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Monday, January 17, 2022

Is it Safe to Travel in Israel Now and What is It Like There?

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At the Ramon Crater (makhtesh) with the Green Backpackers Hostel.
At the Ramon Crater (makhtesh) with the Green Backpackers Hostel.
With the media of the world paying close attention to the situation in southern Israel and Gaza, many tourists are questioning if it’s safe to travel in Israel now, and what it’s like to be in Israel at this time. In this article we’ll try to run through facts about the situation and give you the information you need to make a decision – ultimately it is as safe as ever to travel in Israel and the situation in the south of the country is not affecting tourists who are traveling in the country.

What’s Happened?

Following a period of relative calm, in June, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists whilst hitch-hiking in the West Bank. There was some backlash, and a Palestinian teenager was murdered by an Israeli extremist during the response. Hamas in Gaza began firing rockets from Gaza into Southern Israel. This is a common occurrence, however this time the rockets were fired in larger numbers than before.

Some rockets have been fired towards major cities such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, with warning sirens sounding a few times a week in Tel Aviv in recent weeks, and a handful of times over the past few weeks in Jerusalem. Israel’s missile defense system, the Iron Dome successfully intercepts over 90% of all rockets fired at cities, meaning that over the past three weeks, Israeli civilian casualties have been minimized with three people killed, two of whom in the area immediately next Gaza, the other was in the middle of the Southern desert and did not hear any siren.

Israel’s response in Gaza was initially limited to air-strikes, but was stepped up 10 days ago to include ground forces. Since this has happened, the world’s television cameras have been glued to the region, but in reality, day-to-day life has gone on unchanged. On July 22, following a rocket landing close to Tel Aviv’s Airport, but more widely thought to be related to the shooting-down of the Malaysian Airlines jet over Ukraine, the US Federal Aviation Authority temporarily halted flights of US Airlines into Israel, which was followed by European airlines. Within 48 hours, the ban was lifted, after the FAA confirmed that they were satisfied that Israeli skies were safe and the Hamas rockets posed no real risk to their jets.

Is it Safe to Travel in Israel Now?

Since the rise in tensions in Gaza, nothing material has changed to affect tourists traveling in Israel. The area of the country around Gaza does not feature on tourists itineraries as there are no major sites here.

Tel Aviv, despite the sirens which have been sounding a few times a week remains as safe as always. The risk is more of falling debris from intercepted rockets, and locals and tourists are continuing with life as usual.

Jerusalem has had a few sirens over the past few weeks, but no rocket reached the city, and like Tel Aviv, life is normal here.

In the Negev, Dead Sea, and Galilee, there are almost no sirens and travel is normal.

It is important to remember the context of safety in any country is a combination of things. Personal safety in Israel is incredibly high and crime very low, when compared to most Western countries and cities. In an ironic way, coming and traveling in Israel still remains safer than staying at home in the UK, USA, or most other Western Countries.

How’s the mood in Israel?

The mood of locals in Israel is, admittedly lower than usual – most people have friends or family who are serving in the Army (it’s a conscription Army). Having said that, the country is continuing with business as usual – museums and attractions are open as usual, restaurants and cafes are open as usual, and the nightlife continues as usual. Tours in Israel are continuing to depart as usual without major changes to itineraries.

Places are quieter than usual – for two reasons. Firstly, many locals are not in the mood to go out. Secondly, many tourists have cancelled trips to the country. Those who still come are having a fun time as usual – it’s a little different to normal but nonetheless interesting and they say it’s nonetheless fun.

Should I still travel to Israel?

If you have flights booked and are wondering whether you should still travel to Israel it is, of course, a personal decision that you should make. There are still thousands of tourists in the country, and those who were here when the situation began did not leave. Those who have been coming since have been influenced (understandably) by photos in the media.

As of now, government travel warnings do not tell citizens to avoid travel to Israel:

The British Foreign Office Travel Advice is only to avoid travel to the area 40km around Gaza.

The US State Department advises that travelers “consider the deferral of non-essential travel to Israel” but does not warn strongly against visiting Israel. They also tell travelers to avoid the area around Gaza.

Becki Enright, an award winning travel writer and editor of Backpacker Becki wrote:”

“While you should stay open to developments of the conflict, travel in Israel is still safe. It’s important to remember that the main tourist areas are away from Gaza, where this current conflict is taking place (and where any travel in close proximity is prohibited). You may come across very small incidents or have to follow the protocol of sirens, but you should not be put off travelling there. Travel in Israel and in the West Bank is also an opportunity to better understand this conflict from both sides – and that alone is invaluable.”

 

See more at: http://www.touristisrael.com/safe-travel-israel/13932/#sthash.UQECbiPw.dpuf

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