You are reading this probably because you plan a vacation to Israel and been asking yourself:
Is Israel safe for travel? Is it OK to visit Israel in 2012?
Israel is definitely a safe place to live in and travel around.
However, you should pay attention and read carefully the following guidelines and safety advice.
Israel is one of the safest countries. The state authorities and security forces are working around-the-clock making sure it is safe to live as well as travel in Israel year-round.
You may hear all kind of biased news in the media, the fact is that it’s safer to live and travel in Tel-Aviv than it is in most famous cities like, for example, New York.
You can be rest assured that violent crime is rare in Israel, definitely in the cities and public areas you will be visiting as a tourist.
Most of the public buildings, shopping malls etc are guarded by private companies, and crowded events are secured by local police.
Pick-pocketing or purse snatching is rate but in crowded touristic areas you should be careful and watch your valuables.
In addition, cash and valuable items should be kept out of sight, it is best to lock them in your hotel room. In public and tourist sites do not leave them visible in vehicles or unattended.
At night, use your common sense, don’t walk alone in dark and deserted areas.
As always, a good travel insurance is recommended.
You can call the following numbers from any mobile or land phone in Israel:
Police – 100
Emergency ambulance service (in Hebrew: “Magen David Adom”) – 101
Emergency fire fighters service – 102
Local municipality call center – 106
The security and emergency forces
How will you recognize the local forces?
Police personnel uniform is blue (light or dark), police vehicles are white and blue with blue or blue & red lights.
Ambulance vehicles are white or orange with red lights.
Army uniform is khaki (similar to dark/olive green) or grey.
Entry to Israel
Be advised that the security measures at the entrance/exit points to/from Israel, mainly airports, are very strict and probably a lot more intense than you are used to.
You may be questioned and your luggage may be scanned or searched, please be patient and cooperate with the Israeli authorities, after all these security checks are conducted for your own safety.
Travel tip: the best advice you can get regarding entry to Israel is to arrive at the airport 3 hours before the planned departure to allow enough time for the security checks and check-in. Do the same when leaving the country.
Traveling to the West Bank, Palestinian Authority & Gaza
So, is it safe to travel to these places? It all depends on where you are going…
Traveling to the West Bank
This section deals with cities and areas in the west bank that are under Israeli control.
Most cities and areas in the West Bank are controlled by the Palestinian Authority, you can read the guidelines about PA in the next section.
Areas that are under Israeli control are safe as long as you know where you are going.
Places in the West Bank that are considered safe and used by Israelis and travelers daily:
- East Jerusalem (it is an integral part of united Jerusalem and the state according to the Israeli law).
- The route from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea (Road 90)
- Other major routes like road no. 1 (from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but continues east to Jordan Valley), road 443 (Modi’in-Jerusalem)
Notes for the different areas in the West Bank (as defined in Oslo Accords agreement 1994):
“Area C” – Israeli jurisdiction
“Area B” – Israeli military control, PA civil control.
“Area A” – PA jurisdiction, described in the next section.
Traveling to the Palestinian Authority
It is possible to go to cities in the PA, but be advised that in most cases you need to submit a formal request to Israeli authorities.
As far as safety is concerned, PA areas is a complete different story, travel there on your own risk.
Our advise is against visiting any Palestinian city or nearby areas unless you are sure where you are headed, moreover it is best to be on a guided tour or be accompanied by a local guide or an Israeli that knows where it is safe and what areas should be avoided.
Cities like Bethlehem that many Cristian travelers want to see should be traveled to during
daylight hours and with a local guide/tour.
Traveling to Gaza Strip
Generally speaking, you can not cross the border as a tourist from Israel to Gaza Strip, and you are strongly advised not to do that because of the security risks involved to foreigners, especially after the Hamas (a US-designated terrorist organization) took control of the strip from the PA back in mid 2007.
You should not have any special concerns regarding health in Israel, it is pretty much like in any other western country.
Generally speaking it is OK to drink tap water in most places, but we would recommend you to buy and drink mineral water just in case.
Protect your eyes and skin from UV rays: bring with you good quality sunscreen and sunglasses as well as a wide hat, especially if your trip is during the summer months.
Bring with you all of your prescription medicines.
If needed, you will easily find a drugstore or a pharmacy wherever to go.
Please consult your local health service if any vaccination are needed prior to your trip. Probably you may need to take the common ones if you were not already immunized, for example, tetanus (lasts only for 5-10 years).
- Don’t drink and drive, wear a car seat belt, wear bike/motorcycles helmet.
- Avoid animal and insects bites and scratches.
- Get a good medical insurance and keep its details and especially the emergency telephone number with you.