Is Israel safe to travel to? When people think of travelling to Israel the question of safety and security always comes up. Is it too dangerous to travel in Israel? Are tourists putting themselves at risk in Israel? The truth of the matter is that the reality is very different to what many people assume.
What comes to mind when you hear the word Israel? Terrorism? Gaza? The West Bank? A war torn wasteland that has been tearing itself apart since before Christ was even born? How about a country filled with religious extremists of all faiths all going head to head in one giant free for all Ultimate Fighting Championship? That’s fair enough I suppose. The media feeds the Western world a very specific and negative picture of Israel – and in fact the middle east in general – and so it is hardly surprising that most people have a skewed idea of what the country is like.
But the reality of Israel is often very different to the media portrayal, and the answer to the question ‘is Israel safe’ may just surprise you.
The Politics Of Israel, Palestine And The Near East.
Of course it doesn’t really help that Israel is surrounded by the – at the moment at least – active conflict zones of Syria and Iraq, and the other political hotbed countries of Turkey, Jordan and Egypt that most people just ignorantly assume are consumed by conflict as well. Well, they’re all the same region, right? They must all be the same.
Then there are still many countries that do not recognise Israel as its own independent state, the claims on both sides that Jerusalem is their capital, and the thorny issue of Palestine that is so convoluted and so confusing that I openly hold my hands up and admit I don’t have a strong enough grasp of the politics to fully understand what the hell is going on. Hell, even the US doesn’t recognise parts of Israel as being Israel! I know the Golan heights borders Syria and puts on a light show of Jericho surface to surface missiles from time to time but you can’t just denounce an entire section of the country … oh, wait.
This whole thing gives me a damn headache.
Let’s face it, the Israel and Palestine issue is an ongoing one and is not going to be sorted out any time soon.
So before I flew out to Israel I was bombarded with the usual ‘it’s not safe to travel there’ nonsense. I’ve heard it all before of course. I’ve travelled to some of the worlds supposedly most dangerous countries and spent a lot of time in the middle east so I’m used to my mother freaking out and acting as if I’m happily skipping off to join in an actual one man firefight that would put Rambo to shame. I’m used to friends and acquaintances finding out where I am going and passing judgement on me ranging from ‘I’m so brave’ to ‘I’m totally off my nut and should be sectioned for my own safety’.
And as usual they are all wrong.
So Let’s Talk About The Security Issue In Israel.
I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect when I landed in Ben Gurion airport, apart from the fact that I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be a bombed out wasteland. But one thing I did know is that security would be heavy and that I would be in absolutely no danger at all.
Israel is a place that has had a lot of conflict both in the past and relatively recently. The tension is still there in some sense, in some areas more than others, and there is always a chance that tensions will rise again at any time and open conflict resume between Israel and Palestine. Then of course there is always the risk of a terrorist attack anywhere at any time, just as there are anywhere else in the world.
But that does not make it dangerous to travel there now.
You have to separate the politics from the reality of life for the average citizen. Whilst the media concentrates on isolated incidents in the West Bank and Gaza, life in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and many other places in Israel carries on as normal. People haggle in the markets, they go shopping, relax with friends in coffee shops, enjoy the nightlife and go about their daily business. Life goes on.
Does that mean that the security situation should be ignored? Of course not. It just has to be looked at with an analytical eye.
Heavy Israeli Security.
Israel is extremely security conscious, so much so its airport is infamous amongst travellers for being heavily guarded and there is a constant security presence almost everywhere you go, from armed guards to airport style security in shopping malls. Israel even has an Iron Dome missile defence system putting up an invisible shield around the country that most travellers are completely oblivious to.
This familiarity with conflict and security has of course had an effect on the average person too, there is a palpable feeling of toughness about the Israeli people. These are a people that are used to conflict, who are used to hiding in bomb shelters and are respectful of the need for heavy security.
