You’re thinking of coming to Israel. Your are on the verge of making the decision and you are already planning your time here. You will be here for the next few months working, volunteering, and traveling. Your week is full of activities, meetings, and running around, but come the weekend, what should you do? How do you plan it? What do the locals do? Are places closed? Does public transportation run? Where are the cool places? Where and what should you visit? Where can you find your own special spot or spots in Israel?
Ok, here are some tips and ideas.
Most buses and trains do not run on the Sabbath, from Friday a bit before sunset till Saturday evening. There are private shared taxis and shuttles that do run on the weekend but should be checked in advance for operating hours. For example, In Tel Aviv, you can find private shared taxis and shuttles running throughout the weekend. In Haifa public transportation runs on Saturday while in Jerusalem the only way to get around other than walking is with private taxis.
Friday places close early, while Sunday is a workday.
Most companies in Israel are open Sunday through Thursday and are closed Friday and Saturday. Stores and some other consumer service locations may be open on Friday but close early, usually by 2 pm, on Friday. Bars, restaurants and other places of recreation may be open as well as on Saturday, but these should be checked ahead of time. This also depends on the business’s location: In Tel Aviv and Haifa, the nightlife over the weekend is vibrant and busy whereas in Jerusalem it is primarily closed, but there are areas that are open. You need to know where to look.
Traffic is much lighter over the weekend. However, keep in mind venturing into the heart of major cities like Tel Aviv may be heavily backed up on Thursday and Friday nights. This also applies to finding parking. Keep in mind, traffic can be very heavy on major holidays and lightens up during the holiday mornings, as people are home.
Heading to the beach on Friday and Saturday morning is always a good idea. Get some sun, a bit of surfing and hang out with friends. Grab a pair of ‘Matkot’, very common beach sport (padel ball). This is a typical part of the Israeli weekend when weather permits, and it usually ‘permits’.
It’s a Thursday night, it’s been a long week, now it’s time to chill out. Head out to a bar, even the one down the street, to hang out, talk to a few people and take a load off. You don’t have to stay till the place closes, but even just an hour or two will start your weekend off the right way – When living in TLV you will be able to bar-hop and coz the way the city is built you can do it all on foot – no need for cars/taxis
Shabbat Dinners on Friday Night
Something unique happens in Israel on Friday nights. It actually starts Friday afternoon where it seems like the whole country winds down and things become a bit quieter. As the hours’ progress, there’s a unique atmosphere in the air and you see people walking in their ‘Sunday best’ to the synagogue. As the early evening progresses families will congregate to sit down for the Shabbat dinner around the dinner table. If you are invited to a Shabbat dinner – GO! Bring a bottle of wine with you and enjoy the pleasant evening of food, family and Shabbat atmosphere. You could also join a community dinner through a synagogue or community center.
Travel Around Israel
There are quite a few hiking trails in Israel. Some on cliffs above the sea and others up mountains in the Golan Heights. Although a small country, the landscape varies from desert to a snow-capped mountain, from urban settings to untainted wilderness. Luckily, almost all of these are at most a few hours away from anywhere in Israel. Venture out for the day or stay overnight to enjoy these without a long drive home.
Enjoy your week, but start planning your weekends.