Driving in Israel on holiday eve is enough to give one some very unholy thoughts.
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"Holiday eve" refers to the afternoon before the holiday sets in. For instance if Rosh Hashanah starts Wednesday evening, then "holiday eve" is Wednesday afternoon — and the traffic jams in the city centers and on Israel's main highways will be legion.
There are no guarantees no matter what time you drive. But if you must drive on a holiday eve, try to make it early. Morning intercity traffic should be more or less as usual; the real problems usually start at 1 to 2 P.M., as people leave work and head for granny's house. Your hosts will surely love you showing up hours in advance of the meal.
As for holiday parking, here's a real tip: Normally one is not, repeat not, allowed to park in bus stops. The curb in the forbidden zone is painted an alarming yellow and red. But after the buses have stopped running and until they resume (see below), parking in these spots is tolerated. Note that word carefully — tolerated. Not sanctioned. And if you park inconsiderately and block part of the sidewalk, or if you park on the sidewalk, you stand to get fined or even get your car towed, holiday spirit or not.
Consider taking the bus or train
If you've chosen to use public transportation instead of driving, keep in mind that you're at the mercy of the railways' and bus companies' schedules — which are pretty similar to those of Fridays and Saturdays. The three main bus companies, Egged, Dan and Metropoline, all follow basically the same limited schedules over Rosh Hashanah, but with minor differences, so it's best to check their websites or call for exact information.
On Rosh Hashanah Eve (Wednesday), Egged buses are planned to run until about 3 P.M.; a phone rep for Dan buses said some lines may run as late as 5 P.M. but that it's best to check the website or call that day to confirm; Metropoline buses will also be running on a Friday schedule.
On Thursday and Friday — Rosh Hashanah — all three bus companies are suspending service as they would on Shabbat, with service resuming Saturday evening around the time when the holiday officially ends (at about 7:30 P.M., give or take a few minutes depending on which city you're in).
Egged buses will run from half an hour after the holiday ends until 11 P.M., while Dan and Metropoline bus service will resume at different times depending on the line. Again, check their websites or call for more detailed information.
Even if train travel is more your style, the schedule is pretty much the same: On Rosh Hashanah Eve, the trains will run on a Friday schedule, departing between 3:30 P.M. and around 4 P.M. (best to check the schedule for your exact destination). The Israel Railways website points out that an extra train has been added to Wednesday's schedule for those heading from Be'er Sheva to Tel Aviv (it departs from Be'er Sheva North University at 8:51 A.M. en route to Tel Aviv Center–Savidor). Meanwhile, on Rosh Hashanah itself, trains screech to a halt (a.k.a. there's no service at all). Saturday evening, when the holiday ends, trains will run on a regular post-Shabbat schedule.
And finally, whether you are taking a car, bus or train, the best advice when facing holiday travel is to summon your patience. Arm yourself with what it takes to keep you calm — a nice magazine or book, or a horrible one; chewing gum; sandwiches, Sudoku — whatever floats your boat and keeps it rocking calmly along. But not cigarettes. Smoking is prohibited in all train and bus stations, not to mention on the vehicles themselves. Happy travels for a happy new year!
Egged: Call *2800 or 03-694-8888 or go to egged.co.il
Dan: Call *3456 or 03-639-4444 or go to dan.co.il
Metropoline: Call *5900 or 073-210-0422 or go to www.metropoline.com
Israel Railways: Call *5770 or 077-232-4000 or go to www.rail.co.il.