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Israel 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Near East > Israel; Near East > Israel > Tel Aviv

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 ACS Unit 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 Israel-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Every year, thousands of U.S. citizens visit Israel for study, tourism, and business without incident.

Crime Threats

The government of Israel makes considerable efforts to ensure security, particularly in areas where foreigners frequently travel. Since 2013, U.S. government personnel assigned to Israel have reported the following crimes: residential burglaries, trespassing, 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 reports of home invasions in proximity to U.S. Embassy residences have occurred. The Embassy had four homes broken into in 2015, and, although the Embassy had none in 2016, the almost daily reports of residential break-ins from neighbors (including other diplomatic missions in Israel) cause concern in the expatriate community. 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 (unattended items left in vehicles, public places) are not uncommon. The Embassy receives frequent reports from private American citizens and members of the diplomatic community. Despite the prevalence of property crime, violent confrontational street crime is uncommon and generally reported only in certain high crime areas (Florentine, Jaffa neighborhoods).

Vehicle theft is common throughout of Israel. In most cases, stolen vehicles are not recovered; often, thieves will drive into neighboring countries/territories beyond the reach of Israeli authorities. High taxes on motor vehicles imports make all vehicles, including electric bicycles, attractive targets for thieves.

Financial crimes, fraud, organized criminal activity, sexual assault, drunk driving, and narcotic/gambling violations are not uncommon in Israel. Parts of Israel experience waves of criminal activity and violence that has included car bombs or small arms in targeted assassinations of organized crime figures.

Other Areas of Concern

Throughout 2016, there have been intermittent instances of small arms fire, rockets, and mortars fired into Israel from Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Gaza; however, the level of rocket attacks has not been anywhere near the frequency or severity as the summer of 2014. As a result of recurrent cross-border fire, the Embassy restricts employee travel to these border areas:

Syria & Golan Heights: The Syrian civil war that began in 2011 has led to fighting between the Syrian military and Syrian opposition forces and among opposition forces. There has been fighting between rival groups 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 of the Zone. The IDF have augmented their positions on the Golan. Visitors to the Golan Heights are cautioned that due to unmarked or poorly marked minefields, they should only walk/travel on established roads/trails and pay close attention to warning signs and notices. U.S government personnel are restricted from traveling east of Israel Route 98, which keeps them well clear of the immediate Syrian border region.  

Lebanon: Israeli authorities are concerned about the terrorist threat 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 the 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 region.

Egypt: Israeli authorities have maintained a heightened state of alert along Israel’s border with Egypt, given the turmoil in the Sinai. ISIS affiliate Sinai Province 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. This keeps them well clear of the Sinai border region.

West Bank: Travel to Bethlehem and Jericho is authorized for U.S. government employees after receiving additional security briefings. Due to the fluid security environment, additional restrictions can and have been put into place, temporarily restricting these locations. Travel to most other locations in the West Bank is authorized for U.S. government employees only in armored vehicles with security support.

Gaza Strip: U.S. citizens are strongly warned against travel to the Gaza Strip; the U.S. government does not permit American employees to conduct official or personal travel in Gaza. 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 and should take note of announcements and guidance provided by the Home Front Command. Added security measures for U.S. government personnel (use of armored vehicles) are normally used for such travel.

Additional information to prepare for potential rocket attacks can be found at:

  • 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

Road Safety and Road Conditions

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

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 transport while on city sidewalks.

Aggressive driving is common. 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, and children under 12 years must sit in the back in appropriate seatbelt/booster/safety seat. The use of cell phones while driving is prohibited unless a hands-free device is employed. 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. 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. Hit and run accidents are common. American citizens involved in a traffic accident are advised to contact the Israeli National Police (INP) at 100 and to call emergency medical services, if needed, at 101.

Keep all valuables out of sight, and seek covered, 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 public 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. Some American travelers may encounter increased security screening for both inbound and outbound travel. 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 has reportedly been damaged, destroyed, lost, or never returned. In order to facilitate the security screening process for business travelers, security officials established a prescreening program, 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 Mokdan 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)

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

Several designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah) operate in Israel or in immediately adjacent areas.

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.

Militant activity in the Sinai, which makes up Israel’s southern borders, has increased in recent years and made travel along the border areas dangerous. 

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. 2016 Incidents in Tel Aviv:

  • June 8: two Palestinians entered a restaurant in the Sarona Market. They pulled out firearms from their briefcases and opened fire on bystanders, killing four civilians and seriously injuring 16. The two attackers were captured by the INP while fleeing the scene.
  • March 8: an American tourist was killed and 10 people injured on the beach promenade when a Palestinian ran along sidewalks stabbing pedestrians and in between traffic attempting to stab car passengers if their car window was lowered. The attacker was killed, as he attempted to continue his rampage, running approximately a mile from his initial attack to his last victim.
  • January 1: an Arab-Israeli gunman from Ar’ara opened fire on civilians on Dizengoff Street. The gunman killed three people and injured seven others before being killed in a shoot-out with Israeli forces.

None of the incidents discussed in this report were regarded as specifically targeting U.S. interests or citizens.

Attacks in 2016 also occurred in Ashkelon, Be’er Sheva, Netanya, Rahat, and Rosh HaAyin. Attacks have taken place in Jerusalem. Several U.S. citizens, including Israelis and Palestinians with dual citizenship, were injured/killed in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and the West Bank in 2016 from acts of violence. Perceived religious affiliation was a factor in some of the attacks.

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. The Embassy generally finds the INP to be supportive and effective at events (demonstrations, 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 harassment of Americans by police.

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

If you are the victim of a crime, contact U.S. Embassy American Citizen Services at (+972) 3-519-7575 or after normal business hours at (+972) 3-519-7551.

Medical Emergencies

Travelers should dial 101 for medical emergencies.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Ichilov Hospital – 6 Weizman St., Tel Aviv: (Tel: (+972) 3-697-4444) is a level 1 trauma center and the largest hospital in Tel Aviv and central to the downtown metropolitan area, English speaking operators and medical staffs are usually available. 

Available Air Ambulance Services

Orange Aviation, based at Moshav Ben Shemen, can provide air ambulance service in Israel or internationally.:

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+, 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

The Tel Aviv Country Council currently meets two times a year and has approximately 90 members. Please contact OSAC’s Middle East and North Africa team with any questions or to join. You may also contact RSO Paul D. Brown, Regional Security Officer, U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv with any questions regarding Tel Aviv’s Country Council.  

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

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

The Embassy is open for business Mon-Fri, 0800-1630, except on U.S. and Israeli holidays.

Embassy Contact Numbers

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

American Citizen Services, Political, and Economic Sections can all be contacted through this number.

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.

Regional Security Office:

For emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via Post 1:  03-519-7551 (+972-3-519-7551 from outside Israel)

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

Routine matters via e-mail: TelAvivRSO@state.gov

Fax: (+972) 03-516-4390

E-mail address: AMCTelAviv@state.gov

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

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the Embassy through the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive the latest travel updates and information, and to obtain updated information on travel and security issues.

Additional Resources

Israel Country Information Sheet 

Travel Warning for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza