When we are planning to travel to Israel, it is good to contemplate apart from our itinerary, some data that may sound irrelevant but that in the end give us another point of view or simply invite us to learn more about this country.
Israel is located in the Asian region of the Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, and the Dead Sea. Jerusalem is its most populous city, but Tel Aviv-Yafo is the most modern and economic center of the country, and the city of Haifa is its industrial center.
Israel is considered the only Jewish state in the world with an 81% Jewish population, followed by Islam, Christianity and Druidism; but with freedom of worship, since it allows the entry of thousands of pilgrims of all religions.
It is very easy to get to Israel, since it has more than 85 airlines, you can find direct flights from the main cities of Europe, New York or Toronto to Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV), and it is located 16 km from Tel Aviv.
As it is a very interesting country full of ancient cultures, religion, and history, it throws us a lot of curious data; we will mention some of the many that it has:
- 60% of its territory is desert, resulting in long summers with hot and dry temperatures. This varies by region with wet summers and mild winters on the coast, dry summers and moderately cold winters in the mountainous areas, hot dry summers and mild winters in the Jordan Valley, and year-round semi-desert conditions in the Negev.
- Jerusalem is the holy city of the three great monotheistic religions of the world, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. According to the Bible, Jesus was born, grew up and died in Jerusalem, which is why it is the Holy Land of Christians; For the Jews, it is a holy city, home to its people since the 10th century BC, when King David built the Holy Temple. For them it is the place where God resided, so they always pray in his direction. For Sunnis, Jerusalem is the place where Muhammad visited heaven in 610, meeting other prophets like Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Sunnis used to pray towards the city, now they pray towards Mecca. In addition, in Jerusalem is the Wailing Wall, a vestige of what was the Temple of Jerusalem, destroyed by the Romans, and is currently the holiest place for the Jews. Thousands of believers visit the wall to lament the destruction of the city and the dispersion of the Hebrew people. Hundreds of letters addressed to God arrive from various countries in Jerusalem, where they are placed between the cracks of the Wailing Wall.
- Israel has a large number of archaeological sites. 2,000 of them are located in Jerusalem.
- A curious fact about this country is that it was the first country in the Middle East to recognize women’s equality; in fact, the Israeli Golda Meir is the third woman in history to be the prime minister of a country. She earned the title of “Iron Lady”.
- Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, is the holiest day for Jews. During this day the country is almost deserted, there is no traffic or people on the streets, as believers stay in their homes to pay homage, repent and pray for forgiveness.
- Shabbat marks the end of the Jewish week and occurs from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. It is a holy day for Jews and is traditionally devoted to prayer, Torah reading, and family gatherings. According to Jewish law, among the most important prohibitions are not using electricity and not traveling in motorized vehicles. So Jerusalem, which is normally full of people on the streets, is transformed into a deserted city. Keep this in mind, because for the entire duration of Shabbat, you won’t find restaurants open, public transportation, or many taxis (shared taxis and taxis with Arab drivers do work).
- Israel is the only country in the world where military service is compulsory for both women and men. For women it lasts 24 months and for men 32 months.
- In Israel there is a tree that was extinct for more than 1,000 years. It is the Judean Date Palm, very famous in ancient Israel. It disappeared after the invasion of the Romans in the year 70 BC. In 1960 a pot containing seeds was found in the palace of the Great Herod in Israel. One of these was planted in 2005 and brought to life a Judean Date Palm, after centuries of being extinct.
- Israel is a museum, which is why it is considered the country with the most museums per capita in the world.
- Israeli cows have been found to produce twice as much milk as any other cow in the world. Not for nothing does the Bible say that Israel is a land abundant in milk and honey.
- Public transportation in Israel is very reliable and efficient, and the country in general is very prepared to welcome the independent traveler. To get around there are trams, trucks (the service is excellent), private taxis, shared taxis (the famous yellow monit sheruts, generally driven by Arabs, ideal for traveling during Shabbat, when the streets are usually deserted), and even a system of shared bikes (Tel-O-Fun, in Tel Aviv-Yafo).
- To walk around the Old City of Jerusalem (and this goes for men and women), it is advisable to dress without showing your shoulders, neckline (women) or knees, and always carry a shawl to cover your head if necessary (women). To walk through the rest of Jerusalem we recommend the same: it is an extremely religious city, inhabited by Jews, Muslims and Christians of many denominations, who strictly follow the rules imposed by their dogmas.
- Israel has everything and for all tastes, and it is not only about religious or historical tourism. This country has a long tradition of adventure tourism, so there are plenty of options for hiking and camping, even sleeping under the stars of the Judean Desert, as a guest of a nomadic Bedouin tribe.
After knowing these data, it makes you want to visit and plan this trip to Israel, a country that we are sure will leave a mark on you, whether you are a believer or not; because it is important to know and learn more about these cultures that may feel foreign or close, act according to their cultural standards and enjoy this adventure.