One of the questions that I see again and again in different travel forums is – “Is Israel Safe to Visit?” I’ve been operating this blog for over three years now and I think it’s time to answer the question. Is Israel safe to visit? In short – yes. And in more detail, here are some questions you might ask about safety and security in Israel and my answers to them:

Is there a lot of crime in Israel?

“Israel’s criminal incident rate per capita is lower than in many major cities in the U.S.” – says the OSAC Israel 2018 Crime & Safety Report. I have lived in Israel almost my entire life and have not experienced any criminal activity. Street crime is very low. Though, it is important – like in any foreign country – to keep your valuables in a safe place and not give any personal information to unauthorized personales. Police presence is very tight in touristic areas such as the Old City of Jerusalem and main areas of Tel Aviv, so if you do need help of any kind, you can reach out to them easily.

If you are using a rented car while visiting Israel, don’t leave any valuables inside as there is a problem of people breaking into cars, especially in East Jerusalem, in Tel Aviv and in remote places in the Judean Desert.

I’m a woman travelling to Israel alone. Should I worry?

No, don’t worry. Israel is very safe for solo female travellers. I myself am a woman and I’ve never felt scared to wander around. Though, you should be aware of some things which can make your trip much easier and safer:

  • Men in Israel can be quite flirty at times. If you don’t want them to flirt with you, you should make it very clear that you are not interested and they will usually back off. I’ve also experienced some irritating remarks thrown in my direction by men in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. I just ignored them, and you should too.
  • It is not common to hitchhike, especially as a solo traveler. Unlike other places in the world, in Israel it isn’t common to hitchhike and most of us locals don’t do it, especially if we’re travelling alone. I did it once when I had no other choice, but I would definately recommend that you as a solo female traveler will take the bus or train instead.
  • There are places which require to wear modest clothes. In holy places and in Ultra Orthodox Jewish religious neighborhoods such as Mea Shearim it is highly recommended to dress modestly. That is, cover your shoulders and put on pants or a skirt that reaches below the knee. If you’re in an Ultra religious neighborhood, you should go with a skirt and not with pants. You can go with pants to the Western Wall and to Temple Mount, as long as it covers beneath your knee.
  • There are many female-only dorms in Israeli hostels. If you’re travelling on a budget as a solo female traveler, you should know that many hostels offer female-only dorms, which can make your stay much more comfortable.
  • Most Israelis speak fairly good English. Don’t be shy to ask for directions or any other kind of help.
It's safe to travel Israel as a solo woman
It’s safe to travel Israel as a solo woman

Why are there so many soldiers everywhere?

In Israel you’ll probably see a lot of soldiers walking around in their army uniforms, sometimes even holding on to a rifle. This is a very normal, everyday sight in Israel. In Israel, men and women have to join the IDF (Israel Defense Force) after high school and serve the country for 2 to 3 years. I have also served in the IDF. You’ll see the greatest amount of soldiers on Sundays – when they come back to their army base after a weekend at home – and on Thursdays – when they leave for a weekend at home.

The soldiers you will see in the Old City of Jerusalem are called “Magav” and are the Israel Border Police. Some of them are part of the IDF and some work in the Magav as part of the Israeli police force. Their mission is to make sure the Old City of Jerusalem stays quiet and peaceful.

Two Magav policemen in the Old City of Jerusalem
Two Magav policemen in the Old City of Jerusalem

Are there a lot of terror attacks in Israel?

Israel knows how to deal with terror very well and is one of the leading countries in prevention of terrorism. We’ve seen terror of all kinds – stabbings, cars running over people, suicide attacks, shootings and even burning balloons – but in the last couple of years there have been very few terror attacks. There have been much more deadly attacks in places outside of Israel, such aas Sri Lanka and France. Israel has a great Intelligence unit, which prevents many attacks, and a great system of security checks, which usually catches terrorists before they even get close to their destination. Also, many people in Israel have served in the past as soldiers specializing in combat and were granted permission to carry a weapon after they left the army. Most terror attacks which were carried out were usually cut short by former Israeli combat soldiers, which were in the area and were able to shoot at the terrorist before he or she were able to expand their attack.

So are there many terror attacks in Israel? No. (at least not in 2018-19). And you should note that most attacks are directed at locals and not at tourists.

There’s a missle attack on Israel. Should I cancel my visit?

No, don’t cancel right away! Wait for a few days to see how things develop. Once in a while the terrorist groups in Gaza Strip – amongst them Hamas – decide to shoot missles at civilian areas in Israel. Sometimes they send just one missle and leave it and sometimes they send dozens or hundreds of missles. In the second case, they usually ask for a ceasefire after a day or two and Israel usually agrees to cease fire, because we don’t really want it to expand to a broad military operation. If it doesn’t expand to a military operation, you can feel safe to not cancel your trip, because usually there’s a long gap from one missle attack to the other, and even if you’ll arrive and there will be a missle attack, usually it does not get to the top touristic areas.

In the pic below you can see the rocket ranges of Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip. The area in the immediate range are not touristic at all and are actually “off the beaten path”. The area which is white-grayish is rarely targetted by the terrorist groups in Gaza, although it does happen once in a while that they fire a missle to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

Pic from idfspokesperson.wordpress.com

If you happen to be in Israel and hear a missle siren, you should do as others do around you (hopefully they are doing as they are supposed to do). Find the missle shelter closest to you and stay there for 10 minutes after the siren before coming out. If there’s no missle shelter nearby, lay down on your belly, cover your head and neck and pray that a missle won’t fall next to you. Most rockets are destroyed in the air by our Iron Dome system before they even hit the ground.

So let’s get back to the first and main question – Is Israel safe to visit? Yes, it is. Like in every other country you’ll visit, you just need to make sure to be a bit precautious and keep an eye on your stuff. Though, I do suggest to check travel alerts before coming, just to be on the safe side. Check out the alerts on the U.S Embassy in Israel page.


Have a safe journey to Israel!

Anything I forgot to mention in the post? Leave me a comment or contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com.

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Yours,

Lior