More than 605,000 U.S. citizens visited Israel in 2010, representing 21.6 per cent of the country’s tourists. If you’re planning to visitors Israel, pack appropriate clothing to wear during your stay. Many parts of Israel, including the cities of Tel Aviv, Haifa and Eliat, are very westernized, meaning that no specific rules apply on how you should dress. However, in parts of Jerusalem and in religious places, you should dress modestly.
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Neighborhoods
Some Israeli cities house neighborhoods with strong ultra-Orthodox beliefs. Meah She’arim in West Jerusalem is an example. If you plan to visit one of these neighborhoods, ensure you are dressed appropriately. For men, this means not wearing shorts, but for women the list of requirements is longer. Female travelers should avoid wearing trousers or jeans – select a long skirt, ideally well below the knee, and a blouse that covers your shoulders and upper arms. The U.S. State Department warns that people failing to dress appropriately in these neighborhoods may be assaulted, stoned or spat on.
The West Bank, Old Jerusalem and East Jerusalem are all societies dominated by an Arabic value system. Again, this has an impact on the styles of dress considered appropriate. Never wear shorts or an outfit that leaves your midriff bare – in Arabic society this is considered unacceptable. Women traveling alone should only visit these areas with a companion, ideally male, because cultural values are such that Muslim women rarely go out by themselves.
It’s always wise to dress modestly if you plan to visit religious sites, whether they are Christian, Jewish or Islamic. Both men and women should avoid wearing shorts or tops with short sleeves or that leave the midriff exposed. At Jewish places of worship, men should keep their heads covered, but no hat or head covering is needed in a Christian church. If you are in doubt, ask before entering the building.
Political tensions in Israel are rarely far below the surface, leading the State Department to warn U.S. citizens of the potential dangers of visiting the country. U.S. citizens have been specifically targeted by terrorists in some instances, so its wise to dress in a way that doesn't make you stand out. Avoid wearing American sports jerseys or items carrying symbols like the stars and stripes. More generally, as a U.S. citizen, you should not attempt to travel to the Gaza Strip and should exercise caution throughout Israel and in the West Bank area.