Do's and Don'ts in Israel

Israel Etiquette Tips

1. Dress Attire

  1. DON'T worry about a dress code, normally. Most of Israel is very westernized.
  2. DO dress more conservatively if visiting a synagogue or mosque. No bare legs or arms.
  3. DO cover your head in a synagogue if you're a man.
  4. DO wear proper business attire if attending a business function. In the summer, proper business attire for men is a light suit (with or without a tie), or a button up shirt with nice pants. In the winter, the proper business attire for men is a suit, jacket, and tie. For women, the appropriate business attire is dresses and skirts of a reasonable length or slacks.

2. Table Manners

  1. DO assume that your hosts keep kosher unless they tell you otherwise. Keeping kosher means that pork and shellfish are completely off limits, and mixing dairy and meat is not allowed. Be aware of this!
  2. DO expect an informal atmosphere at meals.
  3. DO eat only what you want off your plate. It's not customary to eat everything off your plate unless you want to.

3. Tipping

  1. DO check the bill to see if a service charge was added before paying a tip. This would be written in both English and Hebrew.
  2. DO tip generously if the service was good. Restaurant wait staff often don't make a lot of money and depend on tips.

4. Gift Giving and Accepting Gifts

  1. DO give a gift to a business associate if invited to their home.
  2. DON'T spend more than twenty U.S. dollars on a gift.
  3. DO give flowers. There are no rules or customs in terms of giving flowers.

5. Body Gestures

  1. DON'T make disrespectful remarks about the Torah or Judaism.
  2. DON'T discuss the Arab-Israeli situation.
  3. DON'T bring up the Holocaust.

6. Greetings

  1. DO feel comfortable moving to a first name basis rather quickly. This is common in Israel.
  2. DO shake hands upon meeting someone and again upon departing.
  3. DON'T shake hands with a woman who is obviously religious. In Orthodox Judaism, men and women who are not married do not touch each other at all.
  4. DO stand upon visitors entering a room. Men will also often stand whenever a woman enters.

7. Language Etiquette

  1. DO expect to see and hear a lot of English. Although Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of Israel, most people speak English, as it is mandatory in Israeli schools. Street signs are also in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.

8. Visitors Etiquette

  1. DO bring a gift. A bottle of kosher wine or flowers is a perfect gift for your host.
  2. DO expect dinner at someone's home to last the entire evening.
  3. DON'T discuss business at someone's home.
  4. DO call to thank your hosts for their hospitality. A written thank you note isn't necessary.

9. Shopping

  1. DO bargain when shopping. At bazaars sometimes you can get the merchant down to 25% of the original price. Bargaining at malls and big stores is a little harder, but you may want to give it a whirl anyway! The more you buy, the easier it will be to bargain.

10. Business Meeting

  1. DO schedule your appointments one or two days in advance. If you're meeting with a high-ranking official, then your appointment might take even longer to arrange.
  2. DO be on time. Meetings start within ten minutes of the scheduled start time. Business negotiations will begin quickly.
  3. DO feel comfortable making small talk in the beginning of the meeting. You may chat about weather, your hotel, family, etc., but avoid politics or religion unless you know your hosts views and don't be critical!
  4. DO expect business meetings to be fairly informal.
  5. DON'T expect to receive business cards when doing business in Israel. Unless the meeting is with a big company, business cards are usually not exchanged.

In spite if Israel being a fairly Westernized country, you'll find that in some respects, the people of Israel are very traditional due to the laws of Judaism. Enjoy your trip to Israel, but remember to respect their customs and religion.

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