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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

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Israel 2018 Crime & Safety Report

 

According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Israel has been assessed as Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution. 

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Tel Aviv as being a MEDIUM-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Please review OSAC’s country-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

The Government of Israel makes considerable efforts to ensure security, particularly in areas where foreigners frequently travel. Every year, hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens visit Israel for study, tourism, and business without incident. While the frequency of lone-wolf attacks has abated significantly since April 2016, random acts of politically motivated violence remain a concern.

For information related to security incidents in the West Bank, Old City Jerusalem, and Gaza, please see U.S. Consulate Jerusalem’s 2018 OSAC Crime and Safety Report.

Crime Threats

Israel’s criminal incident rate per capita is lower than in many major cities in the U.S. Per 2017 Israel National Police statistics, crime trends were not linear in nature. While murder, rape, narcotics trafficking, fraud, and illegal immigration increased, aggravated battery, breaking and entering, and vehicle theft decreased.

Since 2015, U.S. government personnel assigned to Israel have reported residential burglaries, vandalism, assault, theft of personal belongings, and motor vehicle theft. Residential burglaries are common and generate heightened concern among the diplomatic community in Tel Aviv. Perpetrators have generally avoided contact with residents, but the Embassy has received reports of home invasions in neighborhoods where U.S. government housing is located.

The Embassy had four homes broken into in 2015 but has since taken additional security measures to mitigate repeat occurrences.

In Herzliya in 2017, one vacant Embassy home was broken into.

Security alarm systems, window grilles/shutters, exterior lighting, security patrols, quality locks, and sound residential security operational practices are all credited with reducing the occurrences of burglaries.

Reports of petty theft are common, and visitors are advised to avoid leaving valuables unattended in vehicles and public places. Vehicle theft remains a concern throughout Israel. In most cases, the stolen vehicles are not recovered; often, thieves will drive the vehicles into neighboring countries and territories beyond the reach of Israeli authorities.

In 2017, the Embassy did experience one vehicle theft, which occurred at a U.S. government house; the vehicle was eventually recovered in the West Bank.

High taxes on motor vehicle imports make all vehicles, including electric bicycles, attractive targets for thieves.

Despite the prevalence of property crime, violent confrontational street crime is uncommon, typically limited in severity, and confined to high-crime areas. Financial crimes and fraud schemes are common in Israel, and travelers should take precautions to secure their personal information. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.” Sexual assaults have also been reported, narcotics and gambling violations are common, and drunk driving incidents are prevalent. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.”

Other Areas of Concern

In Tel Aviv, crime rates are higher in the Florentine and Jaffa neighborhoods. Israeli Based Organized Crime Syndicates (IBOCS) remain a serious concern to host-nation law enforcement. A series of IBOCS-related car bombing assassination attempts occurred in several areas of Israel, including Route 20 near Tel Aviv and another in close proximity to a high school in Ashdod.

Throughout 2017, there were intermittent instances of small arms fire, rockets, and mortars fired into Israel from Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Gaza; however, the level of rocket attacks was not been anywhere near the frequency or severity as during the summer of 2014. As a result of the recurrent cross-border fire from Lebanon and spillover from the Syrian conflict, the Embassy restricts employee travel to the immediate border areas as identified below:

Syria & Golan Heights: The Syrian civil war, which began in 2011, has led to fighting between the Syrian military and Syrian opposition forces. Fighting between these groups has occurred near the U.N. Disengagement Zone adjacent to the Israeli border in the Golan Heights. There have been several incidents of errant mortar shells and small arms fire impacting the Israeli-controlled side. Visitors to the Golan Heights are cautioned that due to unmarked or poorly marked minefields, they should only walk/travel on established roads or trails and must pay close attention to warning signs and notices. U.S. government personnel are restricted from traveling east of Israel Route 98, which keeps them clear of the immediate Syrian border region.

