Tourism Rating Travel
Safety Entry Requirements
Avoiding Petty Theft
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Israel offers many spectacular attractions for those interested in world
history. In addition, it provides access to sites of importance to
three of the world's leading religions (Judaism, Islam and
Israel is not an easy place for the independent traveler. We suggest that you travel Israel as part of a formal tour group that has experience in arranging travel within Israel or hire an accredited travel guide to accompany you on your tour of Israel.
|Travel Safety||Top of Page|
Travel in Israel can be unsafe, dangerous and potentially fatal.
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A passport and visa required for entrance to Israel
All visitors to Israel must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the date of their entry into Israel. Citizen visitors from the following countries will be issued tourist travel visas free of charge at all ports or entrance terminals to Israel. Visitors on business require a visa.
Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany (Persons
born after 1.1.28), Gibraltar,Great Britain, Greece,
Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein,
Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway,
Portugal, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden,
The general entry and exit requirements for U.S. citizens traveling to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza are listed below. Citizens of other countries should check with their government before making reservations to travel to Israel. American citizens are advised to read all sections below very carefully for special regulations that may affect their travel.
Security Screening: U.S. citizens are advised that all persons applying for entry to Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza are subject to security and police record checks by the Government of Israel, and may be denied entry or exit without explanation.
U.S. citizen visitors have been subjected to prolonged questioning and thorough searches by Israeli authorities upon entry or departure. U.S. citizens whom Israeli authorities suspect of being of Arab, Middle Eastern, or Muslim origin; those who have been involved in missionary or activist activity; and those who ask that Israeli stamps not be entered into their passport may face additional, often time-consuming, and probing questioning by immigration and border authorities, or may even be denied entry into Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza.
Israeli-Americans: The Government of Israel considers U.S. citizens who also hold Israeli citizenship or have a claim to dual nationality to be Israeli citizens for immigration and other legal purposes. For example, an American citizen child of an Israeli parent will be considered an Israeli citizen by Israeli immigration officials, even if the child was born outside of Israel, and Israeli law will apply to the child's travel to, and departure from, Israel. U.S. citizens who are also citizens of Israel must enter and depart Israel using their current Israeli passport. Israeli citizens are currently not permitted to enter Gaza and are generally restricted from traveling to parts of the West Bank under PA control (“Area A”). Contact the Israeli Ministry of Interior or your nearest Israeli Embassy or Consulate for more information on citizenship and travel restrictions for Israeli citizens.
Palestinian-Americans: U.S. citizens who have a PA identification number or who the Government of Israel considers to have residency status in the West Bank or Gaza are advised to read this section very carefully.
It is possible that Israeli authorities would consider as Palestinian anyone who has a Palestinian identification number, was born in the West Bank or Gaza, or was born in the United States but has parents or grandparents who were born or lived in the West Bank or Gaza. Any such U.S. citizen may be required to travel to Israel using his or her PA passport, regardless of whether he or she holds U.S. citizenship. Without the PA passport, such Americans may be barred from entering or exiting Israel, the West Bank or Gaza, or they may face serious delays at the ports of entry.
Individuals who hold a PA ID, as well as persons judged by Israeli authorities to have claim to a PA ID by virtue of ancestry, will be considered subject to Israeli law and to regulations that Israel applies to residents of the West Bank and Gaza, regardless of whether they also hold U.S. citizenship. In most cases, such individuals will be required by Israeli authorities to enter the West Bank via the Allenby Bridge (also known as King Hussein Bridge) crossing with Jordan, rather than entering Israel via Ben Gurion International Airport, unless they obtain permission from an Israeli Embassy or Consulate for that purpose in advance. Even if they have entered Israel via Ben Gurion Airport, they may be required to depart via the Allenby Bridge. Upon arrival at any of the Ports of Entry, such persons may wish to consider asking Israeli immigration authorities from where they will be required to depart.
Entering Israel: A passport valid for six months from the date of entering Israel, an onward or return ticket, and proof of sufficient funds are required for entry. A no-charge, three-month visa may be issued upon arrival and may be renewed. Travelers carrying official or diplomatic U.S. passports must obtain visas from an Israeli embassy or consulate prior to arrival. Anyone who has been refused entry, experienced difficulties with his/her status during a previous visit, overstayed the authorized duration of a previous visit, or otherwise violated the terms of their admission to Israel should consult the Israeli Embassy or nearest Israeli Consulate before attempting to return. Anyone seeking returning resident status must obtain permission from Israeli authorities before traveling. The Government of Israel at times has declined to admit U.S. citizens wishing to visit, work, or travel to the West Bank or Gaza. Persons denied entry who seek immigration court hearings to contest such denials may be detained for prolonged periods while awaiting a hearing.
