Travel has always been an integral part of human nature. We love to travel. And a LOT. But what impact do we make on the places we visit? Can we leave a positive impact behind us? When you ask these questions, you start traveling sustainably. In this post, we’ll tell you all you need to know about sustainable travel and how you can do it in Israel.
So, what exactly is sustainable travel?
From Wikipedia: “Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting somewhere as a tourist and trying to make a positive impact on the environment, society, and economy.”
To travel sustainably, we need to do some things. We need to conserve the natural places that we visit. We need to respect our surroundings. We need to support the local communities. And we need to learn about their cultures.
Instead of polluting the places we visit, we leave them clean behind us. Instead of dominating the wildlife, we let the wildlife strive. Instead of buying from a travel agent, we buy from a local service provider and help the local economy. And instead of disrespecting the culture of a place, we broaden our knowledge and bring something of that culture back home. So, when you travel sustainably, you travel better.
If you want to try sustainable travel in Israel, here are our travel tips:
1. Come in the low season.
When there are too many people traveling at the same time, it can leave a bad impact on a place. Israel is a very small country. It takes around eight hours to drive across it from the north to the south. So, you can imagine how crowded it can get in the high season. Don’t come in the summer (June to September) or in the spring (March to May). Opt to come in the winter (November to February) or in the fall (October). The weather is still great most of the time, and there’s more to Israel than its beaches.
2. Bring a reusable shopping bag.
Israel is becoming more and more ecological. But there are still some places that offer plastic bags. When packing for the trip, make sure to pack a reusable shopping bag. Use it every time you go to buy things, whether it is groceries or souvenirs. This is a great way to do sustainable travel in Israel.
3. Learn some Hebrew and Arabic.
The three main languages spoken in Israel are Hebrew, Arabic, and English. So, if you speak English most people will understand you. Though, if you want to experience the culture, speaking the local languages is a great way to do it. You can start learning a few basic words of Hebrew and Arabic before coming to Israel. “Thank you”, “please”, “yes”, “no”, “good morning”. These are some words that can raise a smile on the locals’ faces and completely enhance your trip.
Here’s a short lesson by Hebrew101:
4. Pick up your litter.
Make sure to always throw away your litter, whether you’re in one of Israel’s cities or on one of its hiking trails. In the main cities, there are garbage cans almost everywhere. In the outdoors, you can bring a garbage bag with you and put the litter there. If you want to be super sustainable, you can also pick up other litter you see on the way. Litter is not only not aesthetic, but also dangerous to the wildlife.
5. Buy local fruits and vegetables.
Israel is full of agriculture. But supermarkets prefer importing fruits and vegetables instead of selling the local ones. If you want to buy your food products and cook them while traveling, look for local products. You’ll find them in small grocery shops or the markets. Skip the big supermarkets. If you’re not sure if the fruits and vegetables were grown in Israel, ask someone. By buying local fruits and vegetables you’ll be helping the local agriculture. It has been suffering a lot lately. If you want to be super sustainable, visit a farmer’s market or go directly to the farmers.
6. Try vegan and vegetarian food.
Did you know that Tel Aviv is the vegan capital of the world? There is plenty of vegan and vegetarian places to eat in Israel, especially in Tel Aviv. Most of the local street food is vegetarian. Falafel, sabich, burekas, and hummus are all vegetarian! Eating vegan and vegetarian is a great way to help fight the meat industry. It leaves a very bad impact on our planet, not only on Israel. It increases greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, soil degradation, and many more bad factors.
Check out this great video by Israel:
7. Drink from the tap.
Did you know that plastic isn’t recyclable? This means that if you’ll buy a lot of mineral water during your trip, you’ll be leaving a lot of plastic behind. The tap water in Israel is drinkable, so we recommend bringing a reusable bottle with you. Israel is quite hot all year long, so choose a bottle that can hold at least 1 liter of water.
8. Use Couchsurfing.
There are many types of sustainable travel accommodation in Israel. One of them is Couchsurfing. This wonderful network connects travelers with locals from around the world. The locals offer their home as a free place to sleep. In return, travelers can offer to help with house chores. This is not only a budget way to stay in Israel. It is also a great opportunity for you to learn more about the local life and culture. Try sitting down with your host for breakfast or dinner and ask them about life here. There are many Couchsurfing hosts all around Israel. So, you will be able to meet some hosts along your trip.
Check out this video by Alexander Travelbum to learn more about Couchsurfing:
9. Stay at local hostels.
If you’re not so comfortable staying at someone’s home, you can always choose to stay at the local hostels. In recent years, more and more hostels have opened all around Israel. The best-known ones are the Abraham Hostels in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Nazareth. But there are plenty of others. Most of them are well-maintained, friendly, and clean. Make sure to stay at a locally-owned hostel, which is not part of a global chain. And when staying at a hostel, opt to stay in a dorm room. This way you’ll be saving on A/C, light, and cleaning.
10. Keep your showers short.
Water is not an endless resource. As a dry country, Israel is working hard on creating new water resources. In the past, we were completely dependent on the Sea of Galilee and sweet groundwater. But the Sea of Galilee is not always full, and the groundwater is drying up. So instead, we are trying to desalinate salt seawater. Help us save every drop of precious water by keeping your showers short. 5 minutes is plenty!
11. Go camping or glamping.
If you want to travel outside of the big cities, you can camp or glamp in the wilderness. There are many camping sites all around Israel, some of them free and some of them at a reasonable price. Though, you should know that most of the free ones have no facilities at all. When you go camping in the wilderness, also make sure to camp only in designated areas. These designated areas are there to limit our presence in the wilderness. This way we can help the wildlife strive around us.
