Is Israel safe? The short answer is yes, most of the time.
But why do so many people feel that it isn’t? Why are there so many negative assumptions abut the safety of Israel?
If you have a trip to Israel booked for the year ahead, you may be concerned about how safe it is to travel to Israel right now. In general, Israel is a destination that many people are apprehensive about travelling to.
Unfortunately, clashes between Israel and Gaza in 2021 have not helped matters. In truth, Israel is safe 99% of the time.
- 1 Is Israel Safe?
- 2 Israel and its Neighbours
- 3 Media Portrayal of Israel
- 4 Is it Safe to Travel to Israel in 2021?
- 5 Recent Developments in the Region
- 6 Is Israel Safe to Travel to in 2021? Things to Know
- 7 14 Useful Tips for Staying Safe in Israel
- 7.1 Purchase Comprehensive Travel Insurance for Your Trip
- 7.2 Be Mindful of Your Mode of Transport
- 7.3 Keep Your Belongings Safe
- 7.4 Write Down the Details of Your Embassy
- 7.5 Write Down Emergency Contact Details
- 7.6 Make a Copy of Your Passport and Banking Details
- 7.7 Considerations for Solo Female Travellers
- 7.8 Travelling to the Occupied Palestinian Territories
- 7.9 Understand the Matter of the Passport Stamp
- 7.10 Do Your Research Before Crossing Land Borders
- 7.11 Read Your Government Travel Advice Before You Go
- 7.12 Always Carry Your Hotel’s Business Card
- 7.13 Food Quality in Israel
- 7.14 Is it Safe to Drink the Water in Israel?
- 7.15 Is Jerusalem Safe?
- 7.16 Relax and Have a Great Trip!
- 7.17 Melissa Douglas
Is Israel Safe?
The Middle East is a complicated part of the world. Unfortunately, Israel has less than perfect relationships with several of its neighbour countries.
Most of the time, life in Israel goes on as normal, just like anywhere else in the world. You can travel to Israel, laze on the white-sand beaches of Tel Aviv, party in the chic bars of Rothschild’s Boulevard, and meander through the souks of Jerusalem with no problems.
During your trip you will likely forget that you are in an area that has seen a lot of conflict. But it is important to be aware of the current political and terror situation here.
Israel and its Neighbours
Israel is in a continuous state of conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. While these two groups distinguish themselves as political parties, they are seen as terrorist organisations in the west.
Israel maintains a constant presence in the West Bank, Gaza strip, and in various regions across the country. Occasionally, local events can trigger new waves of fighting and unrest. Recently, months of tension manifested itself in the form of rockets being fired at Tel Aviv from Gaza.
This sounds incredibly alarming. However, this is an exceptionally rare occurrence
You should also keep in mind that buildings in Tel Aviv are built to be blast proof. Israel also has an excellent defense system known as “the Iron Dome” which intercepts and shoots down rockets.
On the rare occasions that rockets are fired, they do not get anywhere near civilisation. In the extremely rare event that Israeli authorities are concerned, a siren is sounded. In this event, you would be led to a shelter to take cover.
Reflecting on all of this may make you continue to question if Israel is safe. Afterall, if you’re going to go on vacation, better to go somewhere where there is zero risk of rocket fire, right?
Again, to reiterate, this is extremely rare and unlikely. But it is worth being informed so that you know that safety measures are in place in the event of an absolute worse-case scenario.
Media Portrayal of Israel
All you need to do is conduct a Google search for the word “Israel” and you are met with negativity and images of conflict. That is not the Israel that exists most of the time.
Mainstream media certainly has a tendency to blow any negative occurrences way out of proportion to make the country seem as though it is a no-go warzone. Why does this happen?
Sensationalism sells papers and maximises ad revenue. Heartwarming travel stories do not.
Is it Safe to Travel to Israel in 2021?
Is Israel safe to travel to in 2021? It is important to be informed about the latest developments in the region.
Before you travel to Israel, follow the news in the region and check your government’s latest advice. The UK government travel advice is updated periodically and contains comprehensive information about visiting Israel.
Not all areas of Israel are safe. The UK foreign office advises against all travel to the Gaza strip, the Sheba’a Farms and Ghajjar, and the area within 500m of the border with Lebanon (the ‘Blue Line’) east of Metula.
You should not attempt to travel to the Gaza strip. There is no consular assistance available here and trying to enter the region could see you deported from Israel.
Recent Developments in the Region
In May 2021, Hamas fired over 4000 rockets into Israel, from Gaza. Israel responded with rocket fire.
A ceasefire came into effect on 21 May 2021. Tensions have now subsided but things can escalate quickly.
Aside from the conflicts with Gaza, Israel has turmultuous relationships with others in the region. Israel is also a strong ally of the United States – something which is not looked at favourably in some parts of the Middle East.
On the 3rd of January 2020, the US fired a rocket at an Iranian military convoy in Iraq killing Qasem Soleimani – the Iranian military’s Major General. This assassination saw Iran make threats towards Israel.
