One of the questions I repeatedly see in different travel forums is – “Is Israel safe to visit?” So, I’ve decided to address 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.
Please note – There is currently (October 2023) a war between Israel and Hamas, which is much more massive than usual. Right now, it is recommended to wait and see how things develop before planning a trip to Israel this year. Click here for all Israel-Hamas War updates.
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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 experienced ALMOST no criminal activity. Street crime is very low.
There is a tight police presence in touristic areas such as the Old City of Jerusalem and the center of Tel Aviv, and you can always reach out to them for help. However, like in any foreign country, you should still stay alert. Here are a few points to follow to prevent disappointing experiences:
- It’s important to keep your valuables in a safe place. I recommend going around with a money belt underneath your shirt. You can find money belts on Amazon.
- Always keep your eye on your belongings. In 2022, my credit card and money were stolen while taking a bus ride from Eilat to Jerusalem. I wasn’t feeling well and left my bag unattended for a few minutes while I asked the bus driver to stop over. The thieves took advantage of that. So, it’s important to always keep your belongings close to you. Keep in mind that there are also thieves on the beaches of Tel Aviv, so it’s best to keep your belongings in a locker if there’s no one to watch of them.
- Do not share your personal details with unauthorized people. In general, try not to share too much information about yourself with strangers.
- Be careful where you leave your rental car. In any case, if you’re using a rental car, don’t leave any valuables inside. There is a problem of car break-ins, especially in East Jerusalem, including Mount of Olives, Tel Aviv, and remote places in the Judean Desert.
I’m a woman traveling to Israel alone. Should I worry?
No, don’t worry. Israel is very safe for solo female travelers. I myself am a woman, and I’ve never felt scared to wander around. However, you should be aware of some things that 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. They will usually back off. Sometimes, when I walk in the Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem, I get some irritating remarks from men. I just ignore them, and you should, too.
- It is NOT common to hitchhike, especially as a solo traveler. Unlike other places, it isn’t common to hitchhike in Israel. Most locals don’t do it, especially if we’re traveling alone. I did it once when I had no other choice. But as a solo female traveler, it would be better to take the bus or train instead.
- There are places where you need to wear modest clothes. You are expected to dress modestly in holy sites and ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods such as Mea She’arim. That is, cover your shoulders and wear pants or a skirt that covers the area below the knee. You can wear wide pants if you don’t like skirts or dresses, but skinnies are also okay as long as they cover the legs. Read more about the dress code in Jerusalem.
- There are many female-only dorms in Israeli hostels. If you’re traveling on a budget as a solo female traveler, booking a female-only dorm could make your stay much more comfortable.
- Most Israelis speak pretty good English. Don’t be shy to ask for directions or any other kind of help.
Why are there so many soldiers everywhere?
In Israel, you’ll probably see a lot of soldiers walking around in their uniforms. Sometimes, they’ll even be holding a rifle. This is a very regular, everyday sight in Israel. In Israel, men and women must 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 largest number of soldiers on Sundays when they return to their army base after a weekend at home. You’ll also see a lot on Thursdays when they leave for the weekend.
The soldiers you will see in the Old City of Jerusalem are called “Magav.” They are the Israeli Border Police. Some are part of the IDF, and some work in Magav as part of the Israeli police force. Their mission is to ensure the Old City of Jerusalem stays quiet and peaceful and immediately act if there is any violent incident.
Are there a lot of terror attacks in Israel?
Israel knows how to deal with terror very well. Actually, we are one of the leading countries in terrorism prevention. We’ve seen terror of all kinds – stabbings, cars running over people, suicide attacks, shootings, and even burning balloons. But recently, there have been very few terror attacks. There have been much more deadly attacks in places outside Israel, such as Sri Lanka and France. Israel’s Intelligence unit prevents many attacks, and there are security checks almost everywhere. Usually, these checks catch terrorists before they even get close to their target.
Also, many people in Israel have served in the past as combat soldiers. They were granted permission to carry a weapon after leaving the service. So, most terror attacks are usually stopped by former Israeli combat soldiers, who are my chance in the area. They shoot at the terrorist before they expand their attack.
So, are there many terror attacks in Israel? No. And you should note that most attacks are directed at local religious Jews or IDF soldiers and not at tourists, which isn’t fun, but at least you’re on the safe side.
In October 2023, we experienced one of the most extensive and dreadful terrorist attacks in the Western Negev, next to the Gaza Strip. Hamas terrorists broke into Israel and began slaughtering innocent civilians in their homes, at a music festival, and on the roads connecting between the towns. There were also some casualties with non-Israeli passports, but most of the 1,300+ civilians killed were locals. Hopefully, such events will not happen again.
There’s a rocket 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 terror organizations in the Gaza Strip, usually Hamas, decide to shoot rockets at Israeli civilian areas. Sometimes, they send only one missile. Sometimes, they send dozens or hundreds of rockets. In the second case, they usually request a ceasefire after a day or two, and Israel usually agrees. That’s because we don’t want it to expand to a broad military operation. If it doesn’t grow into a long-term military operation, you can feel safe to visit. Usually, there’s a long gap from one rocket attack to the other. Furthermore, they typically do not fire many rockets at top tourist 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 – the Western Negev – is not touristic at all and is actually “off the beaten path.” The area, which is white-grayish, is rarely targeted by the terrorist groups in Gaza. However, it does happen occasionally that they fire a rocket to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. In most cases, those rockets are destroyed by the Iron Dome in midair.
What should you do if there is a rocket attack?
If you happen to be in Israel and hear a rocket siren, you should do as others do around you. Hopefully, they will be doing what they are supposed to do. Here are the instructions from the Home Front Command:
- Find the nearest bomb shelter and stay there for 10 minutes after the siren before coming out.
- If there is no bomb shelter nearby, try entering a building and staying inside an inner space. Stay away from doors and windows. Stay there for 10 minutes.
- If you’re in an open space, try to find a place next to a wall, lay down on your belly, and cover your head and neck.
What about travel insurance?
No matter where you travel, it’s always a good idea to consider travel insurance.
World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation, and more.
So, let’s return to the first and main question – Is Israel safe to visit? Yes, it is. Like in every other country you visit, you just need to be more cautious and keep an eye on your stuff. However, I do suggest checking travel alerts before coming, just to be on the safe side. Check out the alerts on the U.S Embassy in Israel page.
Want to plan a trip to Israel and don’t know where to begin? Check out my trip planning service for Israel.
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