Israel Tours from South Africa a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
ISRAEL TOUR   2016/2017 TOUR BRIEFING PACK   Welcome to all Israel tour members. You are most welcome in traveling with us when we visit The Holy Land and/or other connecting countries. As Tour leaders we are available to be of assistance to you. Should you have any queries you may contact us. Remember you are on holiday and should relax as much as possible. You might be worried about exchanging money and what to wear etc. These suggestions are only to simplify your stay as we have experienced it in the past. A South African English/Afrikaans Tour operator and guide will be with you throughout our stay in Israel and connecting countries. We will also give a tremendous amount of information - it will help if you have a notebook to take notes for further reference. As Tour leaders we will also recap and add as necessary. We are proud to share the Israel Tour briefing pack with all the relevant details to help you prepare for the tour. A second briefing pack with additional information will be sent to you before departure. Feel free to contact our office should you have any queries and our friendly staff will gladly assist. Personal booking details, flight numbers and itinerary will be sent as soon as it is available with all relevant documentation that might be involved.  Please note that all details shared are subject to change according to your travel Group allocation and tour dates. Below you will find a list of topics that will cover the basic movement, communication, rates, cuisines and many more information points that would be of use to you during your travel and stay in Israel. Also included is a section that covers all the various questions that we have received related to tours.   BASIC INFORMATION RELATED TO YOUR STAY IN ISRAEL  CLOTHING  Weather in Israel: Winter weather can fluctuate. Some winters are mild and sunny, some severe and overcast with rain. Be sure to check the weather forecast close to your departure, to help you choose what to pack! The weather can sometimes be unpredictable. Expect several days of outdoor activities and a few evenings out on the town. You will also spend time inside museums, archaeological sites and at shopping areas. Bring clothing that you can wear in layers. Although some of the hotels may offer laundry services. Try and pack enough clothing for ten days. Remember you will be wearing the same clothes when departing warm South Africa -when you land so the weather will be different, try to dress with the weather in mind because the seasons differ. Summer weather: hot and dry.  Israel enjoys long, warm, dry summers (April-October) and generally mild winters (November-March), with somewhat drier, cooler weather in mountainous regions, such as Jerusalem and Safed. Rainfall is relatively heavy in the north and centre of the country with much less in the northern Negev and almost negligible amounts in the southern areas. Regional conditions vary considerably, with humid summers and mild winters on the coast; dry summers and moderately cold winters in the hill regions; hot dry summers and pleasant winters in the Jordan Valley and year-round semi desert conditions in the Negev.  As Israel is in the Northern Hemisphere, the seasons are: 20 March - 20 June: Spring 21 June - 22 September: Summer 22 September - ~21 December: Autumn 21 December - ~20 March: Winter Read more: BAGGAGE You may use a bag or backpack of your own choice for hand luggage. Baggage is limited to one hand luggage. Your suitcase can weigh 20 Kg.(see changes on Flight tickets) Try to take less in case you would like to go shopping and need the space. TIME GMT + 2  Business Hours: Stores are generally open from Sunday through Friday 08:00-19:00. Shops in hotels are often open until midnight. Due to the variety of religions in Israel, there are different shopping hours depending on the venue: Muslim shops close on Fridays, Jewish shops on Saturdays and Christian shops close on Sundays. Banks are open Sunday to Friday 08:30-12:00 and Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday 16:00-18:00.  KOSHER There is nothing in flavour or style that distinguishes kosher food from any other.  Kosher food is simply any food which complies with Jewish dietary laws. Basically the laws require that meat and dairy foods not be served at the same meal, and they forbid the serving of pork or shellfish. What is certain is that the many talented chefs in the hotels and restaurants serve up delicious meals, and substitutes created for dairy products assure that nothing is lacking from any menu. Find more information on kosher food at: ELECTRICITY Israel's electric current standard is the European 220/240 V/50Hz. Most hotels provide 1l0-V outlets for shavers only. Three-pin plugs are standard; if needed, adaptors can be purchased in Israel. SHOPPING Every country has its own character and products. Israel is not a "shoppers" paradise. Many shops will have souvenirs - but Jerusalem and Bethlehem has a lot to offer. Dead sea Mud products. All airports and flights have revenue free shops. Egypt will offer perfumes, linens etc. There are a number of genuinely good buys to be made in Israel, where trade and tariff agreements with many countries eliminate customs duties. Purchases most favoured by visitors include jewellery - the diamond and precious gemstone industry is one of the world’s most actively traded - leather accessories and furs, religious articles, works of art, registered