Israel is a small, but surprisingly colorful country. People from around the world visit the promised land of Jerusalem to make a pilgrimage to the Holy places, to Tel Aviv, to plunge into its vibrant nightlife, to the Red Sea coast to enjoy an amazing beach holiday and at the Dead Sea. Before leaving, every tourist thinks about what to bring from Israel as a gift for relatives, friends and colleagues. In any of the cities of the country – Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Eilat or Haifa, there will be an opportunity to buy unique gifts.
We have collected tips for you that will greatly facilitate gift shopping in Israel.
Israeli stores accept dollars. But if you buy in shekel, Israel’s local currency, you will get better rates!
Classic Israeli Souvenirs
Tourists often choose amulets as classic and meaningful gifts that can be brought from Israel. It is believed that charms and amulets purchased in the Holy Land can repel negativity.
1. Red thread
Tied on the wrist of the left hand with 7 knots, it is meant to protect against all kinds of negativity, damage, evil eye, illness and bad energy. The Red Thread should be tied only by people who wish you well. It is worn until it breaks. You can buy a red thread in Israel in any souvenir shop, the cost is from 2 shekels. In some places, consecrated threads are sold.
Hamsa is an ancient protective symbol in the form of an open hand. It is so ancient that historians still can’t pinpoint its origin. Some claim it comes from ancient Egypt and others from ancient Babylon.
The hamsa symbol is not only Jewish, but generally Middle Eastern. Muslims often call it the “hand of Fatima” with reference to the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. Christians in the Middle East call it the “hand of Mary” (Virgin Mary).
Hamsa can be with spread fingers along the ends – this is a protective amulet. Or it can be with joined fingers – this is an amulet for good luck. Often an eye is depicted inside the palm. But the Jews have the star of David and the Muslims a crescent moon.
It is believed that such images enhance the protective properties of the amulet. The color scheme on the hamsa of blue and blue shades serves as a reflection of the rays that bring evil to a person. The talisman protects from the evil eye, curses, evil people, serving a prosperous and successful life.
It is often hung at the entrance to the house to protect the house from diseases and troubles. You can buy a souvenir hamsa in the form of a pendant for your car.
A Hamsa made of silver is considered especially effective against the evil eye, since it was this metal was associated with purity and goodness in ancient times.
3. Star of David
Souvenirs with a six-pointed Jewish star (Mogen David) are found everywhere in Israel. Its image can be seen not only on pendants, but also on T-shirts, backpacks, scarves.
This symbol was adopted universally by the Jewish people in the 19th century as a symbol for martyrdom and heroism.
Keffiyeh is a men’s headwear commonly used in the Sinai and Arabian Peninsulas since ancient times. This name comes from the city of El-Kufa, where it was first worn.
Keffiyeh is a square scarf measuring 100*100 cm or rectangular 100*125 cm, protecting the head and face from the scorching sun, sandstorms, wind and cold. The scarf is folded diagonally, using the methods traditional for each region, and tied around the head. In some countries, it is fixed on the head with a hoop made from camel hair.
In the market you will find Keffiyehs in several colors: white, with white-red and black-and-white as well as multi-colored ones. They are made of cotton or wool, which dries quickly from sweat or rain thereby allowing the head to be always dry. Today Keffiyeh is an integral part of the military uniform in the Israeli army. In Europe, Keffiyehs are often used as a neck scarf, so this authentic scarf can be stylish gift.
5. Ceramic products
Beautiful ceramic products are a great souvenir from Israel. The variety of their types and the paintings on them will amaze you in the shops in Jerusalem. You will see numerous tiles, vases, flowerpots and dishes in a wide range of plates, jugs, cups, teapots, salad bowls, painted in traditional blue and white tones, as well as in bright colors.
There is a high demand for decorative plates depicting biblical scenes, the sights of the country and the symbols of Jesus Christ. Shops also sell handmade ceramic jewelry as earrings in the form of Hamsa and Star of David, necklaces and beads. Tourists recommend purchasing ceramics in the Armenian quarter of Jerusalem. It is considered the best place to buy ceramic tableware in terms of price-quality ratio.
