10 Tips for Integrating Yourself into Israeli Culture

by Keri Foley

The country of Israel is small in size, yet is filled with immense culture that encompasses many different religions and ways of life. Volunteering in Israel means you will be exploring, integrating, and learning about many different lifestyles and customs, each with their own set of guidelines. In order to fully appreciate your Israeli experience you need to find a balance that allows you to combine your customs and beliefs with the many others that shape the country.

Entrance to Damascus Gate
Entrance to Damascus Gate – one of the main entrances to the old city of Jerusalem.

10.  Be Mindful of Laws

In terms of typical crime, Israel is a safe country. While anyone volunteering in Israel should take greater precautions late at night, one can feel quite comfortable to walk freely throughout the towns and cities in the day and early evenings. Mugging and drunken violence are not common place in Israel and the general risk of danger is far lower than in some countries.  Be mindful to treat the country and citizens with the same respect you would for your own country.

9. Make Friends

Making friends during your volunteer program in Israel is quite easy. Israelis are very sociable and generally will be happy to have the opportunity to chat and answer any questions you may have about their country.  Don’t be shy – step out of your comfort zone and start a conversation at the local coffee shop, restaurant or beach.

8. Follow Dress Code

In the modern cities, like Tel Aviv, tourists can dress as they would at home. However, when visiting Jerusalem and other religious cities, it is recommended to dress more conservatively. For women, this means covering your shoulders and legs in order to respect the local religious community. It is suggested to carry a shawl or wrap with you while touring Israel. This allows you to cover up if the need arises.

The Dome of the Rock, Israel
The Dome of the Rock

7. Use Local Transportation

Instead of paying for cabs, why not consider using Israel’s bus and/or train system. Not only is it cheaper, it allows you to see all areas of the city that you may not have seen if you had chosen a cab. There is also the potential to chat to locals and find out the best hotspots.

6. Visit Local Markets

Taking a stroll through local markets is not only a perfect way to meet locals; it also gives you the opportunity to pick up some unique gifts and souvenirs to share with family and friends. Markets are generally filled with interesting booths, ranging from jewellery to clothing and food. This makes it an excellent spot to try some local dishes, such as baba ganoush, an eggplant spread which is served on fresh pita bread. You could also indulge in one of the many tasty desserts, like malabi which is a pudding flavored with rose water and topped with nuts.

5. Be Curious

Curiosity allows you to truly explore your amazing environment while volunteering abroad in Israel! Try new foods, strike up conversations, and observe the way of life that surrounds you. You don’t want to look back and think, “I wish I did that.” Travel with no regrets!

Wailing Wall, Israel
Wailing Wall

4. Stay Humble

Always remember who you are and where you are from. Don’t forget to remind yourself that you are not at home, therefore certain ways of doing things may be different, and that’s okay. Walk lightly and carefully observe the nuances of the life and culture that is Israel.

3. Learn a New Language

If you are planning on volunteering in Israel for longer than a few weeks, you may want to consider learning Hebrew. Taking classes would be an excellent way to meet new people, and possibly even connect with other travelers. Also, it gives you another skill to add to your long list of travel accomplishments.

2. Keep an Open Mind

If you have ever volunteered abroad before, then you know this rule all too well. You can’t perceive anything that is different to be negative or wrong. Do not listen to stereotypes; you are there to learn for yourself, so don’t let other people’s perceptions cloud your judgement. Go into your experience with a clear vision – having no expectations will allow you to enjoy every moment.

Jerusalem, Israel

1. Maintain your Sense of Humor!

Don’t be hard on yourself if you make a cultural blunder, or if you are a bit uncomfortable in a social situation. Be able to laugh at yourself, brush it off and let it go. Most people will admire your effort to understand their way of life, and appreciate the fact you chose their homeland as a travel destination.

Experience a completely different way of life and search for a volunteer program in Israel now!