Culture and Religion

Shabbat

The Jewish Sabbath starts at sundown on Friday evening and lasts until sundown on Saturday evening. All public offices in Israel are closed on Shabbat, as are many private businesses. In most cities, public transportation (trains and buses) does not operate. Taxis are available. In mainly secular cities, such as Tel Aviv, most of the restaurants and cafes are open but throughout the country many restaurants may be closed. Radio and TV broadcasts operate as usual.

Kashrut – Kosher food

Most hotels and many restaurants are kosher, meaning they follow the Jewish dietary laws. These include not mixing meat and dairy products, no pork or shellfish. Some restaurants are dairy and serve no meat, and others are meat and serve no dairy. Kosher restaurants close Friday afternoon and on the eve of holidays.

LGBT Community

Israel is more progressive than many Western countries when it comes to LGBT rights. Since there is no civil marriage in Israel, only religious, same-sex couples cannot be married (as with many other couples, such as Jewish/Gentile). However, they have the same legal rights under common law as other couples – health benefits, pensions, tax exemptions, etc. Gay soldiers serve in all areas of the military and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal. Tel Aviv, in particular, has a large and active LGBT community.

Language

Many people in Israel speak at least some English, particularly those in the service industry. Still, these basic Hebrew words and phrases can be helpful.

Hello, good-bye, peace: Shalom
Yes:
 ken
No: lo
Fine, okay: b’seder
‘Please’ and ‘You’re welcome’: b’vakasha
Thank you: todah
Thank you very much: todah rabah
See you later: l’hit-ra-ot
Excuse me: sleecha
Good morning: boker tov
Good night: lilah tov
‘Hello’ and ‘good-bye’: shalom
Bathroom: sherutim
Hebrew: ivrit
English: anglit
What is this?: Ma zeh?
What?: Ma?
What’s up?: Ma nishma?
Where?: Eh-fo?
Why?: lama?
Money: kesef
Mine: sheli
Water: mayim
Taxi: monit
Do you speak English?: Ata medaber anglit?

A little pronunciation guidance – Hebrew tends to put the emphasis on the last syllable, rather than the first, as in English. So, for example, you will likely want to pronounce “todah” as ‘TOE-dah”. It is “toe-DAH”.