Israel is an extremely diverse country, home to both orthodox and secular Jews, Christians and Muslims. Knowing how to dress in this vibrant and trendy yet traditionally distinctive country can be quite daunting, so we’ve put together this handy guide to help you decide what to wear when visiting this beautiful and culturally varied country.
What do people wear in Israel?
In cities like Tel Aviv and tourist resorts like Eilat, you will see people wearing all sorts of trendy attire, from mini-skirts and tank tops to flamboyant jumpsuits.
However, in Jerusalem, most rural areas and in the Palestinian territories women tend to dress much more conservatively, with women at least covering their shoulders, chests and knees. In general, local men tend to favour collared shirts and trousers or shorts but you will see men in a variety of attire.
Traditional Israeli & Palestinian Dress
Traditional dress for Israeli and Palestinian women is, not surprisingly, similar to what can be found in Jordan and other areas of the Middle East and includes a long-embroidered kaftan style dress or robe. These are sometimes worn on special occasions but are not worn on a day to day basis.
Orthodox and Hasidic Jews commonly dress according to Jewish Laws. Men wear black jackets, trousers and shoes as well as a hat which denotes the particular sect to which the man belongs.
Married women are also required to cover their hair with a hat or headscarf and wear modest clothes that cover their knees and elbows.
Muslim women usually wear jeans, trousers or a long dress or skirt and a top that covers at least their upper arms along with a hijab (headscarf). Most Muslim women in Israel also wear a long cloak known as an abaya over their clothes which covers them from wrist to ankle when they go out in public.
What should women wear when visiting Israel?
Israel is, in general, a very liberal and trendy country and when shopping and dining out in cities like Tel-Aviv and Haifa, you can get away with wearing pretty much anything you want.
What to wear in Jerusalem and religious sites of Israel
Most people that visit Israel tend to visit holy sites such as the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Bahai Gardens in Haifa. When visiting such sites it is necessary for women to dress in modest attire with the elbows, knees and cleavage covered.
If you are visiting any mosques or Muslim religious sites you should cover yourself from wrist to ankle in non-transparent, loose clothing and cover your head and hair with a headscarf. You might be asked to cover your head in other locations so make sure you have a scarf or pashmina in your bag just in case.
If you’re visiting any orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods such as the Me’ah She’aim area of Jerusalem, you should also make sure that you are dressed modestly in a long dress, skirt or trousers and a loose button through shirt or blouse, or long sleeved t-shirt.
As it does get very hot and humid in Israel in the summer months, we would advise wearing lightweight natural fibres like cotton and linen. Long, flowing skirts and maxi dresses teamed with a lightweight shirt are great at keeping you cool, protecting you from the sun and keeping you modestly covered if you’re visiting any religious sites.
Can I wear a bikini in Israel?
Yes, you can wear a bikini in Israel. It’s always polite to cover up when you leave the beach or poolside but you will have no problem wearing a bikini at beaches and pools in coastal cities and tourist destinations like Eilat or at resorts on the Dead Sea. If you’re snorkelling it is wise to wear a rash vest or shirt over your swimming costume as the sun is very powerful and can burn very quickly.
Do I need to take a jacket to Israel?
During the summer months, a lightweight jacket is recommended if you are in Jerusalem, the upper Galilee and the Golan Heights as it can turn chilly in the evenings.
During the winter months, the weather is extremely changeable and whilst average temperatures may be between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius it can, on occasion, snow; so it’s a good idea to take a thicker coat, scarf, hat and gloves if you’re travelling between December and February.
What should men wear when visiting Israel?
Most of the time men can get away with wearing shorts and T-shirts but it is necessary for them to cover their shoulders and knees if they are visiting any religious sites. Men also need to cover their heads with kippah if they are visiting the Western Wall – if you do not have your own you can request a complimentary cardboard kippah from the attendants in the plaza area adjacent to the wall.
It’s handy to have a baseball cap or sun hat as there may be other times when you are asked to cover your head or need protection from the hot sun.
What should children wear when visiting Israel?
Children can wear whatever they like especially in the coastal cities and tourist resorts. Older girls should follow the advice for women and need to cover up at religious sites, in Jewish Orthodox neighbourhoods and in the Palestinian territories.
Remember to carry sun hats, sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen for your children as well as a UV suit or rash vest for swimming and playing on the beach.
What sort of footwear do I need to wear in Israel?
For city sight-seeing and shopping, we recommend light-weight durable shoes. There are a lot of cobbled pavements in Israel so it’s best to avoid heels unless you know that you won’t be doing much walking!
If you’re hiking or visiting historical sites like Massada, you will need robust, breathable walking shoes with a good tread teamed with cotton or woollen socks to help keep your feet cool and dry.
What sort of bag should I take with me to Israel?
You will need a lightweight functional rucksack for carrying all of your daily essentials like water, snacks, sunscreen and extra layers of clothing. Try to avoid anything too bulky or with too much metal as you will be asked to pass through metal detector gates at a number of religious and archaeological sites.
What else should I think about when deciding what to wear in Israel?
Avoid wearing clothes with tears and holes – even jeans that are designed to be that way as such clothing is often considered disrespectful.
Be aware of cultural differences and local tensions. Do not wear traditional Arab attire such as a keffiyeh (checked headscarf) in Jewish areas, or Jewish items like a kippah in Arab areas.
Avoid t-shirts with political or religious messages or slogans.
Remember that Israel can be very hot in Summer so stick to natural fibres and loose-fitting garments. In contrast, winters can get quite chilly especially in Jerusalem and the Golan Heights so remember to layer up!
Want more on visiting Israel?
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