Think of the Middle East and the first thing that probably comes to mind is heat, desert, camels…it’s doubtful you’ll be thinking about a rain hat or a heavy coat, but that’s what you’ll need to bring along if a trip to Jerusalem in the winter is in your future.
Jerusalem is located in the Judean hills, some 800 meters above sea level, so while summer temperatures can soar and last for almost six months of the year, the average January temperature is between 43-55. Most of Jerusalem’s rain (around 22 inches per year) falls between November-March and the sometimes strong winds bring on the dreaded wind chill factor, which makes it feel much colder.
Bear in mind that with a relatively short winter season, many buildings are not designed to conserve winter warmth–they’re designed to be cool and comfortable throughout the long, dry summers, so prepare to bundle up inside as well as out. Layering is a good option and don’t forget those warm winter PJ’s if you’re staying with Israeli friends who probably won;t keep the heating on at night.
It’s unlikely that you’ll encounter snow–on average it snows in Jerusalem once every two years, for one day or two at most. Generally February-early March are the high times for that to happen. Do be prepared for heavy rain, however, and that means a good pair of waterproof shoes or boots. Drainage is notoriously poor and stepping off the curb could mean wading through inches-deep sitting rainwater.
In Jerusalem when it rains it’s generally quite blustery too, so an umbrella is not necessarily the best form of protection. You’ll be better off with a hooded coat or jacket for maximum protection. Pack a scarf to keep you cozy against the elements too.
Remember that whatever bag or backpack you’re bringing along for day trips and sightseeing will need to be waterproof too.
Between the raindrops and wind, there are plenty of pleasant sunny days during the winter season when a sweater and pashmina will do nicely for women during the day, and men can get away with a sweater or light jacket. Sunlight can still be strong during the winter, so do bring a good pair of shades, especially if a trip to the nearby Dead Sea or the southern resort town of Eilat is on the itinerary.
Do remember that Israelis dress casual all through the year. Business casual is all you’ll need for professional meetings, and even if you’re invited to a wedding, no one will bat an eyelid at whatever you choose to wear.