Every country in the world has its own norms and customs, and while violating laws may get you into legal trouble, breaking cultural expectations does not come with as harsh a sentence. However, if you’re looking to stay friends with the locals, we highly recommend respecting how they run their community.
Conforming to social norms is especially important in the beginning, as it helps you assimilate into society. So, if you’re looking to win over the hearts of your Israeli community, here are some taboos to steer clear from!
Driving During Yom Kippur
Every culture and religion has their own practices that they hold to be important. Similarly, Yom Kippur is a religious day respected by everyone in Israel, and you’ll find locals paying respect despite their background.
Yom Kippur is known as one of the holiest days in Judaism and is dubbed the day of atonement. Practicing Jews will spend the day repenting for their sins and seek forgiveness from God. Out of respect, you’ll find most of the country come to a halt on the day. That means no driving, no open shops, or public services, and all you will see is people riding their bikes. Barring emergencies, any kind of driving is considered a cultural taboo and should be avoided for the day.
Debates on Politics
Israel has been the center of political debate and conversation for years, and no matter how unique you might think your point of view is, the chances are that everyone’s already heard it!
Unless asked directly, we recommend avoiding sparking debate with locals. It’s especially seen as off-putting when it’s from a visitor. Everyone has differing views, and eventually, the conversation can get heated. Instead, celebrate the things you agree on and work on keeping the environment fun and light!
To be clear, we’re not saying you shouldn’t speak your opinion as most Israelis are warm-hearted and open-minded, and are always eager to engage in a political conversation. However, if you are about to do so, we would advise taking a more cautious approach when discussing politics with an Israeli you have little acquaintance with.
Recommend reading: What You Should Never Do in Israel
Respect Memorial Sirens
Twice a year, everyone in Israel halts for a minute and bows their head in respect. This occurs during Memorial Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day and is done in memory of lost lives.
It’s an overwhelming sight. At the sound of the siren, everyone in the country stops what they’re doing to bow their head in prayer and remembrance. Even drivers stop their cars on the side of the road and and get out to pay their respects. It’s considered taboo to be sitting or chatting during the minute-long moment of silence and paints you in a bad light.
The only other way to enter conflicts unknowingly is through language disparities. So, get that sorted by learning Hebrew online with native teachers! It’s fun, easy and interactive, and is bound to leave you more prepared for your trip to Israel. Check out the online Hebrew courses offered by Ulpan-Or and register yourself today.