antiques and antiquities, carpets, and fashion items, particularly beach wear. CUSTOMS Cameras, video cameras and laptops should be declared at the airport prior to departure — ask for assistance at the airport. Take your spare films/memory cards from home -it's usually cheaper. All passengers may carry a certain amount of goods custom free to South Africa. Should you do a lot of buying - make a list of everything and keep all your receipts to fill in customs forms on return. GEOGRAPHY Israel is situated at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea on the "land bridge" between Europe, Asia and Africa. Its topography is a microcosm of the world's topographies, including mountain ranges, plains, savannahs and deserts. The notable points of the Jordan River, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea and the Red Sea are part of the continuum of the great Afro Syrian Rift Valley and include the lowest point on earth at the Dead Sea.  RELIGION Israel's mandate guarantees total freedom of religion and free access to holy places of worship for followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Each religion has autonomy over its holy places and houses of worship, and establishes the hours and rules of conduct for visiting them. Visitors are expected to demonstrate respect and dress modestly at religious sites.  Find more on their religions at: SHABBAT The Jewish "Shabbat", observed from Friday evening until Saturday evening, governs many activities in hotels and some public places. Special events in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv hotels should therefore, not be planned for Friday evenings or Saturday during the day. Hotels continue to function normally and all non-kosher restaurants remain open throughout. Some sites are closed on Friday afternoon and Saturday. Restrictions on the rental and use of conference equipment apply on the Sabbath and on and Jewish holidays. Similarly, Moslem sites are closed on Friday, the Moslem Sabbath, and Christian sites on Sunday.  TELEPHONES CELL PHONES It is advisable to take a cell phone with and activated SMS roaming before you leave OR Tambo airport. You can receive SMS from SA at normal rates and send SMS’s at R2.75.This is the most cost effective way to stay in contact-but you have to activate “SMS Roaming” while in South Africa (OR Tambo) after activation; you will not receive any more calls, only sms’s. REMEMBER TO LOAD SOME AIRTIME [R100 WILL ALLOW YOU ABOUT 30 SMS's FROM ISRAEL] S.A. sms bundles does not work. To activate: Vodacom:  SMS the word “ROAMON” to 123  -  MTN: dial:  *111*14# - Cell-C does not offer SMS roaming.  I suggest that the 'Cell-C" users buy a "Vodacom" prepaid simcard @ about R1 for this purpose .An advanced telecommunications infrastructure permits convenient and easily accessible international telephone communications. All hotel rooms have telephones for domestic and international calling, including credit card calls. Public telephones using "tele cards" are found on virtually every corner, as are kiosks selling the cards. Rental cellular phones are also readily available.  Full IDD service   Country code: 972     Emergency Numbers  Police:  100    Ambulance:  101  Fire:  102 COMMUNICATION  In this age of instant information and communication, visitors to Israel in general, and business travellers in particular, are pleased to find they are never out of touch. Not only does Israel enjoy a broad communications- technology infrastructure, but it is one of the world-leaders in developing new communications technology. Most hotels offer upwards of forty cable television stations, including the world's major news organizations and a variety of local, regional and European channels. Internet access and satellite-broadcast systems for tele-conferencing are readily available; the reception staff at your hotel should be able to arrange these in advance of your stay. TIPPING No tip is expected for taxi rides; a 10% tip in restaurants is considered "correct", with 15% or 20% given for superior service. Convention dictates that you tip your tour guide and coach driver at the end of your visit. Hotel rates include a service charge, though tips are usually given to porters, maids, waiters and front desk staff.   LOCAL GREETINGS You are not likely to offend anyone in Israel by trying to use the country's traditional greeting. Just as localss do not take offense to visitors from other countries saying “hello,” you are welcome to use the Israeli greeting “shalom” when you visit. It will help you blend in with the locals. The literal translation of the traditional greeting is “peace,” and it is used for both hello and goodbye across Israel. DO ASK QUESTIONS  Be curious about the places you visit. In Israel, there is a proud culture among its citizens. They enjoy talking about their country, the sites to see, the Jewish religion and even politics. You should not shy away from talking to locals about these subjects if you are in a conversation with a person who knows all about the area. There is no better way to discover the differences in Israel and your own hometown than this – and that is what you are there for. DRESS APPROPRIATELY  Dress codes are pretty simple and are common sense in Israel, but there are a few rules you might not be accustomed to. Make sure you pack conservative clothes for visiting any religious sites. Men should not wear shorts or go without shirts around these sites. When visiting Jewish shrines or memorials, it is also proper