Religious Souvenirs from Israel
6. Menorah and Hanukkah
Menorah and Hanukkah are candleholders and one of the oldest symbols of Judaism. According to biblical traditions, the menorah was made by the Almighty for the Jewish people. It represents a lamp of seven stems, which was previously used in Jewish temples during their wanderings in the desert. Later, the menorah became an integral religious attribute of the Jerusalem Temple, one of the main symbols of the Judaic religion and the Jewish state.
In addition to the sacred rites, the menorah among the Kabbalists is considered a sacred object that protects from evil forces and evil spirits. This religious attribute is lovingly decorated by craftsmen with floral decorations. According to your artistic taste, you can choose a menorah with enamel or silver coating. Each of them will become an exquisite souvenir, reminiscent of Israel, which can be used for its intended purpose for a ritual ceremony or to decorate your home.
Its price depends on what metal was used to make it. The most inexpensive products can be purchased for 40 shekels.
Travelers who have visited Israel advice to buy such candle holders not in souvenir shops, but in religious shops. There they are a little cheaper.
7. Christian Symbols
The purchase of Christian symbols from the Holy Land is a goal of numerous pilgrims. There is a great demand for icons depicting the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ, the Mother Mary, St. Nicholas and other saints who patronize success in various life situations.
There is a large selection of icons dedicated to protect family and home. For people who are passionate about travel, travel icons with prayer and holy water from the Jordan River will be a good gift.
You can choose from icons painted on canvas and wood, in silver and gold settings, and decorated with semi-precious stones. Buying a simple icon will cost 10-12 shekels, while original handmade icons are more expensive.
Most pilgrims try to bring candles from Israel.
Candles that have touched the Holy Fire in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher are recognized by believers as an invaluable gift, an opportunity through the Holy Light to feel the grace of God.
You can give your loved ones all 33 candles that come in a pack or one candle at a time. They are lit every day, except for Good Friday, during prayers in the morning and evening. You can buy both thin and thick Jerusalem candles in sets of 33 consecrated candles, sets of 3 candles or single candles.
Kipa is a small round cap worn by Jewish men. A huge variety of these skullcaps are available.
Wearing a kippah is a traditional custom among the Jewish, but many men do not wear it all the time. However, they always have it with them to put it on in appropriate situations for the occasion. A Kippah can be brought as a gift for a Jewish friend. When buying a kippah, do not forget to purchase a special hairpin for it.
Food Products from Israel
The most recognizable product of Israeli cuisine is hummus. It is essentially chickpea puree with sesame tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and other ingredients.
In supermarkets in Israel, whole shelves are allocated for hummus, the assortment of varieties is in the dozens. Usually hummus is sold in plastic containers of 150, 400 and 1000 grams. The most popular brand is called “Sabra”, you will recognize it by the green cap.
The local hummus has a much fresher taste than the one sold in supermarkets in Europe or America. But you should buy it on the eve of departure as high-quality hummus has a short shelf life.
11. Olive Oil
Israel does not produce very much olive oil – 15,800 tons per year. For comparison, in Tunisia 10 times more, in Spain 100 times more. However, the Israelis are trying to compete not in quantity, but in quality. Olives are grown here by small family farms, and most of their products are labeled “eco” or “bio”. In other words, no chemicals or fertilizers were used to grow these olives.
There are already several hundred of these brands in Israel. It is almost impossible to navigate them. The best are Galili, Lavi, Ptora, Shamna, Masik. The price is from 40 to 60 shekels per liter.
Supermarkets are the best place in Israel to buy good quality olive oil at the best price. If you visit this country in autumn and early winter, you can go on an olive plantation tour to look at olive trees, see the oil pressing process and buy oil at a good discount. The price of such a tour is 150-200 shekels per person.
