You are going to Israel? Is that Safe? That is the most common question I received when I told people I was travelling to Israel. I am not going to lie, when hearing all of the reports of stabbing and terrorism in Israel, I paused a bit and thought about if I should really go, but with some research and planning, I went and had a wonderful time. Know what is going on before you go Sometimes the world news such as Associated Press or CNN makes it seem like the whole country has problems. But there is much more gun violence in the United States than in Israel. We know in the USA that certain areas are not the safest and to avoid it. The same can be said for Israel. Most of the violence occurs in certain areas and certain times. Knowing the local news can be helpful. I read The Jerusalem Post and YNET News very regularly before going. Knowing the local news helped me plan the trip better, and change plans as necessary. I learned that most of the issues were in certain areas of Jerusalem so when going to Jerusalem, I decided to hire a private guide to be safe. A local guide has a better idea of areas that can be dangerous and what the local news is at the time. Expect to see lots and lots of solders Just because you see many young solders carrying large guns does not mean something is going on. From the moment of Israel’s birth, the army or Israel Defense Forces has occupied a central role in society. All Jewish citizens of Israel serve in the army for two to three years when they turn 18. The ultra-orthodox are exempt. Druse and Cherkessian, two non-Jewish minority groups also serve and Male Bedouin Israelis can volunteer. Arab Israelis can also volunteer, although their numbers are few. So when you see young solders hanging out at tourist areas, it does not mean that it is unsafe, it means the opposite, nothing is going on so the solders are getting a break and are being tourists. Check Points and Guards on roads and buildings One difference I saw in Israel was the many check points on roads. Depending on the area, when entering a city, getting off the highway or certain areas, you will likely have to go through a check point. These check points are highly charged politically as it restricts the movements of Palestinians. The Israeli government believes that these check points keep its citizens safe from terrorists. Some people believe that the check points anger Palestinians which increases the chances of terrorism. It is a very complicated situation, but expect to encounter a few when you are in Israel. The other related restriction is that there are guards stationed in front of many buildings. They might check your key card when entering into a hotel or are standing in front of a shopping area. This is normal and nothing special is going on here, it is a part of the security. There is a very large separation wall Another controversial issue is the separation wall between Israel and parts of the Palestinian West Bank. This was built to end suicide attacks, which between 2000 and July of 2003 there were 73 attacks. Since the wall was built suicide attacks have greatly decreased. You can see the wall very clearly in Jerusalem and it runs parallel to the highway when driving north towards the Galilee. You need to get to the airport at least three hours early It is quite the experience leaving Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport. The security starts at a check point before you enter the airport. After going through the check point and arriving at the airport, you go through a very long time of being questioned. Questions like why did you come, where did you stay, who did you travel with, what did you pack and who did your packing. This can go on for a while. Then there is the actual checking in portion where they ask you even more questions and then you get into the real first security line. This takes a really long time even though there are only a couple of people in front of you. When they check your bag they want all electronics and cords out, but they do not want you to take them out without them watching you. They run your stuff through the machine and then the pull everything out and swab it. So much for packing nicely. You then go through immigration, then you can go to your gate. Next time someone complains in the USA about security, tell them to go to Israel. Life goes on in Israel Even with all the threats, negative news towards Israel and lots of security, life goes on in Israel. It felt normal, and pretty safe. Families live normally, people go to work, have fun and live their life. So just as the politics are surrounding Israel are complicated , so is the answer to the question. Is it safe in Israel? Yes, but it is complicated. Would I go again. Yes, when can I go?
- Photo of the day: Trondheim Norway
- Photo of the day: Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee