The situation in the country changes rapidly at any given time. Tensions can rise and flare out of control with little to no warning. So that age old question should still be asked: Is it safe to travel to Israel?
With the constant over-stimulation of media in everyone’s lives, people are becoming more afraid to travel to certain areas. Images of terrorism, violence, and brutality can definitely shape your travel plans. At the same time, so many places around the world experience these flareups only briefly and in confined areas. I believe Israel is definitely one of those places.
When we were planning our travel to Israel, we checked and the U.S. Department of State website advice, “The security environment remains complex in Israel and the West Bank, and U.S. citizens need to be aware of the continuing risks of travel to areas where there are heightened tensions and security risks. The Department of State strongly warns U.S. citizens against travel to the Gaza Strip.”
The U.S. is certainly not the only country releasing travel advisories to Israel, and let’s face it, there have been and will continue to be, some dissatisfied groups that are dangerous in the country. However, it has been going on for years, hundreds of years. The technology has changed, but most of the aims have not. So, why are we more scared than ever to visit this amazing country filled with historical and natural sites?
When Jim and I told people we were going to travel to Israel, the majority of the reactions were concern for our safety. Many people told us that they too wanted to go there, but would wait until things “calmed down.” Hmmm.
If you take another look above, the U.S. State Department, primarily is warning people away from the Gaza Strip, not the whole country. In fact, Israel’s cities are reported to be virtually free from crime or personal safety issues. When we were there, we saw so many children out on their own, families walking in the markets, in the parks, everywhere.
We even saw two kids, maybe 11 and 12 years old, probably a brother and a sister, trying to figure out how to ride the tram after dark. Paying was a bit of a conundrum, and they had obviously never done it before. Yet here they were, completely on their own. Apparently Mom and Dad weren’t worried about their safety.
Due to their past and their current problems, the Israelis are very aware of who enters their country. I completely expected strict security checks before boarding our plane, and I wasn’t disappointed. From Germany, we were sequestered from all the other air passengers after going through security, and leaving Israel they checked every bag. We had five small bags all told, and not only did they have to go through the scanning machine, but each one had to then be checked by hand. I’m sure this was due to my photography equipment, but still that has never happened to me in any other country I have visited.
We also chose to drive around the country, and Jim and I love to get out into far reaches of nowhere. We took a drive through the Golan Heights, and we drove in the far south. We did see more of a military presence in these areas, but that makes sense to have military on the borders. We went through only one checkpoint, and weren’t even stopped. I’ve been stopped more in plenty of other places.
We love the back streets, the countryside, the villages, as well as the big cities and no matter where we went we never felt threatened or unsafe. Never. Not once.
Israel was a fascinating country to explore. We loved Jerusalem, probably one of the most interesting and exotic cities in the world. We loved all the historical sites, from Caesarea to the Sea of Gallilee, to the Nabatean cities of the spice route. We loved the food, especially the hummus and felafel. We loved it all.
We are so glad that the negative hype didn’t discourage us from our travel to Israel. Yes, we talked about it before we went, but we went, and I hope you do, too.
No matter where you are in the world, home or away, it is always important to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings.
What do you think about Israel? Are you interested in going? What is your reaction to the media? Do you think it’s dangerous? Please let us know in the comment section.
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.