Seeing the sights is one thing, but the secret to really experiencing Israel, and to tasting the culture and lifestyle, depends on how much you connect with the locals. Here’s how to do it.
1. Facebook Groups
The easiest place to start is online. You can start asking questions and meeting people long before you get here which will give you give you a great head start upon your arrival. There are various groups you can join, but Secret Jerusalem and Secret Tel Aviv are definitely well worth joining.
2. Weekend Sports
There are various casual groups who gather on the weekends to play football, rugby, volleyball… you name it! Take a look at specific ideas in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
3. Share a Meal with a Local
Food is one of the best introductions to a culture, and when you’re trying to connect with the locals, nothing beats being invited to their home for a meal. EatWith is an amazing resource which allows you to choose your destination, find a host and sign up for a meal.
This will allow you to meet a variety of different people from all walks of life ie. other travelers, locals who are very involved in the community, people with stories to tell who you otherwise would never have connected with. Top Israel Interns arranges a few volunteer opportunities with different organizations throughout the program.
Yes, we said it. Tinder connects you with people who are close proximity to you, allowing you to meet both locals and expats. So even if you’re not looking for love, it’s a good way to connect.
6. Date a Local
If you’re single and haven’t found the love of your life, then why not date while you travel? You’ll meet your partner’s friends, maybe even their family (if you’re brave) and have a private tour guide. It will make your trip more memorable, and who knows, you might even return home at the end of your trip with the ultimate souvenir – a local!
7. Take the Bus
Put away your phone, turn off your music, and talk to people. It’s easy to just pass time while you commute, but it’s so much better to use the time to communicate. If you have no idea what to say, start by asking for some directions, or offer someone a genuine compliment, being nice goes a long way.
8. Go Where The Locals Go
You want to grab a beer or a bite to eat, and naturally you’re tempted to choose the place with the most familiar looking menu and crowd – don’t. Go where the locals go. Choose a small place and use your hopeless level of Hebrew, combined with sign language and menu pointing to get recommendations on the menu and at the same time make new connections. Then if you enjoy the place, go back again. Why not become a regular and make friends with the guy behind the counter.
9. Small Gifts & Acts of Kindness
You catch the same bus every day and you recognize the driver. Give the guy a chocolate, it’s small, it’s cheap, and it’s an incredible way to make a connection. No one does that, and it can mean so much. Even better, bring a stash of treats from your home country (which are Kosher and not readily available in Israel) it’s the perfect conversation starter. If you don’t have a little gift on hand, you can always give your time and energy. See an old lady struggling with her shopping, help her carry the bags, and use the opportunity to talk and connect.
10. Say “Yes” More
Saying “yes” can lead to wonderful things. It’s sometimes tempting to just stay in at the end of the day and eat western food and watch Netflix – don’t. Accept invitations, go to events, and put yourself out there whenever you can. You never know who you will meet and what kind of beautiful adventures await you.
Yerushalmi kugel is a savory kugel with caramelized noodles spiced with black pepper. You can check out one of the many recipes here or simply grab a slice in the Machane Yehuda shuk! Its worth it, I promise. 😀😋✌