This is an annual report produced in
conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
The current U.S. Department of
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication
assesses Israel at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to terrorism. Reconsider travel to the
West Bank due to terrorism, potentially violent civil unrest, and the potential
for armed conflict. Do not travel to Gaza due to terrorism, civil unrest, and
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem 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.
Review OSAC’s Israel country 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 security environment in Israel, the
West Bank, and Gaza remains complex, and tensions remain high. The Government of
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) both make considerable efforts to
police major tourist attractions and ensure security where foreigners
frequently travel. Throughout 2018, random attacks (e.g. stabbings,
shootings, bombings, vehicle attacks) and mass demonstrations in Jerusalem and
the West Bank continued, with specific anti-U.S. demonstrations occurring in
the West Bank and outside U.S. government facilities in Jerusalem.
In recent years, in Jerusalem and the West
Bank, U.S. citizens, including Israelis and Palestinians with dual citizenship,
died or received injuries from acts of violence. Perceived religious
affiliation was a factor in some of the attacks. Although there is no
indication that U.S. citizens are direct targets because of their nationality,
the large number of foreign travelers in the region increases the likelihood
that crime, terrorism, or political violence may have an impact on U.S.
Throughout 2018, small arms fired from
militants in Syria, and rockets, mortars, and incendiary devices from Gaza into
Israel continued. There were approximately 1,000 rocket attacks into Israel
from Gaza, and approximately 2,000 fires caused by incendiary devices tied to
kites, in areas near Israel’s fence with Gaza. In 2018, Israeli Defense Forces
initiated Operation Northern Shield, in which they uncovered six tunnels along
the Israel-Lebanon border. For more information, review OSAC’s report, Air Raid Sirens in Israel.
There is moderate risk from crime in Jerusalem
and Tel Aviv. Israel’s crime rate is lower than many major cities in the United
States. According to 2018 Israel National Police (INP) statistics, there were
no major changes in crime stats from the previous year. Israel-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 on Route 20 near Tel Aviv, and
another in close proximity to a high school in Ashdod.
Despite the prevalence of property crime,
violent confrontational crime is uncommon, typically limited in severity, and
confined to specific high-crime areas. Sexual assault and violence remains a concern
for local authorities. Petty theft is common and occurs in crowded tourist locations,
including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem’s Old City. Crime tends to increase after dark
in the Old City and the Promenade overlooking the Old City, and other high-traffic
Residential burglaries, vandalism, theft of
personal belongings, and motor vehicle theft are always a concern. Security
alarm systems, window grilles/shutters, exterior lighting, security patrols,
quality locks, and sound residential security operational practices greatly
reduce the occurrence of burglary.
Vehicle theft remains a concern throughout
Israel. High taxes on motor vehicle imports make all vehicles, including
electric bicycles, attractive targets for thieves. In most cases, local
authorities do not recover stolen vehicles and oftentimes, thieves will drive
the vehicles into neighboring countries and territories beyond the reach of
Financial crime and fraud schemes are common.
For more information, review OSAC’s report, The Overseas Traveler’s
Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.
Local authorities consider driving
under the influence to be a serious offense. For more information, review OSAC’s report,
Shaken: The Don’ts of
Many Palestinian cities and towns in Areas A and B of the West Bank fall
under some degree of Palestinian Authority civil and security control. The
Palestinian Civil Police’s (PCP) most recent report on crime in Areas A and B
indicated crime rates remained steady. Additionally, traffic accidents
continued to be a major area of concern and led to a large number of recorded
injuries in 2018.
Gaza: There are no reliable sources of information
for crime statistics in Gaza.
For more information, review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit:
Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Major roads and highways in Israel and the West
condition. Generally, signs on major roadways are in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.
Most routes into and
out of the West Bank
Israeli checkpoints. All drivers must carry a valid international or local driver’s
license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. Israeli law requires the
use of seat belts for all occupants of a motor vehicle. Local laws prohibit the
use of cell phones while driving unless using a hands-free device.
Traffic flow relies on 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 suburbs and the
corridor from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Aggressive driving is common. In Jerusalem
and the West Bank, vehicles
have been subject to rock throwing, Molotov cocktails, burning tires,
roadblocks, barricades, and gunfire. Driving in ultra-orthodox Jewish
neighborhoods on Shabbat (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset) and Jewish holidays
is considered offensive, and can result in heckling, spitting, and throwing of objects,
including stones, at vehicles.
