Bombs, grenades, a whole load of shenanigan of war is what parades the news stand and Google results whenever we search about Israel. I can't really blame people if they don't want to travel here but in August 2016, while I was in a middle of an adulting crisis, I traveled to Israel and never left. My family and friends couldn't understand why I chose to live here but I realised I don't need to justify my so-called poor decisions in life especially when the feeling is right. My mother told me when I was young that I was born to find my place in the world. And she was right.
70+ countries and 10-ish crazy travel years later, I found myself staying in Israel and it's not temporary. The remarks I got not only from people I know but from blog readers all over the world were very overwhelming, and in a way, downright annoying because everyone challenged my truth. No one understood why I had this fascination about Israel and I received public hate comments from people who incorporated Israel with the war. And in this war, we all know that Israel is the bad guy.
Photo Credit: @matanyatausig
My personal experience in traveling and living in Israel
I moved on from the hate comments and continued to live my life here. One of the most impressive things that made me fall in love in Israel is the young vibe and the nightlife in Tel Aviv. This city is composed of mostly young people. Believe me, you will barely see old people walking the streets of Tel Aviv! This city is built on art and the creative energy of the Tel Avivis is so inspiring it pushed me to pursue my artistry to a different level.
I am 28 years old and people like me love the active lifestyle. I've experienced getting wasted in Tel Aviv and never felt harmed even if I was walking at 3 in the morning with my bicycle. Where I am from (the Philippines), I will never dare walk at 10:00 PM because of the dangers that many young girls are facing in Manila. In Tel Aviv, no one ever touched a strand of my hair though you can never avoid the annoying stares from men. Cat-calling also happens but not in the city center. There are some sketchy neighbourhoods that I try to avoid these days because I will never put myself in a situation where a man feels free to cat-call me. Of course, I can always defend myself but I don't really want to come to a point where I will have to.
In 2014, the world was shocked by the Israel-Gaza war that also arrived in the happy city of Tel Aviv. Though I was not here, my friends told me that they actually saw rockets flying over the city. Up until today, my friends and family are still living this story.
"Tel Aviv?! Be careful with the rockets!"
"Mom, that's so 2014. We are in 2017 now."
I've always been a person who goes wherever she wants but with precaution. I will never put myself in harm so I don't understand why people think I am stupid enough to live here if it isn't safe. When I started my blog, P.S. I'm On My Way, I vowed to myself that I will write and share genuine experiences of my life on the road and I kept that promise by publishing neutral and journalistic pieces about what I have seen and done through traveling the world.
Unfortunately, there are still some people who will spend time in challenging one's truth so in this post, I figured, my version will never be enough to justify that it is safe to travel to Israel. I gathered all my blogger friends (all, whom I have personally met during their visit in Israel) to share their experiences and make the readers of this article see the different experiences of people that only boiled down to one conclusion -- traveling in Israel is safe.
Photo Credit: Bemused Backpacker
Michael Huxley, Bemused Backpacker
When people think of Israel the issue of safety always comes up, and most people automatically think of terrorism, war, conflict and religious extremism and then immediately declare the whole country unsafe and dangerous for travellers. This stereotype could not be further from the truth, and not only because most of that misinformation comes from a biased and sensationalist media and fear-mongering from people who have never even been there. The truth of the matter is that Israel is generally safe. For everyone. I felt as safe in Israel as I have anywhere else in the world because as a country Israel poses no more threats than anywhere else, is very security conscious and looks after travellers extremely well, but also because I took the responsibility to look after my own interests and take steps to keep myself safe too, just as I would when travelling through any country. Travel safety is all about how individual travellers reduce the risk for themselves. Male or female it doesn't matter. Take reasonable precautions for your own safety and security, take the same steps to keep you and you belongings safe and secure as you would do at home or anywhere else, and travelling through Israel will be a safe and amazing experience.