But that in and of itself is not a bad thing. I get why the idea of the need for such security may scare some people, I do, but that fear is totally unfounded.
The security is there to keep everyone safe, and that is exactly what it does! The Israeli government take a very sensible approach to the risk of terrorism and armed conflict. They keep security high but for the most part extremely subtle and the disruption is generally minimal for the level of security in place. The most important thing they do in the face of conflict? They simply carry on as normal and act as if everything is fine.
Because that is exactly what it is.
Carrying on as normal in the face of terrorism or armed conflict is the right thing to do. Israel takes a very sensible approach of high security and low reaction, and what that has led to – unlike the knee jerk panic to security issues that many Western countries take – is a relatively stable tourism industry that does not get decimated every time there is an incident. Life goes on as normal, and that is exactly how it should be.
So What Is ‘Normal’ In Israel?
Normal is safe, it really is that simple.
Of course there is a feeling of tension in some parts that in part comes from having lived through numerous and sustained conflicts, but is also based very much on religion. Israel is not simply Jewish, it is also Christian, Muslim, Greek Orthodox, Armenian and a variety of faith groups. There is a heavy mix of religions and faiths in Israel and this does lead to some tension, especially in Jerusalem where there is a prevailing attitude on every single side of absolute rightness. This isn’t the case all over Israel though, there is a definite hard attitude to Jerusalem that isn’t present elsewhere such as Tel Aviv, which feels almost as if someone built a city around a hippy commune and forgot to tell them they were in Israel.
But this is simply a unique part of Israeli culture. It is not a bad thing in and of itself and to some extent helps you understand the national psych, but what it isn’t is dangerous.
At the time of writing there are no government warnings at all advising against travel in Israel, with the exception of Gaza and the border regions of Lebanon and Syria, for obvious reasons, the rest of Israel is perfectly fine. The official advice is that it is safe, but just be aware.
This may change from time to time as new situations develop, but on the whole these warnings will be very specific to a time, a place and a date, and they generally will not be permanent.
At the end of 2017 a series of protests in Jerusalem led the Foreign Commonwealth Office to advise travellers to stay away from certain parts of the old city for a period of time over a few days, because that is where and when the protests were due to take place. Travellers did (and where completely unaffected in other parts of Jerusalem and Israel), the protests took place, and a few days later the travel warnings and advisories returned to normal.
That did not stop the media from reporting the situation as if all travel to Israel was dangerous and unsafe because the official government warnings had changed.
Of course it is always a good idea to keep an eye on the situation and check government warnings frequently and if necessary act accordingly. That is just basic travel safety precaution 101.
And remember, just because there may be a protest in one part of Jerusalem, or military action being taken in Gaza, that does not mean the rest of Jerusalem, or Tel Aviv, or Bethlehem, or the rest of Israel as a whole is not safe.
You do have to be aware of current situations and at worst you may need to alter your plans slightly to avoid an area, but that can happen in any country at any time as well. There have been travel advisories to avoid parts of Bangkok from time to time due to political instability, protests and military action, but that did not mean hundreds of thousands of travellers in the rest of Thailand were affected in any way at all.
Despite what you may hear, in very general terms there is absolutely no need to worry about safety in Israel despite what the media tells you.
Is Israel Safe?
Israel was a place that felt completely safe. People could – with reasonable common sense precautions of course – walk around pretty much anywhere day or night. The infamous Tel Aviv nightlife was relaxed and easy going and even quite family orientated up to a certain point with young children actively joining in the social gatherings. For those staying up later the rest of the party continues until the early hours of the morning and there was never really a question of facing any trouble walking home alone.
Even the ever present security wasn’t as obtrusive nor as hard line as a lot of people assume. Soldiers aren’t some alien race to be feared, they are there to protect you. They are people just trying to do a job and surprise surprise, like most people in the world can even pretty friendly.
See, security isn’t anything to be feared, and even soldiers and guards need a hug!
