Israel has two basic seasons: the dry season lasts from April to October and the sometimes rainy winter months are from November to March. Israel’s climate is often compared to the temperate climate of Southern California.
In Tiberias, Tel Aviv and the Dead Sea area, the winters are generally mild. The Dead Sea area averages only 2 to 4 inches of rain per year, compared with Jerusalem, only a distance of one half hour by bus, which averages 25 inches annually. Hilly regions such as Jerusalem, Safed (Tzfat) and the Golan Heights are cooler with more rainfall and sometimes even snow in winter.
During the winter season, after a storm clears the dust in the air, visibility is often excellent and the air invigorating. If you are a photography buff, you will catch the best panoramic photos in the winter. And the wildflowers are brilliant and omnipresent during the months of February and March.
For the winter months, it’s recommended to dress “like an onion,” that is in layers you can peel on and off as you travel from region to region, within even a short distance. On the same day you depart from Jerusalem where it is windy and cold (perhaps even 7C you may later be floating in the Dead Sea with outside temperatures in the 21C.
During the months of April, May and September, periodic oppressively hot dry winds (called hamsin) will send temperatures soaring for a few days until the mild, pleasant weather returns.
The summer months will be hot and humid by the coastal plain and around the Sea of Galilee. In Jerusalem and the Galilee hills, it will be hot and dry, although sometimes a bit chilly in the evenings.
During the summer months, don’t forget to bring along a layer of „modest dress” to cover your knees and shoulders when you visit religious sites.
Swimming is possible from April through October along the Mediterranean coast and the Sea of Galilee and throughout the year at the Dead Sea and the Red Sea.
Practical Tips for Travelers
Appropriate Dress in Israel is casual and comfortable. For the holy places, even in the summer, one must cover his or her knees (i.e. no shorts) and upper arms (i.e. no sleeveless, particularly for women). If you want to dress in shorts and/or sleeveless, always have a “modest” alternative to cover yourself when necessary. Hats are essential from April through September. Don’t forget sunglasses!
Banks are generally open from Sunday to Thursday between 8.30 a.m. and 12.30 p.m. and on Sundays, Tuesday and Thursdays between 4 p.m. and 6.00 p.m. Most of the city banks have ATM machines where you can withdraw cash. Usually the cash is in Israeli shekels, not US dollars.
Credit Cards and Cash
Credit cards can be used for major shopping items and at some lunch cafeteria places. Cash (US dollars) is very useful – very often you can reduce the price of a souvenir by paying cash. It’s worthwhile to bring a stash of $1 bills to stick in your pocket for buying small items from the Jerusalem street vendors. If you open your wallet next to a peddler, you are in danger of losing both your credit cards and your cash.
The national unit of currency is the shekel (New Israeli Shekel, abbreviated NIS) which is divided into 100 agorot. Notes are in denominations of 20, 50, 100 and 200 shekels. Shekel coins are 10, 5, 1, 2,and one half. Agorot coins are 10 and 5. You can use US dollars nearly everywhere (except neighborhood grocery stores and local buses), but more often than not, you will receive change in shekels.
Don’t Lose your Passport!
If you do, you will need to go to your consulate or embassy (which closes on the weekends). It’s a very big hassle, so keep your passport in a safe place on your person, or locked in your hotel safe.
The Israeli power supply is single phase 220 volts at 50 Hertz. Most power sockets in Israel have three pin holes, but many of them will work with double-pin European plugs. Many 4-star (and all 5-star) hotels provide hairdryers and most rooms have 110/220 shaver sockets (to be used for shavers only). Visitors who want to use traveling irons and other small appliances may need both transformers and adaptor plugs. If you need a transformer or adaptor, ask the hotel desk whether they have them on hand.
Floating in the Dead Sea
Floating in the Dead Sea is not to be missed, no matter what season you come. Be sure to bring a bathing suit and water shoes. If you bring a newspaper and your camera, then a friend can photograph you bobbing like a cork as you read the newspaper.
Gifts are a lot of fun to shop for and great mementos of the tour. Jerusalem and Bethlehem specialize in olive wood figures, and leather gifts. The Dead Sea area boasts the world-famous Ahava /Mineral Care etc. moisturizers and mud – guaranteed to keep you young-looking!! Both in the Galilee and in Jerusalem you can find unique-looking jewelry with your favorite Bible verses or decorated with ancient Roman glass. Throughout Israel you will find beautiful works of art and hand-made jewelry.
Be sure that you have health insurance coverage. Should the need arise, ask your guide to help you make contact with a clinic or doctor. Most major hotels have a doctor on call. Magen David Adom (the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross) provides 24-hour emergency medical service in most of the urban centers. Magen David Adom also provides ambulance service to the nearest emergency room.
Be sure you bring all the medicines you need with you. As a precaution, carry the generic names of your medications with you because pharmaceutical companies overseas may use different names from those in your own country.
During the summer, especially, it is important to drink lots of water. Although tap water in Israel is of good quality and safe to drink, you may not be used to the high mineral content. Bottled natural spring water is available everywhere and the main point is to drink!
Many of the hotels provide internet stations for a fee. Some provide wireless for free and others for a fee. There are also Internet Cafes in the major cities.
What to be Sure to Pack
Passport. Your passport should be valid for at least six months past your scheduled return date. Photocopy your passport’s identification page and keep it separate from the original.
1. Airline tickets and photo identification.
2. Travel and health insurance papers.
3. Over-the-counter and prescription medications in their original containers. Bring the generic names of your medications.
4. Sunglasses and a hat.
5. Camera, lots of film or digital memory, extra batteries, battery charger.
6. Comfortable walking shoes.
7. Bathing suit for a swim in the Sea and Dead Sea float.
8. Sweater or light jacket (heavier windbreaker in winter months).
9. Modest dress, covering the legs to below the knee, as well as the shoulders, for both sexes.
10. Credit card and cash.
11. An empty duffle bag to pack your souvenirs and gifts to bring home.