Israel A-Z guide

This is a quick guide to Israel, an alphabetical collection of the very best bits. Hopefully it will give you a brief introduction to some of the things to see and do and experience in the Holy Land. And if you have any suggestions to enhance the list, feel free to add a comment.

A

Arse-im – the class of local you hopefully won’t get to meet on your trip to Israel.
Avocado – possibly the favourite of all fruits during the winter months, spread on some toast with a little salt and lemon. Yum!
Ashdod – fifth largest city in Israel, this southern city has Israel’s largest port.
Ashqelon – town in the south of Israel, last major town before Gaza.
Arabic – the second official language of Israel.

B

Bethlehem – birthplace of Jesus, worth a Christmas visit.
Bamba – the national food of the under 21s. A peanut flavoured snack that might just get you hooked.
Bibi – Israel’s new PM, aka Benyamin Netanyahu, equally loved/hated, about to begin his second term.
Bar Refaeligorgeous Israeli supermodel who seems to be on a mission to take over the world these days.

C

Currency – Israel’s official currency is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS), but the US$ is the currency most favoured.
Cellphone – cellphones are everywhere in Israel, Israelis love them but badly need to learn some phone etiquette.
Coffee – Israelis love coffee and thankfully there are some great cafes out there, especially in Tel Aviv.
Caesarea – smallish “wealthy” town on west coast, has a golf course and remnants of Herod’s Roman city.

D

Dialing code – +972; example: 00-972-3-5555555 for a number in Tel Aviv. Don’t include the 0 before the city area code or a cellular phone code, ie, not 054 but 54. When calling from Israel, check locally for deals before dialling.
Dead Sea – the lowest body of water in the world, and yes, you really can float in it!

E

Electricity – 220 volts AC, 50 cycles. An adaptor is necessary (usually 3 pronged).
Eilat – Israel’s fun city, located at the southern most tip of Israel, next to the Red Sea.

F

Felafel – Israel’s national food, felafel is basically chick peas mushed into balls, along with various spices and parsley, and then deep fried.

G

Galilee – split into Upper and Lower Galilee, this area in the north of Israel is the green and pleasant land that many Israelis seek at the weekend.
Golan Heights – mountain area north-east of Sea of Galilee. Occupied in 1967 by Israel, annexed in 1980, but still claimed by Syria.
Goldstar – Israel’s main home produced beer. Not bad at all, some Israelis swear by it.

H

Holy – Israel is the Holy Land, home to some of the holiest sites in the world for Jews, Muslims and Christians.
Humus – a chickpea, tehina, onion, lemon and olive oil paste, can be added to your pita and felafel or served on a plate and wiped up with torn off pieces of pita.
Hareef – Hebrew for “hot and spicy”.
Haifa – Israel’s third largest city with a large port and lots of industry, the Bahai gardens as well as a large Arab population.
Hallas!Enough! in Arabic, sometimes used by irritated Israelis.
HaraShit! in Hebrew, used everywhere by everyone.
History – Israel is a country full of historical sites and important things to see, for followers of all the main faiths, not just Judaism.
Hebrew – the official language in Israel.

I

Internet – Israel has good Internet coverage and you can find wi-fi in most hotels and many coffee shops.
Internet domains – Israeli domains end with co.il.
Ice-cream – the pure number of ice-cream shops might astound you. Israelis love ice-cream in the summer.

J

Jewish – 75% of Israel’s citizens are Jewish.
Jerusalem – the capital of Israel and holiest city in Judaism, also home to many important Christian and Islam sites of worship. An absolute must see.
Jordan River – flows along the border of Israel and Jordan before joining the Dead Sea, this sacred river is today largely used for human purposes.
Jachnun – a Yemenite dish usually eaten on a Saturday morning, it doesn’t look like much and isn’t very healthy, but is delicious!

K

Knesset – the Israeli Parliament, which sits in Jerusalem. An Israeli MP is known as a Haver Knesset.
Kinneret – the Hebrew for Sea of Galilee.
KenYes in Hebrew.
Kosher – refers to food considered to meet Jewish religious law (ie, not pork or shellfish, and not mixing meat and dairy products).

