Traveling Safely in Israel
Travel to Israel has become safer since 2007, but the West Bank area is still prone to occasional attacks. Travelers flying to Israel should be aware of how to remain safe while visiting without feeling unsafe during their entire trip.
Be Prepared to Leave Crowded Areas
Even the smallest hint of a threat leads to almost instantaneous closures. These include bus terminals, streets, public facilities, nightclubs, and markets. Peak times are usually when authorities exercise the most caution, so travelers should always be on alert when visiting these areas. Large crowds have been targeted by terrorists in the past, so the U.S. Department of State warns Americans to avoid crowded places if possible. However, places like malls and restaurants typically have security, and inside Jerusalem, these threats aren’t as common.
Always Be Respectful to Authorities
Tourists who resist questioning or searches from Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) arouse suspicion, and it isn’t unheard of for uncooperative tourists to be arrested and deported immediately. It’s recommended not to stare or take pictures of soldiers or loiter near military posts. Visitors should remember that all Israeli citizens are required to serve in the IDF at the age of 18, so it isn’t unusual to see young adults in and out of uniform carrying weapons in public areas.
Keep Belongings Close By
Because of a lengthy history of bombings, any luggage, bags, or purses left unattended create suspicion with IDF. Unattended belongings will be confiscated, searched, and possibly blown up. Tourists should expect to have their items searched or x-rayed wherever they’re at, and this shouldn’t be resisted. Petty theft is also common, so leaving items out of eyesight is bound to get them stolen. Wallets, purses, cell phones, and other valuables should be guarded closely, especially if important travel documents are tucked inside. Copies should be made of everything and left in a safe place.
Choose Cities Wisely
Travelers should choose their excursions very carefully. The West Bank and Gaza should be avoided at all costs; there’s nothing so important there that it’s worth the risk. There are plenty of cultural and religious locations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (the safest and best beach is in Tel Aviv). Tourists visiting with a travel group are only be taken to safe areas during their trip.
Check the US Travel Warnings
The United States offers travel warnings to areas that are at an increased risk of terrorist attacks. These can vary from day to day, so tourists should make a point to check these warnings at least once a day to stay on top of things. Chances are nothing will arise during the visit, but it’s wise to have an idea of the overall atmosphere.
Israel is considered a very safe country aside from the tension between Israel and Palestine. Visitors should always exercise common sense, work with local authorities if they’re stopped for a search or to be questioned, and take care to stick to areas that are known to be safe to both tourists and locals.
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