Safety in Israel is a common concern for travellers in the region, but dangers in the country are largely overstated by explicit media coverage of specific areas of conflict.
Expats in Israel who take the necessary precautions and avoid problematic areas will find the country as pleasant and safe as many other popular expat destinations.
Terrorism in Israel
There have been a number of terrorist attacks in Israel over the years. Sustained tension between the country and its neighbours has done little to diminish the threat of terrorist attacks. However, the risk of terrorist attacks is substantially reduced by Israeli national security, which is among the most developed in the world. The Israeli Defense Forces are highly trained and effective and care is taken in securing heavily populated and tourist-favoured areas.
Threat of rocket attacks in Israel
There have been instances of rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel, usually targeting large metropolitan areas. The chances of this occurring largely depend on current tensions between Gaza and Israel. Expats should stay informed about the current state of affairs at all times. It's also wise to follow the safety advice of one's national government.
Israel has invested heavily in countering rocket attacks, which is evident in the Iron Dome rocket interception defence system. A smartphone app has also been developed that warns of potential incoming missiles, providing its users with time to seek shelter. Expats in Israel should take heed of warning sirens and make sure they know the location of the nearest bomb shelter.
General safety in Israel
Expats in Israel will find that life in cities such as Tel Aviv is relatively peaceful and free from the threats usually associated with the country. Violent crime is low in Israel, and foreigners are treated well by locals.
Expats should nevertheless keep an eye on their valuables when in public places, such as beaches or parks, as petty theft and opportunistic crimes have been known to occur.
Expat women should be aware that Israeli men can be extremely forward and brazen in how they approach women, especially foreigners. This should not be cause for concern, and can usually be overcome by a thick skin and a firm declaration of disinterest.
Problematic areas in Israel
Israel’s volatility is largely condensed into a number of key regions, which many expats avoid. Problematic areas in Israel include:
The Gaza region, located in southwest Israel on the Egyptian border, has seen considerable unrest in recent times. The Israeli state has issued warnings of kidnapping risks in and around Gaza. The state has also strongly advised against travel to Gaza, including to the waters off the coast of the region.
The West Bank, located in eastern Israel, continues to be a tense and volatile region. Expats can travel to the West Bank, though they will need to pass through Israeli military checkpoints.
Expats travelling to Jerusalem should note that the eastern half of the city is in the West Bank. Some governments have advised their citizens to stay alert when in eastern Jerusalem and the Old City, as protests and religious demonstrations are common.
There have been cases of fire and shelling across the Syrian border and into the Golan Heights, an area in north-eastern Israel, making the area potentially unsafe for both foreigners and locals alike.
Road safety in Israel
Expats planning to drive in Israel should note that the Israeli driving style is very aggressive. This can be quite a shock for foreign drivers, and it is often best for those not familiar with the roads to instead rely on public transportation to get around.
Expats driving in Israel should make sure to take out appropriate insurance, especially if driving to the West Bank.
Those driving into the desert should be sure to take plenty of water, a mobile phone and to inform others of their intended route before leaving.
* The security situation in Israel is highly complex and can change suddenly. Expats travelling in and around Israel must keep up to date with the latest news, travel alerts and warnings from the Israeli government.
►Read Cost of Living in Israel for an understanding of monthly expenses
►For a better understanding of how to adapt to local culture, read Culture Shock in Israel.
'Luckily, over the past few years, there have not been any major terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv. But that does not mean that the country is not vigilant.' Jessica's expat experience provides some useful insights into life in Tel Aviv.
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Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Israel. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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