Leisure activities in Israel

Leisure activities in Israel
Updated 2017-09-18 09:26

Israel offers expats a chance to discover and explore an incredibly rich cultural life. Places of interest in Israel include historical and religious sites, but also contemporary cultural institutions constantly coming alive with events and gatherings.

Each of the country's three major cities has its own identity and assets: Jerusalem is the go-to destination for history buffs, Haifa is perfect for family life and Tel Aviv offers a bustling, fast-paced night life, ideal for youths. Wherever you are in Israel, you'll find ample leisure and entertainment opportunities.

Cultural life in Israel

Israel boasts a very rich cultural heritage, thanks to the intermingling of immigrants from every corner of the world. This identity is apparent in the diversity of the country's cultural offer.

The country has a vibrant visual arts scene, with painting and sculpture somewhat influenced by European styles, but also exhibiting typically local features. You can discover samples of the finest contemporary Israeli art in Tel Aviv's many independent galleries. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is also definitely worth a visit.

Acclaimed writers such as Shmuel Yosef Agnon, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966, Yehuda Amichai or Amos Oz, can be read at Jerusalem's Jewish National and University Library, which is only the most prominent of the country's hundred of libraries.

When it comes to music, the country is as versed in classical music - notably thanks to the internationally-acclaimed Israel Philharmonic Orchestra - as in contemporary pop, folk and rock. Israeli contemporary songwriters having achieved international profile include Yael Naim and Avishai Cohen.

In addition to Habima, Israel's national theatre, the country is home to countless cultural venues, theatres, and performing arts centres. The kibbutzim (rural communities) often have their own local theatre.

Finally, contemporary Israeli film-makers have gained international recognition for recent productions such as Waltz with Bashir.

Sports in Israel

A wide array of sports are followed and practised in Israel. Although team sports like football and basketball are long-standing favourite spectator sports, tennis is also very big in the country, which nurtured world-class players such as Amos Mansdorf, Anna Smashnova or Shlomo Glickstein. You can find courts and lessons throughout the country.

Israel's lenient climate also invites outdoor activities like biking, hiking and climbing, and water-sports like windsurfing or scuba diving.

The country has participated in the Olympic games since 1952 and is also home to the Maccabiah Games, an international competition, which attracts thousands of Jewish athletes in a range of contests. Held every four years, the Maccabiah Games are a major highlight in the country.

Going out in Israel

Israelis love to go out. From Jerusalem's traditional souk to Tel Aviv's beach clubs and hectic bars (which mostly concentrated around the disused old port of the city), the country no doubt has something for you.

Whatever your tastes are, you cannot help but love the local gastronomy. Israel offers a rich, yet very healthy cuisine, with plenty of fresh vegetable and fruit, and more fish than meat. The country's signature dishes are very similar to those of the Levantine Arabic countries, and include:

  • chickpea-based hummus seasoned with a variety of herbs and nuts;
  • falafel, i.e. pads made out of fava beans and/or chickpeas;
  • shakshuka, an egg-based dish involving chopped peppers, tomatoes and a mix of herbs and spices, traditionally served steaming hot for breakfast; and
  • crudités salad and pickles, best served with a fresh, warm pita bread.

Good to know:

Finding open shops and restaurants on Shabbat (from Friday to Saturday night) can sometimes be challenging, so it is recommended to keep a frozen pizza or canned food at home just in case!

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.