Entering the Gaza Strip: The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip, which is under the control of Hamas, a designated foreign terrorist organization. American citizens in Gaza are advised to depart immediately. The U.S. Government does not permit its personnel to enter the Gaza Strip, making it difficult for Americans in the Gaza Strip to receive consular assistance. Please contact the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem for updated guidance, if necessary. See the latest Travel Warning for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza for the latest information concerning travel to the Gaza Strip. Private vehicles may not cross from Israel into Gaza or from Gaza into Israel. The Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt is generally closed and the Gaza Airport is no longer operating.
Entering the West Bank: The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to exercise caution when traveling to the West Bank. Please contact the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem for updated guidance, if necessary. See the Travel Warning for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza for the latest information concerning travel to the West Bank.
On March 4, 2007, the Government of Israel published a revised West Bank visitor visa policy for foreign nationals. The policy states that the following are permitted foreign visitor categories:
According to the written policy, foreign citizens “may transit to the West Bank via Israel after showing documents at the Ben Gurion airport or Allenby Bridge [crossing between the West Bank and Jordan] that confirm their status/position and the purpose of their visit, subject to inspection and approval by a representative of the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories.” Despite this written policy, U.S. citizens have reported contradictory procedures and instructions from Israeli authorities when entering the West Bank for the purpose of work, including denial of entry, “PA-only” stamps that prohibit entry into "Green Line" Israel, authorization of permission to work on a tourist visa, and denial of permission to work on a tourist visa. As noted previously, individuals with a PA ID number, or those who have a claim to a PA ID number, are required by Israeli authorities to enter or exit the West Bank through the Allenby Bridge crossing.
For visa extensions for U.S. citizens in the West Bank, the Government of Israel’s policy states the following may request to extend their visa after the initial period for an additional period of up to one year (and no longer than 27 months total):
For visa extensions, the above persons must apply via the Visa Extension Office at the PA Ministry of Interior in Ramallah or, in special cases, via the Population Registry of the Israeli Ministry of Interior in Beit-El.
Staff of foreign missions and representatives of international organizations in the West Bank may request an extension of their visa after the initial period for an additional period of up to 6 months (and no longer than a total of 27 months) by applying to the Head of the International Organization Department in the Israeli Civil Administration at Beit El or to the Population Registry of the Israeli Ministry of Interior.
U.S. citizens should note that these extensions are not automatic; applications often face significant bureaucratic hurdles and are often ultimately refused.
Finally, the Government of Israel’s policy notes: “Foreign citizens whose passports were stamped recently with the words ‘Last Permit’ may nonetheless leave the West Bank and submit a new visa request. .... However, the entry of individuals into Israel and the West Bank remains subject to imperative considerations of policy and security by the relevant authorities.”
Israel-Jordan Crossings: International crossing points between Israel and Jordan are the Arava crossing (Wadi al-'Arabah) in the south, near Eilat; and the Jordan River crossing (Sheikh Hussein Bridge) in the north, near Beit Shean. American citizens using these two crossing points to enter either Israel or Jordan need not obtain prior visas, but will be required to pay fees, which are subject to change.
Allenby Bridge (King Hussein Bridge): Visas should be obtained in advance for those wanting to cross the Allenby Bridge between Jordan and the West Bank. (Note: The Government of Israel requires that Palestinian-Americans with residency status in the West Bank enter Jordan via the Allenby Bridge.) Persons with residency status in Gaza seeking to cross the Allenby Bridge from Jordan should contact the Jordanian authorities for information concerning special clearance procedures for PA ID holders before traveling to the bridge.
Procedures for all three crossings into Jordan are subject to frequent changes. Visit the Embassy of Israel web site for the most current visa information.
Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Israel. The Ministry of Health ‘reserves the right’ to deny entry to visitors who declare their status. Please verify this information with the Embassy of Israel before you travel.
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Israel has a low crime rate.
Before you travel, read our articles on Pickpockets, Con Artists, and ATM safety in the ThereArePlaces Information Guide on Personal Safety for travelers.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members of friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution for the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney
CRIME: Several groups operating in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza have been designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) by the U.S. Department of State. FTOs include, but are not limited to, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Kahane Chai (Kach), and HAMAS (the Islamic Resistance Movement). It is unlawful for an American citizen or a person who is located in the United States or is subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to knowingly provide “material support or resources” to a designated FTO.