For more information on self-driving, review
OSAC’s report, Driving Overseas: Best
Public Transportation Conditions
The U.S. Government prohibits its personnel and
their dependents from using public buses and bus terminals in Israel and the
West Bank, as buses, bus
stops, and stations have been the scenes of random attacks or attempted
assaults (e.g. stabbings, bombings, vehicle attacks).
The U.S. Government does not prohibit the
use of the use of the Jerusalem light rail transit system by its employees and
family members; however, the system may be subject to restrictions based on the
security situation. Although there were no reported attacks in 2018, a Palestinian
man armed with a knife attacked and stabbed to death a British woman on the
light rail in 2017; and a Palestinian fired multiple rounds at people waiting
at a light rail station, severely wounding several people, in 2016.
Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV),
Israel’s primary international gateway, employs one of the world’s most
comprehensive security screening programs for travelers. Some U.S. travelers
may encounter increased security screening at TLV for both inbound and outbound
travel. Security-related delays are common for travelers carrying audio-visual
or data storage and processing equipment. During the screening process, some
travelers have had their laptop computers and other electronic equipment
confiscated. Authorities retained some equipment for lengthy periods and
reportedly damaged, destroyed, or never returned other equipment. Generally,
authorities return most items to the traveler prior to departure, and/or
require the traveler to secure the items in their checked baggage. Some U.S. travelers
of Arab or Muslim heritage (including Palestinian-Americans) have experienced significant
difficulties and unequal and hostile treatment at Israel’s borders and
checkpoints. U.S. citizens who have traveled to Muslim countries or who are of
Arab, Middle Eastern, or Muslim origin may face additional questioning by
immigration and border authorities.
Israeli border authorities do not
generally place entry or exit stamps in passports. The “Electronic Gate Pass”
replaced the system whereby passports were stamped. Upon arrival by air, or a
land border, crossing travelers receive an “Electronic Gate Pass.” The Gate
Pass captures principle details of the traveler as in the first page of the
passport and date of arrival and visa information. Travelers should keep this
card on hand at all times as proof of their visa status. In addition to a
passport, the card is required for travelers to depart the arrivals area and
again upon final departure from Israel.
In order to facilitate the security screening
process for business travelers, TLV security officials established a prescreening
program called the Mokdan Process. Travelers may 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
03-975-0560 (+972-3-975-0560 from outside Israel)
Fax: 03-975-0561 (+972-3-975-0561 from outside
Other Travel Conditions
Riders of small-motorized transports – such as
scooters, bikes, and motorcycles – often use the sidewalks. Accidents involving
small-motorized transports and pedestrians are common, at times resulting in
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism
There is considerable risk from terrorism in
Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Violent acts frequently contain religious or ethnic
overtones. While security forces in Israel and the West Bank are generally
effective, security threats can be difficult to predict.
In recent years, terrorist attacks have
included shootings, stabbings, vehicular attacks, and suicide bombings. Several
designated foreign terrorist organizations – such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic
Jihad, and Lebanese Hizb’allah – have a large presence in the West Bank and
Gaza, and in bordering countries. These groups have been in conflict with
Israel for decades, and routinely express anti-Israeli and anti-U.S.
sentiments. Additionally, splinter groups operate with a degree of autonomy in
the area, and many do not differentiate between military and civilian targets.
While the frequency of lone-wolf attacks
decreased significantly since 2016, random acts of politically motivated
violence remain a concern. In most such attacks, Palestinian assailants have
deployed vehicles, knives, and improvised firearms against Israelis. The
majority of attacks targeted Israeli Security Forces at checkpoints, or targets
of opportunity such as individuals perceived to be Israelis at bus and light
rail stops, and certain entry gates to the Jerusalem’s Old City. In response to
most lone-wolf attacks, Israeli Security Forces and/or armed civilians typically
responded with firearms. During a number of responses, errant small arms fire
injured innocent civilians and responders.
