When considering travel to foreign countries, one of the first places
to check is the travel warnings issued by your own government offices.
According to the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs,
the Gaza Strip and West Bank should be avoided, and "caution" is
advised throughout Israel, especially in places where large groups of
citizens congregate, be it shopping malls, restaurants, transportation
venues, nightclubs, military installations, religious sites, or areas
conducive to spontaneous political demonstrations. In locations where
U.S. interests are strongly represented, including areas around the
U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem and
in the "commercial and downtown areas of West Jerusalem," caution is
I have compiled excerpts of warnings concerning travel to Israel
issued by both the U.S. State Dept. and the Australian government.
Before you read the warnings, you might want to refer to (or print
out) the following political map of Israel so you can view the
locations of cities you would like to visit while reading the
The following excerpts are from the US State Department:
"ISRAEL, THE WEST BANK AND GAZA." Travel Warning, United States
Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs. (This information is
current as of today, Mon May 29 10:14:28 2006)
"This Travel Warning is being issued to update information on the
general security environment in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza
Strip, and to reiterate threats to American citizens and U.S.
interests in those respective locations. The Palestinian Authority
held legislative elections on January 25 in which Hamas, a designated
foreign terrorist organization, won a majority of seats. Uncertainty
associated with this change in government may lead to increased levels
of instability in the West Bank and Gaza. This warning supersedes the
Travel Warning issued June 20, 2005."
** "The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to carefully weigh the
necessity of their travel to Israel in light of the risks noted below.
* "The Department also urges U.S. citizens to defer unnecessary travel
to the West Bank and avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip."
Overall conditions of lawlessness prevail in the Gaza Strip, Israeli
military operations continue, and areas of violent conflict shift
rapidly and unpredictably. Militants have abducted Western citizens
and held them for short periods, and terrorist organizations have
threatened attacks against U.S. interests.
Violence between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and militant groups
based in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank can flare up without notice
in the form of rocket attacks into Israel by Palestinian militants,
targeted assassinations of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by Israeli
forces, and ongoing IDF security operations in the West Bank. The
uncertain security conditions within the West Bank and Gaza continue
as well, with the potential for violent protests, kidnappings,
including of foreign nationals, and fighting between various armed
"Israeli authorities are concerned about a possible increase in
suicide bombings in Israel. The January 19 suicide bombing in Tel
Aviv, the December 5 suicide bombing in Netanya, and a similar
incident in Hadera in October are reminders of the precarious security
environment, even when a cease-fire has been declared. The U.S.
Government has received information indicating that American interests
within Israel could be the focus of terrorist attacks.
** For that reason, American citizens are cautioned that a greater
danger may exist in the vicinity of restaurants, businesses, and other
places associated with U.S. interests and/or located near U.S.
official buildings, such as the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the U.S.
Consulate General in Jerusalem.
"Violent confrontation between organized criminal elements has led to
the death and injury of innocent bystanders in incidents throughout
Israel, including an October 26, 2005 incident in which a bomb
destroyed a Tel Aviv apartment building, killing three people and
** Such incidents in the past have involved the use of bombs,
grenades, anti-tank missiles, and small arms fire, and have taken
place in Tel Aviv, Caesarea, Ramle, Acre, Hadera, Arad, and the
"The State Department urges American citizens to remain vigilant while
traveling anywhere in Jerusalem, especially within the commercial and
downtown areas of West Jerusalem. Israeli security services report
that they continue to receive information of planned terrorist attacks
in and around Jerusalem. In addition, American citizens should stay
away from demonstrations and generally avoid crowded public places,
such as restaurants and cafes, shopping and market areas and malls,
pedestrian zones, public transportation of all kinds, including buses
and trains and their respective stations/terminals, and the areas
around them. Spontaneous or planned protests within the Old City are
possible, especially after Friday prayers. Some of these protests
have led to violent clashes."
"American employees of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the U.S.
Consulate General in Jerusalem are prohibited from using all public
transportation. The Old City of Jerusalem is off-limits to them after
dark during the entire week and between the hours of 11:00 A.M. and
2:00 P.M. on Fridays. U.S. government employees are also forbidden
from patronizing discos and nightclubs."
Further travel warnings are issued in the Consular Information Sheet
by the US Dept. of State.
"U.S. citizens, including tourists, students, residents, and U.S.
mission personnel, have been injured or killed in terrorist actions in
Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Attacks have occurred in
highly frequented shopping and pedestrian areas and on public
"American citizens should exercise extreme caution and avoid, to the
extent possible, shopping and market areas, pedestrian walkways,
malls, public buses and bus stops, trains and train stations, as well
as crowded areas and demonstrations.
"American citizens should use caution in the vicinity of military
sites, areas frequented by off-duty soldiers, contentious religious
sites, and large crowds. Travelers should remain aware of their
immediate surroundings, and should not touch any suspicious objects.
Demonstrations and Civil Unrest:
"In the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, demonstrations or altercations
can occur spontaneously and have the potential to become violent
without warning. If such disturbances occur, American visitors should
leave the area immediately.
* "In Jerusalem's Old City, where exits are limited, American visitors
should seek safe haven inside a shop or restaurant until the incident
is over. Demonstrations are particularly dangerous in areas such as
checkpoints, settlements, military areas, and major thoroughfares
where protesters are likely to encounter Israeli security forces."
"Demonstrations by Arab Israelis in northern Israel have occurred on
Land Day (March 30) and on Israeli Independence Day (date varies).
These demonstrations have generally been peaceful, but, on occasion,
circumstances have prompted Embassy officials to instruct staff to
avoid certain areas on those dates.