L

Language – the official languages in Israel are Hebrew and Arabic, though English is spoken nearly everywhere (at varying levels).
Love Parade – biggest street party of its kind, every June in Tel Aviv; floats, music, dancing and anything else you can think of!
Lieberman – aka Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s latest political star and new Foreign Minister.

M

Mediterranean – the almost tide-less sea laps at Israel’s western coast all day, from Rosh HaNiqra in the north to Ashkelon in the south. Lush.
Masada – the ancient mountain fortress close to the Dead Sea. A must see.
Mango – the alternative to watermelon in the summer. When just ripe, mangoes are amazing.
Mangal – the Hebrew for barbeque, a popular sport throughout the warmer months. Well, the competitive BBQ spirit shown by Israeli males makes it seem like sport.

N

Nazareth – childhood home of Jesus, this is the largest town in the north of Israel, after Haifa, and has a largely Arab population.
Negev – the southern desert that covers over half of Israel (55% to be precise).
Ninette – aka Ninette Taib, the first winner of Israel’s Star is Born and her own mini-industry. She was everywhere up to a year ago, now less so.

O

Olmert – aka Ehud Olmert, the outgoing PM of Israel, much maligned and probably not to be missed by most.
Olive oil – it’s healthy, it’s (usually) local, and it’s everywhere! Drizzle it on!
Old CityJerusalem’s Old City is a must see and includes the Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Doable in a day-trip.

P

Peres – aka Shimon Peres, the current Israeli President and long-time Israeli statesman, friend to the stars.
Pita – the round shaped pocket bread into which felafel balls are often stuffed, along with humus, tehina and salad.

Q

Quaint – some of the old parts of Yaffo, or Akko or Safed (Tzfat)
Quirky – OK, every nation has its quirks, and Israelis sure have a long list; working and playing with Israelis does take some getting used to.

R

Rita – Israel’s most popular female pop artist, a real Diva.
Rabin – aka Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s former PM, assassinated in 1995, an event that remains a big part of the Israeli psyche.
Red Sea – the gorgeous Red Sea is at the southern tip of Israel. Bring your snorkel!

S

Shekel – the national currency of Israel, otherwise known as New Israeli Shekel (NIS).
Shalom – means both Hello and Peace in Hebrew.
Sherut – minivans run in and connect with the big cities, providing a cheaper and often quicker alternative to buses.
Shlomo Artzi – the Bruce Springsteen of Israeli pop and rock.
Shawarma – sliced turkey meat, fresh off the spit, also served inside a pita, or even a lafa (a bigger, Iraqi version of the pita).

T

Tel Aviv24 hour Mediterranean city (known as The City That Never Sleeps) with beautiful beaches, a great vibe and lots to see and do.
Tiberias – town perched on the Sea of Galilee, has known better days, but still is a great base from which to explore the region.
Tehina -  a sesame based paste which often accompanies humus and felafel.
Time zone – GMT+2
TodaThank You in Hebrew

U

Umbrella – you’ll be unlucky if you ever have to use one of these on your trip to Israel.

V

Visa – you’ll probably need a visa to enter Israel, most tourists automatically receive a 3 month tourist visa.
Very hot – the summer months of June, July and August. Melty melt.

W

Water - a natural resource sadly lacking in the region. Make that shower a quickie!
Watermelon – the nation’s summer fruit, literally everywhere throughout the summer.
Weather – usually nice and sunny, with a few days of rain through the winter.

X

xcellent – the weather, pretty much all year round!

Y

Yalla – slang for “let’s get going”.
Yafo – ancient port city on the southern tip of Tel Aviv, check out the old Flea Market.

Z

Zichron Yaakov – small town in the north, very busy at weekends, was one of the first Jewish settlements in Israel.
Zine – slang for penis, it is also used to express disregard for something: “Ani lo sam zine” = I don’t give a shit.
Zoobie – another slang term for penis, this can also be used to express clear objection: “You expect me to pay another 100 shekels for this? Zoobie!”

2 Comments

  1. Uriah

    March 26, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Mangel = BBQ without an undershirt
    IMT = Israeli Mean Time and usually too late.
    Yalla yalla = get lost
    Toda = thanks, but rarely used
    Shnekel = 2 Shekel
    Tiberias is the only Israeli town called after a Roman emperor
    Salats turn even fast food into health food

  2. Ashley

    March 26, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Some good ones there Uriah!

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