What to pack for your trip to Israel
Bring comfortable clothing unless you plan to attend a formal occasion or business meeting. Layers work best – it can be very hot during the day and then cool down and be quite nippy in the evenings, especially in Jerusalem and in the desert. Think like an onion: be able to peel off or add layers as needed. This is advisable for all seasons.
Religious sites (of all religions) require modest clothing which means long pants for men and women (no shorts or short skirts/dresses), elbow length sleeves, proper neckline (no cleavage showing), and head covering for men and married women (Jewish and Muslim sites). A shawl or scarf can be used to cover bare arms, chest, your head or over shorts. Some sites provide scarves or other cover-ups if you forget, but using your own is preferable.
Good walking shoes are a must! Hiking shoes or sneakers are very good. Sandals are fine for city tours, but closed shoes with good soles are best for archaeological sites, hikes and tours where you may be on your feet most of the day. In the summer and fall there are a lot of thorny plants that can be hard on the ankles and legs, so socks are recommended.
Water shoes are great for water sports. Flip flops are not advisable for water sports as they tend to slip off. Keens and Teva types are great. Crocs are not recommended for water activities (such as Hizikaya's/Chizkiyahu's tunnels in the city of David).
A good hat is essential – the wider the brim the better. The sun in Israel is quite strong and it's easy to get burned.
Bring the medications you take daily, plus things you need from time-to-time such as Tylenol, cold medicine, Tums etc. There are less over-the-counter medicines in Israel than in the U.S., although some are available. It's highly recommended that you take out medical insurance and bring the documentation with you. Most doctors speak English and the health care in Israel is great, but different than you may be used to. If you need a doctor, ask at the reception of your hotel if there is someone on call or how to get to the closest clinic.
Bring a list of your meds. The names of many medicines here are different, so write down the generic name as well. For example, Tylenol (acetaminophen) is called Acamol in Israel.
Sunscreen or sunblock is as important as a hat and should be applied and re-applied several times during the day if you're outside most of the day. This applies to all seasons. You do not have to buy this product and bring it with you unless you are sensitive or allergic to some brands.
You can buy water everywhere so make sure to have at least 1.5 liters with you each day. You will need more if you are hiking. If you have a camelback in your backpack, or a separate water bottle holder it will be easier for you to carry water bottles and keep your hands free – for taking pictures with your camera or phone!
Walking sticks can be helpful when walking on uneven terrain. Even one stick is enough to keep your stability. This is not a must, just a recommendation, and depends on the type of tours you will be taking. Ask your guide or the tour operator if it's necessary.
Backpack. It's easier to use a backpack than a handbag, with extra room for souvenirs! Be aware that pickpockets lurk about some of the busy tourist sites, so keep your zippers zipped and your wallet and smartphone deep in your bag. A fanny pack is also useful to keep essentials and valuables close at hand.
Umbrella. If it's winter, leave it at home. It is often windy when it rains in Israel and umbrellas tend to turn inside out in the wind and get ruined. If you are coming the winter, bring a good rain hat or a waterproof jacket with a hood.
If you burn easily, bring an umbrella to shade you from the sun in the summer.
Remember to pack in any liquids creams or gels that are in containers over 3.4oz (100ml) in your checked luggage and not in your hand luggage or it may be taken from you at the airport. I once had a small container of cream cheese taken away as well as a can of tuna fish! Check your airline's rules and regulations before packing. A hint for keeping hydrated on the plane – bring an empty water bottle onto the plane and ask the steward/ess to fill it up on board so you won't have to bother them every time you want some water. Every airport has different rules for taking water and other drinks onto the plane after going through security.
A great attitude! A trip to Israel is special whether it's your first time or 20th! The people who live in Israel come from many different countries and cultures. While some perceive Israelis as rude, others consider them friendly and concerned. Imagine getting together with close family or good buddies where boundaries are looser. That's how many people in Israel treat others! Like family! So they may stand too close to you, ask personal questions or give unwanted advice. It's because they perceive you as mishpocha (family). Just go with the flow and you may have a delightful encounter or conversation with a stranger. Here is a link to an article by the World Zionist Organization that explains it well.
This is my recommened packing list, by all means add any and all products you feel you may need.
Key: Bring from home: Buy in Israel: