As a Christian, visiting Israel and walking in the footsteps of Jesus is truly a life-changing experience.
Jerusalem, where the temple of God once stood, is considered the holiest place on earth and attracts millions of visitors seeking an unforgettable spiritual and cultural experience every year.
But perhaps you’re wondering whether Israel is safe to visit after reading some of the latest headlines from within the last few months.
While the Middle East has certainly had more than its fair share of turmoil, vacationing in Israel is generally safe and still incredible.
Both the United States and New Zealand have issued travel advisories for Israel, stating that the country poses “some risk” for travelers.
These advisories are primarily due to Israel’s long-standing conflicts with the Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims who have threatened their borders with violence and terrorism.
The U.S. State Department also warns of kidnapping risks in major tourist areas and advises travelers to exercise caution.
Other concerns in Israel include crime and the high risk for traffic accidents due to poor driving and roadway conditions.
However, in spite of these travel advisories, Israel has kept her people safe and thriving for some time. The probability of getting killed in Israel by a terrorist attack is less than your chances of being killed in a car accident in the United States.
According to a Washington Post report in 2016, only two Americans were caught in the crossfire of terrorist attempts that year, mostly which were mass stabbings.
While becoming a victim of crime is always a concern in highly populated areas, Israel is no less safe than most cities in the United States, and in fact, some places are even safer.
According to Nation Master, crime levels in the U.S. ranked two times higher than those in Israel. And Israel’s murder rate is much lower than many popular countries, with 2.1 murders per 1000 inhabitants.
Additionally, in a survey taken from July 2011 to February 2014 by numbeo.com that asked people which major tourist area they were most concerned of being attacked, Israel ranked at 81, which is pretty low on the list of major tourist areas.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, around 118 Arab Israelis were killed in traffic accidents in 2016, and a total of 335 Israelis.
But USA Today notes that Arab Israelis have “long been overrepresented in traffic fatalities and accidents,” thus skewing the mortality statistics for Israel.
Sadly, in a nation where owning a car is not common for its citizens, pedestrian deaths constitute the highest number of fatalities at 29%.
With this in mind, take heed of traffic patterns and pedestrian walkways. Take your time, pay attention, and obey pedestrian laws.
Of course, just as you would advise someone to avoid any dark alleys in New York City, there are areas in Israel where the average visitor should avoid as well.
Most conflict in Israel occurs along the Gaza Strip. A majority of the bombings, missiles, and explosions you hear of on the news have happened here. Therefore, it’s wise to avoid this entire region altogether.
Another region to be cautious of is the West Bank along the Jordanian border. Unfortunately, traveling through the West Bank is the fastest route from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. You can still take the long way around, or rent a car and drive straight there, just be aware that you will have to go through armed checkpoints.
But this is no reason not to visit the Dead Sea. Millions have traveled here without incident. So there’s no need to miss out on floating weightlessly in one of the world’s most popular seas.
You will also encounter an armed checkpoint when entering Christ’s birthplace, the city of Bethlehem, which is classified as an “Area A” zone governed by Palestinian authorities.
While Christians are welcome here because they are a main source of revenue for the city, unfortunately, those of other religions should consider the risks when planning to visit Bethlehem.
Anyone and everyone entering Israel are required to undergo a background check and security screening. In addition, according to the U.S. State Department, Israel makes use of profiling and will stop anyone who even looks suspicious.
With so much security readily available, terrorists and offenders are quickly apprehended or stopped.
The heavy presence of armed Israeli Defense Forces soldiers and Israeli police will make you feel safe and protected. The only reason one would feel threatened by their presence is if they plan on doing something illegal.
Where To Go
Your flight will most likely land in the major city of Tel Aviv, with all the hustle and bustle to match.
When walking around the city, stay alert and be aware of street criminals looking to snag your wallet or street vendors looking to take advantage of unwitting travelers.
But, Tel Aviv also has much to offer with its sandy beaches, lively nightlife, and extraordinary cuisine.
Traveling north to Galilee, you’ll get the breathtaking view of the Sea of Galilee, see Peter’s house in Capernaum, and sit on the very hill where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount.
But Jerusalem will be where you’ll want to spend the most time and admire its stone architecture, the Western Wall, and world-class museums.
As the Jerusalem Post noted, if Israel was so dangerous, they wouldn’t have had 3.6 million tourists in 2017!
So with the right itinerary, traveling companions, and a handful of common sense, there’s no reason not to plan the perfect trip to the Golden City and beyond!