7 Biggest Misconceptions and Myths about Israel

I spent two weeks in Israel, enjoying the AMAZING food, meeting awesome people,

….and constantly realizing just how WRONG I was about the country.

Literally, almost everything I had heard or assumed about Israel was totally and completely incorrect.

From funny stuff (how to eat and even pronounce “hummus”) to more serious (how an Israeli visa stamp in your passport can harm future Middle East travels), I had a changed perspective upon leaving Israel.

I was humbled by my ignorance, and reminded of the harms of assumptions.

I was most surprised by the diversity of the population, and the stark contrast to everything I had seen on the media.

MYTHS about Israel

Israel is a big desert.

I didn’t see very much desert. And only one camel (SADLY!)

Israel didn’t look ANYTHING like I’d imagined it.

I have never seen such a small country with such a varied and beautiful landscape.

Seas, beaches, lakes, mountains, green fields, gardens, vineyards, farms (and yes a bit of desert).

Haifa Israel (not what I pictured when imagining Israel)

In Israel they speak… Yiddish? Arabic? Israeli?

In Israel, all signs are in Hebrew, Arabic, and English – the two official languages of the country being Arabic and Hebrew, though Enlish is used frequently as well.

Most commonly – Israelis speak Hebrew.

The younger generation (especially us millenials) speak excellent English as well.

Hebrew Golan Heights Israel(Hebrew mosaics in Golan Heights)

After you visit Israel, you won’t be able to visit other Middle Eastern countries because of the Israeli visa stamp. Israelis can’t go there, and once you visit Israel, you can’t either.

An Israeli visa stamp might prevent you from visiting other countries in the Middle East… if it actually existed. But it doesn’t.

Instead of getting an Israeli visa stamp / Israeli entry stamp, you get a visa CARD – so there is not evidence in your passport book of any visit to Israel.

(It is correct, however, that in most circumstances, Israelis cannot visit most Islamic countries, including countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, etc as these nations do not recognize the existence of Israel and refuse diplomatic relations)

Israel Visa Stamp Card(your border clearance card/Israeli entrance card/visa card aka nonexistent visa stamp)

All the Arabic and Muslim people are treated as second class citizens.

There are many Arabic and Muslim people living within Israel (about 16% of the population is Muslim). They have the same legal rights as Jewish Israelis. They own businesses, homes, and go to school.

They can serve in the army (though it is NOT mandatory for them), vote, and have Israeli passports, just the same as any other citizen.

Many Arabic people who live in Israel call themselves Israelis and recognize the validity of Israel (these people do not call themselves Palestinians).

I will not be commenting on the Israel/Palestine conflict as I am not educated enough nor have I experienced enough to say anything of value. I am not writing anything about Palestine, only about my personal experience Israel.

I am sharing observations after interactions and conversations with actual people. Before going to Israel, I had misconceptions and vast generalizations about the identity of Muslims and Arabs in Israel (I assumed they all identified as Palestinians), and this was corrected by the actual people I met in Israel, all of whom identified as Israeli. Obviously, I do not assume this is how EVERYONE feels, but I am sharing this because my experience contradicted my previous assumptions.

Everyone who lives in Israel is Jewish.

As mentioned above, Israel has a Muslim population, as well as Druze, Christians, Baha’i, and atheist/agnostic as well. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that recognizes freedom of religion and equal treatment of religions.

Baha'i Gardens Haifa Israel(Baha’is have created this beautiful garden and center in Israel – the only country in the middle East that does not persecute them. More on the Bahai Gardens of Haifa here)

Israel is REALLY hot.

I went to Israel in the spring, right after visiting Italy.

Israel was the same temperature as Rome – I needed a sweater or jacket most mornings and evenings, and wore boots.

It even snowed in Northern Israel during my visit!

Make sure to check the weather before planning your trip (and don’t pack only sandals and sundresses).

Dead Sea Israel(I needed a sweater at the Dead Sea before getting in – it was COLD in the air but not in the water)


It doesn’t sound like “hum”+”us”. It sounds like “HOOM”+”iss”. And they don’t eat it with the chips you’re thinking of.

In the US, hummus has become a trendy and ubiquitous health food (especially for us vegetarians!).

But – I’ve never said it right. We’ve definitely adapted it to our American nasal twang.

And, we eat it “wrong” (at least in the midwest US), or more specifically, not as its traditionally eaten.  No one eats it with tortilla chips, nor with chopped veggies.

In Israel, a common order is “Hoomis, chips, salad”.

It’s actually Brit chips (to us Americans, FRENCH FRIES), and salad (green chopped salad.. which is also eaten for breakfast but that’s another story), and hummus, and pita, and probably some olives and pickles on the side.

And sometimes, the hummus is super creamy with whole garbanzo beans thrown in, and some greens, and spices, and there MUST be olive oil across the top.

No matter what – it’s delicious (as is all of the other food in Israel!).

Hummus Israel(hummus.. er, HOOOMis)

Bonus myth – Pita bread is crumbly and dry.