for men to cover their heads. Often there will be a complimentary yarmulke (a small skullcap) available to visitors who need to cover their heads. Women should not dress in anything that exposes bare legs or shoulders while visiting a holy site. TRAVEL INSURANCE  You can contact your; Bank, Medical Aid or Insurance Company for assistance. Medical fees are very high in foreign countries — should you have a Medical Scheme (for your convenience) get the international information from them for your personal use - and inform them of your travel arrangements. We strongly advise you to get Travel Insurance – we will assist you with affordable group insurance at R35 per day. CURRANCY; New Shekel (ILS) = 100 agorot (singular, agora). Notes are in denominations of ILS200, 100, 50, and 20. Coins are in denominations of ILS100, 50, 10, 5, 1 and half and 50 and 10, 5 and 1 agorot.  WE ADVISE YOU TO EXCHANGE INTO US$ Dollars as this accepted all over. Ask for small denominations $1 and $5 Currency Exchange:  All major credit cards are accepted. ATMs are widely available.  CREDIT CARDS Major international credit cards are honoured in most hotels, restaurants and places of business. These include VISA, Master card, American Express and Diners Club. Service for each is provided by designated Israeli banks, with cash debits to your credit card available from most ATM (Automatic Teller) machines. Inform your banker for authorisation. HEALTH No vaccines are required for entering Israel. Certain immunizations or boosters are sometimes recommended. Consult your local doctor if you have any concerns. Israel has excellent medical facilities, especially in Tel Aviv, and tourists may go to all emergency departments and first-aid centres. Health centres are marked by the red Star of David on a white background. However, any medical form of treatment can be expensive. Medical travel insurance is recommended. MEDICINE Prescription medicines must be accompanied with a copy of the prescription. Keep at least 2 days’ worth of chronic medicines in your hand luggage. A basic medicine for pain, nausea and stomach upsets may be taken. Drink as much water as possible during the flight, (Its Free) it helps with swelling and "jetlag WATER Tap water is normally chlorinated, and whilst relatively safe, may cause mild abdominal upsets. Bottled water is available and is advised. Tap water outside main cities and towns may be contaminated. Milk is normally pasteurized and dairy products are generally safe for consumption. Be wary of street vendor-s. Hotels provide water with meals. VISA AND PASSPORTS  VISA Requirements: All persons in possession of a valid South African Passport do not need to apply for VISA permission prior to the tour departure date. Your passport should be valid for at least another 6 (six) months from your return tour date. All persons who do not own a valid South African passport will need to apply for one as soon as possible in order to make all your travel arrangements. For our transit in Egypt we will need a Visa for those that would like to take the time to explore Egypt.  Note: As a consideration to travellers intending to travel to an Arab country other than Egypt or Jordan after visiting Israel, entry stamps will be placed only on the entry form AL-17 and not on the actual passport (on request). This facility is not available to those required to obtain their Israeli visas in advance. Most Arab countries will refuse entry to anyone with an Israeli stamp in their passport. Embassy of Israel in Pretoria contact details, Tel: (012) 470 3500; Email: INFO@PRETORIA.MFA.GOV.IL  GENERAL HISTORY OF ISRAEL  The State of Israel is located in the south-western part of Asia. Bordered by Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt it is one of the most prosperous state in the Middle East. The State of Israel has a large number of castles and ports which bear witness to the history of the country. Israel benefits from the presence of major historical sites relating to different religions including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Therefore a large percent of the travellers consist of pilgrims. The history of Israel dates back to the Hebrew Bible. According to the first chapter of the Bible, Jacob (one of the patriarchs of the country mentioned in Old Testament) was rechristened Israel after wrestling with an angel of God. Therefore after attaining Independent Status the country was named the State of Israel in 1948.  The History of Israel can be traced back to the days of the Old Testament in the Holy Bible. The state was called the ‘Promised Land’ which was meant to be for the Jews, the predecessors of Jacob. The country of Israel holds a number of connotations for the Christian and Islamic religions. It is here that Jesus Christ was born.  