Monthly archives "December 2012"

Packing for Israel

Packing for Israel

I don’t know about you, but I always find packing for a trip to be stressful. You don’t want to bring too much but you don’t want to bring too little. Forgetting toothpaste isn’t so bad; you can buy that anywhere. But who wants to buy another jacket when you have a perfectly good one at home?

To alleviate some of that stress, here are some items you may not realize you should be packing for Israel:

  • Cool weather attire. Even in the summer, it can get cool at night in certain parts of the country. Jerusalem and the Negev can be quite cold in the evenings. Bring a light jacket or long sleeve shirt. If you are coming in the winter, be aware that it can be really warm or really cold. You do need to bring a coat, but also have a lighter jacket handy in case you are lucky enough to be here on warmer days. Homes are not as heated as they are in the US, so a warm sweater will serve you well if you plan to visit Israeli residents.
  • A transformer. Israeli electricity runs on 220 watts like Europe does. If you are coming from the US, your 110 watt plugs will require a transformer in order to work in Israel.
  • Modest clothing. If you plan to visit holy sites such as the Western Wall, women must wear modest clothing. This means a long skirt and sleeves. Kippot are available at the Wall, but you will want one with you if you plan to visit synagogues.
  • Hiking shoes and a hat. If you plan to visit national parks and hiking trails, you will need closed, comfortable shoes. Israel is a rocky country and you can get hurt wearing sandals or Crocs. Even in the winter, it’s easy to get sunburnt or dehydrated. If you are outdoors for a significant amount of time, a hat is an absolute necessity.
  • Your favorite toiletries. Don’t expect to find the same brands you are used to at home. If you do, prices may be significantly higher than what you are used to. It’s the worth the amount of space they take up in your luggage to have all the cosmetics and toiletries you enjoy for the duration of your vacation.
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National Parks in Israel

National Parks in Israel - Einot Zukim

Einot Zukim (Ein Feshkha)

Israel is home to about 150 national parks and nature reserves. They are generally inexpensive and some are even free. Some are on sites of historical and archaeological significance and others focus on the flora and fauna of Israel. If you are traveling with children, national parks can be a great opportunity for them to run around and learn something at the same time.

Ein Gedi is a beautiful national park, with a short or long hike. The waterfalls and pools of Ein Gedi are magnificent and a great way to cool off in hot weather. Ibex inhabit the park and can be seen in an enclosure at the entrance. Not far from Ein Gedi are the national parks of Masada and Qumran, which are of great historical and archaeological significance. Children will love Einot Zukim (also called Ein Feshkha) where they can swim in a semi-natural pool of water.

Hurshat Tal in the north of Israel offers camping or bungalows for rent. It’s a great base for day trips in the Upper Galilee. A natural pool of water and water slide can entertain a family for a full day. Hurshat Tal can get very hot, so check the weather before deciding to sleep outdoors.

Castel National Park was the site of an important battle in the Israeli War of Independence. Learn about the history of the establishment of the State of Israel while walking through a maze of tunnels. There’s a pleasant picnic area in the park for eating lunch and stretching your legs.

Beit Shearim provides a fascinating look at burial caves from the time of the Mishnah. The Galilee was the center of Jewish intellectual life during this time period and Rabbi Judah the Prince made his home here for a while. There’s a small tunnel children will get a kick out of crawling through.

This is of course only a small sampling of Israel’s national parks. For a full list of parks and information about each one, see the Nature and Parks Authority website.

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Do You Need a Phone in Israel?

Israel Cell Phone RentalWhen cell phones first became popular, most people still managed without a phone on vacation. Phone booths were still prevalent and we were all a bit less dependent on our phones. But these days, it is really difficult to be without a phone even for a week. Making arrangements to meet friends and family is so much easier when you have a cellphone. And when you are standing in front of the restaurant wondering whether they are late or you are in the wrong place, a cellphone can be a lifeline.

Calling ahead to places you plan to visit is also much easier when you have a phone handy. Instead of waiting till you get back to your hotel and all the offices are closed, make your phone calls in a lull between activities.

If you are traveling with your spouse and/or adult children, you will want the option to split up and meet up again easily. Coordinating this without a phone will lead to much frustration.

When you’re in a foreign country, you need much more information than you do at home. Directions, opening hours and recommendations are at your fingertips with a smartphone or a phone call away with a regular phone.

And of course, if you need to stay connected to your workplace while you are away, you will want access to your e-mail. A computer can only be used in certain places and hotels generally charge for wi-fi, so keeping in touch with a smartphone is an excellent option. If you are active on social networks or want to use GPS while driving, you will certainly need a phone.

Click here for more information on renting a cell phone in Israel.

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