Editor’s note: This post was updated on June 8, 2016.
Ongoing political and civil unrest in Israel means its security situation continues to remain complex. Although hundreds of thousands of citizens safely travel to Israel and the West Bank each year, and considerable security efforts are undertaken at major tourist sites, travelers should stay aware of the continuing volatility in the region and monitor local news for updates. Check with your government’s travel advisory bureau prior to embarking on a trip.
What Travelers Should Know About Visiting Israel Right Now
If you’re an American, check travel advisories from the U.S. State Department. A warning regarding travel in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza was re-issued on December 16, 2015, and remains in effect. Political and cultural tensions have led to increased levels of violence, resulting in some recent cases in the injuries and deaths of U.S. citizens, including a mass stabbing incident in the coastal town of Jaffa in March of 2016.
Since last year, there’s also been a rise in Palestinian attacks on Israelis, most recently on June 8, 2016, when two gunmen killed four people and injured more in Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market.
The State Department strongly warns against travel to the Gaza Strip. It also recommends citizens follow the rules government employees must abide by when traveling in the region, which includes avoiding travel in the West Bank with the exception of Jericho and Bethlehem, and not using public and inter-city buses.
Travelers should also be aware of the potential for military conflict between Israel and terrorist organizations, such as Hamas; in 2014, rockets launched from Gaza reached many locales in Israel and the West Bank, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Staying Safe in Israel
Visitors are advised to stay current with the local news. Avoiding all large gatherings and demonstrations and adopting personal security practices, particularly at night and in isolated areas, is also recommended. Exercise caution at Islamic sites on holy days and Friday nights. Dress conservatively when visiting the Old City in Jerusalem and other Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, and note vehicular traffic restrictions on Shabbat. Additionally, travelers are encouraged to learn the proper procedures to follow in the case of rocket attacks or other crises, as well as the location of their nearest public bomb shelter.
If you’re a U.S. citizen, you can enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive updates on safety conditions in specific countries and allow the U.S. Embassy to contact you in case of emergencies.