On Israel’s southern border with Egypt,
militant activity in the Sinai Peninsula has increased in recent years, making
travel along the border areas dangerous. 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. Because of the recurrent cross-border fire from
Lebanon, spillover from the Syrian conflict, and continued threats from Gaza,
the U.S. Government periodically prohibits its
personnel and their dependents from traveling to certain border areas
for personal travel. Official travel employs various measures such as personal
travel locators and armored vehicles.
Temporary official and personal travel
restrictions as identified below:
Syria & Golan Heights: The Syrian civil war has led to increased
fighting between various groups near the U.N. Disengagement Zone adjacent to
the Israeli border in the Golan Heights. Although not as frequent as in 2017,
several errant mortar shells and small arms fire landed in the Golan earlier in
2018. Although unusual, missile strikes into Israel remain a concern.
the Israel-Lebanon border has been an area of relative calm in recent years,
the threat of rocket and missile attacks and small arms fire persists from
Lebanese Hizb’allah and other groups operating in Lebanon. Tensions in this
border area are elevated.
Israeli authorities have maintained a heightened state of alert along
the Israel-Egypt border given the turmoil in the Sinai Peninsula. ISIS-Sinai
continues to be a threat along Israel’s Sinai border. The group has been
responsible for a number of terrorist attacks in Egypt and fired rockets into
Israel in 2015 and 2017. The U.S. Government prohibits its personnel and their
dependents from travelling within 1.5 miles of the Israel-Egypt border along
the northern Sinai, including all portions of Route 10 and some portions of
West Bank: The majority of terrorist incidents in the West
Bank target the INP, IDF, and other security personnel; however, civilian targets
are not immune to attacks. Due to continued tensions,
the U.S. Government prohibits its personnel and their dependents from traveling
to the West Bank for personal travel, with the exception of Bethlehem and
Jericho. U.S. government employees must observe additional security
requirements, such as the use of armored vehicles, for official travel within
the West Bank.
number of small Salafist groups, some of which are ISIS-inspired, are resident
in Gaza. The U.S. Government prohibits its personnel and their dependents from
traveling to Gaza. U.S. government consular staff are unable to offer direct
assistance to U.S. citizens in Gaza. U.S. citizens electing to travel to Gaza
despite the Department of State’s Travel Advisory may likely face difficulties
when attempting to exit Gaza.
Hamas continues to exercise de facto security
and civil control in Gaza. Compared to the previous two years, Israel
experienced a significant increase of rockets fired from Gaza in 2018, with
militants launching more than 1,000 rockets and mortars at Israel. Generally,
the IDF counters with targeted strikes in response to rocket attacks from Gaza.
The IDF has also struck inside Gaza in response to incendiary devices or from
violence at the fence between Gaza and Israel. The IDF strictly enforces the
“exclusion zone,” an Israeli-enforced buffer area along the eastern and
northern edge of the territory, taking lethal measures against individuals who
enter the zone.
Travel to areas near Gaza carries the risk of
indirect fire, mortar, and rockets launched from Gaza with little or no
warning. U.S. government employees and their dependents must observe additional
security requirements, such as the use of armored vehicles, if traveling within
seven miles of the Gaza demarcation line.
The Israel Home Front Command mobile
application has considerable information regarding emergency planning in
general, including what to do in the event of rocket attacks.
Following the United States’ 2017 announcement recognizing Jerusalem
as the capital of Israel and the subsequent move of the
demonstrations, predominantly in the West Bank, took on an anti-U.S. bent. Several
demonstrations occurred at U.S. government facilities and designated Foreign
Terrorist Organizations called to target U.S. persons.
Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
There is considerable risk from civil unrest in
Jerusalem, and moderate risk in Tel Aviv. Although local authorities are aware
of most demonstrations, spontaneous demonstrations do occur. Many security
incidents and clashes occur in areas where Palestinians and Israelis live
and/or travel in close proximity to one another. Civil unrest often occurs in
response to current events, including but not limited to: demolition of
Palestinian homes, restrictions on worshippers at the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple
Mount, and incursions by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) into Palestinian areas.