Lebanon: Israeli authorities are concerned about the terrorist threat posed along its northern border from Hezbollah or other groups operating in Lebanon. While the Israeli-Lebanese border has been an area of relative calm in recent years, the threat of rocket/missile attacks and small arms fire persists, and tensions in this area have elevated. Due to the occasional small arms and rocket cross border incidents, official and personal travel by U.S. government personnel is restricted within 1.5 miles of the Lebanon border.

Egypt: Israeli authorities have maintained a heightened state of alert along Israel’s border with Egypt given the turmoil in the Sinai Peninsula. ISIS-Sinai continues to be a threat along Israel’s border in the Sinai. The group has been responsible for a number of terrorist attacks in Egypt and fired rockets into Israel in 2015 and 2017. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from travel within 1.5 miles of the Israel-Egypt border along the northern Sinai, including all portions of Route 10 and some portions of Route 12, which keeps them clear of the Sinai border region. 

Gaza Strip Proximity: Travel to areas in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip, particularly towns like Sderot, carries with it the risk of indirect fire, mortar, and rockets that are launched from the Gaza Strip with little/no warning. Visitors should remain aware of the location of bomb shelters. They should take note of announcements and guidance provided by the Home Front Command. Added security measures for U.S. government personnel, such as the use of armored vehicles, are normally used for such travel.

Additional information to prepare for the potential of rocket attacks can be found at the following resources:

  • The Israel Home Front Command has considerable information regarding emergency planning in general, to include rocket attacks.

  • The Red Alert Application is a free “app” for both iOS and Android smart phones that provides real-time alerts when missiles or rockets are fired into Israel.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Israeli roads and highways are in good condition, although traffic is reliant upon a few major highways that, when obstructed, can cause major traffic delays throughout the country. During peak rush hour, commuters experience long delays in accessing surrounding suburbs and the corridor to Jerusalem. Aggressive driving is common. 

Signs on major roadways are generally posted in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. All drivers are required to carry a valid international or local driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance.

Visitors are encouraged to drive defensively and be aware of erratic and aggressive motorists. Israeli law requires the use of seat belts for all occupants of a motor vehicle. The use of cell phones while driving is prohibited unless a hands-free device is employed. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

It is recommended that any damages resulting from an accident are fully documented at the time of the incident. Drivers are advised to be fully insured. It is recommended that persons involved in a traffic accident contact the Israeli National Police (INP). American citizens are advised to call emergency medical services if needed (dial 101) and, depending on the severity of the vehicle accident, the INP (dial 100).

Seek covered and secure garage parking when possible, as smash-and-grab thefts do occur. 

Public Transportation Conditions

U.S. citizens should exercise caution when using public buses and trains. U.S. government direct-hire employees and their dependents are prohibited from using public buses and bus terminals in Israel, Jerusalem, and the West Bank, as they have been the targets of terror attacks.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel’s primary international gateway, employs one of the most comprehensive security screening programs for travelers in the world. 

Security-related delays are not unusual for travelers carrying audio-visual or data storage/processing equipment, and some travelers have reported that their laptop computers and other electronic equipment were confiscated during the screening process. While most items are returned prior to the traveler’s departure or permitted to travel as checked baggage, some equipment was retained by the authorities for lengthy periods and was reportedly damaged, destroyed, lost, or never returned. 

In order to facilitate the security screening process for business travelers, Ben Gurion Airport security officials established a prescreening program called the Mokdan Process. It is highly recommended that travelers check with the company or organization sponsoring their travel to see if they have a certified representative who can validate this prescreening service for their travelers. 

Email: Mokdan_iaa@gov.il                                                                                  

Phone: 03-975-0560 (+972-3-975-0560 from outside Israel)

Fax: (+972) 3-975-0561 (+972-3-975-0561 from outside Israel)

Some American travelers may encounter increased security screening at Ben Gurion International Airport for both inbound and outbound travel. 

Other Travel Conditions

Pedestrians must be particularly cautious: scooters, motorized bikes, and motorcycles use the sidewalk, often at high speed. There were several incidents in Tel Aviv in 2016 in which pedestrians were hit and critically injured by small motorized transports while walking on city sidewalks.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Tel Aviv as being a HIGH-threat location for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

While Israeli security forces are effective, security threats can be difficult to predict. In recent years, terrorist attacks in Israel have included shootings, stabbings, vehicular attacks, and suicide bombings. Several designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and Hezbollah, that target Israel are based in the West Bank and bordering countries.

On Israel’s northern border, continued instability in Syria has created a vacuum in which militants, some affiliated with terrorist organizations, have expanded their control and influence to other portions of the country.

On Israel’s southern border with Egypt, militant activity in the Sinai has increased in recent years and made travel along the border areas dangerous. 

In 2017, RSO received reporting on 18 security and/or terrorism related incidents, to include stabbings, shootings, and ramming attacks, that were similar to incidents in previous years. Twenty-three Israelis and Palestinians were killed, and over 30 individuals were wounded as a result of these attacks. The majority of these incidents targeted the Israel National Police, Israel Defense Force, and security personnel; however, several attacks targeted civilians. Israeli security forces are quick to respond, and subjects responsible for the attacks were largely either killed by security officials or apprehended. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Tel Aviv as being a HIGH-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

While the frequency of lone-wolf attacks has abated significantly since April 2016, random acts of politically-motivated violence remain a concern. 

Police Response

Senior officers within the INP are generally well-trained, professional, and inclined to provide support to Americans visiting Israel and the security needs of the U.S. Embassy. Post generally finds the INP to be supportive and effective at events, such as demonstrations or VIP visits.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

American travelers who have been arrested, are the victim of a crime, or need assistance may contact U.S. Embassy American Citizen Services at (+972) 3-519-7575 or after normal business hours at (+972) 3-519-7551.

Embassy Tel Aviv occasionally receives reports of police harassment against Americans.

Crime Victim Assistance

Emergency services usually have English speaking operators. The following are emergency services telephone numbers throughout the country:

Police: 100

Ambulance: 101

Fire: 102

Medical Emergencies

Travelers should dial 101 for medical emergencies.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For local first responders, please refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.

Available Air Ambulance Services

Orange Aviation, based at Moshav Ben Shemen, can provide air ambulance service within Israel or internationally. Contact information is provided below:

Orange Aviation

Moshav Ben-Shemen 35

Israel 73115

Tel. +972 8 923 5751

Fax +972 8 923 5758

Insurance Guidance

If one's health insurance policy provides coverage outside the U.S., it is important to carry both the insurance policy identity card as proof and a claim form. Medical evacuation can easily cost $10,000 or more depending on the travelers’ location and medical condition. Travelers should consider purchasing separate medical evacuation insurance. Additional guidance is available on the Consular Affairs website.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Israel.

OSAC Country Council Information

Israel has an active OSAC County Council. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Middle East & North Africa Team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

The U.S. Embassy is located at 71 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv, Israel. 

Business hours: Mon-Fri, 0800-1630, except on U.S. and Israeli holidays.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Routine matters during business hours:  03-519-7400 (+972-3-519-7400 from outside Israel)

Telephone:                  03-519-7575 (+972-3-519-7575 from outside Israel)

After Hours:                 (+972) 03-519-7551

Outside of business hours, there is an embassy duty officer who can offer assistance regarding emergencies involving an American citizen.

Website:                      https://il.usembassy.gov/

Nearby Posts

Jerusalem: https://il.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/embassy/

Embassy Guidance

All travelers and American Citizens residing in Israel are encouraged to consult the Department of State’s Country Information page and Travel Advisory for Israel, Old City Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza for information concerning entry/exit requirements, safety and security, and medical information.

U.S. citizens traveling to Israel should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.

Additional Resources

Israel Country Information Sheet

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