Weather in Israel

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. Being a glider pilot I study meteorology as a hobby, and let me tell you, there's something special in the air here ;) 

A quick look at the weather in Israel, year-round

Spring time! Pink carpet of cyclamens

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.


Rain over Nazareth

For 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 Shlomo Artzi called it in the 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:

  • The closer you are to the Mediterranean or the Kinneret, humidity rises.
  • The higher you go, and the further inland, the air dries.
  • The northern half of Israel is farm land and pine forests, some man made, and stays green even in the summer.
  • South of Beer Sheva is officially a desert, with less than 200mm rainfall a year. 
  • We do get extreme weather events: Last year Eilat recorded 48 deg. Celsius! Which is why I guess people love going Ice-Skating there :-)
  • If I could have two houses I'd live in Tel Aviv in the winter, and in Jerusalem in the summer. 



Ok, here are a couple of important things you need to know about SUN and WATER in Israel:

The Israeli Sun

If you're planning to work on your sun tan, please follow these precautions:  

Don't.
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 Brit, 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 that, while his skin was blistered and peeling, and the slightest touch unbearable.

Skin 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.

The Pink Englishman - High on Sunlight in Israel

Water

Because Israel is a hot country, the founding generation, in great wisdom, made a law that drinking water should be free in public places.

Get this: 
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.

Tap 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 :-)

Many 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.

Water conservation

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.


ways to save water at home

I've put together a list of the day-to-day ways we save water at home.

Check it out- it can cut down your water bill dramatically >>

Our best friend the Air Conditioner!

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.


Air Conditioning Condensate harvesting tutorial

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>>



Winter tip

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.


Snow in Jerusalem

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.

 

What to pack for summer in Israel:

  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottle to carry around and refill, or a thermal mug to keep water cold
  • For hikers – a water-pack is a great option
  • Hat – preferably with a wide brim to shade your face and neck, and also for visits to religious places.
  • Sunglasses
  • Flip-flops or Sandals for walking, and /or
  • Light and airy walking shoes
  • Shkafkafim – some kind of plastic sandals you can swim with, protect your feet from stony shores and sea urchins in Eilat.
  • Beach towel
  • Swim suit
  • Light clothes – thin cotton is best. The techno-fibers dry-fit style clothes are also great – think "ventilation"!
  • Summer is for skirts and dresses. Thin shoulder straps, short sleeves, short pants and loose, un-clinging clothes
  • For men – unless it's a high profile business meeting or a bar mitzva – skip the tie and jacket. Bring long pants from a thin fabric for meetings, and knee length shorts for walking around
  • For mountain areas, north of Israel, Jerusalem, and the desert – a wind breaking warmer layer for the evenings and nights
  • For the AC in offices, lecture halls and theaters – bring a warm shirt or sweater. Or at least a good scarf / shawl
  • Ladies - Light makeup that is suitable for hot and humid weather. Consider a moisturizer with UV blocking
  • A Mosquito Repellant is a good idea



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