Does this mean that there is never any risk in Israel? Of course not. That would be a ridiculous statement to make. There is always a risk everywhere. In fact at the time of writing this there was another despicable and cowardly terrorist attack in Jerusalem that killed 4 Israeli soldiers, using similar tactics to those that targeted Christmas markets in Europe.
But one isolated incident, even when counted with previous incidents, does not make a country unsafe. Terrorist attacks by their very nature can happen anywhere at any time. That is the point. Throughout my time in Jerusalem and Israel I did not for one second feel unsafe, I saw no danger and was in no danger, and I would happily return time and time again.
And this is exactly why the assertion that Israel is safe is true regardless of any fluctuating political or military action, is true regardless of any media hyperbole. It will hold as true the day this article was written as much as it will be in two, five or ten years time.
Do your research, look at the real situation and make an informed decision on whether you want to travel to Israel or not, don’t just listen to the media and pander to scaremongering.
Tourism is a unifying constant in the region as a whole, it is one of the few industries that countries in the region are fully cooperative on, and has taken huge and almost devastating hits in recent years, especially in the surrounding countries of Egypt and Turkey. This is having a huge negative impact on the economies and stabilization of the whole region. Increased tourism could have the opposite effect.
So if you are dreaming of travel to Israel then go! See for yourself what an amazing and enigmatic place Israel is, see what life is like on the ground, meet the people on both sides of the conflict and understand the perspectives from both sides. Go and make your own judgments on how much – or more accurately how little – the sporadic violence and tension in one small part of the region (a part where tourists would not be allowed to go anyway) is having on the rest of the country.
If more people visited Israel and tried to understand both Israeli and Palestinian perspectives, if more people saw that ordinary citizens were just trying to live a happy and peaceful life, then maybe this would go a long way to dispelling some of the negative stereotypes and fear that people have about visiting the country.
If more people did that, if less people listened to the sensationalist media, then the increased tourism wouldn’t just be a boon for Israel, it would have a significantly positive affect on the region as a whole.
So do your research, act within your own comfort levels of what you deem is safe, but don’t dismiss Israel as a destination. Don’t let unfounded fear stop you from visiting one of the most fascinating and surprising countries in the Middle East.
Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.
Abraham Hostel Review, Tel Aviv, Israel.
10 Essential Things To See And Do In Jerusalem.
If You Stop Travelling, The Terrorists Win.
Is It Safe To Travel To Jerusalem?
How To Travel Safely With The Threat Of Terrorism.
Sunrises And Suicides At Masada National Park.
The Reality Of Fear And The Truth About Travel Safety.
What To Expect At Israel’s Airport Security.
This is a really eye-opening post, thanks for sharing!
Thanks so much for reading. 🙂 I’m really glad you found it eye opening. 🙂
I agree with Alice above, this is so eye opening. I never would have imagined Israel to be somewhere that is safe to travel to, not with all the stories you hear in the news.
The news isn’t always the most reliable place to get an accurate picture of what is really going on.
Yes! More people definitely need to look past the stories that the media push. It’s not as if Israel is an active warzone.
Exactly, the media have a negative agenda because that is what sells, I’m genuinely shocked at how people can just take it on face value.
I think a lot more articles like this are sorely needed in the mainstream media, there is just too much doom and gloom and scaremongering because that is what sells. People need facts and truth like this. The world would be better off for it.
I don’t disagree. 🙂 Thanks for the comment.
Very interesting. It is honestly not a destination I have ever even considered visiting, and a lot of that is probably down to the medias portrayal of the west bank. I didn’t even think people could visit here beyond holy pilgramages.
Well hopefully posts like this will convince people otherwise. 🙂
I’m just watching Yotum Ottolenhi’s Mediterrian cooking programme in Israel, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Loving all the delicious food he is making. I would love to go one and experience the great food, culture and history.
Thanks for sharing your experience about your travel. Hopefully I will get an opportunity to go one day.
