Getting to know Israel

Safety in Israel

Safety is usually one of the first questions and concerns for travelers to Israel. However, at the end of a tour – without exception – tour members tell us that they felt absolutely safe in Israel, and hadn’t even thought about any safety issues while on the tour.

The media seems to concentrate on Israel and the Middle East more than any other area on earth, and much of the media coverage is slanted and exaggerates any situation that occurs. Israel has possibly the finest security in the world, and ELAL Israel Airlines is known as the most secure airline in the world. When tourists and pilgrims visit Israel most realize first-hand how inaccurately the media portrays what life is really like there. Tourism is one of Israel’s top 3 industries for both Jews and Palestinians, and several million tourists and pilgrims visit Israel every year without any being harmed in any way.

The Israel Government Tourist Office would never encourage tourists to come if it was felt they would be in danger. If any situation would develop, our guides and drivers know about it immediately, and take appropriate action to avoid it. After taking untold thousands of tour members to Israel over 55 years, we have never had even one person harmed in any way.

General Travel Advice

Travel insurance is highly recommended for medical coverage, baggage, and trip cancellation. EHT does not sell travel insurance but we will make information available where very good and cost effective coverage can be obtained.

Special meals, for health reasons, may be available upon request.

Medications should be packed in your carry-on, not your checked luggage. Most basic over the counter medications can be purchased in Israel, but pack prescription medications where they may be accessed when needed. If lost, prescription medications may not be easily replaced anywhere abroad.

Your physical condition…Most tours do not require strenuous hiking or climbing, but do require quite a bit of walking. So we recommend that prospective tour members check with their doctor if they have any health issues. We also advise that tour members begin an exercise program of walking regularly well before their tour. Most of the sites along the tour will be handicap accessible, however some are not. We always do our best to accommodate anyone who is physically challenged. However we REQUIRE that anyone needing a wheelchair, or who is incapable of walking unassisted, MUST have a person traveling with them who is responsible to assist them at all times. This must be stated on the tour application.

Water…it is very important to drink a lot of water while touring, even in cooler weather. It is easy to become dehydrated and that can be a very serious matter. Tap water is safe to drink everywhere in Israel and bottled drinking water is available on the bus.

What to Pack

Casual clothing that travels well is the rule in Israel. There is almost never a need for a suit or even a sport jacket. Of course some individuals may wish to wear one in the evening, especially in cooler weather. But for touring, bring travel clothes that you do not mind getting dusty/dirty. Wash and wear items are great.

Modest clothing for visits to certain religious sites. For men this means shorts that reach to or below the knee, or at some sites, men must wear pants. For women this means skirts or pants that reach below the knee (a skirt or a wrap that can be easily worn over clothes is a good solution), and shirts/blouses covering shoulders for both men and women (a light scarf is a great idea for women to throw over the shoulders). Your guide will always inform the group the day before regarding upcoming visits to holy sites and their dress requirements.

Sturdy, comfortable shoes for walking/hiking. You may want closed water shoes if your tour visits Hezekiah’s Tunnels or the Dead Sea. Please do not bring a brand new pair of any type of shoes…break them in before your tour.

A light casual jacket as it can be cool in the mornings and evenings during the spring and fall, and even in the summer, Jerusalem can be somewhat cool at night due to it’s 2500 feet elevation. In the winter you will need a heavier jacket/coat and other warm clothes, and be prepared for the possibility of rain with an all-weather jacket/raincoat, water-resistant shoes, and umbrella.

We’ve provided a checklist and information below to help you pack for your exceptional travel experience in the Holy Land. Spring and fall in Israel are beautiful and daytime temps in most areas are typically in the 70’s & 80’s. Summers are hot with daytime temps in the 90s and above, and it can be quite humid along the coast or near the Sea of Galilee.

