Israel lies along the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Surrounding countries include the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and the West Bank. Established in 1948, Israel has a unique language, cuisine and culture and is central to many modern faiths. Modern travelers to the regions should familiarize themselves with a few details prior to visiting the Holy Land.
Language and Culture
Learning a few words of Hebrew and Arabic can enrich your cultural experience. However, English is widely spoken as well. So, chances are you can get along if you speak any of these three languages.
The country’s culture centers around the Jewish religion. That’s because there are so many Jewish immigrants who moved here from other nations. This gives the country an eclectic, international vibe. Its holidays are based on the Hebrew calendar. The culture is also influenced by the Muslim minority.
Americans traveling to the area can get information from the U.S. embassy prior to their trip or purchase a travel guide with key phrases in the local languages.
There are three important feast days in Israel, and each has agricultural or historic meaning.
- Pesach means “pass over” in English. Passover Celebrates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in ancient Egypt. It occurs on the 15th of the Jewish month of Nissan.
- Shavu’ot occurs 50 days after Pesach. There are seven full weeks before the holiday, so it’s also called “The Feast of Weeks.” Traditionally, the first batch of wheat sown is gathered and used as an offering to God. No one is permitted to work on Shavu’ot.
- Sukkot celebrates the harvest and recalls the wandering of the Jewish people prior to entering the Holy Land.
Decorations and accouterment for these holidays can be purchased at an online Judaica shop as part of your trip preparation.
Family Structure and Meals
The composition of Israeli families varies greatly. They tend to be patriarchal, with fathers acting as the head of the household. Extended families may include a husband and wife, sons and daughters-in-law, single children and family attendants that dwell in the same home. It’s not unusual for an Israeli family to include two or three core familial units and a total of 50 to 100 relatives.
Cuisine in Israel follows strict kosher protocols. Pork, shellfish, milk and eggs are prohibited. Israelis do not cook dairy products and meat in the same container. Typical Israeli dishes include Shawarma, tahini, hummus, kebabs, pita bread and falafel.
Before settling in Israel, the Jewish people were spread among many nations. The people who returned after World War II to form the modern nation brought their customs and culture with them. As a result, Israelis tend to be cosmopolitan by nature and welcoming to guests in their country. For the adventurous traveler, it’s a diverse and creative destination with endless possibilities to explore and new things to learn.