12. Medjool Dates
Dates are much cheaper in Israel costing from 25 to 50 shekels per kilogram. The date picking season is October, November, December. When buying, make sure that the dates are from the last harvest. Just look at the appearance, the dates should be without skin tears.
In the Middle east they make a thick syrup out of dates to use it as a sweet sauce. You can easily buy this in any Israeli supermarket.
13. Israeli Honey
In Israel, you can try and buy several rare varieties of honey. Even ordinary field honey here has its own unique taste, because the taste depends on the set of flowers from which the bees collect nectar. Israeli honey is conditionally divided into three varieties: from the northern region of Galilee, from the Jerusalem mountains and southern from the outskirts of the Negev desert.
The most colorful variety is avocado honey. This honey is thick in consistency. It can be very different in color and taste, depending on the conditions in which avocado trees grow.
Another interesting variety is eucalyptus honey. Eucalyptus trees did not grow in Israel, they were brought in to drain the swamps. But it turned out that there have added benefits of beekeeping. This honey is thick and has a bright amber color.
And do not forget to experience the taste of the Israeli New Year – eat apples with honey. This is how Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is celebrated. Prices – 40-60 shekels per kilogram. To buy honey, it is best to go to the supermarket.
14. Halva and Halva Ice-cream
The Israelis do not claim to be the inventors of halva, and and neither is halva the national dish of Israel. However, halva in Israel is special.
Every country in the Middle East has its own halva recipe. Halva in Israel is prepared only from sesame seeds. What we call “sunflower halva” or “peanut halva” is not considered halva in Israel and in the Middle East in general. So, do not be surprised that halva in Israel is much more expensive than elsewhere. These are not higher prices, this is a completely different halva.
The most expensive Halva variety is with pistachios. The Israelis also make ice cream from halva. It is made from halva, eggs, cream and sugar. It is usually sold on stalls on the streets, rarely in supermarkets. The Israelis call it their answer to Snickers ice cream. Halva ice cream has not gained much popularity among the Israelis themselves, so finding it now is problematic. If you see it, be sure to try it. The price for halva is from 30 to 50 shekels per kilogram.
It is a common spice mix in the Middle East – a mixture of sesame, cumin, sumac, oregano and marjoram. Each country has its own proportions of spices and additional ingredients. Za’atar has been a product for the simplest meal for centuries – bread dipped in butter and then in za’atar. This tradition eventually transformed into the dish “manekish bi zaatar”, which is a bread that is generously sprinkled with zaatar and oil is poured on it before baking.
In Israel, Zaatar is used to season meat, hummus and yogurt. It is also used in almost any dish that lacks flavor. The price of a jar or a bag of 100 grams is 10-12 shekels.
Other delicacies that you can bring from Israel are:
- Soft cheeses – Tourists are advised to bring “Gvinat shamenet symphony” (fat content – 25%), “Gvinat lavana” (suitable as a salad dressing), “Koted’zh” (granular cheese, a local analogue of cottage cheese), “Tzfatit” (viscous, made like mozzarella), “Halumi” (better served fried).
- Olives – Israeli olives are famous for their fleshy flesh and rich flavor. They are sold fresh and canned with various additives: spices, spices, anchovies.
- Dried fruits – in Israel, you can buy sets with dried fruits that are unusual for us: carob, mango, figs and hibiscus flowers.
- Coffee – the mot popular drink of Israel is coffee with cardamom. Of the local producers, Elnahlya coffee is the most popular, the second most famous is Turkish coffee Elite. In Israel, a package of ground coffee weighing 250 grams will cost 18–20 shekels.