Packing Checklist

  • Bible, notebook, pen
  • Casual clothes (trousers/pants, jeans, shorts, T-shirts, collared shirts or blouses)
  • Light sweater or jacket
  • Bathing suit and a cover-up or wrap
  • Light rain coat and/or compact umbrella (the rainy season is from mid-November to early April.)
  • Comfortable walking shoes or sandals with rubber soles
  • Hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen
  • Toiletries (in a sealed, clear plastic bag inside your carry-on luggage)
  • Minor First Aid care items (Band-Aids, pain medication, hand sanitizer, etc.)
  • Medications (packed in carry-on in their original containers)
  • Hair dryer, convertor from 220 to 110, adapter plug(s) for Europe/Middle East
  • Small bag or backpack
  • Passport with separate photocopy (see below for more information)
  • Camera (or use smart phone camera)

Packing Tips

Make certain your suitcase closes and fastens securely. In addition to your personal luggage tags, please use our color-coded luggage tags to write your name and address clearly. This easily identifies you during the tour as a member of an EHT group and a member of your particular group. We recommend that you put identification information (name, address and phone number) INSIDE your luggage in case the luggage tags on the outside are lost in transit. It is also suggested that you keep your essential toiletries and a one day change of clothes with you in your carry-on. Do not pack your passport or travel documents in your luggage. It is suggested that you keep a color copy of the information page of your passport inside your luggage in the event that your passport is lost.

Ed Hill Tours supplies every tour member with a cap and a tour packet with a map and journal.

Cellphones & Electronic Appliances

Cell Phone usage

There are places to buy pre-paid phone cards in Israel, or check with your cell phone provider for international plans before coming.

It is advised to set your phone to airplane mode when leaving your country until you arrive back in your country, so you will not receive any unexpected charges on your phone while abroad. You have the option to set your phone on “WiFi” while in Israel, and you can use the WiFi on most buses, in the hotels, and in many restaurants.

Electronic Appliances

Israel uses 220 volts AC, single phase, 50 Hertz. Most of the hotels have hair dryers and 110/220 electric shaver sockets which takes shavers from either voltage. Most cell phones, computers, IPads, and cameras only require a small adapter, while other small appliances such as flat irons, hair dryers, etc… will require a converter in addition to the adapter.

Money

Currency Exchange

The currency in Israel is the New Israeli Shekel known as NIS. The rate v. the U.S. Dollar varies of course, but currently has been slightly less than 4 NIS to 1 USD. Most shops and restaurants accept dollars, however once away from tourist areas, most businesses prefer shekels. So we recommend changing at least a small amount of dollars to shekels upon or shortly after arrival. It is also good to have a supply of singles for small items. There are ATMs in many areas, but most do not dispense dollars, and it may not be easy to find any ATM depending on where you are on the tour each day. We also recommend that you notify your bank or credit card company that you will be abroad so your credit card will not be blocked when you attempt to use it in a foreign country.

Tipping for guide, driver and hotel staffs

For many years Ed Hill Tours has itemized and billed an amount for gratuities which is included in the total tour cost. During the tour, our representative or the tour host distributes a portion of this amount in envelopes to the dining/wait staff, bellmen, and to the guide and driver at the end of the tour. This means passengers do not have to worry about constant tipping, or who to tip. (It is always fine to tip anyone who has given excellent or special service.) We believe in taking good care of those who serve us, and this always results in better service for the group. We use the finest guides and drivers in Israel, but most of their income is from their tips. So we never “pass the hat” at the end of the tour when many would have little left to give. We never want to be guilty of cheating these excellent people who serve us so well. Some tour companies still practice the “pass the hat” method, but that is why they are unable to use top guides and drivers.

Visas & Passports

To enter Israel, you must have a passport that is valid for a minimum of 6 months from the return date of the tour. If your passport is not valid for at least that minimum, you may not be allowed to leave the U.S. We recommend that you keep at least one photocopy of your passport in your purse or wallet to facilitate replacement if it should ever be lost.

A visa is not required for U.S. or Canadian citizens traveling to Israel. A 90-day tourist visa is given free at Passport Control at Ben Gurion Airport upon entry to Israel. Citizens of other countries must check their government travel websites for requirements. If you plan to travel to Jordan before or after your tour of Israel, a visa is required at a cost that will vary depending on the length of your stay in Jordan. We are always available to answer any questions, however, acquiring passports and visas is the obligation of the passenger.