Iranian threats towards Israel are not uncommon. Iran does not recognise Israel as a country. This can seem unnerving, but a war would not be in anybody’s best interests and is extremely unlikely.
Is Israel Safe to Travel to in 2021?
Things to Know
Border Controls May be Stricter Than You are Used to
It is not uncommon to be subjected to questioning when you enter and exit Israel. Border guards may question what you are doing in the country. They may also review the stamps in your passport and ask you questions about your recent travels.
Don’t be intimidated. This is standard protocol and these measures are only in place for your safety.
Crime Rates in Israel
There is a moderate risk of crime in Israel – particularly in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. One reassuring takeaway, however, is the fact that crime rates in Israel are typically lower than those in most American cities.
In terms of general crime in Israel, the global crime index ranks Israel as safer than a lot of western countries. That includes the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada.
Petty theft is a concern in tourist places This is the case in many large cities and travel destinations.
Be careful in the Old Town of Jerusalem at night. Try and avoid East Jerusalem and the area surrounding the Mount of Olives – particularly after dark.
This is a Palestinian area. Clashes between Israelis and Palestinians often happen here. Harassment and groping of women has also been reported in this area.
The situation between Israel and its Neighbours
Israel is bordered by the Palestinian territories (Gaza & the West Bank), Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Jordan. Israel has a peaceful relationship with Egypt and Jordan and it is wholly possible to cross over into these countries as part of a wider Middle East itinerary.
Conversely, it is not possible to cross the border into Syria or Lebanon at this time. If you plan on combining a trip to Israel, with a trip to Egypt or Jordan, check the border opening times in advance. Borders are subject to closures with little notice.
Military and Police Presence in Israel
Israeli towns and cities have a strong military presence. Armed soldiers and police officers are stationed everywhere, particularly at transport hubs and tourist sites.
Truthfully the presence is not so strong that it feels in any way scary or intimidating. The additional security is in place for your safety, after all.
You may occasionally have to go through airport-style security scanners to enter train stations and tourist sites. Sometimes, lockers are provided to store certain items. At the Temple Mount, for instance, you are not permitted to carry selfie sticks.
Terrorism in Israel
The terrorist threat in Israel is considered “high”. Several incidents have happened over the last few years.
However, most attacks have targeted Israeli interests and IDF soldiers as opposed to tourists. Attacks in tourist areas cannot be ruled out. This “high risk” is no different from the current risks in London, Paris, and other major European and Middle Eastern cities.
14 Useful Tips for Staying Safe in Israel
A few safety pointers to consider when travelling to Israel are detailed below. A lot of the advice included here is common-sense practice for wherever you travel.
Purchase Comprehensive Travel Insurance for Your Trip
It is prudent to make sure that you have comprehensive travel insurance when you travel anywhere. Israel is no exception.
Medical facilities and hospitals in Israel are excellent. You can expect the same quality of service (or better) in Israel as you would in the USA, the UK, or other Western nations.
The cost of medical treatment in Israel is VERY expensive. Ensure that you have a comprehensive insurance plan that provides medical coverage of at least $1million.
The best insurance policies also cover things such as repatriation and cancellation. You should ensure that you always have your insurance paperwork with you.
At the very least, jot down your policy number. This will be the first thing that you are asked for if you need medical assistance in Israel.
Be Mindful of Your Mode of Transport
Israel is a small country that is easy to explore by public transport. Buses and sheruts (shared cabs) operate within the cities. Light rail services and buses run from one city to another.
There have been a number of incidents on the light rail between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The best way to travel between the cities is to take a bus. Abraham Hostels operate a shuttle service that goes back and forth each day.
Hitchhiking is not recommended in Israel, but many travellers do it. If you want to rent a car to get around, you cannot travel into the West Bank with Israeli license plates. If you want to explore the West Bank, you should rent a car in East Jerusalem that has Palestinian plates.
Keep Your Belongings Safe
Always keep an eye on your personal belongings and never leave your luggage unattended. This is good advice wherever you travel. Don’t flash expensive items and make yourself a target for petty criminals.
Keep your fancy camera packed away in your backpack rather than hanging around your neck. Don’t travel with expensive jewelry or accessories on display.
You can also consider purchasing specific anti-theft luggage, e.g. Pacsafe items. These come with additional clasps, locks, and zips that make it tricky for opportunists to access your things.
Write Down the Details of Your Embassy
Most trips to Israel are trouble-free and yours should be too! It is always useful to have your embassy’s information handy for wherever you travel. The details of the American and British embassies in Israel are detailed below.
American Embassy in Israel
Address: HaYarkon St 71, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
Contact Number: +972 3-519-7575
British Embassy in Israel
Address: HaYarkon St 192, Tel Aviv-Yafo, 6340502, Israel
Contact Number: +972 3-725-1222
Write Down Emergency Contact Details
In case of an emergency, make sure that you always know what numbers to call. Useful contacts in Israel are detailed below. Services are generally available in Hebrew and English.