16. Israeli Wine
Wine has been made in Israel since biblical times. It is produced both in the classical way from grapes, and from pomegranate and other fruits. Some examples of wine brands to choose from:
- Budget wines (price up to 100 shekels) from Wortman, Barkan (Altitude series), Dalton wineries
- Red wines of the middle price segment (from 100 to 300 shekels): Wild Carignan, Ramat a-Nadiv, Sikra from the Clos de Gat winery, Enigma from the Margalit winery
- White wines of the middle price segment (from 100 to 300 shekels): any wine “Spheres”, “Chardonnay” from the winery “Yardin”, “Grenache Blanc” from “Vitkin”
- Rose wine “Gris de Marselan Rosé”
- Sparkling wine “Blanc de Blancs”
Regarding fruit wines that can be brought from Israel as a gift, tourists advise pomegranate wine (rimon) which will cost from 100 shekels per bottle. Currant wine will cost a little less – from 60 shekels. Liqueurs are also produced from fruits and berries: currant, orange, kiwi. The most popular liqueur producer is Amiad.
Which Cosmetic products to get from Israel
Dead sea cosmetics are the most popular gift from Israel. You can buy bath salts, soaps, shampoos, mud masks, sprays, scrubs and much more.
In general cosmetics from Israel are famous for their effectiveness and environmentally friendly components. Prices for cosmetics in Israel are quite high, but the price is higher than average due to the composition of the product and its development in the best laboratories.
By professional cosmetics we refer to the ones used in spa salons. But almost every manufacturer has a line for independent use. Here are some food brands:
- Christina – Cosmetics “Christina” in Israel is among the top most popular brands. The range includes products for problem skin, anti-aging creams, preparations for hair and nail care.
- Gigi – Another top brand of professional cosmetics from Israel. Gigi produces 60% of all cosmetics in Israel. The company’s most popular lines are cosmetics for problem skin and anti-aging products.
- Diamond Cosmetics – Cosmetics “Diamond” is famous for its anti-aging line (“DeSheli”) and products for men (“Men Gear Private Arsenal”).
- Kart & ADN – The company’s cosmetic products, according to tourists, replace the trip to expensive procedures. Among Kart & ADN products are preparations for non-injection mesotherapy, bamboo peeling and hot cleansers.
Professional cosmetologists give mixed advice. Purchase any cosmetics in pharmacies or stores opened at factories (Ahava and Sea of life). This will protect against the purchase of non-genuine goods.
Israeli cosmetics can be bought at Duty Free that have some of the lowest prices in the country. But the choice in Duty Free will not be as wide as in branded stores. If you need specific products of certain brands, it makes sense to look into their branded stores or pharmacies in the country.
Medicines to bring from Israel
Israel’s medicine, as well as pharmaceuticals, are considered among the best in the world. Tourists with serious illnesses should consult a specialist doctor before the trip and clarify which medicines to buy in Israel. But it should be borne in mind that most medicines in Israeli pharmacies are dispensed only by prescription. Without a prescription, you can buy dietary supplements, organic medicines and vitamins.
Read more: Petah Tikva, the medical center of Israel
What vitamins to bring from Israel?
The production of dietary supplements, homeopathic remedies and vitamins in Israel is carried out mainly by small companies. Many of the well-known products (for example, from Altman) are imported. Most popular are “Solgar”, “Kyolik” (additives based on garlic extract). Israeli SuperHerb vitamins are also recommended – there are multivitamin complexes for women, children and men.
The largest pharmacy chains are Superpharm and Newpharm. They sell both medicinal and cosmetic products, as well as vitamins, medicinal teas and herbal tinctures. Prices are generally lower than in Duty Free.
Gifts from Israel for women
Silver and gold jewelry, as well as jewelry with Eilat stone, are famous in Israel. The local Eilat stone is distinguished by its bright green color and azure dots. Most often, the Eilat stone is framed with silver. A pendant with an Eilat stone will cost from 150 shekels, a ring – from 200-250 shekels.
A few useful tips in addition to all of the above.
- When buying gifts and souvenirs, keep checks. If the purchase is worth more than $100, it is possible to get a VAT return. But for food items, VAT is not refundable.
- When planning what to bring from Israel and where to buy it, keep in mind that almost all shops are closed on Shabbat (Saturday).