Not nearly as far as you may think: just 10 hours from New York (it’s quicker to fly from New York to Israel than from New York to Hawaii!), or 14 hours from Los Angeles. There are about ten nonstop flights a day from North America to Israel, on Air Canada, American Airlines/US Airways, Delta, El Al Israel Airlines and United. Plus you can connect to Israel through dozens of European cities.
What documents do I need to travel to Israel?
For U.S. and Canadian citizens, all you need is a passport that’s valid at least six months longer than your date of arrival in Israel. (For stays up to three months, you don’t need a visa.) If you’re not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, the same conditions apply to citizens of most western countries.
What to wear?
Like almost everywhere in the world, casual is the "rule" for everyday sightseeing. Bring good walking shoes or sneakers and "layers." Israelis (especially women) like to be “elegant casual” on evenings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Some religious shrines require modest dress (arms and legs covered, and, occasionally, no pants for women). Don't forget your swimsuit and, for the Dead Sea, plastic shoes or aqausox.
Temperatures can vary widely so just pack for the "right" weather and you'll be fine. Seasons overlap of course, but general guidelines are:
SUMMER (Jun/Jul/Aug/early Sep): Temperatures in the high 80º's, 90º's. Tel Aviv, and Tiberias will be hot and humid (like New York or Miami). Jerusalem is dryer and cooler, particularly at night. Masada and Eilat are extremely hot (110º+!)...but dry. There won't be a drop of rain.
SHOULDERS (late Mar/Apr/May/late Sep/Oct/Nov): Daytime temperatures will be very pleasant: 75º-ish in most of the country (but hotter at the Red and Dead Seas). Jerusalem will be in the 70º's, 50º's in the evening. There'll be some rain - nothing torrential.
WINTER (Dec/Jan/Feb/early Mar): Winter weather can fluctuate. Some winters are mild and sunny, some severe and overcast. There's often heavy rain and, in January and February, even snow sometimes. It'll probably be in the 50º's, 60º's most places, but in Jerusalem and the Galilee in the forties, and cold at night.
I hear there is a security interview before my flight…
If you are flying EL AL Israel Airlines (or from Europe on Arkia Israel Airlines or Israir), please know that the security precautions taken by Israeli airlines are the stuff of legend and the envy of the world’s airlines. On check-in for your flights you will be asked a variety of questions during a security interview. Some of the questions may seem un-PC, intrusive, irrelevant or repetitive. Just answer truthfully, go with the flow and don’t lose your cool. Remember, the questions are designed to protect you and your fellow passengers. When you leave Israel, the departure process is identical to that outlined above for all airlines.