Life in Israel
History buffs can experience the Old City of Jerusalem, Crusader fortresses, Roman amphitheatres and aqueducts, and Nabatean trade routes. Nature lovers have access to exploring a wealth of ecosystems. Sports aficionados can hike, swim, surf or bike all over. Award-winning wineries and restaurants, as well as excellent music and theatre performances, can be found throughout the country. With an international reputation for entrepreneurship and innovation Israel has an extremely talented and educated workforce trained in renowned academic institutions.
News and Media in English
While most local news sites and channels are in Hebrew or Arabic, there are a number of options in English. Some are free, while others require a subscription.
Newspapers in foreign languages can be purchased from bookstores. The most common English language newspapers are The Jerusalem Post and the International Herald Tribune (sold together with Haaretz).
Israel truly has something for everyone. Its small size also makes it easy for tourists to enjoy everything the country has to offer, from the outdoors, to culture, to food, to history. The International Office can help you with your tourism plans, but we have compiled a few websites in English to help you decide how to prioritise while you are here.
The currency of Israel is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS)
One NIS = 100 Agorot
Currently, coin denominations in use are 10 and 50 agorot, and 1, 2, 5 and 10 NIS.
Banknotes are available in denominations of 20, 50, 100 and 200 NIS.
US dollars and Euros may also be used in popular tourist locations and change will be given in NIS, although the exchange rate will not be favourable.
Cash can be exchanged at the money changers or at the post office. Credit cards are accepted widely and ATM machines can be easily found.
The school year has several optional formats approved by the Ministry of Education, one of which is chosen by the school principal in keeping with the local community's religion and tradition. Many businesses and government offices allow workers to choose an additional one or two days of leave out of the list of non-official holidays. Collective leave is also common at many companies and government offices during Chol HaMoed (the days between the first and last days of Passover and Sukkot). Non-Jews may choose Friday, Saturday or Sunday as their main weekly holiday.
The holidays typically include the day before and the day following the holiday. The school system publishes the annual school holidays at the start of the school year.
Israel has nine official holidays throughout the year. Jewish holidays are celebrated according to the Jewish lunar calendar, so the date of the holiday in the secular (Gregorian) calendar varies slightly from year to year.
All holidays start at sunset meaning that workplaces typically shut on the afternoon of the holiday's eve. Some services resume their work the following evening, but many businesses only reopen the morning after the holiday.
Weekends in Israel are Friday to Saturday. The law designates 36 hours of weekly holiday from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning, but most businesses and offices are closed all day on Fridays.
Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year)
15-17 Sept, 2023
25 Sept, 2023
29 Sept - 7 Oct, 2023
07-15 Dec, 2023
23 Mar, 2024
22-29 Apr, 2024
14 May, 2024
11 June, 2024
Although the foreign media may play up the dangers and tensions in the Middle East, Israel is a safe place to live. The government has strict security measures in place to protect the public and guard public spaces. Private property, such as restaurants and shopping malls, also have security precautions in place. At the entrance to almost any building or space you will be required to show your bag(s) and they may be searched. At certain sites, such as government offices, parts of the Old City and train stations, you will be required to walk through a metal detector. Depending on the location and security situation, armed guards and soldiers may be present. This is part of normal life in Israel and reassures you that the government takes security very seriously.
We always recommend that international guests register with their embassies here in Israel and adhere to any particular travel advice or caution.
We are happy to answer any questions that you may have regarding your security in Israel and at the Weizmann Institute of Science and the campus security team is available 24/7 and can be reached at x2999 (+972 8934 2999).
Although Israel is the world’s only Jewish state, it is also home to many other religions, all of which are protected by law. In fact, Jews make up 75% of the population; 25% of citizens practice another religion, from Islam and Christianity to Baha’i and Samaritanism. We have provided some information on religions practised in Israel.
For more information, please visit the Wikipedia Religions in Israel page. Israel is also home to many different ethnic groups, such as Circassians and Arameans, who preserve their particular language and culture. The Israeli school system has different streams that cater to different religious and ethnic groups to allow communities to educate their children according to their values and preserve their traditions, language and culture.
Three-quarters of Israeli citizens are Jewish and most practice some form of Judaism and observe the major religious holidays. While the officially sanctioned stream of Judaism is Orthodox and the majority of Jewish schools and synagogues are Orthodox, Reform and Conservative synagogues are available in many cities and the Conservative movement has its own school system. Around 30% of Jewish citizens define themselves as religious, and a higher percentage define themselves as traditional. Around two-thirds of Jewish citizens define themselves as secular.
Israeli official national holidays follow the Jewish calendar.
According to historical and traditional sources, Jesus lived in the Land of Israel and was buried on the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, making the Israel holy for Christians. Ten churches are officially recognized under Israel's confessional system to oversee communal matters, such as marriage and divorce: Armenian Apostolic, Armenian Catholic, Chaldean Catholic, Episcopal, Greek Orthodox, Latin, Melkite Greek Catholic, Syriac Catholic, Syriac Maronite and Syriac Orthodox. The largest Christian community is the Greek Catholic, (Melkite), comprising 40% of the total Christian population, followed by the Greek Orthodox (32%), Roman Catholics (20%), and Maronites (7%).
Most Christian citizens are Arab. Many other Christians living in Israel are citizens of other countries and have come to Israel to live and work, many in the country’s historic churches or monasteries.
Jerusalem is the third holiest city in Islam, after Mecca and Medina. The Temple Mount, or Haram al Sharif in Arabic, from where Mohammed ascended to Heaven, is today the location of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
While most Muslims in Israel are Sunni, the Muslim community also includes Shia/Alawite, Ahmadiyya and Bedouin. From 1516 to 1917, the Sunni Ottoman Empire controlled the area that is now the modern State of Israel. During the British Mandate (1917-1947), the Hashemites of Jordan were appointed the official guardians of all Islamic holy places of Jerusalem. After Israel reunited Jerusalem in 1967, the Israeli government gave the Waqf permission to continue administering the Temple Mount.
Like the Christians and the Druze, Israeli Muslims may use their own religious courts to adjudicate matters of personal status.
The Druze are a unique religious and ethnic minority in Israel. The Druze religion developed from Ismaili Islam but Druze are not considered Muslims (although they have similar restrictions to Islam, such as no pork or alcohol) and have their own distinct ethnic status in Israel. The Druze live mostly in northern Israel.
The Bahá'í has its administrative and spiritual centre in Haifa on land it has owned since the founder, Bahá'u'lláh, was imprisoned in Acre in the early 1870s by the Ottoman Empire. Baha’i pilgrims from all over the world come to visit for short periods. Bahá'ís do not missionize in Israel and, generally, pilgrims require written permission from the Bahá'í World Centre prior to a visit.
There is a small Hindu community in Israel, mostly located in Katzir-Harish (Hare Krishna) and Ariel (Vaishnava). The Hindu community also hosts a Sai Organisation and yoga centres.
Shipping Info for Departing
Should you wish to ship belongings onto another country, there are several ways to do so. You should check which will be the most cost effective and efficient way for you – sometimes taking an extra bag when you fly may be the best. IsraelPost has an option of sending items by sea – it takes about 3 months, but is usually the cheapest method. Many people simply take an extra bag with them on the plane and pay for this with the airlines.
Below are some links to International Shipping companies – if you use one of them we’d be glad to get your feedback for future guest use.