The crime rate is moderate in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Break-ins of parked vehicles are common at beach areas, the Dead Sea, and national parks (especially Caesarea National Park). Car break-ins and purse snatchings in cities and in cemeteries occur regularly throughout Israel. U.S. citizens should not leave their valuables (including passports) unattended, in parked vehicles or unsecured in hotels.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates). This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
The Government of Israel provides assistance to victims of terrorist acts. Please contact the National Insurance Institute for more information.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Israel is 100.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in the West Bank and Gaza is 101.
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SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Video cameras and other electronic items must be declared upon entry to Israel. They are sometimes seized by Israeli customs and security officials and may be returned either damaged and/or after a lengthy delay. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C. or one of Israel’s consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. Definitive information on customs requirements for the PA is not available.
Arrests and Detentions: U.S. citizens arrested by the Israeli National Police (INP) and charged with crimes are entitled to legal representation provided by the Israeli Government and to consular notification and visitation. In some cases, there are significant delays between the time of arrest and the time when the INP notifies the Embassy or Consulate General and grants consular access. This is particularly true in the arrest of dual American-Israeli and American-Palestinian citizens. The notification procedure may be expedited if the arrested American shows a U.S. passport to the police and asks the police or prison authority to contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General. When access to a detained American citizen is delayed or denied, the U.S. Government formally protests the lack of consular access to the Israeli Government.
U.S. citizens arrested by Israeli security forces for security offenses, and U.S. citizens arrested by Israeli authorities in the West Bank or Gaza for criminal or security offenses, may be prevented from communicating with lawyers, family members, or consular officers for lengthy periods. The U.S. Consulate General and the Embassy sometimes are not notified of such arrests, or are not notified in a timely manner. Consular access to the arrested individual is frequently delayed. On occasion, arrestees have been subject to mistreatment during interrogation and pressured to sign statements in Hebrew that have not been translated. Under local law arrestees may be detained for up to six months at a time without charges. Youths over the age of 14 have been detained and tried as adults. The U.S. Government may formally protest any report of mistreatment to the relevant authorities.
U.S. citizens arrested by PA security forces in the West Bank for crimes are entitled to legal representation and consular notification and access. PA security forces normally notify the Consulate General of non-security-related arrests for criminal offenses, but not always within a timely manner, and consular access is normally granted within four days. This procedure may be expedited if the arrested American shows a U.S. passport to the police, or asks the police to contact the U.S. Consulate General.
Palestinian-American dual citizens living in the West Bank can be detained or arrested by the IDF. In such instances, the GOI may not recognize the American citizenship and will instead consider the arrested person a Palestinian. In such cases the U.S. Consulate General may not be notified.
Dual Palestinian-American citizens arrested by PA security forces in the West Bank for security offenses may be prevented from communicating with lawyers, family members, or consular officers for lengthy periods. In addition, they may be held in custody for protracted periods without formal charges or, before being brought before a judge for an arrest extension. The PA often does not notify the U.S. Consulate General of such arrests in a timely manner, and consular access to arrestees is occasionally delayed. Since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, its Executive Forces (EF) have dominated security matters there. The U.S. Government has no contact with the EF.
Dual Nationality: Israeli citizens naturalized in the United States retain their Israeli citizenship, and children born in the United States to Israeli parents usually acquire both U.S. and Israeli nationality at birth. Israeli citizens, including dual nationals, are subject to Israeli laws requiring service in Israel's armed forces, as well as other laws pertaining to passports and nationality. American-Israeli dual nationals of military age, including females, who do not wish to serve in the Israeli armed forces should contact the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. to learn more about an exemption or deferment from Israeli military service and obtain written confirmation of military service exemption or deferment before going to Israel. Without this exemption or deferment document, such dual nationals may not be able to leave Israel without completing military service or may be subject to criminal penalties for failure to serve. Israeli citizens, including dual nationals, must enter and depart Israel on their Israeli passports, and Israeli authorities may require persons whom they consider to have acquired Israeli nationality at birth to obtain an Israeli passport prior to departing Israel.
