by Laura Stewart,
Perhaps the hardest part of traveling to Israel is the problem of not knowing what to expect. News reports give daily accounts of death and hate crimes. There has been war within the past ten years. Live video streams show people crying and screaming. It is no surprise then that safety is a huge concern for those traveling to Israel. People imagine bombs going off left and right and fear being held at gunpoint. Despite this fear, many tourists travel to this holy land year after year and come back unscathed and happy. In fact, many tourists decide to make this supposedly dangerous land their home. So what should one expect when coming to Israel?
Well, for starters, expect an enormous amount of security. Throughout its history, Israel has been one of the most sought after countries and as a result has developed highly successful security techniques to keep its citizens safe and its enemies out. The first of these security steps takes place before one has even entered the country. Many airlines conduct individual interviews with each passenger before allowing them to board the plane. You will be asked questions such as “Why are you traveling to Israel?” and “Where do you plan to stay?” You may also be asked what you would do in case of an emergency. Preparing yourself for the questioning will not only alleviate the anxiety of an interrogation, but also ensure that you are adequately prepared for your trip. Once settled in your seat, the worst part of the trip is over.
Unless you plan to go to the Gaza strip, the most one needs to be concerned about is having your bags constantly searched when going to the mall or on the train. If you are traveling with a guide or an Israeli native, you will see that this is so much a part of life it becomes second nature and not only doesn’t seem intrusive, but actually feels natural.
In Israel, you may also need to get used to the constant presence of guns. Soldiers are required to carry their guns on their person at all times during their mandatory service in the army. Be assured though Israelis are well trained and carry the weapons for your safety and protection.
A few more tips may also help travelers along their way to visit one of the most historical places in the world. Keep aware of the news. In Israel there are a few English newspapers and online news sources to keep updated, such as the popular Jerusalem Post. Check these for warnings of areas that may be dangerous or have heightened security measures when there are peace talks or foreign dignitaries visiting. Also be conscious Bethlehem is under Palestinian authority and there may be limited access or problems encountered when crossing the checkmarks.
Nazareth, another popular destination, could also be dangerous if you are a Jewish tourist so take precautions when planning your visit. All in all, a little common sense as well as some friendly advice from the locals will keep you out of harm’s way. To be safe though, try not to travel alone and if it is in the budget, Israeli cell phones with prepaid cards can be purchased at kiosks for use in emergencies.
Israel is a beautiful country with a long and chaotic history. There is much to be learned there and with a few safety precautions it is safer than driving down the street in a car. Remember to be prepared and aware of your surroundings so that you may drink in the remarkable culture and people living in this beautiful country.