I hope you do Chandan, it is an amazing country. 🙂
Good advice. I love the fact you don’t scaremonger about travel like so many others. Good job.
Thank you. I aim to please! ;D
I’m going to Tel Aviv for a week in December and whilst my rational self knows there isn’t any bigger threat there than it is here in London, but I’m somehow having second thoughts… Would you say it’s still safe to visit Jerusalem and the Dead Sea? I read somewhere that European tourists are not advised to use public buses, is there something to it?
anyway, cheers for a great well balanced article.
Hi Ola. it is absolutely safe to travel to Jerusalem and the dead sea. There are no current advisories against travel there for the vast majority of the country (only in certain border regions (Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza strip) which you won’t be going to), and as for the bus issue you are referring to, there is a note in the official advice that incidents have happened on public transport in the past, but that is ALL that this is. There have been two separate and completely isolated incidents this year and last year, and whilst these events were terrible (the last one was a stabbing), they are nothing that warrants any type of fear or restrictions. Terrible things do happen from time to time but that doesn’t mean they will happen all of the time. Honestly I loved my time there and never felt anything but safe, and I know many other travellers and ex pats who live there now and they feel the same. It is an amazing place and I hope you get to experience it. 🙂
I’m from Israel and I really liked your article.
I lived here all my life, and except for very specific times, or in very specific places, I always felt completely safe in my own country.
I can see why someone would get nervous seeing all the security and army in the streets, but they are there not because we’re in constant danger, they are there so you could feel safe anywhere, and they manged to achieve that.
and like you said in your other articles, use common sense, dont go into Mea Shearim (neighborhood of the most extreme jewish peoples) with unhumble clothes. and youll be just fine.
and I found it funny that while people are afraid to travel to israel, most of the israelis are afraid to travel oversee, because of rumors about armed robery or pickpocketers which are nonexist at all in israel.
Hi Alon, thanks so much for the comment, I know exactly what you mean, people just aren’t used to seeing a heavy security presence and tend to be afraid of it instead of being reassured like they should be. But as you say fear is universal, but it is also almost always unfounded. Thanks for commenting.
Brilliant reading thanks for the info.
Thank you, you’re more than welcome.
Hi, I have also planned to visit Israel in December alone. Before I read your article, I was scaremongering about this forthcoming trip and thought I would just have to take a risk visiting there . After reading your article, I am enlightened and find your article not only eyeopening but also comforting. I just visited Paris alone in April amid the world’s scaremongering about visiting there and found it safe with the increased security presence everywhere in the city. I agree, the heavy security presence everywhere is to assure of our safety. Looking forward to a great trip to Israel.
Hope you have a great time David, I’m glad I could calm the scaremongering voices for you a little 🙂
I have job offer from Ra’anana, IL. Can you help me understand this area and how safe for work,
I’m sure it will be. Just check out my safety tips on how to keep yourself safe here https://bemusedbackpacker.com/2013/11/05/gap-year-safety-the-ultimate-guide-to-safely-travelling-the-world-for-sale-now/
Raanana is a very nice place!
Close to tel-aviv and the beach.
And the city is very nice (with even my favorite bar), and close to many of the more intresting places, really perfect location.
It is indeed. 🙂
Thank you for this most informing article, my wife and I are planning to travel to Israel in June of 2018, I was just told by the father of a man who was there, and his son said he would never go just as a couple. He said we could be taken and never heard from again. I was never concerned until he told us that. I still plan on going and your article alleviates some of my concerns.
Hi Hal, I have no idea what experience your friend has and I obviously can’t speak for them, but to be perfectly honest with you that sounds beyond ridiculous. I mean taken by whom exactly? For what reason? I would go as a solo traveller, as a couple, in a group, it doesn’t matter. I’m glad my post helped a little, because Israel really is a safe and amazing destination.
