One summer my father and I went down to Ben-Gurion airport to pick up old friends. They were from Holland, a country I remembered as green and grey with colorful stripes of flowers.
The road to Ben Gurion from our home in the desert was lined with yellow thorns, wild and parched.
I asked my dad:
"What does Israel look like to someone from abroad?"
He looked around and made a face.
"Burnt," he said.
The weather in Israel can be said to be eternal summer, but that's only a part of the story.
Sitting on the junction of three continents, with two seas, a sweet-water lake and the extreme conditions of the Dead Sea, you get a big range of climates and landscapes packed into a very tight space.
As a glider pilot I study meteorology, and let me tell you, there's something special in the air here ;)
The best time to visit, weather-wise, is in a transitional season – Spring or Autumn. These are the seasons for hiking and doing things outdoors.
Temperatures circle around the 20 degrees Celsius, the mornings and evenings are cool – it's perfect.
I'd say the Israeli winter is mostly harmless. The problem is, it comes in fits and starts. It can get seriously cold, and it snows in Jerusalem every other year or so.
Rain comes in 1 to 3 day events, and when it rains, it pours, drenching you in minutes. But it won't rain for more than an hour straight, and after another hour the sun comes out again.
a few short months, between December and March everything is green.
Around March the spring brings on crazy blossoms, and by April, everything turns yellow again.
The height of summer, the "July-August Heat" as popular singer song-writer Shlomo Artzi called it in his famous song, is ruled by a merciless sun.
Temperatures rise to the mid 30's (Celsius, that's 104 F) and stay there. There's no "weather" activity in the Israel in the summer; it's just a constant heat.
A lot depends on which part of the country you're in:
Ok, here are a couple of important things you need to know about SUN and WATER in Israel:
If you're planning to work on your sun tan, please follow these precautions:
Sun tanning is a bad idea, period.
I was visiting the Negev Gliding Center outside Beer-Sheva, wearing what sensible glider pilots wear in the summer here – long sleeved UV blocking shirt, long airy pants, closed shoes, hat, sunglasses and a ton of sunscreen.
Hanging around looking at the gliders were two guys, obviously tourists, with a British accent. One of them had taken his shirt off, and his torso had turned the color of beetroot.
Desperate to make him see reason, his friend turned to me in a sort of plea: "Tell us, why do you wear long sleeves and long pants in the middle of the summer?"
I looked at the guy and I understood – they have no sun there in England, and the sunlight in Israel makes them kind of high. It's something to do with the level of serotonin the brain produces when you're exposed to strong light. I knew what was happening and felt a bit sorry for him.
"The sun here is merciless," I said.
"Did you hear that?! DID YOU?" The guy yelled at his purple friend but the sunburnt guy just laughed maniacally.
I don't envy him the pain he went thru in the week after.
Cancer is REAL. Please oh please, don't do this. Wear sunscreen. Don't let
yourself get sunburnt.
If you plan to go hiking – take long and airy clothes and consider the sun an enemy to protect yourself from. Always make sure you have enough water, and a way to contact emergency services.
Israel is a hot country, the founding generation, in great wisdom, made a law
that drinking water should be free in public places.
Any establishment in Israel is obliged to give you a glass of tap water free of charge. The nicer places add a slice of lemon :-) But you'll pay thru the nose for water in the night clubs. Just saying.
water in Israel is good to drink everywhere.
It's not necessarily tasty in some places, but barring some ecological disaster it's perfectly safe. The best water –surprisingly perhaps, are in the Negev desert, in the south. These waters come from local wells, and taste great.
Tap water in Eilat are now also wonderful. They're desalinated sea water, produced by a process called Inverted Osmosis, and they taste so much better than what you got from the old process. That was desalination by freezing, and the result was uggghhh. Well, no more :-)
places in Israel have free drinking-water fountains. Not quite like Rome... but
cement and aluminum urban water coolers nevertheless. Many cafes in Tel Aviv
offer a cold water station free of charge. You may go in, get a drink and
leave, without buying anything or feeling bad about it.
Get yourself a durable water bottle and refill, instead of spending money on mineral-water, which by the way, is lacking in some of the minerals you need! A thermal mug is great to keep water cool.
Israel has solved its drinking-water shortage problem once and for all with a series of desalination plants, but that doesn't mean you can leave the tap running.
Please be considerate. This is still a desert, and desalinated water comes at an effort. Save water as much as possible, and be minded of it.
Purple pipes – DO NOT DRINK!
Purple pipes signify reclaimed water. Great for gardening, but very bad for your health. Please believe the signs.
I've put together a list of the day-to-day ways we save water at home.
Everywhere in Israel is air conditioned – busses, shops, offices, homes and hotels. We don't understand how people live without it. You'll appreciate it especially in Tel Aviv, where the humidity makes everything sticky.
The further you go inland, and the higher the altitude, the drier the air becomes. Jerusalem might have the same temperature as Tel Aviv, but with 25% humidity instead of a 100% it's a different planet.
Tip for the Ladies:
Air Conditioning in offices, lecture halls, cinemas and similar places is set to Freeze. If you're going to a lecture or to the cinema – take a sweater. In my shared-office-space, I wear a fleece jacket in August.
When the air conditioner cools the air, it also condensates the water from it.
Did you know you can harvest 9 or 10 liters a day from one small AC?
Here's how you can set up your own home-AC-condensate harvesting system>>
Bring warm clothes for indoors as well!
Indoor heating is not efficient in most Israeli homes (except Jerusalem, maybe). The Russian Olim complain that they feel colder here, at 10°C, then they did back at Moscow in minus 20, because we don't heat up full blast.
Also, Israeli floors are covered in marble or ceramic tiles – cool for walking barefoot in the summer, but you'll want slippers in the winter.
Weather in Israel can get very interesting.
As a glider pilot I follow it closely, and I can't stop admiring what a great variety we have over such a small piece of land.
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