Blink and you might miss it, but contrary to popular belief Israeli winter does exist.
Filled with drops of rain we’ve been praying for all year long, crisp air, and hot chocolate-worthy coffeeshop dates, it’s also got some unpredictable obstacles that must be carefully navigated.
Live by the tips and tricks that we’ve picked up over years of braving the Israeli winter, and you too can learn how to survive this tricky season — and even enjoy it!
- Don’t bother buying an umbrella
Yes, winter in Israel can be stormy and rainy. And yes, Israelis buy umbrellas each year at an alarming rate. But it’s really an exercise in futility.
Rains here often comes with extreme gusts, turning umbrellas inside out faster than you can say “noooooo! ”You could, of course, load up on umbrellas, but they will no doubt end up in the trash or forgotten in the coffee shop’s communal “umbrella bucket.”
Better to invest in a good raincoat, flip up the hood, and run fast to your destination.
2. Do invest in rubber rainboots or Blundstones
Like other places where drought is a constant threat and most of the year is sunny, Israel doesn’t seem to have invested much in street drainage. A bit of rain can turn city streets into a raging river or sidewalk-surrounded moat.
You can imagine what that’ll do to your poor innocent sneakers! Ugg style boots are toasty warmbut no match for the rain.Instead, pick up a pair of Blundstones, a favorite in Israel (as long as they are continually treated) or good old-fashioned rubber boots.
3. Do get fuzzy socks and slippers (the floors are cold!)
Often made from uninsulated concrete and tile, Israeli houses were designed to keep cool most months of the year. However, come winter, you might be feeling the wind entering like an uninvited house guest.
To boot, many Israelis do not have rugs in their homes, preferring to tread along cooler-to-the-touch tile flooring. Investing in some fuzzy socks and cozy slippers will keep your feet happy in the face of freezing cold tile first thing in the morning, late at night, and all day long for that matter.
Pick up these cheap and iconic Israeli slippers anywhere, including discount stores and the shuk, for an authentic look modeled by Israeli Sesame Street character Kippi the hedgehog.
4. Do heat up the dud (pronounced ‘dude’)
If you’ve never spent time in Europe, jumping into the shower in the wintertime may cause a rude awakening for you. Why, you ask? Because hot water must be made here.
Most Israeli houses and apartments have sun-powered water heaters providing warm water most of the year. But on a cloudy winter day you can forget about anything other than frigid water coming out of your pipes.
You need to plan ahead: Flip on the dud (electric boiler) about an hour before you shower or tackle the pile of dishes in your sink. Don’t forget to switch it off when you’re done!
5. Do get creative with drying your laundry (or plan your outfits in advance)
Most Israelis simply don’t do dryers, which is no problem when it’s hot and sunny. It’s not so great when it’s dark and rainy and your sweater that’s hung on a clotheshorse in front of a space heater in your living room is still damp after two days.
Again, this may require advance thinking. Do you want to wear that cute dress tomorrow? Better get it washed and hung to dry with plenty of time on the clock. Is your raincoat soaked? Make sure to lie it flat to dry before you’ll be needing it again.
6. Do crack open a window
Sometimes the wintertime can be a pleasant change from the Israeli heat. Finally, you can enjoy a cool breeze, crisp morning air, and enjoy feeling powder dry. You may find yourself walking down the street content with the fresh air, only to arrive at your destination and step into a heavily heated classroom, house, restaurant or bus. Israelis are acclimated to hot weather, after all. You’ll probably want to crack a window.
7. Do fire up the kumkum
Go into any Israeli office and you’ll notice a coffee corner complete with an electric tea kettle (kumkum, pronounced “koomkoom”), instant coffee granules, black Turkish coffee, and tea bags.
Coffee culture may reign supreme in Israel most of the year, but winter is prime tea season. And what better way to keep the warm fuzzies coming than to drink an endless supply of the stuff all day long?
