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    Nepal: Phewa Lake. Go Now!

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  • Japan!

    Japan: Traditional foods. Go Now!

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    Japan has a rich culture that is visible today in the country's dress, architecture, language, food (pictured), and lifestyle. Begin Your Journey!

  • Bahrain!

    Bahrain: Desert. Go Now!

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    This tiny country has overcome the desert and has found a way to thrive, like this tree on al Jazair Beach. Explore Bahrain!

  • Kyrgyzstan!

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    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

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Social Life in Israel

WARNING: Terrorist threats continue in Israel, please read this travel warning before going!

Behavior

Most of the behavior restrictions in Israel come in the form of dress (below) and staying out of political discussions. Politics and religion are hotly debated topics that many locals have very strong personal attachments; bringing up these topics can be very offensive if done the wrong way so tread lightly, if at all.

Both the Jews and Muslims also have strict dietary restrictions that all visitors should follow, although how strictly these restrictions are followed varies drastically. Fortunately, if eating out there is little threat of offending anyone as most restaurants throughout the country follow the dietary rules of their majority, so visitor so won't serve anything that can offend a local. However, in Tel Aviv and along the coast the dietary restrictions are very loose; if you local host takes you to a non-Kosher restaurant obviously they don't expect you to eat Kosher, and if they do take you to a kosher restaurant, the options available to you are Kosher so you can't order the wrong item.

Although not all dieteray rules are followed, when they are, the greatest dietary rule is that both Judaism and Islam forbid pork products, so pork is not easily found outside of Tel Aviv. The Muslims also refrain from drinking alcohol, so avoid alcohol if in the presence of a Muslim, but again little will be available in Islamic parts of the country. For more information on dietary rules and restrictions in Israel, visit our Israel Food & Dining Page.

It should also be noted that among Muslims it is improper for a man to touch a woman, even holding your spouse's hand or offering to shake the hand of a person who is of the opposite sex can be considered inappropriate to a conservative Muslim. Again though, in Israel you'll rarely encounter this issue. The last important thing to remember in Israel is that, in Synagogues men should cover their heads, while in Christian churches you should not have your head covered.

Dress

The traditional clothing of Israel is rooted in their religion and history. Being a relatively young country, the people are divided by ethnicity and religion as well as being divided by history and culture. For many of the Muslims in Israel the dress is a combination of traditional Arabian dress and modern western-styled clothing, while the Jewish population dresses almost entirely in western-styled clothing.

For Muslim men this traditional dress is rarely, but sometimes includes a white dishdasha, which is a loose-fitting garment that completely covers a person from the neck down. Likewise, Muslim women don't often wear traditional Arab dress, but some do, traditionally a black outfit also called a dishdasha or an abaya; however the decoration and detail of a woman's dress tends to be much more significant than a man's. Both men and women in traditional dress cover their hair; women wear a black cloth called a hijab, which is wrapped around their neck so only their faces can be seen, while men wear a black and white checkered cloth called a keffiyeh. Despite some Muslims wearing these outfits, few Israeli Muslims today wear these conservative outfits and more commonly in Israel the Muslims wear western-styled clothing with the traditional headwear. These clothes are similar to what can be seen in much of the world, but both men and women tend to cover up with long-sleeved shirts and pants.

For the Jewish population the dress is very western-influenced as many of the Jews that live in Israel today, or their ancestors, moved to the region from Europe so traditionally wore European-styled clothing. Although this clothing is rooted in European styles, there are a couple elements that make the dress distinctly Jewish. First is the kippa (or yamaka), which is a head covering to show reverence to God. Next is the tallit, which is a prayer shawl, and lastly a hat, which is often times worn in place of, or over, the kippa. These hats vary in style, but for men it tends to be a simple black top hat. Again, few Israeli Jews wear any of these clothing pieces on a regular basis, but in Jerusalem they are much more common, especially the black hat, which is regularly wore by Orthodox Jews.

Although every religious group in Israel has specific dress, modern western-styled dress is common amongst most people, but head covering are still important to the Jews and Muslims. No matter the dress or style though, both the Jews and Muslim believe in modesty in dress so it is common to see the people cover up to at least their knees and beyond the elbows. While few Muslims break these rules, the Jews tend to be more lenient and in places like Tel Aviv shorts and swimsuits are common along the beaches.

As a visitor to Israel the first rule in dress is to dress modestly. This is especially true if you plan on visiting churches, mosques, or synagogues, all of which require long pants and shirts that cover the elbows, if not longer. Even if not visiting religious sites, be aware that showing skin can be very offensive so cover up at all times unless the local population dictates otherwise, such as on beaches along the coast. Also try to have a scarf or something to cover your head since Muslim women are required to do so and men must have their heads covered if entering a Synagogue.

This page was last updated: March, 2016