Safety in Israel
In the past, questions regarding safety are usually some of the first we are asked by prospective travelers to Israel. However, in recent years that question is hardly ever asked. To our knowledge, even during the terror attacks in 2002 and 2003, NO tourists were ever killed or harmed. For over 10 years, Israel has been extremely busy with all types of tourism. Christian tourism numbers, and all types of tourism records have been broken every year. Tour members tell us that they feel absolutely safe in Israel, and in fact, don’t even think about safety issues during the tour.
Israel is known for what most consider 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 there is really like. Tourism is one of Israel’s top 3 industries and Jews, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinians alike depend on and benefit from the millions of tourists visiting Israel every year. Over 4 million tourists visited Israel in 2019, (that is a large number for such a small country), and to the best of our knowledge, NONE were harmed in any way.
The Israel Government would never encourage tourists to come if it was felt they would be in danger. If any situation should develop, our guides and drivers would know about it almost immediately, and would take appropriate action to avoid it. After taking untold thousands of tour members to Israel over 60 years, EHT has never had even one person harmed by violence.
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 excellent and cost effective coverage can be obtained.
Special meals, for health reasons or dietary considerations, 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 are not easily replaced abroad.
Your physical condition…The itineraries of most tours do not require strenuous hiking or climbing, but most tours 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 a regular program of walking well before their tour. Most of the sites along the tour will be handicap accessible, however some are not. We always attempt 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 be with them and assist them at all times. These conditions MUST be stated on the tour application.
Water…Especially in hot weather and even in cooler weather, it is very important to drink a lot of water while touring. 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 and elsewhere.
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. It is fine of course, if some individuals 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 excellent since laundry service at hotels is quite expensive and hotels do not have do-it-yourself laundry facilities.
Modest clothing for visits to certain religious sites. For men this means shorts that reach to or below the knee, and 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 (water) 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. Even in the summer, Jerusalem can be moderately cool at night due to it’s 2500 feet elevation. Winters in Israel can range from mild with daytime highs in the 60’s or even 70’s to night-time lows in the 30’s or 40’s. So during winter months, be prepared with a heavier jacket/coat and other warm clothes, and 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.
- 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 of picture page (see below for more information)
- Camera or smart phone camera
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. In the event your group comprises more than one coach, your luggage tag and badge are color-coded to the sign on the front of your coach. 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 would be lost. This would not replace your passport but would aid in obtaining another one.
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. Most of our motor coaches, and many hotels and restaurants offer free WiFi.
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 plug, while other small appliances such as flat irons, hair dryers, etc., will require a converter in addition to the adapter plug.
The currency in Israel is the New Israeli Shekel known as NIS. The rate v. the U.S. Dollar varies but currently has been approximately 3.4 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 U.S. dollars in 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 where you will be when 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 EHT has billed an itemized amount for gratuities as part of the overall tour cost. During the tour, our representative or the tour host distributes various amounts in envelopes to the dining/wait staff and bellmen at each hotel, and to the guide and driver at the end of the tour. This means passengers do not have to worry about constant tipping, and who, when, or how much to tip. (Of course 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…this results in better service from the hotels, and we are able to use the top guides and drivers in Israel. Most of their income is from the tips they receive, so we DO NOT just “pass the hat” at the end of the tour. Doing that leaves these professionals who have served us so well at the “mercy” of whatever some may have left to give or whatever some may wish to give. Note: Some tour companies still practice the “pass the hat” method, and that is why the best guides and drivers do not work with these companies.
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 will not be allowed to leave the U.S. for any destination that requires this. We recommend that you keep at least one photocopy of your passport’s picture page in your purse or wallet to expedite replacement if it should ever be lost.
A visa is not required for U.S. or Canadian citizens/passport holders traveling to Israel. A 90-day tourist visa is given free of charge at Passport Control upon entry to Israel. Citizens of other countries must check their government travel websites for requirements. If you plan to travel to Jordan before, during 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 total responsibility of the passenger.
We advise our travelers of the weight and baggage allowances for the airline they will be flying. However, if there is any question we cannot answer, please check with your airline carrier for how many bags you’re allowed to bring, and size and weight restrictions. For main cabin passengers, most airlines allow only 1 checked and 1 carry-on in addition to a handbag or purse.
Most regular size motor coaches hold a maximum of 50-53 passengers. There are smaller versions holding approximately 35, and for smaller groups there are large touring vans holding up to 18. For passenger comfort, we always attempt to keep capacities well under the maximum, 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. Overhead space is only large enough for a purse or jacket. We STRONGLY recommend that passengers bring only one large (NOT EXTRA LARGE) suitcase. Very important: In the event that an extra vehicle is required to accommodate and transport the luggage of a group, 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 at the airport 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 the name of your tour company…Ed Hill Tours or you may be asked for information about your itinerary. 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 and there is usually no need to show it until departure. You may keep your passport in the safe in each hotel as it is almost never needed during the tour. If it is, you will be informed by the guide. Remember to take your passport when checking out of each hotel.
Airport departure: Proceed to the baggage claim area where an EHT representative, holding a sign with your group name, will meet and assist the group. After collecting your luggage you will be led as a group into the main Arrivals Hall where you will meet your guide who will greet the group and lead the group to your waiting motor coach.
Israeli Customs & Culture
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 – most notably Jerusalem – stores, most restaurants, city buses, many tourist sites, etc., begin shutting down early on Friday afternoon in preparation for Shabbat, and remain closed until after Shabbat ends on Saturday evening. It is a very peaceful and calm day which most Israelis spend at home with family or at a synagogue, yet it can also be difficult for tourists on their own who might want to get out and do things. Even in Jerusalem, there are still certain sites and places that are open, but mostly in the Old City.
For a list of Israel’s holidays and dates please see https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/israel/
Most sites and public places in Israel are modern and clean, including most restrooms. Restrooms are usually labeled WC, which stands for Water Closet, a European term. In Hebrew the word for restroom is sheroteem…in Arabic it’s hamam. Be prepared that most 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.
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 meat and dairy dishes in kosher restaurants. You will also want to be sure to try Israel’s national sandwich, the falafel, as well as shwarma, pita bread and hummus, and the large Arab sesame bagel with the spice za’atar.
Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of Israel, however English is taught in Israeli schools and is widely spoken especially among younger Israelis or those in the tourism industry. 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!
|Hello, good-bye or peace||Shalom|
|Good morning||Boker tov|
|Good evening||Erev tov|
|Thank you (very much)||Toda (raba)|
|Excuse me/I’m sorry||Slicha|
|What is your name? (male/female)||Ech korim lecha/lach?|
|My name is…||Shmi…|
|How are you? (male/female)||Ma shlomcha/shlomech?|
|Good morning||Sabah el kheer|
|Good evening!||Masaa el kheer|
|How are you? (male/female)||Keefak/Keefek|
|Good, thank you||Tamam, shokran|
|Thank you (very much)||Shokran (katir)|
|You’re welcome! (for “thank you”)||Al’afw|
|What is your name?||Shu ismak/ismek (female)|