Tourist tip # 40 / Modest dress
When visiting holy sites or religious neighborhoods, ensure you blend in and avoid causing offense by wearing suitable attire.
Israel is full of holy sites, from modern-day churches, mosques and synagogues to ancient places of worship. Some areas also have a large population of religious citizens, with their own customs and traditions. When visiting holy sites or predominately religious areas, it’s important to keep the local way of life in mind to avoid offending anyone.
Wearing revealing garb when visiting holy sites or observant neighborhoods can be considered disrespectful, and immodestly dressed visitors may be refused entry.
As a general rule, men are expected to wear long pants, while women are advised to wear clothing that is at least knee length or below, such as long skirts or pants. Women should also refrain from wearing sleeveless or shirts with low necklines.
In many places of worship, for example, women are also required to cover their shoulders, so it's handy to carry a lightweight scarf or shawl just in case. At the Western Wall, women can borrow shawls from a basket at the women’s entrance, while men – who are expected to wear yarmulkes – are provided with skullcaps at the men’s entrance.
More intrepid tourists may choose to visit ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, such as Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim, one of the oldest Jewish neighborhoods in the city. Dress codes here are stricter, and you may see large signs at the entrances to the neighborhood requesting visitors be suitably dressed. For women this means long skirts (trousers are considered to be immodest), long-sleeved shirts and loose-fitting clothing. Married women are also expected to cover their hair.
Residents of these neighborhoods are sensitive to this matter and take it seriously, so to avoid unwanted attention and respect the local customs it’s recommended you cover up.