It was coined the Capital of Mediterranean cool by the New York Times. Here you will find modern beach resorts, vibrant nightlife, excellent shopping and charming restaurants, serving fusion cuisine, with influences from Jewish and middle eastern cooking.

Things to do

Israel has more than enough to whet the appetite of the discerning traveller. Journey into Israel and embark upon a Holy Land Tour, or relax on the beaches of Tel Aviv and indulge in some leisurely shopping.

Jerusalem

A spiritual quest isn’t complete without a visit to the old town where you can take in Mount Zion, the setting for the last supper, and the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed afterwards. Other religious sites including the Wailing Wall, the Lithostrotos and the Mount of Olives.

Tel Aviv

Aside relaxing on one of Tel Aviv’s white sandy beaches and cooling off in the Mediterranean, visitors can explore the city’s art galleries and trendy restaurants in the old town. Perhaps take a stroll through Carmel Market or Neve Tzedek to browse the craft and antique shops and enjoy the local jazz cafes.

Bethlehem

Famous for being the birthplace of Jesus Christ, Bethlehem is a top spot on the tourist map. Here you can visit the Church of the Nativity at the top of the town, with its nave containing old crusader paintings. Pay a visit to the Milk Grotto, where the holy family hid from King Herod and perhaps to Mar Saba Monastery – a Greek Orthodox monastery. Museum lovers can head to the Old Bethlehem Museum.

Galilee

Galilee in northern Israel is a luscious green mountainous region and is home to the Sea of Galilee, a freshwater lake that was where Jesus was said to have walked on water. Here you can visit Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus delivered his sermon on the mount, or take a boat trip on the Sea of Galilee. There’s also the Golan winery to explore.

Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is at salt-lake situated at 400m below sea level – the lowest altitude on earth. It’s high salt content gives a buoyancy that allows swimmers to float. Floating on the Dead Sea is on many a visitor’s agenda as it’s a disappearing wonder. Or, for those who prefer to stay dry, perhaps take a cable car up to Masada National Park.

Flight time

The flight time from London to Tel Aviv is just under 5 hours.

Currency

Shekel -

The currency of Israel is the new shekel.

Passports and visas

Visitors to Israel must hold a passport valid for at least 6 months from their return date to the UK. You do not need a visa.

For more information, visit the GOV.UK website.

Phrases

Hello – Shalom

Good morning – Boker tov

Good afternoon – Erev tov

Please – Bevekshah

Thank you – Toda rabah

Goodbye – Lehitraot

Yes – Ken

No – Loh

Timezone

Israel is 3 hours ahead of GMT/UK time.

Electricity

The standard voltage in Israel is 240 volts. The frequency is 50Hz. The plugs are type H, a three-pin variety. You can use UK appliances in Israel, but you will need an adapter.

Language

Hebrew, Modern -

49% of the Israeli population speak Hebrew, the predominant language. This is followed by 18% Arabic, 15% Russian, 2% Yiddish, 2% French, 2% English, 2% Spanish and 10% other languages.

Tipping

Tipping in restaurants is discretionary but expected. The minimum amount is 10%, but 12% is average. Tipping is not expected in taxis.

Climate

Israel is largely subtropical. In the northern and coastal regions, it enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and cool, rainy winters. The southern and eastern regions are dry and arid. The rainy season is from October until May.

Health

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and The British Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice Unit provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad.

Israel’s healthcare system is not free, so you are advised to obtain adequate travel insurance before you travel.

Population and size

The population of Israel as of 2018 is 8.85 million.

Israel covers an area of 20,770 km2. It’s a small country compared with neighbouring countries Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria.

Smoking

Israel’s smoking laws permit smoking within designated smoking areas in public places, such as workplaces, bars, restaurants, clubs and hotels. Smoking is not permitted on public transport.