Israel â€“ Is It Safe?
Safety-wise there have not been anyÂ incidents regarding tourists in Israel for several years now. The south of the country which is close to the infamous Gaza border are experiencing occasional homemade rocket attacks that target the local community. However, this is not a placeÂ where tourists hang out so it is not of particular concern to the visitors.
As a tourist one experiences Israel’s tight security everywhere, from metal detectors in malls, train stations, and other public buildings to the infamous flight check-in at the Tel Aviv airport, which requires you to seriously arrive for your flight at least four hours earlier and be prepared for questioning.
So what are the places to see and avoid in Israel and beyond?
Israeli tourist towns, such as Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Netanya, Acre,Â Eilat and Tiberias in the North are considered safe to visit. In fact, there have been no recent U.S. government travel advisories to the contrary. On the other hand, some very interesting towns and places in the West Bank, such as the Dead Sea and Bethlehem might be off limits, subject to the daily situation. You can easily take your rented car to these places, however you should check local news and talk to your hotel concierge about the situation before going there. Frankly, a visit to Israel is hardly complete without dipping into the Dead Sea or experiencing the desert of the West Bank. For those in search of more adventure and history, you can visit the typically safe Jordanian side famous for its astonishing stone city Petra, made famous by the Indiana Jones movie.
In the media, we tend to lump the three together, so when we hear travel advisory warnings against travel to Gaza and the West Bank, we think all of Israel is unsafe but there is an enormous difference between the three. Governments do not discourage travel to Israel.Â Security is very, very tight.Â Every mall, train station or large building has metal detectors. Most restaurants and stores will ask you to open your bag. This is a way of life here and it has been very effective.
The West Bank
The West Bank is under Palestinian control.There have been no real incidents of terrorism here in a very long time and Palestinians rarely blow up their own bars and buses. But it’s a good idea to travel here with a knowledgeable guide.Â There is so much to see, the history of this area is so rich, and the stories are those of all mankind.
Not to miss are:
Church of the Nativity: One of the oldest churches in the word, now a veritable citadel built fortress-like on top of the cave where Jesus was allegedly born.
Rachel’s Tomb: The burial place of the matriarch Rachel, wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph and Benjamin, this is the second most important historical site in Bethlehem.Â It is holy to all three faiths, but access to the tomb is now restricted to those traveling by bus from Jerusalem.
Milk Grotto Chapel: Where it is said Mary dropped a few drops of milk while feeding Jesus and the cavern was turned white. To this day, people still scrape the white powder and use it for fertility.
The wall: The most famous graffiti artist Banksy left his mark onÂ the barrier wall dividing Bethlehem from Jerusalem, and his work is both uplifting and comical as only he can do.
Herodium: The site of King Herod’s man made mountain and his recently discovered tomb, a must see.
Dead Sea: Float in this salty, calm water. Rub mud on your back.
Places to Avoid
Avoid Gaza. Before traveling to the West Bank, including the Dead Sea or Eilat in the south of Israel,Â remember to inquire about the daily situation.
Donâ€™t go to Gaza. Gaza is essentially sealed off. The US State Department tells EVERYONE, journalists and aid workers alike that if youâ€™re in Gaza, youâ€™re on your own. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) strictly controls the crossing points between Israel and the Gaza Strip. The security environment within Gaza and along its borders, including its border with Egypt and its seacoast, is dangerous and volatile.
Jerusalem safe. Seriously, this is a city that is literally pulsating with energy. And it is patrolled more vigilantly than the Vatican. People from all over the world flock to it to experience the thrill of being so close to the beginnings of their religion. It is heavily patrolled so that there is little crime. Exercise standard caution. Remember never to leave bags unattended and to be respectful of all religious pilgrims searching for their piece of history.
Religion and politics take a back seat to the beach here, and it is to be savored. Flights to Tel Aviv are frequent. It’s a great place to enter Israel.Â But please log onto www.bt-store.com for all your travel news before booking our flight.
A Final Note:
Do not leave your bag anywhere unattended in Israel. It will be removed and destroyed by a very effective bomb squad no matter what it is. The motto here is â€śbetter safe than sorry.â€ť
Israel is very, very safe for women traveling alone, even at night.
In most Jerusalem neighborhoods, mothers will still be out walking with their babies up and down the streets at midnight, trying to get them to sleep.
But steer clear of eastern Jerusalem. Do not walk alone here even during the day. Take a cab, and never go there after dark.