For women travelers, Israel proper is not too different from Europe or the United States. Army service is universal for nonreligious Israelis, and many younger Israeli men may seem more macho and pressing than Europeans or Americans, but that's usually because you're a tourist and a woman -- and all alone. Hebrew is a language that stylistically prefers directness over guile, and when translated into English, some Israelis may seem amazingly blunt, or at least brash.
It's important to remember to dress modestly when visiting holy places of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, or ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, such as Mea Shearim in West Jerusalem. In Mea Shearim, women should not wear trousers or jeans (shorts are forbidden there for men as well as women). At least knee-length skirts (the longer the better) and blouses that do not leave shoulders and upper arms exposed are strongly advised. The penalty for immodest dress can be getting spat on, pelted with pebbles, or worse. The police generally do not take action against religious Jews who attack immodest visitors to their neighborhoods.
East Jerusalem, the Old City of Jerusalem, the West Bank, Jordan, and Egypt are largely Arabic societies, and unless women travelers are guarded in their dress and behavior, there's a good chance there will be insults and unwanted advances. Women in Islamic societies do not venture far from their houses unless they are in the company of a husband, relatives, or at least one other woman; women travelers may seem to be breaking the rules of propriety simply by being alone. It is always best to try to have at least one traveling companion, male or female, with you if possible. Modest dress and behavior also helps to avoid unwanted attention. In Middle Eastern society, except in the all-tourist Sinai resorts, a woman alone, seen drinking in public, or walking on the streets with a bare midriff or shorts, is not respectable, and will often not receive even common courtesy.
Check out Journeywoman (www.journeywoman.com), a real-life women's travel-information network where you can sign up for a free e-mail newsletter and get advice on everything from etiquette and dress to safety; or the travel guide Safety and Security for Women Who Travel by Sheila Swan and Peter Laufer (Travelers' Tales), offering common-sense tips on safe travel. For general travel resources for women, go to www.frommers.com.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.