Photo Credit: @aworldtotravel
Inma Gregorio, A World To Travel
Poor knowledge of a destination and the fact media does often more harm than good can make you fear places you have never been to. That's what usually happens with Israel. As with many other countries I visited lately, stating that I was heading to Israel provoked a few strong reactions among my family, friends and the social media acquaintances I engage with. Naysayers will always try to stop you, but you soon learn to recognize them. And so last year I visited the country twice. And I am still alive and kicking! Even before taking your plane to Israel, the paranoia begins. There is extra security for flights to Tel Aviv and gunmen can be seen already at your departure airport. You need double or triple the time you'd need to catch any other plane and chances are you'll be screened to death. But that's alright. Once you get used to the safety checks everywhere (mainly at airports and near the Palestine border) you will be fine. I felt safe all the time and was able to experience awesomeness all along without worries. I went to Tel Aviv, a Kibbutz, to the West Bank and Jerusalem, to Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea... spending around 2 weeks in a country that truly knows how to welcome visitors and make you feel at home. Israel taught me many things, but there's still a lot more I need to experience there so it's just a matter of time that I will be back for a third visit!
Photo Credit: @reubenshaul
Tom Grond, Travel Tomtom
Walking around in Israel there was not a single moment that safety issues crossed my mind. I got lost in Jerusalem, walked around at Tel Aviv at night, drove a car all the way down South close to the Egypt border, slept in the desert, visited local families, and did not feel unsafe for a single moment. To me there were no signs of unusual things apart from the military presence in Jerusalem, though the young flirting lady soldiers were actually pretty pleasant to look at. The strict safety precautions were actually more a pain in the ass and although it probably is necessary, as a tourist you don’t feel like it is. At Tel Aviv Airport it took me about 45 minutes to get through security for example and to get to the main square in Old Town Jerusalem I waited in line for about 15 minutes one time. I crossed off a lot of unique things to do in Israel and probably the most dangerous encounter was when I was peeing in the middle of the desert and saw a scorpion!
Photo Credit: @the_crowded_planet
Margherita Ragg, The Crowded Planet
I can say in complete honesty that Israel is one of the safest places I’ve ever travelled to. I only spent a week in the country, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, with a day-trip to Masada and the Dead Sea, and there hasn’t been a single moment when I felt unsafe. I had heard many horror stories about strict security controls when entering and exiting the country, and I was really worried since I had an Iranian stamp in my passport, but I only received a few extra questions both entering and leaving the country. My family was worried when I announced that we would be visiting Jerusalem, but the atmosphere both in the Old City and outside was of business as usual. Some of the Jerusalem attractions we visited – like the Western Wall for example – had security access points, just like I had seen in several other places in Europe and beyond. Generally speaking, the atmosphere in Tel Aviv seemed more relaxed and carefree than in Jerusalem. The cities are quite close to one another, but they offer completely different experiences – Jerusalem is all about history, culture and religion, whereas Tel Aviv is the ideal destination for people looking for an active holiday, fun and nightlife. I loved visiting and felt safe in both cities, and would definitely visit both again!
Photo Credit: @lifeisatripcom
Marco Buch, Life Is A Trip
Let's face it: Media coverage does not make it easy being relaxed when you arrive in Israel for the first time. Because most of the news you get from the Middle East are still about the neverending conflict that comes with bombs and assassinations. So when you land in Tel Aviv, you are likely to be a bit more alert than you would be in other countries. But here's the good news: Already after 24 hours in the country, I felt surprisingly safe. Even more so, I felt simply normal, completely forgetting about the threat of bombs and such. Because this is the side you don't usually get to hear about in the media: People in Israel live their everyday lives. And most of the time, these everyday lives do not involve shootings or bombs. After my initial fear had faded away, I was able to enjoy all the great sights that Israel has to offer without worrying at all. No matter if I walked around the wailing wall or checked out the little shops in the Old Town, no matter if I went out for drinks in Tel Aviv's crazy bars or for a relaxing run on the beach, I always felt entirely safe. The only thing that I had to get used to was the fact that many civilians carry guns on them. But hey, as long as the don't use them, I'm fine with that too!
Photo Credit: @solitarywandererblog
Aleah Taboclaon, Solitary Wanderer
I arrived here in Israel in March with my mother to go on a Holy Land Tour. We went around Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, and Nazareth, and visited places that are significant to Roman Catholics. When my mother left after a week, I stayed behind and continued traveling around Israel by myself. Is it safe to travel solo in Israel? I would definitely say yes. I’ve gone hiking alone in the Negev Desert and the Golan Heights; walked around by myself in all hours of the night in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Tiberias, and other cities and small towns in Israel; and I have also hitchhiked alone and with friends. In all these cases, I have never felt unsafe. I found that people can be generally friendly and helpful. Some have hailed buses on my behalf, others lent me their phones to call a friend when I couldn’t find a WiFi connection. Of course, crime does happen here. People can also be rude, especially if they see you show disrespect to their culture. As with any other country as well, pay attention to what is around you. If you’re going to places where you will find religious Jews or Arabs, or when going to mosques, churches, or traditional neighborhoods, dress modestly and don’t be loud and obnoxious. Whether traveling solo or with someone else, it always pays to be respectful to the culture you’re visiting. After 4+ months here in Israel, I would highly recommend this country to solo travelers. The attractions, people, public transportation, and culture, not to mention the religious significance of its cities to Catholics, Jews, and Arabs alike, make Israel a must visit for me.
Photo Credit: @jonesaroundtheworld
Dave Anderson, Jones Around The World
My safety in Israel was honestly never even a question. There wasn't really a single moment I can think of during my week spent exploring Israel where I felt like I was in any sense of danger. I should disclose that I was was a travel-blogger on a media trip throughout the country, and they pretty much showed us around the entire time. With that being said though, we spent many nights walking through Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and bar hopping in crowded nightlife areas. It seemed just like any other major city I've visited along my travels, and as long as you had some common sense you wouldn't get into any trouble. I feel like Israel can get such a bad reputation because of the portrayal in the media, but that definitely should not stop you from planning a trip to the country. I had one of the best trips in Israel, and I'm so glad I finally got there myself. I'm actually seriously contemplating moving to Tel Aviv in the future, because I fell in love with the city that much. While yes, there are some obvious political issues going on at the moment, it's still one of the most fascinating and captivating countries you'll ever visit.
Photo Credit: @ilovepaars
Lee Rosales, Momma Lee Adventures
I was born Catholic and my parents are both serving in the church as one of the leaders of Couples for Christ so when they learned that I am going to Jerusalem, they were excited as mine. It never crossed my mind that Israel previously had a war with their neighboring country, maybe because I was ecstatic that finally, I will be visiting Israel. I never felt any danger nor be anxious that someone will pickpocket in my bag or a random guy will grab me even walking at night because you will see lots of women and men in uniform from day to night. I remember walking along the streets of Tel Aviv at 11 in the evening on a weekend and not even one guy I've seen drunk or lying on the streets. For a woman who doesn't go to the club anymore and already sleeping at 9 in the evening (I'm a momma, by the way) makes me anxious to walk the streets at late night (any place. any country) but not in Israel that is why my parents and I are planning to visit Israel next year and I can't wait to show them the beauty of this ancient old city Jerusalem.
Photo Credit: @boboandchichi
Megan and Scott Herder, Bobo and Chichi
Before visiting Israel we were warned by all of our friends and family that we were visiting such a dangerous place. We knew better, but they didn’t and were seriously concerned for our safety. We spent over two weeks traveling through the cool coastal city of Tel Aviv, the historical city of Jerusalem, and the conflicted West Bank. Not only were we safe and felt safe the entire time. The locals went out of their way to help us and show us incredible hospitality during our stay in each place. Locals took us out for drinks and amazing food around Tel Aviv. A friendly guy went out of his way to help us out of a jam on shabbat in Jerusalem. And every single Palestinian we met in the West Bank was welcoming, friendly, and treated us like human beings rather than gawking at the tourists who clearly stood out walking around Ramallah. We learned what West Bank is really like to visit as an American. We already knew we were going to be safe in Israel, but were blown away about how bad the misconceptions spread by the fear mongering media. We were able to come back home and share our experiences with our friends and family and help shape their negative perceptions of the area.
