By Rabbi Leib Tropper
Traveling to Israel is exciting and should be stress free. While Israel’s border procedures are known for being rigorous, if one is prepared they are not onerous. Travelers must have their passports and the entry forms they receive on flight ready upon arrival. No visa is required for U.S. citizens. If travelers have certain items such as portable work tools, diving equipment, or new video and computer equipment, they will be asked to declare all items and take them home when they leave Israel.
When considering what to pack, remember Israel has a hot, dry climate, so cool cotton and linen garments are appropriate, as well as a hat. Women should bring a scarf or shawl to cover their heads in Israel’s holy sites. A jacket is also desirable since Jerusalem can be cool at night. For travel during winter months, be aware that Israel has mild weather between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
The weekly calendar in Israel is defined by the Jewish Sabbath, called Shabbat, which begins at sundown on Fridays and ends at sundown on Saturdays. All public institutions and businesses are closed during Shabbat. Americans will need to convert dollars to New Israeli Shekels (NIS) while in Israel, and foreign currency can be exchanged at banks and many hotels. Most Israeli businesses accept credit cards, but it is always a good idea to have some cash on hand.