I know you all are thinking it. When I officially announced my trip to Israel, I was met with a lot of mixed reactions. It’s like I could read every thought going through people’s minds when I told them of my trip: “I know Israel holds a lot of historical and religious significance. It’s even on my bucket list. But really, is it safe to travel to Israel?“
My dad even told me that he wasn’t going to come rescue me, like I expected him to go full-on Liam Neeson in Taken. I’m not sure his particular set of skills would come in much use in that scenario anyway.
But since I know it’s on everyone’s mind, I thought I’d begin my series of blog posts by answering the big question:
Is it safe to travel to Israel?
Let me preface all this by saying one thing. Safety is such a relative term. It’s totally dependent on who you are. Situations that are safe and fine to some people may be utterly terrifying to another. The perception of safety is highly influenced by your upbringing, your culture, your experiences and more. You can’t apply one safety threshold to all people. It just doesn’t work that way.
The news and other media outlets tend to flood us with images and articles that shed the world in a very negative light. Sadly these few tragic moments make us believe that the world is full of danger and violence. In my experience, this is just not true. It’s just that nobody wants to watch a news program talking about average daily life in Israel (which is not much different than what you and I experience).
My husband mentioned that if the media began reporting on every car crash that happened in the United States, nobody would be driving anymore. The same principle applies to using the media to gain your information regarding safety in another country. You cannot gain an accurate viewpoint of the world by watching it on your television. The best thing you can do to really educate yourself is to go see and experience for yourself.
That being said, yes, I found it safe to travel to Israel.
But Trump is moving the US Embassy. Aren’t there riots everywhere?
In moving the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, President Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But to Israelis, Jerusalem has always been the capital. The problem lies with the Palestinians who also lay claim to the city of Jerusalem. By recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the President showed his support for the Zionist side of the conflict, creating more tension with the Palestinians.
When I was visiting Israel, I walked past the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, and wouldn’t you know it…there was nobody in sight. No protests, riots, or anything to make you think that this was as big of a deal as the media wants it to be.
Yes, it ticked off some people. And yes, if you open your big American mouth about it you may get told off. But otherwise, life in Israel has moved on.
Signs posted in Jerusalem when VP Pence was there…
So the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is still a thing?
Yeah. Yes it is. And I highly recommend you read as much about it as you can before visiting. This is one of those highly sensitive conflicts where both sides are right and wrong and the whole situation is just complicated. However, this doesn’t mean that there is constant violence occurring out in the open. Neither side of the conflict is filled with savages looking to destroy human lives. Still, it’s important to be delicate about the situation and not go expressing your outside opinions. The tensions are still alive and well, but I never saw or experienced anything related to it, that made me feel unsafe.
But The Gaza Strip and West Bank are no-nos, right?
From the conversations I had with locals, I was told that the Gaza Strip is a pretty rough place. I was told it was where most of the radicals lived, that their government was falling apart, and that it was probably not a place to visit right now. However, I traveled to and from the West Bank many times. In fact, usually, you couldn’t even tell when you had crossed into the West Bank. I was told that many Israelis and Palestinians live in the West Bank and that it’s relatively peaceful. As a tourist visiting tourist sites, I had no issues being in West Bank and perceived no danger while there.
Much of the Dead Sea is located in West Bank. Lots of tourists visit with no problems.
Aren’t there Terrorists everywhere in the Middle East?
Ya’ll need to turn off your TVs. For real.
You know what? Yeah, there are probably terrorists in Israel. But there are also probably terrorists in the United States and in Europe, and every other part of the world. Terrorists shouldn’t be what stops you from traveling. You’re not any safer at home. Crazies are everywhere.
But if it’s really that big of a concern for you, let me tell you this. The Israeli Army is legit. Every Israeli citizen is required to serve in some form of the military for at least 2 years when they turn 18. For this reason, you will see plenty of armed soldiers walking the streets in Israel. I don’t know about you, but I feel much better knowing that in the unlikely case that some terrorist act goes down, there are dozens of highly trained soldiers right around the corner at any given time.
Can you say the same for your home country?
So you’re saying you didn’t feel nervous at all?
That’s not true. I was nervous the first time we went through a checkpoint leaving the West Bank. That is until I realized I had nothing to hide and no reason to feel nervous. I was nervous about arriving in Jerusalem at 1:00 in the morning, and having to walk with all our stuff for 20 minutes to our hotel. Until we got there and I realized that it was the end of Shabbat and everyone was out enjoying themselves. The streets were well-lit and the night markets were hoppin’ with people.
But you also have to know that these feelings of nervousness happen wherever I go. I felt nervous walking around in Santa Ana, El Salvador on my own. I felt nervous when I got on a wrong tram in Ghent, Belgium. I felt nervous in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when the homeless people would aggressively ask me for money. Heck, I even feel nervous at home when I have to walk to my car in a dark parking lot. Traveling in Israel didn’t make me feel any more safe or unsafe than I do anywhere else in the world.
I was nervous about eating Mediterranean food, but it turns out Israeli hummus is WAY better than US grocery store hummus!
I am so glad that I went to Israel. I am glad that media-inspired fears didn’t stop me from walking the streets of Old Jerusalem. They didn’t stop me from placing my hands in the Sea of Galilee. They didn’t hinder my ability to challenge myself, and they didn’t keep me from learning more about life in other parts of the world.
Exploring the grottoes of Rosh Hanikra was pretty cool
I, too, had my worries about being accepted as an American after the whole Trump dealio. Whenever people in Israel asked me where I was from, I would somewhat sheepishly answer “The US”. However, about halfway through the trip, I realized that the response from people was always the same- and it was very powerful.
“You are welcome here.”
Nowhere else have I felt that openly and that explicitly welcomed in another country. It was like each person took it upon themselves to validate my being in Israel.
I’m not saying that Israel is a completely, 100% guaranteed safe place. But in all honesty, I can’t say that about anywhere in the world. What I am saying is that the fears placed in your minds are because of media saturation and have no place in determining if it is safe to travel to Israel.
Do you really want to know if it’s safe to travel to Israel? Go there and see for yourself. Try signing up for a group tour if you need that little extra comfort of having a guide. Tourist Israel is a great company with a ton of different tour options. You can choose to take a few day tours until you get comfortable, or you can join a tour for the whole duration of your trip. It is also a great resource for all things Israel travel, and I highly recommend you take a look!
Check out the Judaean Desert while you’re there!
Are you ready to book a trip to Israel? Maybe you still have questions or concerns? Leave me a comment below!