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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 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
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
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
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.
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
Israel Ministry of Tourism, Los Angeles