Israel 2011 Crime and Safety Report: Tel Aviv
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
All travelers and American Citizens residing in Israel are encouraged to consult the U.S. Department of State’s County Specific Information Sheet and Travel Warnings at http://travel.state.gov for current information concerning entry/exit requirements, safety and security, and medical information.
The U.S. Department of State currently rates the crime level in Israel as medium. Tel Aviv sustains a low rate of violent crime compared to other similarly-sized metropolitan cities. The most common crimes are vehicle thefts, petty larcenies, and residential burglaries with incidents of violent organized crime increasing. Auto theft in Israel occurs frequently, and the recovery of stolen automobiles is rare. Home burglaries are common in more affluent neighborhoods, and though rare, burglaries may occur while the residents are home. Historically, these residential break-ins have been non-violent.
Israel’s roads and highways are in good condition throughout the country but are heavily congested during peak travel hours. Visitors are encouraged to drive defensively and be aware of erratic and aggressive motorists. Signs on major roads in Israel are generally posted in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic, and English. Drivers are also prone to stop suddenly on roads without warning, especially in the right lane. Drivers should use caution, as Israel has a high rate of fatalities from automobile accidents. Scooters and motorcycles are common, often passing on the left or right whether traffic is moving or stopped. Israeli law requires the use of seat belts for all occupants of a motor vehicle. During the winter season, headlights must be used for all intrastate travel during both day and night. Use of cell phones while driving is prohibited. Drivers involved in motor vehicle accidents should contact the police.
Tel Aviv and surrounding areas have recently experienced a period of relative calm in comparison to previous years due to the successful efforts of Israeli security agencies in thwarting terrorist incidents. However, in 2010, sporadic rocket and mortar attacks from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel highlighted the fluid and volatile political climate in this region. In April and August, the town of Eilat, located in the southern part of Israel, received rocket fire from the Sinai on two separate occasions. August also saw a clash on the northern border between Israeli and Lebanese security forces over a minor border dispute. This incident resulted in the death of one Israeli soldier and injury to another soldier. These incidents demonstrate the volatility of the security environment in Israel. Suicide bombings remain a valid concern for the Embassy community, and threat alerts continue with regularity.
There are restrictions placed on all U.S. personnel under the Chief of Mission authority and their families due to the security environment. Previous restrictions have been removed, and the use of trains and shared taxis is now permissible. Buses and their respective terminals remain off-limits. U.S. Embassy and Consulate General personnel are required to provide advance notice of any official travel to the city of Sderot or the vicinity of any Gaza Strip border crossings. Employees are also cautioned to use discretion and good judgment when visiting crowed places such as shopping malls, restaurants, hotel lobbies, and entertainment and recreation venues.
Organized crime activity has increased in Israel. The Israeli National Police (INP) are primarily concerned with the prevention of terrorist acts and consequently, criminal investigations may not be a top priority, allowing organized crime gangs to sustain illicit activities. During this past year, several violent incidents attributed to organized crime occurred in Israel. These incidents included several bombings and various drive-by shootings at several entertainment establishments. In a few cases, the use of stolen military ordinance or vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) have been used in furtherance of criminal activity.
Most occurrences of civil unrest take place in the vicinity of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem. Reaction to Israeli security operations in the territories occasionally spills over into Israel, causing incidents of road blockages. These have led to the release of Warden Messages to alert Americans to these dangers. Demonstrations or altercations can occur spontaneously and have the potential to become violent without any prior warning.
Post Specific Concerns
The American Embassy community remains concerned about terrorist-related acts within Israel. Although Americans have not been specifically targeted recently, there have been indications that terror groups continue to plan attacks against American interests. Americans are urged to avoid crowded places and keep a low profile.
Emergency services have English speaking operators. American travelers, who have been arrested, are the victim of a crime or need assistance may contact U.S. Embassy American Citizen Services at 03-519-7475, or after normal business hours at 03-519-7551. The following are emergency services telephone numbers throughout the country:
Travelers should dial 101 for medical emergencies. Ichilov Hospital (03-697-4444) is the largest hospital in Tel Aviv and central to the downtown metropolitan area; English speaking operators and medical staff are available. Ichilov is a level 1 trauma center.
Tips on how to avoid becoming a victim
Visitors to Israel should be aware of their surroundings as the security environment changes constantly. Auto theft is a problem in Tel Aviv, and stolen vehicles are often not recovered. Personal belongings left unattended in parked vehicles are also targeted with some regularity. This problem primarily exists in the vicinity of National Parks and other areas frequented by tourists. Personal belongings should be secured while shopping or visiting tourist attractions. Unattended belongings are considered suspicious items and are subject to confiscation or may be destroyed by INP bomb squads. When entering most establishments, be prepared to be physically searched and have your bag and/or vehicle inspected prior to entry.
In Jerusalem, U.S. Embassy and Consulate General American employees and family members are allowed to travel to the Old City during daylight hours only. Visiting the Old City is prohibited from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Friday afternoons, and the ramparts of the city walls between Herod’s gate and Lion’s gate are off limits all the time. Additionally, the Old City is considered off limits from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. due to political criminal activity. Visitors should exercise caution when patronizing places of worship, restaurants, cafes, malls and theaters, especially during peak hours of business. Large crowds and public gatherings should be avoided where possible.
The U.S. Embassy is located at 71 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv, Israel. The Embassy is open for business Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except on U.S. and Israeli holidays.
Telephone: (Country Code 972) 03-519-7575
After Hours: (972) 03-519-7551
Fax: (972) 03-516-4390
E-mail address: AmcTelAviv@State.Gov
Regional Security Office, Medical Unit, Consular Affairs American Citizen Services, Political/Economic Section can all be contacted through the numbers listed above.
OSAC Country Council
Israel has a thriving OSAC County Council which regularly meets. Questions regarding Tel Aviv’s OSAC Country Council can be directed to Daniel Power, Regional Security Officer, U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv (PowerDJ@State.Gov).