Excellent post, it is important to have a balanced opinion to oppose the mass medias sensationalism!
Thanks Laura 🙂
Excellent, thank you. I just met someone who lives in Tel Aviv and I wanted to get more context about his life. I appreciate your views.
As I do yours, thanks for the comment. 🙂
We did a 12 day study tour of Israel and its major cities Nov 2016. We enjoyed ourselves tremendously. There were security everywhere but we took it in the stride that its there to keep things safe and in order for the population and tourists. At no time were they intrusive or rude. The sights were wonderful to behold, things you could only read about. The Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea, the Dome of the Rock and so on. My sister and her family is in Israel with their friends right now. I do recommend my friends and people I come into contact to make visit Israel an item on their bucket list and to go see the place soon.
As do I Vincent, it is an amazing country and a prime example of why people should stop listening to the scaremongering stereotypes in travel!
I read your artical after looking at the official F/O site. It will be our first trip to Israel and we were looking forward to going. Since President Trumps decision yesterday re Embassy in Jerusalem there has been greater violence. We will be flying into Tel Aviv on the 23rd December staying in hotel then hiring a car and driving to Elat for two weeks and staying in private apartments there. This will be on unfamiliar roads. Any advice to ease my fears would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Chris, well first of all don’t let the media scaremongering of ‘greater violence’ get to you, and certainly don’t apply that to all of Israel. At the time of writing this (and this could change) there are reports of protests along the West Bank (far away from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem) and reports of possible protests near the old city of Jerusalem with current advice to avoid that area at night only. This means that if you are only visiting Tel Aviv and Elat in private apartments you should be well clear of any potential trouble. As for unfamiliar roads, well that’s just part and parcel of travel. Do your research, make sure you have back up plans and you’ll be fine. Saying that it is still a good idea to listen to local news, follow the advice (if any) from local authorities and be wary of going near any potential trouble spots such as near the US embassy or any consulates, or anywhere where it looks like a mass crowd is gathering. All pretty common sense stuff. There may be protesting and flashpoints at the moment but on the whole the vast majority of the country will remain unaffected and fine to travel through. Hope this eases your worries a little?
Very thoughtful post. I wish more of the actual news took this approach!
Thank you Jess, that means a lot!
So many good points in this I don’t know where to start! Israel has never really been on my radar as a place to visit but I have heard so much about how dangerous it is etc, usually as you say from the media! Maybe I should check it out for myself.
You definitely should Andrew!
Definitely considering Israel as a destination now, thanks for this!
You’re welcome John, and that is awesome to hear!
“Great information. A direct flight was started from New Delhi to Israel recently. I might just use it now. 🙂
Thank you Rajesh, you should! Have a great trip!
Heading to Israel in June as a lone traveller, great to read your article. I must admit I have been second guessing myself, especially after recent events in gaza
Thanks Mark, glad to ease your fears a bit! Have a great time!
Myself and a group of Brits are meant to be visiting Tel Aviv (after the decision of visiting whoever won the Eurovision competition) for a friends stag do… What advice would you give to us in respect of this?
Hi Liam, what advice do you want specifically? Where to stay? What to do? Budget advice? It is a broad ask! But I will say Tel Aviv is an absolutely awesome choice! I loved the city. It’s a little more expensive than you think (think Western UK prices) so budget for that, but it is well worth it. Check out my review of Abraham Hostels in the review section (they have private rooms too) it is an amazing option, and type in Tel Aviv in the search section for articles on things to do. Hope that helps?
Love how you look at this. Too much in the media about how dangerous it is.
Thanks Joanne, I agree! 🙂
I would never visit Israel now with what they are doing, how can you even think of visiting?
Very easily, it is an amazing country with amazing people. Why would you NOT visit? Because of politics? Because that is beyond ridiculous. Would you turn down a trip to New York or Florida because Trump is an idiot? No. Would you not travel to the UK because you don’t agree with the Conservative government? No. So why ‘never’ visit anywhere else.
