Visas: All visitors require a passport that is valid for six months beyond the date of entry into Israel, and tourist visas are granted on arrival to be kept in your passport. Carry your passport (and visa) with you at all times when in the country; you may be asked for it at your hotel and you will need it at checkpoints if you intend to travel around the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Almost all nationalities are granted a free tourist visa on arrival; three months if you arrive by air, one month if you arrive by land from Egypt or Jordan. The exceptions include most African, Central American, Arab and Muslim countries, along with former Soviet republics, India and Singapore. Public holidays: There are plenty of religious holidays in Israel, and as the country works the lunar Hebrew calendar, the dates for each change according to the Georgian solar calendar each year. Some of the most important are: Rosh Hashana, which celebrates the Jewish New Year and lasts two days; Yom Kippur, which marks the end of the 10 days of repentance that starts with Rosh Hashana with a sunset to sunset fast; Hanukkah, which celebrates the Maccabean Revolt with the ceremonial lighting of the eight-branched menorah candelabra; Purim, which sees children dress up; and Pesah, which celebrates the exodus out of Egypt and lasts for a week. Secular holidays include Holocaust Memorial Day, which sees two minutes of silence across the country, and the Independence Day.
Local dishes: Israeli food is largely based on the traditional dishes that was brought to the country by immigrants from Eastern Europe, but Arab influences (of either neighbouring countries or brought here by Sephardic Jews from the Iberian peninsula) are obvious with plenty falafels and kebabs to go round. As for drinks, Israel produces its own beer and wine, and there’s plenty of Israeli coffee (short and strong) and Arab coffee (thick and slighty bitter) to be had too. Best month to go: May, as summers are long, hot and sometimes oppressive on the coast, and winters are mild and wet.
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