Destination Guides

Facts
Capital: Tel Aviv
Population: 7, 7 million inhabitants (Jan 2011) (75% Jewish and 20% Arab - Muslim)
Conventional Name: State of Israel 
Local Name: Medinat Yisra'el 
Chief of State: President Reaven Rivlin
Head of State: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 

Languages
Official languages are Hebrew and Arabic. English is the main language for purposes of external relations. Hebrew is the primary language of the state and is spoken by the majority of the population, and Arabic is spoken by the Arab minority. Many people communicate reasonably well in English. 

Visa - Do I need a visa to travel to Holy Land?
All visitors to Holy Land must hold a passport that is valid for at least six months from the date they enter the country. 
Citizens of the following countries will be issued tourist visas free of charge at every port or entrance terminal to country:
Europe: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany (Persons born after 1.1.28), Gibraltar, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.
Asia & Oceania: Australia, Fiji Islands, Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Philippines, South Korea
Africa: Central African Republic, Lesoto, Malawi, Mauritius, South Africa, Swaziland
The Americas: Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, St. Kitts, & Nevis, Surinam, Trinidad, & Tobago, The Bahamas, The Dominican Republic, Uruguay, U.S.A.

Currency / Exchange Rate / Banking
The State currency is shekel (pluralized as shkalim in Hebrew or shekels in English). There are 100 agorot (agora in singular) in each shekel. Bank notes are in denominations of NIS 20, 50, 100, and 200; coins are in denominations of NIS10, NIS5, NIS1 and 50, 10 and 5 agorot. Foreign currency of all kinds may be exchanged at the airport, banks, post offices, most hotels or licensed exchange agencies in large cities. A passport is required when exchanging travelers’ checks. It is recommended, though not obligatory; to carry a small amount of US dollars, since certain tourist sites, especially in the Old City of Jerusalem, take payment in dollars. Exchange rate against the US dollar is aprox. 3.4 NIS = US$1
Various banks have branches in the large cities and in smaller communities. Most banks are open from 8:30 am until 12 noon Sunday to Thursday, and 4–6pm on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. On Fridays and Jewish holiday eves, banks are open from 8:30 am until 12 noon. All banks are closed on Shabbat. Most of the large hotels have banks which often offer additional, more convenient hours.

Tipping
It is customary to tip primarily in restaurants. When the bill does not include service, a 12% tip should be added to the payment. In hotels, one tips the bellhop or any other service provider. Taxi drivers are generally not tipped.
Bargaining is acceptable, but not everywhere. In the open-air markets, do not hesitate to bargain as it is part of the experience and doing so can lower the price. Storekeepers are legally required to display prices and for the most part are not open to bargaining. This is also true of restaurants and public transportation. Passengers are advised to ask cab drivers to turn on the meter, thus avoiding unnecessary haggling.

Clock Conscious
from October through March, Holy Land is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. The rest of the year, Jordan is three hours ahead of GMT.

Business Hours
Most stores are open from Sunday to Thursday between 9:00 in the morning and 7:00 in the evening. Stores that close for a break between 2:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon have a sign with their hours posted on the door. In some cities, stores are closed on Tuesday afternoons. Stores close at midday on Friday and open again on Sunday morning. Stores close in midafternoon on the eve of Jewish holidays and remain closed throughout the holiday. Shopping centers that do not cater to the religious population are open on Saturdays and others open on Saturday night or holiday nights to accommodate moviegoers. Coffee houses and restaurants that do not serve kosher food usually remain open on Saturdays. Moslem-owned businesses usually close on Fridays, which is the Sabbath day for the Moslem community, and Christian-owned businesses are closed on Sundays.

Weather
Country enjoys long, warm, dry summers (April-October) and generally mild winters (November-March) with somewhat drier, cooler weather in hilly regions, such as Jerusalem and Safed. Rainfall is relatively heavy in the north and center of the country, with much less in the northern Negev and almost negligible amounts in the southern areas.

Health
Country is a modern, developed country with levels of health and hygiene equal to those of Western countries.  Visitors entering country are not required to undergo vaccinations prior to their arrival.

Water & Electricity
You can drink tap water. But, you will also find mineral water everywhere. It is important to make sure you drink a lot, especially when out walking and on hot days. The electric current is 220 volts AC, single phase, 50 Hertz. Most sockets are of the three-pronged variety but many can accept some European two-pronged plugs as well. 

Food
Holy Land is an ethnic melting pot of cultures, religions and immigrants. As a result, the food scene is extraordinarily diverse and also of a very high standard. 80% of population are Jews of whom more than half were born in. But most of their parents, grandparents or great grandparents came to Israel from more than 120 countries, bringing with them foods, recipes and food traditions from six continents. Also 20% of non-Jewish Israelis have their own food traditions too.
If you’d ask 30 years ago what is the country’s typical food answer would be felafel, humus, tehina, with a side order of couscous or gefilte fish. All these dishes still exist, of course;
There are two elements that make food in Israel so unique. One is location on the shores of the Mediterranean. Like all Mediterranean countries Turkey, Greece, Italy, France and Spain, cuisine reflects the warm sun, the olives that grow on our trees, the olive-oil we press, and the breads, fish and meats that have made the Mediterranean the source of what is considered by many as the world’s healthiest diet and, quite simply, the source of the best things to eat. Secondly, Israel produces the most splendid quality of fruits, vegetables and dairy products. From the legendary Jaffa oranges first exported to Europe in the 1930’s, to the kiwis, star fruit, citrus, tomatoes, peppers, flowers, yoghurts and cheeses we export today.
Typical breakfast – giant buffet of vegetables, salads, cheese, eggs, smoked fish, breads, pastries, yoghurts, cereals and fruit.
Café life is major, with sidewalk cafes throughout every city and town. They offer a varied menu of coffees, teas, cakes, sandwiches, pastries and light meals. They often sit in cafés for hours over a cup of coffee. One of the favorites is “café affuch” (“upside-down coffee”), a combination café cappuccino/café latte
Snacking - they love to eat at all hours. Felafel is considered number one street food, and it’s available everywhere. Also ubiquitous are juice stands – where oranges, grapefruits, carrots, pomegranates, grapes are squeezed to order. 
“Kosher” is an adjective (“kashrut” is the noun) used to describe food that is “fit” or “clean” or, in other words, prepared and served according to Judaism’s 3,000-year-old dietary laws.
In general, kashrut prohibits the eating of pork (Muslims proscribe pork too) and shellfish, or the mixing of meat ingredients with dairy ingredients. (It’s more complicated than that, but these are the basic nuts and bolts.)

Drinking
The water throughout is perfectly safe to drink. Bottled water (still and fizzy) is available everywhere. Fresh fruit juices are wonderful in Israel, and every kind of soft drink is available. Israeli beer is excellent too.
For, 3,000 years, vineyards and wine have been part of the celebration of Jewish holidays and the Sabbath. In the late 19th century the wine industry in Israel was given a boost by France's Baron Edmond de Rothschild and by the dawn of the 21st century the production and flavor of wine in Israel had reached the highest international levels of quality
There are more than 200 wineries in Israel – some tiny, some small, some medium, some massive – producing excellent red and white vintages and sparkling wines.