Each Friday, the Jewish holiday of Shabbat begins (from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown). Depending on where you are in the country, most stores, restaurants and public transportation shuts down. In Jerusalem for instance, you will rarely find a car on the road, and most establishments are closed. In Tel Aviv however, many restaurants and bars remain open, but the atmosphere is noticeably quieter and calmer. Across the country, public transportation stops completely during Shabbat, with the exception of the monit sherut”, a shared mini-bus service. Sheruts typically transport eight to ten people and operate 24/7 (including Shabbat).
Hebrew. Learn a few useful phrases.
While you can easily get around in Tel Aviv without speaking any Hebrew, it is still useful to learn some phrases to help you communicate in the less metropolitan areas.
Here are some essentials:
- Cama ze oleh? ‘How much does this cost?’
- Efshar heshbon? ‘Can I get the bill?’
- Eizeh derech la yam? ‘Which way to the beach?’
- Hacol sababa. ‘Everything’s cool.’
Kosher / Kashrut
For the religious residents of the country, there are certain rules surrounding food in Israel. You will often find restaurants that indicate that they are Kosher, which certifies that they adhere to the rules of Kashrut. These restaurants serve only kosher meat, do not mix dairy and meat (they either serve one or the other) and are not open on Shabbat. While these rules are practiced by religious Israelis, secular Israelis do not strictly observe kashrut laws and so there are also a selection of non-kosher restaurants around Israel. Whether you eat kosher or not, this is an important factor to know when planning a trip to Israel.
Bargaining is normal
When you visit any market (or “shuk” as they call it in Hebrew), customers almost always bargain with vendors. It’s simply part of the culture here. Whether you’re buying a swimsuit, a necklace, or a new beach mat, you should always ask for a lower price.