Bearers of PA passports or identity numbers who have become naturalized U. S. citizens are considered by the Israeli government to retain their Palestinian nationality, and Israeli authorities will view them as Palestinians. Palestinian-Americans whom the Government of Israel considers residents of the West Bank or Gaza may face certain travel restrictions (see Entry/Exit Requirements above). These individuals are subject to restrictions on movements between Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, and within the West Bank and Gaza that are imposed by the Israeli Government on all Palestinians for security reasons. Some Jerusalem ID holders who hold residency or citizenship elsewhere may encounter problems retaining their Jerusalem residence status. During periods of heightened security concerns these restrictions can be onerous. Palestinian-American residents of Jerusalem are normally required to use laissez-passers (travel documents issued by the Israeli Government) that contain re-entry permits approved by the Israeli Ministry of Interior for any out-of-country travel. All U.S. citizens must enter the U.S. on their U.S. passports.
Court Jurisdiction: Civil courts in Israel actively exercise their authority to bar certain individuals, including nonresidents, from leaving the country until monetary and other legal claims against them are resolved. Israel's religious courts exercise jurisdiction over all citizens and residents of Israel in cases of marriage, divorce, child custody and child support. In some cases, Americans who entered Israel as tourists have become defendants in divorce or custody cases filed by their spouses in Israeli religious courts. These Americans have been detained in Israel for prolonged periods while the Israeli courts consider whether the individuals have sufficient ties to Israel to establish jurisdiction. Such visitors should be aware that they might be subject to involuntary and prolonged stays in Israel if a case is filed against them in a religious court, even if their marriage took place in the U.S. and regardless of whether their spouse is present in Israel.
Purchases of Property: American Citizens who buy or lease property in the occupied territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza may find their ownership challenged by people displaced from those lands, either as a result of the 1967 conflict or previously. Prospective property buyers should always seek legal advice before buying in these areas. The possible establishment of a Palestinian state may have legal consequences for property owners in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.
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While in Israel, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
ThereArePlaces recommends that you do not drive an automobile when in Israel. As we suggested earlier, your best bet for touring Israel is part of an established tour group led by a tour company that has familiarity in arranging travel in Israel.
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Israeli roads and highways tend to be crowded, especially in urban areas. Aggressive driving is a serious problem and many drivers fail to maintain safe following distances or signal before changing lanes or making turns. Overtaking on high speed undivided two-lane roads is common and results in frequent accidents. Drivers are also prone to stop suddenly on roads without warning, especially in the right lane. Drivers should use caution, as Israel has a high rate of fatalities (including U.S. citizens) from automobile accidents.
Just so you know, U.S. citizen employees of the U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv and Consulate General Jerusalem and their families have been prohibited from using public buses.
The Government of Israel requires that all passenger car occupants use their seat belts at all times and that headlights be used during all intercity travel, both day and night, during winter. Since January 1, 2006, all drivers are required to carry fluorescent vests in the car with them at all times, and they are required to wear these vests whenever they get out of their cars to make repairs, change tires, etc. If a vehicle is stopped for a traffic violation and it does not contain a fluorescent vest, the driver will be fined. These vests can be purchased for a nominal price in all local gas stations. While cellular handset phone use is prohibited while driving, hand-free units are authorized.
West Bank and Gaza: Crowded roads are common in the West Bank and Gaza. During periods of heightened tensions, cars with Israeli license plates have been stoned and fired upon. Emergency services may be delayed by the need for Palestinian authorities to coordinate with Israeli officials. Seat belt use is required and drivers may not drink alcohol. Individuals involved in accidents resulting in death or injury may be detained by police pending an investigation.
Also, we suggest that you visit the web site of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and national authority responsible for road safety.
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Modern medical care is available in Israel.
Modern medical care and medicines are available in Israel. Some hospitals in Israel and most hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza, however, fall below U.S. standards. Visitors are required to have health insurance. Travelers can find information in English about emergency medical facilities and after-hours pharmacies in the "Jerusalem Post" and the English language edition of "Ha'aretz" newspapers.
Read our article on travel insurance to learn the factors that you should consider before you purchase or decline to purchase a travel related insurance policy.
Your existing medical insurance carrier may or may not cover "customary and reasonable" medical care while you are abroad. Usually, if reimbursement is provided, it is paid at a reduced ("out of system provider") rate. Check with your insurance carrier before you depart to determine the type and amount of coverage that may be provided. If coverage is provided, be sure to ask how claims should be filed and ask them to send some claim forms, in case you require any medical treatment while on vacation.
ThereArePlaces Information Guide on Health contains valuable health related advice for the traveler considering a trip abroad.
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