Things you will see (almost) only in Israel
A man wearing a fur hat and a coat in the middle of August
It isn’t written in the Bible that Jews should wear long black clothing and fur hats, but the Orthodox Jews, who are about 10% of the Jewish population in Israel (around 600,000), preserve the traditions of the Eastern European communities from which they came to Israel after the Holocaust. At first glance, it seems that they are all wearing the same clothes but actually their clothing is like a sort of uniform – there are those who wear white socks and those who wear black socks, some sport a tall hat and others, a short one, some wear black or navy blue jackets, and others wear white ones with stripes and it goes on. Every detail of clothing has a meaning – marking the wearer as before or after Bar Mitzvah or marriage, which Orthodox (Hasidic) group he belongs, ect. Another interesting detail that is worth noting is the overlapping of the shirt. In regular button-down shirts/jackets/blazers, the left side always overlaps the right side (think about your button-down shirts – the left side that has the slits always slightly overlaps the right side that has the buttons). The Orthodox wear special shirts in which the right side overlaps the left, and this because that in the Kabala, books of Jewish mysticism, the left side represents bravery and the right side represents grace, which is considered preferable to bravery.
A Corinthian capital serving as a coffee table
There are monuments in the USA that you can’t touch because they are ancient, over two hundred years old. In Israel, there are stones, walls, columns and buildings that are 2,000 years old and more. In the Austrian Hospice in Jerusalem, there is a Corinthian capital that is hundreds of years old, which serves today as a coffee table.
The Sabbath Elevator
In Christianity following the way of Christ is the most important thin. Judaism is a religion that is based also on obeying rules. The 10 Commandments are very well known, but actually there are 613 rules in the Bible and rabbis have added thousands more throughout the generations. One of the rules is that it is forbidden to use electronic devices on the Sabbath. But what about people who live on the third floor and cannot walk down the stairs? This is why the Sabbath elevator was invented. On Friday evening you turn it on, before the Sabbath begins and it works automatically during the entire Sabbath, without requiring anyone to press buttons and thus, break the Sabbath. It goes up a floor, opens its doors, waits for a moment, closes them and continues on to the next floor, until it reaches the top floor (it also stops on each floor on its way down). This might take a long time but this is how you can use the elevator without needing to press any buttons. Hotels will always have an elevator or two that turn into Sabbath elevators during the Sabbath for their religious clientele.
A basin for washing your hands
You will see a metal or plastic washing basin with two handles in many sinks in Israel. This is the basin that religious people use to wash their hands – when they wake up in the morning, after they use the bathroom, before each meal, before some of the prayers and when leaving cemeteries. There is a hypothesis that Jews sickened less throughout the Middle Ages because of this tradition. This might be true but it should be noted that the purpose is not to clean their hands but in order to purify them – just like baptism isn’t for cleanliness but for purity. The basin has two handles so that one hand won’t contaminate the other when people switch their grip on the basin. Usually water is poured three times on each hand.
Floating in the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is the lowest place on Earth and also one of the saltiest seas in the world with a salinity of about 30% (the ocean’s salinity is 3%). This high salt concentration allows bathers to float in the water effortlessly which is a very enjoyable experience (but beware if you have any open scrapes or cuts before entering the water – they will burn!).
A bomb-disposal device
Israel is a safe country, but in the past, these metal disposal devices were placed in the cities for disposal of suspicious objects that were potential bombs. You don’t see them anymore (and if you do see a suspicious object, it’s best not to touch it), but in front of the Wailing Wall and Church of the Holy Sepulcher, you can still see two old devices like in the picture.
A Kosher McDonald’s
This is no ordinary McDonald’s like the ones in New York or Berlin, this McDonald’s is kosher (out of 180 McDonald’s in Israel, only 50 are kosher). Rules that have to do with food and its preparation are called Kasherut. The rabbis interpreted those rules and added prohibitions and limitations throughout the generations. Perhaps one of the most known rules is that traditional Jews do not eat pork. Another rule is the separation of dairy and meat products. After eating meat, you must wait for at least 4 hours to pass before eating dairy and after eating dairy, you must wait an hour before you can eat meat (there are both more lenient and also harsher interpretations of these rules). That is why a kosher McDonald’s (or any other kosher restaurant) will not serve cheeseburgers and the meat is grilled in oil, not butter.
Schnizel in Pita with Hummus
The Israelis didn’t invent the Falafel. Bamba is considered as the Israeli national snack, but for most nun Israelis it will taste like another peanut butter snack. The Jewish traditional food is the local food from the places the Jews came from with the Kosher adoptions. The true Israeli food is Schnitzel in a pita. This dish captor the assents of Israel. The original Austrian schnitzel Is from veal. The Israeli version is from Chicken breast. The original side dish is potato salad and cucumber. In Israel people don’t have time so the schnitzel comes in pita with hummus, salad and pickles.
All Israelis knows that you float in the Dead Sea, what is kosher food or Shabbat elevator. But if you will ask someone from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem what the Carmelit is, many of them wouldn’t know. The Carmelit is an underground train in Haifa that holds two world records: the shortest underground line in the world – six stations along 1,800 meters, and the underground train with the most extreme slope. 274 meter of elevation between the first to the last station. The line was established in 1959. Since then Haifa continued to grow but the Carmelit stayed behind and today not many use it. Going in a Carmelit station is like going 40 years back in time. If you visit Haifa and you have more than a few hours, after you visit the German Colony and the Bahai Gardens, go on a ride on the Carmelit to Israel in the 80’.
The height of the Sea of Galilee
Israel is a nation that consumes news in an obsessive amount. Every hour there is news in all the radios stations and in the Television there are current affairs programs from 17:00 to 22:00. Israel is small and a lot is going on. The news are like reality show of the whole nation. Although the news papers have a lot to write about, on the last page, under the weather, there is a small illustration of the Sea of Galilee and the change of height of the Sea of Galilee. The change is very small. In summer the Sea of Galilee loses one centimeter every day and after it rains the Sea of Galilee rises in one – two centimeters. Although the change is minor, many Israelis check the height of the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is the only sweet water lake in Israel. The national water carrier of Israel transfer the water south all the way to Mitzpe Ramon.
If you’re traveling on a modest budget, you can also purchase my Booklets, in which I basically wrote down everything that I say on my 3 most popular tours: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and the Judaean Desert. I also added maps, pictures and graphics which will enable you to be your own guide. The booklets are only sold outside Israel, so order now and come prepared! Or download as a PDF or EPUB (e-book).