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9 Tips for Gentiles in Israel

This post is intended for the welcome Gentiles who follow IsraelandYou, but is equally valid for members of other religions as well. If you reach the end of the post and still have any questions, just send a comment to IsraelandYou and we will endeavour to send you a quick answer.

1. Israeli hotels keep kosher. That means no pork, no bacon for breakfast and it is forbidden to bring food into the hotel dining rooms. Meals are either “meat meals” or “dairy meals”. That means after a “meat meal” there is no cream in your coffee (only non-dairy substitute). If you want to have a non-kosher meal, there are plenty of non-kosher restaurants. Just ask the hotel staff or your guide.

2. The holiday of Passover means no bread in your hotel dining room. Instead you will find “matzah”, which is like a dry cracker. I am sure you have seen the famous Manischewitz Matzah in supermarkets. Some people like it. I am told that local Arabs love it and grab up all the unsold stock after Passover. You probably will be served one of those tasty dishes fried or baked made of matzah flour – usually very sweet. Try one. They’re great and full of calories.
Matzah – unleavened bread

3. On the holy Sabbath public transportation (bus and train) is closed in many sections of Israel from Friday evening till Saturday evening. However, taxis are available. Be prepared. Again you concierge know how to find transportation.

Illustrative photo of an Egged bus (Photo by Kw0/CC 3.0)
Egged bus

4. If you visit to a mosque, you must take off your shoes. If you enter  a synagogue or go the the Western Wall you must put on a hat or a “yarmulke”. If you go to a church you must take off your hat. It’s confusing but you will get used to it. Generally speaking, if you plan to visit any religious site of any denomination don’t wear shorts and women are advised to dress modestly.
Shoes at mosque

5. Be assertive. That’s good advice for anyone. Ask your tour guide to bring you meet a variety of of Israeli cultures. Israel is a regular mosaic of nationalities, cultures and religions. Although the majority of the population belong to the Jewish people, approximately 20% are Arabs, Druze, Circassians and Samaritans and others. Don’t miss them. Each has its own history, language, dress and of course – food. Check out your planned itinerary early and see what they have planned for you. Don’t be afraid to ask your tour guide questions.

6. Have your guide show you places of worship belonging to all the religions in Israel. Israel is a country of multiple, interesting and colorful religions. Along side the Jewish majority you will find Muslims, Christians and Baha’i each with their own unique architecture, design, decoration and spiritual experience.
Bahai Symbol Explained

7. Some religious denominations have different sites with the same name. For instance, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the Catholic grave of Jesus, while the Garden Tomb is considered by Protestants a possible site of the grave of Jesus. If you have a special preference tell your guide to arrange your itinerary so he can take you to the sites of your denomination.

8. Beware of tour guides with an “agenda”. Once I met  a Japanese couple at Masada whose tour guide, from East Jerusalem, never once mentioned the dramatic Jewish battle against the Romans that took place at this spot. He just took them on a cable car ride up a cliff and said, “Enjoy the view.” Listen to your guide and try to understand if he is trying to sell you his agenda.

9. Try to meet real Israelis. There are several such projects running in Israel to allow you to meet Israelis in their homes, to volunteer to work on a kibbutz, to visit an IDF army base or join an archaeological dig for a day.

Work on kibbutz
Work on kibbutz

Enjoy your stay in the Holy Land. Feel free to contact IsraelandYou if you have any questions.


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