Israel denotes the amalgam of three continents – Europe, Africa and Asia. Therefore the culture of Israel is a skein of all the cultures, customs and traditions from across the three continents. On the junction of commerce routes, the land also witnessed a wave of armies -the Canaanites, Hebrews, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders Ottoman Turks and the British. Most of the fortifications, castles and royal palaces were built by these visitors who reigned the country of Israel from time to time. During the rise of various regimes in the country, the Jews migrated to other parts of the world. During the British regime in Israel, the Jews were subjected to great atrocities. The Second World War saw the Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler massacre 6 million Jews in Europe. Following the growing atrocities across the world, the Jewish Community in Israel re-established sovereignty and Israel was announced as a separate state for the Jews. Following this declaration, the Arab countries of Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq declared war against the State of Israel. This marked the beginning of the War of Independence. Through the years, Israel has been embroiled in conflict the country is widely visited by Christians and Muslim pilgrims from across the globe. And the close association of the country with these religions helps in promoting the Tourism Industry in Israel. How suitable is the tour for senior citizens?  A special Senior citizen tour can be arranged for slow walkers. All efforts will be made to ensure the best travel and living arrangements to make everyone as comfortable as possible, although everyone should remember that there will be a fair amount of walking daily. The walking as referenced is not difficult but on certain days there are some minor distances and everyone will move as a group and have enough resting periods. The day does get long if you do not hydrate enough. If someone has difficulty walking or need longer/more rest stops it can be arranged, key factor is just to talk to you tour guide or group leader to assist you with your requirements. How much spending money should I take with?   A recommended R 3 500.00 per person (might be less if you do not spend a lot on lunches and share with someone); obviously you need to assess your personal needs and know that you can buy with your credit card at most places.  What is included and excluded in the tour cost?  Included:   Return flights from South Africa (Johannesburg),(Egypt air)Accommodation (2 sharing Max 3) 2 Meals per day (B&D) Airport assistance upon arrival Transfers : airport to hotel /Tel Aviv Hotel to airport Touring: as per itinerary  touring in deluxe a/c  motor coaches Certified  &  professional Guide  services on transfers and touring days Entrance fees to sites as per itinerary  Accommodation on Half board basis in 3/4 star category of hotels Luggage handling at hotels and airport  Guide from departure Johannesburg to return Johannesburg. Rates do not include  Extras of personal nature  Insurance of any kind Tips to guides, drivers and hotel staff Tips to waiters and bell boys at hotels Beverages with dinners or breakfast Please Note: Neither of the tour operators, hotels, organizers or group leaders will be held responsible for any personal injury, damages or loss any participant of the tour might experience during the movements and times of the tour. Each individual is liable for their own net-safety and cost that might accumulate in the case of non-compliance with matters of the law, loss or injury. (Further detail of this nature will be sent to everyone soon about the accountabilities and terms related to these points).  Is there any other cost I should be aware of?  Additional expenses on your side might occur, such as obtaining a passport, spending money you will take with, the relevant insurances, tips $10 per day collected at airport by group leader (if not paid in advance), extra excursions, bank fees and any personal expenditure or medical assistance you might require during the tour.    If you are not taking large amount of money - take cash US$ - Dollars are easier to change into Shekel (Israel). -$1, $5, $10, is the best. Buy your (foreign money) at your Bank - remember to show your passport and flight t ticket. If you want to use your credit card- Confirm the use of your credit card with your bank. It will cost nothing should you not make use of it. Remember to use all foreign change before returning to South Africa as it cannot be exchanged here. A small calculator might help when calculating monies. A purse or money belt (preferable) under your clothes is always a good idea when traveling. It is of great importance as you do not always handle your own luggage. DO NOT KEEP TRAVELERS CHEQUES, PASSPORTS, MONEY or JEWELERY IN YOUR SUITCASE. Photocopies of your documents kept by someone else (or in another place as your original documents) - is also a good idea. All meals on flights are free. Two good buffet meals per day as per itinerary. South Africans normally like nibbling on dried fruit, dried wors and biltong. It must be vacuum packed in small portions for daily use. TRANSIT  For your comfort: Comfortable clothing for the flight. Suggestion: Dress light with a warm jacket/jersey or tracksuit. Your hand luggage should contain everything you need to freshen up. (Toiletry bag-try to get samples-small portions at chemists, cosmetic counters etc.) No aerosols. Liquids/creams max 100ml units totals 1L) provided it is kept in a clear see through plastic bag or container. Keep the rest in your main luggage. Keep your cameras etc. with you —suitcases will only be available when arriving at our first hotel in Israel after your day tour. Remember: Do not drink water out of taps - most people in Egypt and Israel make use of tap water - we don't have the time to take chances to get used to the water - time is precious and expensive. All hotels have water available during meals - otherwise buy bottled water.  I hope this will assist you in your planning Elaine 0827424563. Finding the lowest price for your Tour while providing the best level of customer service and touching beyond for the experience of a lifetime.