The pita we eat in the U.S. is shameful.

The pita in Israel is this soft, hearty naan-style bread that tastes and feels like a pillow from heaven.


Pita Falafel Israel(I couldn’t wait. Pita + falafel + hummus +veggies. Seriously check out that pita)

Have you ever been surprised by how WRONG you were about a place?

All of June, I’ll be writing about Israel. I absolutely fell in love with the people, the culture, the food (ohmygawwwwwwd the food).

Want to learn more about Israel?

Check out all of my articles on my time in the unique and hotly contested country including: interviews with Israelis, a recap of the underrated and amazing cuisine, the wonders and wines of Golan Heights, and the beautiful Bahai Gardens of Haifa.


A short vacation in Thailand turned into a life abroad with a canceled ticket home. Nearly a decade later and after living in Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Puebla, and Puerto Vallarta, Steph is on to her next adventure and living back in beautiful, cosmopolitan Mexico City. She is living, traveling, and working (both as an expat therapist and an international health insurance representative) around the world to find the beautiful, inspirational, and interesting while sharing it with you!

Find me on: Web | Instagram | Facebook



  1. Moshe
    June 4, 2015 / 5:12 pm

    So true ! Beautiful article! Christians, Muslims, Buddhists or Atheists – you are all very much welcome!

  2. August 2, 2015 / 10:17 pm

    I am headed for Israel in November. I really appreciate all the information you provided!

    • August 3, 2015 / 11:32 am

      So glad I could help! I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time in Israel – if you have any questions at all I’d be happy to answer (or try to!)

      • Noah Berry
        June 11, 2018 / 2:11 pm

        I have a question: I’ve been thinking of learning Hebrew for a long time. I Like a lot of what I’ve heard about Israeli culture and Israel in general. I’m from a mostly Christian family and I’m not religious. I worry that I might have a hard time making friends in Israel if I go. Do you think I should worry about that?
        Thanks a ton for your perspective.

        • Steph
          June 11, 2018 / 7:14 pm

          Hi Noah!

          I’m not religious (I’m Buddhist) and I find most Israelis, especially from the millenial generation, to be really open-minded (ESPECIALLY in Tel Aviv). I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve received anything less than a warm welcome from anyone I’ve met (and I spend weeks there every year), and that was because I’m a non-Jew married to an Israeli Jew, and the backlash came from people that I don’t feel are representative of most Israelis.

          Totally generalizing, but Israelis are some of the most welcoming and friendly people I’ve ever met. I can literally promise that if you go with an open mind and are friendly, you will not have ANY problem making friends. Especially in this political climate and the Israel-bashing that goes on in the media, I can’t imagine anyone would be less than thrilled that you’re interested in their culture and language!!

          Don’t hesitate to ask any questions, and good luck! It’s a beautiful country and you’d have an incredible time.

  3. Ana
    October 9, 2015 / 7:27 pm

    Nice article. I’m visiting Israel with my family at the end of the month. Thinking to rent a car. But I’m scared with the violence at this time. Did you have any problem? Do you think is it still safe to visit?
    Thanks in advance

    • October 10, 2015 / 10:05 am

      Hi Ana!
      When I went recently, I felt very safe and we also drove with our car throughout the entire time.
      For right now – The attacks are religiously, racially, and politically motivated and target only Israeli Jews, in local areas (not tourist hotspots). If you are not speaking Hebrew, it will be obvious you are not a Jewish Israeli. Attacking a tourist would be contrary to the outcome the terrorists are trying to achieve.
      These past few days, the situation has improved greatly, as police are being stationed throughout projected potential attack areas to control the situation and ensure the safety of the locals and tourists.
      If you have any specific questions or would like more specific information, please feel free to email me at steph@myqle.com – my fiance is an Israeli, and a security and counterterrorism expert and consultant, and he would be happy to provide you with customized advice (for free) so that you can approach your vacation to the amazing country of Israel with excitement and ease instead of worry or anxiety.

  4. rav
    October 11, 2015 / 8:56 am

    So good article. I just found out by ur article that israel state provide staple visa to international tourist bcs of conflict with middle east nations. appriciating article !!!

  5. Dina
    April 17, 2016 / 10:58 am

    Thank you very much for the report and you are always welcome!

    • April 18, 2016 / 11:44 am

      Hi Dina! Thanks for the welcome 🙂 I am super excited to be going back to Israel in September!! 🙂

  6. June 1, 2016 / 6:08 pm

    Myth #1 It is true that the arabs did not rule Palestine, but they were part of the elite muslim population who did receive favorable treatment from the ruling muslim ottomans. The Jews were treated as second class citizens and while there may not have been violent conflict, don t you think it is misleading to say that it is a myth that the Jews and Arabs were not in conflict?

    • June 14, 2016 / 11:11 am

      I’m sorry, it looks as though you did not read the article you are commenting on. I never stated that there is not a conflict in Israel.

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