Baggage

For baggage allowances, please check with your airline carrier for how many bags you’re allowed to bring, and size and weight restrictions. Most airlines allow only 1 checked and 1 carry-on in addition to a handbag or purse.

Most coaches hold a maximum of 50-53 passengers. We attempt to keep capacities under that, but if a coach does become full or nearly full, the storage space under the coach will only hold one piece of luggage per passenger, and overhead space is large enough for only a purse or a jacket. We strongly recommend that passengers bring only one larger suitcase, and in the event that an extra vehicle is required to accommodate and transport luggage, that cost will be passed along to all tour members.

Be prepared for a security check for all of your luggage at both the departure airport and in Israel before your return flight.

It doesn’t happen often, but luggage can be misplaced or delayed by airlines, so it is recommended that essential items of clothing and hygiene for 1-2 days be packed in your carry-on. Dinner and breakfast will be provided on the international flight, but you may wish to pack some of your favorite snacks for the flight.

Entering Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport

Passport Control: When asked, you can inform the immigration officer that you are coming for a Christian tour of Israel. You may need to give them Ed Hill Tours name. You will receive your tourist visa in the form of a small card. Please be sure to keep it tucked away in your passport throughout your entire time in Israel.

Proceed to the baggage claim area where an Ed Hill Tours representative holding a sign with your group name, will meet and assist you. After collecting your luggage you will be led as a group into the main Arrivals Hall where you will meet your guide. The guide will then lead the group to your waiting motor coach.

Israeli Customs & Culture

Shabbat

Shabbat or the Sabbath (day of rest) is the holiest day of the week in Israel. It begins at sundown on Friday evening and ends at sun-down on Saturday evening. In most cities throughout the country many things shut down for Shabbat (buses, restaurants, stores, sites, etc…). It is very peaceful and calm, yet it can also be difficult for tourists on their own who might want to get out and do things. There are still certain sites and places that are open however.

Israel Holidays

For a list of Israel’s holidays and dates please see https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/israel/

Facilities-restrooms

Most sites and public places in Israel are modern and clean, including most restrooms. Restrooms are usually called a WC, which stands for Water Closet, a European term. Some restrooms at churches or holy sites charge a fee of 1 or 2 shekels. You may want to carry a small pack of tissues or wipes with you.

Food

The food is usually one of the top things that tourists enjoy about Israel. Hotels in Israel are well-known for their extensive Israeli buffet breakfasts and dinners – fresh fruit and vegetables are plentiful in Israel. Most hotels in Israel are kosher and EHT includes information in our tour packets about kosher food, and the separation of dairy and meat dishes in kosher restaurants. You will also want to be sure to try Israel’s national sandwich, the falafel, as well as shawarma, pita bread and hummus, and the Arab sesame bagel with the spice za’atar.

Languages

Hebrew is the main language of Israel, however English and Arabic are also widely spoken. Many stores and places of business throughout the country, including the airport and most roads, have signs in all 3 languages. It is very easy to communicate in English with most people you’ll meet, as the majority of Israelis speak it, even if not fluently.

Although many people are happy to speak to you in English, it can really bring a smile to their faces when they hear foreigners trying to speak their language. Provided below are some helpful phrases in both Hebrew and Arabic should you want to give it a try!

ENGLISH HEBREW
Hello, good-bye or peace Shalom
Good morning Boker tov
Good evening Erev tov
Yes Ken
No Lo
Thank you (very much) Toda (raba)
Excuse me/I’m sorry Slicha
Please/You’re welcome Bevakasha
What is your name? (male/female) Ech korim lecha/lach?
My name is… Shmi…
How are you? (male/female) Ma shlomcha/shlomech?
Fine, OK B’seder
Toilet Sheroteem
ENGLISH ARABIC
Hi! Salam
Good morning Sabah el kheer
Good evening! Masaa el kheer
You’re welcome Ah’len
How are you? (male/female) Keefak/Keefek
Good, thank you Tamam, shokran
Yes Na’am
No La’
Thank you (very much) Shokran (katir)
You’re welcome! (for “thank you”) Al’afw
What is your name? Shu ismak/ismek (female)
Toilet Hamam