- Police – 100
- Ambulance – 101
- Fire – 102
- Rape crisis & abuse – 1202 for women, 1203 for men
Make a Copy of Your Passport and Banking Details
Your passport is your most important travel document and it should be kept safe at all times. If you prefer to keep your passport in your hotel safe, make a photocopy of your information page. Keep one copy in your luggage, and one copy in your backpack.
Ensure that you have your banking details written down somewhere safe, and keep your bank’s phone numbers handy just in case your cards are ever lost or stolen. It’s best to prepare for even the worst-case scenarios!
Considerations for Solo Female Travellers
I spent just under three weeks travelling solo in Israel. I am a twenty-something solo female traveller.
First, I flew into Tel Aviv and spent five days hanging out on Tel Aviv’s beaches and in its trendy neighbourhoods like Neve Tzedek and Florentin. From there, I travelled on to Haifa, Nazareth, Jerusalem, and the Dead Sea before crossing into the West Bank, Palestine and then heading over the border to Jordan.
I had no negative experiences as a solo female traveller. Israelis were very kind, welcoming and friendly. In fact, they were some of the nicest people I met on my travels. Men did not bother me, and I never felt unsafe.
Travelling to the Occupied Palestinian Territories
It is possible to travel to the West Bank and indeed, there is lots to see and learn there. Travel to Gaza is not permitted.
It is generally advisable not to tell the Israeli border guards that you plan on visiting the West Bank when you land in Tel Aviv. Travel to Palestine is perfectly okay. However, revealing this may subject you to more suspicion and questioning.
Understand the Matter of the Passport Stamp
If you have an Israel stamp in your passport, you will be prohibited from entering several countries that do not consider Israel as a state. Fortunately, when you arrive in Israel, you are handed a blue slip of paper that essentially acts as a replacement for the stamp.
You must keep this slip of blue paper in your possession for the duration of your trip. Hotels will often ask to see it in place of your passport.
It is then returned to immigration when leaving the country. You can read more information about the Israel passport stamp here.
Do Your Research Before Crossing Land Borders
You can cross the border from Israel into Jordan and Egypt. You cannot cross into Syria or Lebanon due to conflict between the two countries and Israel.
Crossing Middle Eastern land borders is less daunting than it sounds, even if you are doing so alone. Be mindful that should you cross a land border between Israel and Egypt or Jordan, a passport stamp will act as proof that you have travelled there.
This can cause problems at certain Middle Eastern border controls. You can ask the border control guards to stamp your Israeli entrance paper instead. They are not obligated to do so, but most are happy to assist.
If you are travelling to Israel as part of a wider Middle East itinerary, you may wish to consider leaving Israel until the end of your trip, particularly if you are using land borders. This way you will not experience difficulty getting into other countries.
Read Your Government Travel Advice Before You Go
Before you travel to Israel, check the news for any recent developments in the country and keep up to date with your government’s latest Israel travel advice. Tensions and conflict can change and escalate at a moment’s notice.
The UK Government’s travel advice for Israel can be found here.
The US Government’s travel advice for Israel can be found here.
Always Carry Your Hotel’s Business Card
It is good practice to always take a business card from your hotel. This contains the address in the local language (Hebrew in Israel).
It also contains a contact number. If you need to take a cab, this is an easy way of showing the driver where you want to go.
Food Quality in Israel
Food in Israel is excellent and hygiene standards are very good. This is not a place where you have to worry about what or where you eat.
The government health department carries out periodical inspections. This even happens at takeaway places and falafel stands.
Israeli cuisine is essentially Arabic food. Expect plenty of delicious falafels, filling shawarmas, fragrant tabbouleh, and delicious marinated meats.
Is it Safe to Drink the Water in Israel?
Officially you can drink the water in Israel. However, it can still give you an upset stomach if you are not used to it.
Stick drinking mineral water to be safe. Alternatively, you can carry a filter to purify tap water yourself and be more environmentally friendly in the process.
Is Jerusalem Safe?
Jerusalem can often feel slightly tenser than the rest of the country. This beautiful ancient city is a place of extreme importance for people of various religions. Here, Jews, Muslims, and Christians live in close proximity to each other.
Most of the time, everything is fine, but occasionally there are clashes. As such, you will see a higher level of military presence in Jerusalem.
None of this should put you off visiting. Jerusalem is a fascinating place that feels like a journey back in time. There is plenty to see here. Just be careful in the Old City after dark.
Relax and Have a Great Trip!
It is easy to get worked up and feel nervous about travelling somewhere for the first time. This is especially true when that destination is often in the media for all the wrong reasons. When you arrive in Israel, you will probably feel completely different.
By all means, do your research. But don’t forget to focus your energy on planning and enjoying your trip.
Have any further questions or concerns about whether it is safe to travel to Israel, or about drawing up an Israel travel itinerary? Feel free to reach out or drop me a comment below.
Safe travels! Melissa xo