Yes. Traveling within Israel proper is very safe. Security personnel in Israel are present everywhere, from public bathrooms to train stations and cafes. Like any foreign country, however, tourist should take precautions to protect their valuables and money. For information from the United States State Department on Travel Advisories for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, visit this website, http://travel.state.gov.
Truth be told, there is no bad time of year to visit Israel! Travel trends tell us that high season is from April (or right before Passover) until about October (or right after Sukkot). Low season is from November until March, during Israel's mild winter. Remember, it can rain a bit in central Israel during December/January (sometimes it even snows in Jerusalem). On the other hand, during peak summer months, temperatures can reach well over 100° F, especially in the Negev and Arava desserts, and central and northern Israel can be quite humid. If cost is an issue, visiting during low season can save you hundreds of dollars on both airfare and hotel costs.
To help you make this decision, take into account the following factors:
- Do I want to organize the details or do I want someone to do it for me? Things to think about: flights, hotels/home-stays, tourist sites and entrance fees, ground transportation, meals, knowledge of the Hebrew language, familiarity with Israel's geography, etc.
- Am I going with my family/spouse/partner?
- Is my congregation offering a trip to Israel soon? If not, suggest it to your Rabbi!
If you need more help in deciding, call or email ARZA to talk to a member of our staff about your travel needs. ARZA is happy to shed some light on the Israel trip process, and can give you great ideas, tips and tricks for your trip.
- First, you should take a look at the materials available to you from ARZA on this website, especially the Quick Guide to Making an Israel Trip. Next, you should begin to dream up your perfect trip and write down answers to the following basis questions:
- What are the anticipated dates for the trip?
- How much can each traveler spend for this trip?
- What are some places in Israel I/we must visit?
When you contact a tour operator or travel agency about putting together the trip, tell them these answers as they will affect your options. For help in finding a tour operator, or places of Reform Jewish interest in Israel, visit the Other Resources page on this site.
Typically, travelers spend between 9-14 days in Israel on a standard tour. It is important to take into consideration flight duration, as you loose about 1.5 days to traveling. The decision to visit for a longer (or shorter) period of time is an individual choice based on cost of travel, days missed from work, et al. One thing rings true no matter how long you stay - it was never long enough and you will want to go again as soon as you return home...
To participate in a group tour, expect to spend around $3500. This likely includes airfare, room and board, and entrance fees to sites. Packages can be more or less expensive depending on the level of accommodations and cost of the flights to/from Israel. Some trips offer a ground-only cost that is very attractive (from $1000-$1500), and you will be responsible for purchasing your own tickets. Keep in mind that while you can find flights with connections in Europe for under $1000, a direct flight can cost upwards of $1600 during peak periods.
Yes! English is widely spoken in Israel and most signs are written in Hebrew, English and Arabic. Additionally, Israelis are anxious to practice speaking English with anyone who'll listen, so if someone doesn't understand your request, the person next to him/her probably will. Basic Hebrew phrases for traveling can be found in any guidebook on Israel.
The simple answer is yes. For a more nuanced answer, continue reading. Reform Judaism as it is understood in North America is not widely known in Israel, but the Israeli Reform Movement, the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, is working to change this and expose more Israelis to the values of Reform and Progressive Judaism.
In Israel, while the majority of Israeli Jews consider themselves cheloni (secular), the rest are divided up by masorti (traditional), and dati (religious). You may witness tensions between the different communities as they work to promote their values for the Jewish state, but as a tourist you will not likely be affected in your daily travels. In the majority of instances you will be welcomed with open arms, regardless of your religious affiliation.
Yes, the food is safe and delicious! You can drink from the tap in Israel, but most people prefer the taste of bottled water. Also, Israelis pride themselves on the freshness of their produce and the diversity of the food grown in the land, so expect to eat a plethora of tasty salads and fruit. And don't even get us started on the dairy...mmm!
If you have special dietary needs (Celiac or wheat/dairy/egg/soy allergies or intollerances), you should tell your tour organizer so that he/she can request special meals from any hotels and restaurants in which you might eat. Also, as a precaution, tell your waiter your needs before you order. A good back up plan for meals includes a trip to the local supermarket. Just like in North America, most packaged food is marked with ingredients and allergy information, if it's not in English ask someone to help you translate.
Have a Great Journey!