Millions of people come to Israel each year on vacation. The Middle Eastern country relies on tourism as a major part of its economy. There is much to see in Israel, including many historical and religious sites, seemingly endless museum options, archaeological sites and even sunny beaches. Although Israel does have many similarities to the United States, a place where a large portion of the tourists in Israel come from, there are still some cultural differences that require proper etiquette from outsiders. If you are planning a trip to Israel, keep in mind a couple of dos and don’ts that apply to visitors.
Do Use Local Greetings
You are not likely to offend anyone in Israel by trying to use the country's traditional greeting. Just as Americans do not take offense to visitors from other countries saying “hello,” you are welcome to use the Israeli greeting “shalom” when you visit. It will help you blend in with the locals. The literal translation of the traditional greeting is “peace,” and it is used for both hello and goodbye across Israel.
Do Ask Questions
Be curious about the places you visit. In Israel, there is a proud culture among its citizens. They enjoy talking about their country, the sites to see, the Jewish religion and even politics. You should not shy away from talking to locals about these subjects if you are in a conversation with a person who knows all about the area. There is no better way to discover the differences in Israel and your own hometown than this – and that is what you are there for.
Don’t Smoke on Saturday
Smoking is bad for your health. Most people agree on that. But those who smoke might not realize it is also considered ill manners to smoke at certain times or in certain places in Israel. Of course, you will want to observe no-smoking signs wherever you are in Israel, but keep in mind that smoking is in direct violation of the "Shabbat," a religious day observed on Saturdays in Israel. If you can refrain from smoking that day, that’s a plus. Otherwise, you should at least avoid doing it around religious places or in the presence of Orthodox Jews, who may find it offensive.
Don’t Dress Inappropriately
Dress codes are pretty simple and are common sense in Israel, but there are a few rules you might not be accustomed to. Make sure you pack conservative clothes for visiting any religious sites. Men should not wear shorts or go without shirts around these sites. When visiting Jewish shrines or memorials, it is also proper for men to cover their heads. Often there will be a complimentary yarmulke, a small skullcap, available to visitors who need to cover their heads. Women should not dress in anything that exposes bare legs or shoulders while visiting a holy site.