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Is Travelling to Israel Safe in 2024?

Israel is known to hold a deep historical and religious significance to several major world religions including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This makes it a dream destination for many people all over the world.

Unfortunately, this is not the only thing the country is known for. The security situation in Israel and its territories is known to be quite volatile, with periods of heightened tension and conflict, especially with Palestinian groups in Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

This has significantly impacted the advisability to travel to Israel.

Image: A photo of the flag of Israel, fluttering prominently against a backdrop of weathered stone buildings under a cloudy sky

The Present Security Climate

In October 2023, a major conflict erupted between Israel and Hamas which led to an attack that resulted in deaths of the civilians.

Following this incident, travel advisories for Israel have seen significant updates. Travellers are advised to keep themselves updated with the latest information through trustworthy sources, such as the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

The FCDO's guidance provides up-to-the-minute travel advice, critical for planning a safe trip. Because of the ongoing security challenges, the travel guidance currently recommends against all but essential travel to certain parts of Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Specific regions highlighted for increased vigilance include;

  • Gaza Strip ‐ The area surrounding Gaza is noted for its instability, with a strong discouragement of travel there. This encompasses regions north of Route 211, west of Be’er Sheva, and others adjacent to Gaza's boundary.
  • West Bank ‐ Certain locales, like East Jerusalem and the Route 1 corridor connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, are exceptions. However, other West Bank areas are deemed risky.
  • Northern Israel ‐ The vicinity within 5km of the Lebanese border is restricted as a military zone. These restrictions also cover areas close to the Syrian frontier and certain northern settlements.

Jerusalem and Tel Aviv

Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world featuring tourist sites like the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The city's Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage site, where visitors can wander through ancient, narrow alleys, shop in bustling markets, and experience a blend of different cultures and traditions. It also offers modern museums, vibrant arts scenes, and diverse culinary options.

Tel Aviv, on the other hand, is known for its laid-back Mediterranean vibe, modern architecture, and vibrant nightlife. Its ancient port and historic buildings provide a charming scene amidst the city's modernity.

Unfortunately, despite being major centres of culture and history, both cities face complex security concerns, and the safety situation can change rapidly.

Recently, Israeli authorities signalled an elevated security alert, indicating the possibility of unforeseen disturbances, such as border shutdowns.

If you are planning to visit these regions (and other regions with heightened tensions), it is advisable to stay informed about current events and follow local guidance regarding safety measures.

Image: A photo of a crowd of people gathered in front of the ancient Western Wall during the Sabbath in Jerusalem, Israel

Practical Tips and Essential Insights When Visiting Israel

Stay informed ‐ Always keep up with the local news. Situations can evolve fast, and areas that are safe one day can become risky the next day due to protests or security incidents.

Heed travel warnings ‐ Both the Israeli government and various international bodies issue specific travel warnings regarding areas with heightened tensions. Take heed, especially in regions bordering Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

Emergency contacts ‐ Keep a list of emergency contacts, including the local police, your embassy, and emergency medical services. The general emergency number in Israel is 100 for police, 101 for ambulance, and 102 for the fire department.

Follow local advice ‐ Israelis are generally very aware of their security environment. Heeding advice from local friends, your hotel staff, or tour guides regarding where and when it's safe to travel can be invaluable.

Security measures ‐ Be prepared for security checks at public and private venues, including shopping centres, train stations, and restaurants. These measures are routine and are for the safety of all.

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