Photo Credit: @surf.the.sky
Omri Taub, Surf The Sky
I lived in Israel all my life but I've been traveling since I was young and I make sure that every person I meet on the road will know that Israel is safe. Believe me, I become repetitive at times but I never get tired of spreading the word about this beautiful but misunderstood country. Most of us have biases in places we lived in for a long time but when I went outside Israel, I appreciated home more. Most people love to travel Europe but to be honest, I am more scared to travel there. We go to the army at 18 and we are trained to respond to emergency situations which makes us fit to any kind of 'danger.' When I was young, we were already taught what to do when the siren rings (an emergency call as we say in Israel) without panicking. I never saw this kind of training in other countries. Nowadays, we can never label any place, country or destination 'safe' but what we need to think about here is, when push comes to shove, are we ready? In Israel, we always are in every form of precaution. If you ever visit Tel Aviv, come see me and I will show you the real Israel!
Photo Credit: @myadventuresacrosstheworld
Claudia Tavani, My Adventures Across the World
I have been to Israel several times, and plan to go back for more, as I truly fell in love with it. I have traveled across the country on a combination of guided group tours and independent solo travel, regularly took public transportation (the public bus and metro in Jerusalem, the bus in Tel Aviv, and the intercity buses across the country) and I have never, not even for a minute, felt unsafe. Jerusalem, one of the contested cities, is regularly patrolled and I felt completely as ease to walk around the alleys of the Old City and even hike all the way up to Mount of Olives to admire the sun setting over the Dome of the Rock. It didn't even cross my mind that wandering around Mahane Yehuda market late at night may be unsafe, and just as well I walked around by myself right after sunrise. One of the most fun things to do in Tel Aviv is going to the beach, and sure enough I felt safe there (as well as in the rest of the city). Sure, I'd recommend not carrying valuables if you plan to swim, or to ask a friend of someone nearby to watch over your stuff if you can't avoid it - but that goes for any other place in the world! Finally, when I spent 4 days walking the Jesus Trail in Galilee, I only met friendly people, who were always keen to help me when I was lost, giving me directions and even offering rides.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
When is the best time to visit Israel?
Lucky for you, Israel is one of the destinations you can visit all year round so all you have to consider is the weather. June to September is considered Israel's summer where temperatures can go up to 42 degrees Celsius. Being a desert country, you will experience extreme hot temperatures if you opt to visit during these months. Winter is not like the "winter" you are imagining. From November to May, Israel's weather is like Berlin in Spring. Some days it could rain (halleluiah!) but this kind of rain is good for a country as dry as Israel.
Israel is considered a religious country. What should I wear?
It's a religious country, yes, there's no denying to that but bear in mind that it is also very Western. When you go to Tel Aviv, you will see people walking their dogs and riding their bikes in bikinis. There is so much freedom when it comes to choosing what to wear in this Mediterannean city. However, in another part of the country, a different culture of Israel is curating a distinct story. When visiting the Holy Land of Jerusalem, you must observe proper dress code. Cover your shoulder with scarves (women) and do not wear anything above the knee (men and women).
Are places open during Shabbat?
Again, different cities, different dynamics. Most of the restaurants in Tel Aviv are open for Shabbat but the whole city of Jerusalem shuts down. You will not find any place open so make sure to stock food! Both cities stop the transportation (buses, trains) but taxis are always available. Shabbat starts at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday.
Is Israel a cheap country?
Unfortunately, Israel is the 14th most expensive country in the world according to a survey conducted by FinFacts. The currency is called New Israeli Shekel (NIS). 1 EUR is equivalent to 4.18 NIS which can buy you nothing in Israel. A 1-litre beer in a restaurant or pub costs 30 NIS (7.17 EUR). A meal in a mid-range restaurant starts at 80 NIS (19 EUR approx). This country is really expensive but people still come visit every year because of the different vibe it offers.
Yikes! It's expensive. But why should I visit?
Israel boasts itself to being one of the most diverse countries in the Mediterannean. Deserts, beaches, nightlife, mountains - you can do everything you want in the small country of Israel!