Isolated street protests, unplanned
demonstrations, and violence do take place with little or no advance warning;
most commonly around the Gaza border, checkpoints throughout the West Bank, in
Jerusalem’s Old City, some East Jerusalem neighborhoods (e.g. Issawiya, Ras al
‘Amud, Jabal Mukkabir, Sheikh Jarrah, and Silwan), and Rabin Square in Tel
During the month of Ramadan, there is a
significant increase in the number of worshippers – upward of 200,000 – at the
Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, particularly during Friday prayers.
Demonstrations by the Jewish ultra-Orthodox community can sometimes turn
Jerusalem is composed of a wide variety of
ethnicities and religions. The Old City is divided into four quarters: Jewish,
Muslim, Christian, and Armenian. Violent acts frequently have religious or
ethnic overtones. U.S. travelers visiting the area should be mindful of their
location and be vigilant as they travel throughout Jerusalem and its environs.
In April 2017, a Palestinian man armed with a
knife stabbed and injured two Israeli Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox Jews) men in the
area of Al-Wad Street inside the Old City. The assailant also stabbed and
injured an INP officer responding to the attack. The INP officer and other
responding officers shot and killed the assailant.
Potential copyright infringement may
occur when purchasing any sort of name-brand items, DVDs, or electronics in
Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, particularly when shopping at small
vendors. Palestinian authorities lack experience
and expertise regarding protection of intellectual property rights.
Personal Identity Concerns
All forms of communication may be subject
to monitoring. Immigration and border
authorities may conduct additional, often time-consuming, and probing
questioning and may even deny entry into Israel or the West Bank, to those of
Arab, Middle Eastern, and or Muslim origin; travelers who have been involved in
missionary work or activism; and persons affiliated with or suspected of
affiliation with the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement.
While the U.S. Embassy cannot facilitate
U.S. citizens' entry into Israel or the West Bank, those who feel wrongly denied entry or unnecessarily
subjected to additional security screening can report their experiences to the
U.S. Embassy Jerusalem’s ACS Unit.
LGBTI travelers are encouraged to remain
vigilant and aware of their surroundings, especially when entering religious or
socially conservative areas. There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual
relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Israel. Israeli
anti-discrimination laws protect LGBTI individuals. Acceptance and tolerance of
LGBTI people varies throughout the country and from neighborhood to
neighborhood. The Law of Return allows that same-sex spouses of Jews
immigrating to Israel – known as “making Aliyah” – are eligible to make Aliyah
with their spouses and receive Israeli citizenship.
The legal systems in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip are based on the 1960 Jordanian penal code, which prohibits consensual
same-sex sexual activity. However, the PA has not prosecuted individuals
suspected of such activity. Societal discrimination based on cultural and
religious traditions is commonplace, making the West Bank and Gaza challenging
environments for LGBTI persons. Some Palestinians have claimed PA security
officers harassed, abused, and sometimes arrested LGBTI individuals because of
their sexual orientation or gender identity. NGOs reported Hamas also harassed
and detained persons in Gaza due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Individuals with mobility issues may find accessibility
and accommodation in Israel very different from in the United States.
Legislation mandates access to buildings and transportation, as well as
accommodations for persons with disabilities in services and the work place.
The government enforces the laws with only limited success, however. Societal
discrimination and lack of accessibility persist in employment and housing. The
law mandates accessibility to urban public transportation but not intercity
buses. Most train stations maintain access for persons with disabilities;
however, many buses still do not have such access. Television stations include
subtitles or sign language, and the courts accommodate testimony from persons
with intellectual disabilities or mental illness. Tourists will find restaurants,
footpaths, and public transportation less accessible than in the United States.
PA law prohibits discrimination based on
disability, but legal implementation has been slow. The law does not mandate
access to buildings, information, or communications. Palestinians with
disabilities continue to receive uneven and poor quality services and care.
Familial and societal discrimination against persons with disabilities exists
in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Although drugs (e.g. marijuana, synthetic
marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy) are present in Israel, the West Bank, and
Gaza, narco-terrorism and violence are not significant threats. Narcotics are
illegal in Israel and the West Bank. Hamas authorities in Gaza carry out
separate, harsher penalties for narcotics possession and/or use.
The threat of kidnapping remains a
concern for U.S. citizens and foreigners in Gaza and the West Bank, although
the last documented kidnappings were several years ago. For more information, please review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.