Areas of Instability:
"U.S. Government personnel in Israel and Jerusalem, whether stationed
there or on temporary duty, are under tight security controls, as
noted below. In addition, they occasionally may be prohibited from
traveling to sections of Jerusalem and parts of Israel depending on
prevailing security conditions.
"In Jerusalem, travelers should exercise caution at religious sites
on holy days, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and dress appropriately
when visiting the Old City and ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhoods.
Most roads into ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhoods are blocked off on
Friday nights and Saturdays. Assaults on secular visitors, either for
being in cars or for being "immodestly dressed," have occurred in
these neighborhoods. Isolated street protests and demonstrations can
occur in the commercial districts of East Jerusalem (Salah Ed-Din
Street and Damascus Gate areas) during periods of unrest. U.S.
Government American employees are authorized to travel to the Old City
and the Mount of Olives during daylight hours only. Although few
security incidents have occurred recently within the Old City,
visitors are urged to exercise caution and be aware of their
surroundings at all times. This is especially true when entering or
exiting the Old City at times when the volume of pedestrian traffic
could create difficulties.
There have been reports of harassment of tourists by vendors in many
tourist areas of Jerusalem including, in particular, the Mount of
West Bank and Gaza
"For safety and security reason, U.S. Government American personnel
and dependents are prohibited from traveling to any cities, towns or
settlements in the West Bank, except for mission-essential business or
other approved purposes. Jericho, as distinct from other areas in the
West Bank, is under the full security responsibility of the
Palestinian Authority. Violence in recent years has decreased
markedly in Jericho and, since the PA's assumption of security
responsibility for Jericho in February 2005, the level of violence
there has remained low compared to other parts of the West Bank. For
limited, personal travel, U.S. government personnel and family members
are permitted to travel through the West Bank, using only Routes 1 and
90, to reach the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge or the Dead Sea coast
near Ein Gedi and Masada. Each such transit requires prior
notification to the Consulate General?s security office and must occur
during daylight hours. U.S. Government personnel and family members
are permitted personal travel on Route 443 between Modi?in and
Jerusalem during daylight hours only.
Travel to the Gaza Strip by U.S. Government personnel is prohibited.
Under policy guidance issued by the Secretary of State, exceptions to
the prohibition on Gaza travel are only for official, mission-critical
** Private American citizens also should avoid travel to these areas.
"During periods of unrest, the Israeli Government sometimes closes off
access to the West Bank and Gaza, and those areas may be placed under
curfew. All persons in areas under curfew should remain indoors or
risk arrest or injury. Americans have been killed, seriously injured,
detained and deported as a result of encounters with Israeli Defense
Forces operations in Gaza and the West Bank. Travel restrictions may
be imposed with little or no warning. Strict measures have frequently
been imposed following terrorist actions, and the movement of
Palestinian Americans, both those with residency status in the West
Bank or Gaza as well as foreign passport holders, has been severely
impeded. Due to current limitations on travel by U.S. Government
employees to the West Bank and Gaza made necessary by uncertain
security conditions, the ability of consular staff to offer timely
assistance to American citizens in need in these areas is considerably
reduced at present."
"There are live land mines in many areas and visitors should walk only
on established roads or trails. Near the northern border of Israel,
rocket attacks from Lebanese territory can occur without warning."
The New Zealand government has also issued the following warnings for border areas:
"Travellers should avoid the area by the border fence with Lebanon.
There is a danger from exchanges of fire by the Israel Defence forces
and the Hizbollah militia. The Israeli side of the border with Gaza
Strip should be avoided because of stray fire."
The Australian government has issued even harsher warnings to it's
citizens concerning travel to Israel:
"We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Israel at this
time due to the very high threat of terrorist attack."
"If you do decide to travel to Israel you should exercise extreme
caution. We continue to receive reports that terrorists are planning
attacks against a range of targets, including places frequented by
tourists such as Eilat."
"We strongly advise you not to travel to the Gaza Strip or the West
Bank because of the extremely dangerous security situation. If you are
in the Gaza Strip or West Bank you should leave if it is safe to do
so. There has been a significant number of kidnappings of foreign
nationals and further kidnappings are likely. On 14 March 2006, two
Australians were kidnapped from the American International school in
Gaza City and subsequently released. This is the third incident
involving the kidnapping of Australians in the Gaza Strip since July
"If in spite of our advice to leave the Gaza Strip or the West Bank
you decide to stay in these areas, you should ensure you have adequate
and continuous close personal protection from a professional security
service. The ability of the Australian Government to provide consular
services to Australians in these areas may be severely limited."
"Large sometimes violent demonstrations and threats to western
interests have occurred in the Palestinian Territories. On 14 March
2006, there were a number of demonstrations, and buildings associated
with British and European interests were attacked. There are a large
number of demonstrations planned in the Gaza strip and the West Bank
in the near future. You should avoid any large gatherings and
demonstrations, pay close attention to your personal security and
monitor the media for updates."
"In light of the very high threat of terrorist activity throughout
Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank we strongly recommend that
you register your travel and contact details with us, so we can
contact you in an emergency."
On a more personal note:
You might have an interest in the recent blog posting concerning a trip to Israel.
Finally - Madonna is going to Israel! I don't know if that will make
you feel more safe or less safe!!!
Madonna Defies US Warnings, Will Perform in Israel
Ultimately, you will have to use your own discretion as to whether
this is the best time to plan a trip to Israel. If you do decide to
go, I imagine you will have a safe, lovely, and memorable trip while
heeding the wise precautions noted above!
If I can be of further assistance, please don't hesitate to ask. If
you would like to explore some Israel travel forums, please follow the
links from the following search:
terrorist threats AND Israel AND tourists
travel forum Israel