Dos and Don’ts

Clothing: “Clothing and behavior that are appropriate in one place may be totally inappropriate five minutes walk away. It is best to be on the safe side; dress modestly.”

Religious Traditions: “Do not extend a handshake to a religiously observant person of the opposite sex. Displays of affection are inappropriate in religious areas and displays of same-sex affection are not well received anywhere. On the bus do not sit next to an ultra-Orthodox passenger of the opposite sex. On ultra-Orthodox segregated buses, women must sit at the back.”

Names: “Israelis are disarmingly informal. Unless they are providing a formal service (such as hotel staff, doctors, or a religious official), they will immediately assume a first-name basis, and you can do the same.”

Patience: “Don’t try to chastise people who cut into lines ‘just to ask a question’ or to pay for one item at the cash register. Take it in good humor.” Use the same approach when it comes to being on time. Punctuality is not a priority for locals.

Sabbath Dinner: If invited to Sabbath (Shabbat) dinner in an observant home, do not request milk products with a meat meal; refrain from smoking; check with the host before turning the lights on or off; silence your cell phone; bring a small gift; and, if you bring wine, make sure it is Kosher and do not expect the bottle to be opened the same evening.

Phrase Book

Although most Israelis speak some English, there are phrases that they will probably use in Hebrew, some of which carry a meaning that is special to Jerusalem.

Egged: The name of the public bus company is also used as a common reference to the central bus station.

Ha’ir Ha’atika: The ancient city, referring to the walled Old City.

Hameshulash: The triangle of intersecting roads—King George, Jaffa, and Keren Hayesod—that define the center of town, sliced by the midrahov—the pedestrian mall of Ben Yehuda Street.

Haredi: Ultra-Orthodox Jew. Plural is Haredim.

Kasher: Hebrew for “kosher.”

Kippah: The head covering or yarmulke worn by observant men and required for all men in Jewish holy sites and synagogues.

Kenyon: A shopping mall.

Mizrach Ha’ir: The east city, referring to Arab sectors.

Shabbat: The Sabbath; also refers to the subdued atmosphere and commercial and traffic restrictions from Friday evening through Saturday after sundown.

Sherut: Shared taxi or minivan that stops along set routes and collects passengers for a set fee. Known in the Arab part of the city as servees.

Yerushalmi: Anything or anyone originally from Jerusalem. A character reference— rather than geographical attribute—alluding to a more provincial and naïve character.

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