Shopping In Israel

Culture and color meet in the country’s many markets

By: Judy Koutsky

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Visitors can find an assortment of fruits
and vegetables at Tel Aviv’s markets.
Israel offers countless opportunities for shopping in colorful markets, energetic bazaars, lively street stalls and quaint mom-and-pop shops. Tel Aviv has the largest variety of shopping options in the country and thus most shoppers spend the majority of their time here.

Members of moshavim and kibbutzim (communal settlements) have recently opened numerous small businesses throughout Israel. Signs along the roads advertise these cottage industries, which are worth investigating. Many offer homemade foods, dairy products (particularly cheeses), arts and crafts and other one-of-a-kind items that are not sold in the cities.

Below is a guide for the shopping traveler in Israel.

Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv has entire streets with shops devoted to one particular item. That item could be anything from spices, bridal gowns, clothing, fabrics, furniture, cultural/traditional gifts, fashion accessories and art pieces. Each of Tel Aviv’s markets is a world unto itself, not only offering competing wares, but reflecting the locals who reside, shop, sell and buy there.

Due to its proximity to the trendy Neveh Zedek quarter, Tel Aviv’s best known open-air shopping area is the Carmel Market. There’s a large selection of local fruits on display here, perfect for packing a picnic lunch or stocking up on refreshments for your hotel room.

On Tuesdays and Fridays, a lively street fair blooms in the adjacent historic Nahalat Benyamin quarter. Sold mostly by the artists themselves, the fair features handcrafted jewelry, colorful wooden toys, boxes, glass and other items.

For bargain hunters, head to the Jaffa Flea Market. Shoppers must have an eye for hidden beauty to appreciate the wares here gorgeous brass items might share a crowded shelf with a pile of old kerosene lamps, or fine amber beads among distant plastic relatives. Ceramic, glass goods and vintage clothing are part of the pickings as well.

Shuk Ha’aliyah is in the Florentine quarter. This area has turned the corner of gentrification to become Tel Aviv’s edgiest zone, coming alive at night with pubs that are a magnet for younger urbanites. During the day, however, Shuk (which means market) Ha’aliyah is one of the places in Israel where you can still see craftspeople at work metal workers and furniture craftsmen manufacturing items for the city’s finest stores or individual clients. Shuk Ha’aliyah is also famous for its Balkan cheeses, pickled vegetables and spices and some interesting restaurants with menus ranging from no-frills Jewish cuisine to Persian delights.

Shuk Betzalael, near King George Street in the heart of town, is another interesting stop for visitors taking in the historic buildings of early Tel Aviv. It’s a favorite with locals for clothing, especially for name-brand knock-offs, many of which are now made with Israeli textiles.

The Old City is the main shopping area in Jerusalem, featuring an exotic atmosphere. Items sold here include artifacts, ornaments of wood, seashells, leather, straw, blown glass and traditional clothing. The annual art fair, Khutsot ha-Yotzer, offers both prestigious works of art and folkcrafts created by Israeli artists. There are farmers’ markets in the German Colony and in the moshavim surrounding the city. The historical, renovated city center is filled with coffee shops and stores that sell gifts and souvenirs.

Eilat, the tourist and vacation city located at the southernmost point of Israel, not only offers tourist items and souvenirs, but boasts a variety of clothing shops as well. Purchases in Eilat are significantly less expensive since they are exempt from VAT (Value-Added Tax). There are also tax-free shops in Ben Gurion Airport and at the border crossing in Taba.


Business Hours
Most stores are open from Sunday to Thursday between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Stores that close for a break between 2-4 p.m. have a sign with their hours posted on the door. In some cities, stores are closed on Tuesday afternoons. Stores close at midday on Friday and open again on Sunday morning. They also close in mid-afternoon on the eve of Jewish holidays and remain closed throughout the holiday. Shopping centers that do not cater to the religious population are open on Saturdays.

Muslim-owned businesses are usually closed on Fridays, which is the Sabbath day for the Muslim community, and Christian-owned businesses are closed on Sundays.

Value-Added Tax (VAT)
VAT of 15.5 percent is added to all sales and services and is included in the price. All purchases and services in the city of Eilat are exempt from VAT.

Purchases can be made in Israeli shekels, U.S. dollars or euros. Tourists who have purchased items with a value exceeding $100 (including VAT) in stores that are registered with the Ministry of Tourism or in stores participating in the VAT-refund plan are entitled to a refund of VAT when they leave the country. Stores that offer VAT refund service have a special sign.

To receive VAT refund, tell your clients to get a receipt with a list of all the items purchased and details of the purchaser. The receipt and purchases must be put into a sealed bag. Tourists can then receive the VAT refund at Ben Gurion airport or another departure point.


Israel Ministry of Tourism, Los Angeles