Senior officers within the INP are generally
well trained, professional, and inclined to provide support to U.S. travelers
visiting Israel, as well as and support the U.S. Embassy’s security needs. The
U.S. Embassy generally finds the INP to be supportive and effective at events
such as demonstrations or during VIP visits. In the major Palestinian cities in the
West Bank, the PCP is responsive, but outside of those areas, its ability to
respond is limited and can take considerable time and coordination. In the
areas of the West Bank where the GOI is responsible for security, the INP has
limited ability to respond in a timely manner.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or
U.S. citizens arrested by INP and charged with
crimes are entitled to legal representation provided by the Israeli government.
They may request consular notification and visitation by a U.S. Embassy staff
member. In some cases, there is no notification or there are significant delays
between the time of arrest and the time INP notifies the U.S. Embassy. There is
no agreement between the U.S. and the PA regarding notification and consular
access when PA security forces arrest U.S. citizens in the West Bank. However,
PA security forces normally notify the U.S. Embassy of arrests – although not
always in a timely manner. The notification procedure may be expedited if the
U.S. citizen under arrest shows a U.S. passport to the police and asks the
police or prison authority to contact U.S. Embassy. If the Israeli government
or PA delays or denies access to a detained U.S. citizen, the U.S. Government
can formally protest the lack of consular access. Consular officers can help
victims to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an
attorney, if needed.
The U.S. Embassy occasionally receives reports
of police harassment against U.S. travelers. U.S. citizens who have been
arrested, are the victim of a crime, or need assistance may contact U.S.
INP has the primary responsibility for civil
security inside Israel and for the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem.
West Bank: Although divided into three
administrative and security zones – Areas A, B, and C – Israeli security forces
control all entry into and out of the West Bank. Area A contains most major
Palestinian cities and is under PA civil and security control. Area B covers
most Palestinian-populated rural areas and is under PA civil control and shared
Israeli and Palestinian security control. Area ‘C’ is under full Israeli civil and security
control, as it is made up of settlements and Palestinian rural areas (such as
land near roads or land adjoining Israeli settlements), as well as the Jordan
River Valley. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs produces a yearly Humanitarian Atlas detailing the different zones and
other important demarcations.
medical care and medicines are available in Israel. However, some hospitals and
clinics in Israel and most hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza are below U.S.
Emergency services usually have
English-speaking operators. The following are emergency services telephone
numbers throughout the country:
102 (Israel) or 103 (West Bank and Gaza)
Travelers should dial 101 for medical emergencies. For local first responders, refer to
the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page. ACS staff can provide
U.S. citizens with information to help them find appropriate medical care and
contact family members and friends.
Available Air Ambulance Services
Orange Aviation, based at Moshav Ben Shemen,
can provide U.S. citizens with air ambulance service within Israel or
internationally. Call +972 8 923 5751.
Medical evacuation (medevac) can easily cost
$10,000 or more depending on the travelers’ location and medical condition.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance
programs, is available on the Your Health Abroad section on the Bureau
of Consular Affairs website. For more information, refer to OSAC’s report, Medical Evacuation: A
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
The CDC offers additional information on
vaccines and health guidance for Israel.
Country Council Information
The Country Council in Israel is active.
Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Middle
East & North Africa Team with any questions.
Embassy Locations and Contact Information
Embassy Addresses and Hours of Operation
U.S. Embassy Jerusalem: 14 David Flusser Street,
Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday:
except on U.S. and local holidays.
Routine matters during business hours: +972-2-630-4000
After Hours: +972-2-622-7250
U.S. Embassy Jerusalem, Agron Road Annex: 8 Agron Road,
Routine matters during business hours: +972-2-622-7230
After Hours: +972-2-622-7230
U.S. Embassy Jerusalem, Embassy Branch Office Tel Aviv: 71 Hayarkon
Street, Tel Aviv
Routine matters during business hours: +972-3-519-7575, +972-3-519-7400
After Hours: +972 3-519-7551
Department of State information line for Israel, including
the West Bank and Gaza:
From within U.S.: 1-888-407-4747; From overseas:
Monday-Friday, 0800-1630, except on U.S. and
U.S. citizens traveling to Israel should
register with the closest Embassy or Branch Office through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive
pertinent security updates and notices directly.