I know right? Who in their right mind goes there. Oh I know who! My parents!!! So I would get mad when they mentioned traveling to Mexico….now they surprise me and told me they are going here…SMH. I’m so mad.
Plenty of people travel there every day, and they are all safe and all in their right minds and each and every one has an overwhelmingly positive experience.
I don’t know whether to believe you or not as it was ‘written in partnership with iTravelJerusalem’. I think my dad has a deathwish. He wanted to go to Mexico and I would go off on him. Now I just found out he booked a trip here. I was hoping it was a joke but he showed me the travel guides and itinerary. I don’t know which country is worse. I might have to go with them (not that I want to) because I’m scared for them. I mean at least we all die together right? Expletive Expletive Expletive. I’m mad. When I looked up elsewhere it said extremely dangerous and try to not attract attention to yourself, etc. If I go it will be the trip of hell.
Are you really that paranoid? First of all I have built up a reputation of trust, honesty and integrity over many years of writing on this site. ‘In partnership with’ in no way implies my opinion has been swayed in any way, I explain that very explicitly in the disclaimer and have a long list of articles and reviews were the negative is reported just as much as the positive. The proof is all there for anyone to see. Secondly if you have read any of my other general travel safety articles you will see that my opinions are fairly consistent. Israel IS a very safe and amazing country to visit, as is Mexico. Rarely do I say to people you are probably better off staying at home but in this case I think you will be. Your Dad will certainly have a much better time if you do.
I heard that Palestinians keep lunching rockets over Israel .. I won’t visit that shit hole .. fuck that … I would rather go to Europe
Wow, with such an open mind and scintillating intellect I’m surprised you are willing or able to visit anywhere!
I heard people keep getting stabbed in London – never going there – oh wait a minute I live here shit!
Haha, my point exactly.
Great information here, thanks. It’s good to hear some sensible balanced views on what the actual situation is really like without it being infested with political bs.
Thanks, I know what you mean.
Thanks for this wonderful article. It is important to give the facts about a place rather than just relying on the biased media
That is very true
I agree completely with you, Israel does get a lot of bad press, but most of it isn’t rooted in fact.
Loving the positivity in this article, I agree there is so much scaremongering in the media.
Thanks, there definitely is!
Hello! I just wanted to say I was really worried about going through Israeli security before I visited Israel but had no problems whatsoever here. Very polite and professional and efficient.
That’s great to hear!
Yes! I have said the exact same thing for a long time, that Israel is the target of some major media scaremongering and doesn’t deserve its reputation for danger for tourists. So happy to see someone actually put my thoughts up on screen.
Definitely! So happy you agree. 🙂
As a slightly older couple we aren’t as used to travelling to off the beaten path places as you are, but you have convinced us to give Israel a try. It is somewhere I have always fancied but always put off too, mostly out of worry for the security situation. Very helpful article.
That’s awesome Frank, good man! Glad to hear you will give it a go at least, Israel is amazing and I am sure you and your partner will love it! Let me know if you have any questions or need any recommendations!
How can you say Israel is safe with all what they are doing to Palestine? I hope you get bombed.
Wow, thank you very much. With tolerance like that I’m sure peace is just round the corner.
I have recently returned from a two month trip in Israel and I completely agree with you, the biased reporting in the media is insane and I urge everyone to just go and see what an amazing country it is for themselves!
Well said Laura!
Very helpful article. I would like to share my own experience who has questions about interviews in airport.
Recently I traveled for the first time to Israel. Funnily enough, I always feel safer when they check me carefully! There are so many threats against Israel… Its good to know they are so meticulous and dont allow any extremists. Terrorists dont care if they kill tourists or locals…
Very true Emir, thanks for sharing
Excellent post and very reassuring, thank you.
You are very welcome!
Thank you for the article, you are an inspiration to us all.
Thank you very much