Invest in a kumkum, and you too can make your own little tea corner anywhere you can find a plug, so you’ll always have access to boiling hot water in nearly no time.
8. Do layer up
Cool in the morning, warm in the afternoon, scattered showers whenever — it’s hard to plan a wardrobe during an Israeli winter. Which means layers, layers, layers.
You’ll be taking things off and putting them back on as the weather fluctuates. And in case you get unexpectedly soaked, might as well keep a fleece or two and a pair of dry socks in the car, your bag, or office as well.
9. Do dust off your soup pot
Another way to get that warm fuzzy feeling is to indulge in a bowl of homemade soup. While chicken soup with matzah balls might be the Jewish penicillin of New York, Israelis prefer their chicken soup with veggies and couscous.
Also doing the trick are vegetarian soups like split pea, sweet potato, and lentil –all Israeli favorites that can be made in a cinch at home or picked up at a café. Meaty options like spiced oxtail soup or rich kubbeh (meat-stuffed semolina dumpling) soup can be found in your friend’s grandmother’s home or at homestyle restaurants.
The most important part is to eat all your soup while it’s still steaming hot.
10. Do get a weather app and watch the news
Israeli winter weather can be deceiving. It can be sunny, then suddenly stormy, or ominously cloudy without actual rain. When planning your day’s outings, check a weather app and cross-reference it with what they’re saying on the national news.
Here’s why: Your app might warn of rain but miss out on potentially life-threatening flash flood warnings, which are especially important in certain areas such as the Dead Sea, or if you plan on doing any winter desert hiking.
11. Don’t forget where you put the candles
Winter winds and storms sometimes cause short-term power outages. Sure, you could stumble around using your phone as a flashlight, but it’s better to light some candles.
Buy some candles and matches, and put them in an accessible place. You might never end up using them, but Murphy’s Law dictates that if you didn’t have them, you’ll be wishing you did.
12. Do load up on citrus (and later strawberries!)
Just when cold and flu season is at its peak in the northern hemisphere, Israel’s glorious citrus and strawberry season (aka vitamin C season) comes around.
Take advantage of our candy-sweet mandarins and red grapefruits, bittersweet kumquats (called “Chinese oranges” in Hebrew), gigantic pomelos and smaller pomelits (also called “sweeties”) whose segments burst with sweet juice.
Strawberries, which contain even more vitamin C than oranges, show up in late winter to brighten the mood. You’ve never tasted a strawberry until you’ve tasted a soft ruby red one at its absolute peak. Wait for the right time (which depends on factors like yearly rainfall and temperature patterns) and you can get a whole kilo for 5-10 shekels. The ripe juicy berries tend to go bad fast, so freeze extras to blend into amazing fruit shakes whenever the mood strikes.
13. Don’t fail to show up, rain or shine
Not known to be fair-weather friends, Israelis consider apocalyptic weather a poor excuse for backing out on a planned event or date. Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised when friends and family brave the storm to show up to your event, but also know that (darn!) you’ll be expected to show up at theirs.
14. Do learn to order food online
When the weather is too bleak to go out, just hunker down, say thank you for technology and order in. There are many apps for ordering prepared food, including Tapingo and 10Bis, especially if you are in the big city (aka Tel Aviv). Just make sure to give the delivery guy a generous tip, poor thing!
Similarly, ordering groceries online in Israel has become the norm, and can even be done in English if you use the page translation function. It may take a while to get the hang of this, but ordering online allows you to see exactly how much money you are about to spend before clicking the “pay now” button. Plus, sale items are listed together on one page!
Big chains like Shufersal and Rami Levy and even smaller chains like Nitzat Haduvdevan (Cherry Blossom health-food stores) offer online grocery shopping. Have an Israeli friend help you set it up and you’ll be good to go.
15. Do take your activities indoors
You can’t spend all day binge-watching Netflix. Get out of the house for some indoor adventures, ranging from art and baking workshops to indoor skydiving and ice skating. Click here for more ideas.