If you prefer to camp in style, you can always choose glamping. Glamping is short for glamourous camping. It means you can enjoy luxury services while camping in the outdoors. To book a wonderful glamping experience, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
12. Hike on the marked trails.
Israel is full of hiking trails. And all are well marked. When hiking in Israel, make sure to always walk on the marked trails. Even if it’s tempting, don’t leave the trail to explore unknown areas. First of all, it could be dangerous. It could also harm the wildlife around you. No matter where we step, we are leaving our impact. So, let’s try to reduce our impact on the environment as much as possible.
Check out some travel ideas here: Nature in Israel: 10 Beautiful Places.
13. Walk Around in the Main Cities.
When exploring the main cities of Israel – Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and others – you can get around by walking. Make sure to stay in a place close to the city center. This way you’ll most likely be no more than a 45 minutes’ walk away from the main sites. So, you will be able to get some physical exercise as well as reduce pressure on transportation. If the walk is too long, you can also try the local public transportation. Usually, there are plenty of bus lines, which reach plenty of interest points.
14. Stay quiet when walking through neighborhoods.
Some neighborhoods are touristic areas in Israel. For example, the Nachlaot neighborhood in Jerusalem and the Florentine neighborhood in Tel Aviv. When walking through the neighborhoods, respect its residents. Try keeping your voice down and don’t stop and stand right under the window of someone’s house. Imagine yourself at your own home. Would you like people shouting outside your window?
15. Dress modestly in religious sites.
There are many religious sites in Israel, most of them located within the Old City of Jerusalem. For the Western Wall, you will only need to cover your shoulders and wear pants over the knee. But for the Temple Mount, you will need to cover yourselves completely and not wear skinnies. If you don’t want to walk around the whole city with long wide pants and long U-shirts, you don’t have to. The people on Temple Mount will supply you with long clothes for the visit, which you will need to return upon exit.
Other religious sites include synagogues, churches, and mosques. In churches, you need to enter without hats. In synagogues, it would be more respectful to enter with hats or head coverings. In mosques, it is customary to enter without shoes. In any case, respect what the religious people instruct you to do. Though, don’t let them disrespect your religion. If you are Jewish and wear a Kippa, you do not need to take it off even if entering a church. On Temple Mount, it is a different story. If you do wear a Kippa and want to enter Temple Mount, you will need to take it off for security reasons.
16. Respect customs.
There are some religious customs in Israel, which you should be aware of if you want to do sustainable travel in Israel. One of them is connected to the Shabbat, the holiest day for the Jewish people. This day begins in the evening of Friday and ends on the evening of Saturday. On Shabbat, religious Jewish people do not use technological or electronical devices. So, if you are visiting the Western Wall or the ultra-religious areas of Jerusalem, try to not use your phone. Most important, don’t take photos of Jewish religious people on Shabbat.
Also, there’s a Jewish religious law that does not allow to eat dairy products together with meat products. In short, it’s called eating Kosher. Most of the restaurants in Israel are Kosher. This means they won’t sell both dairy products and meat products. There will be a restaurant offering meat and another restaurant offering cheese. Those restaurants pay a lot of money for their Kosher certificate. Make sure to not enter with non-Kosher food into their restaurant. If you bought a cheese sandwich somewhere, don’t sit with it in a meat restaurant. And vice versa, don’t enter with a meat product into a diary restaurant. This can turn their restaurant into non-Kosher.
Watch this interesting video about Kosher food by BimBam:
17. Make sure to buy souvenirs Made in Israel.
If you want to bring some souvenirs home that’s fine. But make sure that the souvenir was made in Israel and not made in China. It might cost more, but at least you’ll be supporting the local community. Go to local galleries and local stores. Make sure to ask where the product was made. Best would be to see how they make the product in front of your eyes! One of the loveliest projects in Israel is Yad LaKashish. It is a Jerusalem nonprofit project empowering low-income elderly people. These elderly people create beautiful products – ceramics, jewelry, kippot, and more. You can visit their center in Jerusalem and purchase their wonderful work.
18. Talk to the people.
The people of Israel are very friendly. Try talking with them while traveling. Ask them about their profession, their life, and their feelings about Israel. Or you can just ask them for a food recommendation. Most will be happy to share their stories with you, and might even be happy to show you around. There is no better way to experience Israel than by talking to its residents.
19. Take care of Eilat’s coral reef.
Eilat, the southernmost city of Israel, is famous for its sunny beaches and its coral reef. It is the northernmost coral reef in the world. You can snorkel or dive to see it, but make sure not to damage it. Don’t kick the sandy ground when standing next to the corals, as the sand which rises upwards can clog them. This can hurt their ability to eat and develop properly. Also, don’t step on them and definitely don’t tear them apart. They aren’t souvenirs. They are living creatures. Respect the underwater life and enjoy it from a distance!
20. Learn about Israel before coming.
The best way to get ready for sustainable travel to Israel is to read about the country before arriving. The Travel Israel app by Travelkosh, a creation of local Israeli experts, can be a great start. Read about the different regions of Israel, learn about the customs and cultures. Then, start planning an amazing, sustainable journey to the land that so many have dreamt of coming to. If you need more specific help, you can always use our Trip Planner service.
So, as you can see, sustainable travel in Israel is not so complicated. We wish you an amazing and sustainable time in our beautiful country!
Download Travel Israel by Travelkosh TODAY:
The article was written by Lior Connelly, Israeli tour guide and owner of Backpack Israel, the ultimate website for budget travelers.