February 5, 2024 Update
As you may have seen, on Saturday the 7th of October, war broke out in Israel. You can find all security information on the Home Front Command website at the following link: https://www.oref.org.il/en, including your nearest shelter by entering your address here – https://www.oref.org.il//12481-en/Pakar.aspx.
The information in this article refers to regular times in Israel, which we hope to return to very soon. For information on traveling in Israel at the moment, please read the linked post. We’re here for you throughout this time, and please reach out to us if you need assistance. Tourist Israel has many resources to help during this time, including transportation around the country and volunteering packages.
With the media constantly paying close attention to the situation in southern Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, 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. In general, it is safe to travel in Israel when circumstances are less tense. In these difficult times, we are still offering private tours, strictly following government regulations. You should always be sure to check and adhere to your country’s travel advisories.
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Is it Safe to Travel Within Israel Now?
Despite what you see in the news, Israel is actually a very safe country to travel to, overall – when the situation is not as tense as it is these days. In fact, in a recent study, Israel was actually ranked as the fifth safest country in the world for tourists to travel to, trumping the UK, the US, and most European countries!
It’s easy to associate all of Israel with Gaza and the West Bank. But you must remember that these aren’t areas where most people live. They certainly aren’t the areas that travelers visit. The main tourist areas- Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Negev, Nazareth, and the Dead Sea – remain as safe as always.
What’s the Security Situation Now?
Israel is in a continuous state of conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Every once in a while, after the conflict starts brewing, there is a small “war” or operation. During these small wars, rockets are fired at Israel. The rockets are generally fired at the south or north of Israel, depending on who the conflict is with. Occasionally, rockets are aimed at more central parts of Israel. Israel has a very effective defense system called the Iron Dome, which intercepts rockets. As an extra caution, there are sirens in specific areas to warn citizens to take cover in a bomb shelter, or a “miklat.” In usual times, these operations occur no more than once or twice a year for a couple of days.
How Does This Impact Tourists?
It’s understandable to be cautious about traveling to Israel considering how the conflict appears on world news. However, it’s statistically very safe to travel within Israel. Personal safety in Israel is always incredibly high and crime very low, especially when compared to many Western countries and cities. In regards to crime, traveling in Israel is actually safer than staying at home in the UK, USA, or most other western countries.
That being said, there are parts of Israel that are not safe to travel to. All travelers are advised against traveling to Gaza, and the area surrounding the Gaza strip.
Tourists should also be very vigilant when traveling in the West Bank or East Jerusalem, including the city of Bethlehem. While the area is safe for tourists, transport can be tricky therefore travelers are encouraged to only go to these areas as part of an organized tour.
Read more about traveling to Bethlehem
If you’re nervous about traveling to Israel, the best course of action is to travel as part of a package tour, where you will be accompanied by a guide throughout your trip.
Current travel warnings as of November 2023
- The Foreign and Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) advises against all travel to Gaza, the Sheba’a Farms and Ghajjar, and within 500m of the border with Lebanon (the ‘Blue Line’) east of Metula, including the northern edge of the town and east of Route 98 along the Syrian border. Non-essential travel to the city of Nablus, Joseph’s Tomb, and the Balata and New Askar refugee camps near Nablus is strongly discouraged. These are not regions or areas typically visited by tourists visiting Israel.
- The US State Department does not advise tourists against traveling to Israel. However it does advise U.S citizens to be aware of “the continuing risks of travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza due to the security situation and heightened tensions there, and states ‘do not travel’ to Gaza.” They also advise travelers to stay cautious in the Old City and when traveling to the West Bank.
How’s the Mood in Israel?
In Israel, the sun is (mostly) always shining, the hummus is flowing, and the clubbers keep clubbing. It takes a very serious and tense situation to make Israelis stop going about their daily lives. This means that shopping in the markets, meeting up with friends at restaurants, and going out into the wee hours of the morning is a way of life regardless of what is going on in certain parts of the country.
As far as tourists go, there is no slowing them down in 2023, which saw a massive boom in tourism following the reopening of the country after the Coronavirus pandemic.
Tours in Israel continue to depart as usual without changes to itineraries. We have lots of Package Tours to help you make the most out of your trip in Israel, plus many hotels in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and more.
Travel insurance when visiting Israel?
As with any international trip, visitors should get travel insurance when visiting Israel. In most cases, this is important in case of a delayed flight, missing luggage, or needing to see a doctor. Because of the current situation, most insurance providers are not offering insurance deals for tourists visiting Israel. We have teamed up with one of the only insurance companies to do so, providing you with medical travel coverage for the duration of your trip to Israel.
Should I Still Travel to Israel?
If you are wondering whether you should travel to Israel, it is, of course, a personal decision that you should make. There are still thousands of tourists in the country having an unforgettable and safe experience.
In short, the security situation in Israel and Gaza often changes. You should always exercise caution and stay up-to-date with your country’s latest travel reports.
Becki Enright, an award-winning travel writer and editor, 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 traveling 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.”