Traveling Luck for Israel

Israel is located in Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Lebanon.

Israel has borders with Egypt for 266km, Jordan for 238km, Lebanon for 79km, Palestinian Territory for 307km and Syria for 76km.

Land in Israel is Negev desert in the south; low coastal plain; central mountains; Jordan Rift Valley.

Israeli land covers an area of 20770 square kilometers which is slightly smaller than New Jersey

As for the Israeli climate; temperate; hot and dry in southern and eastern desert areas.

Israeli(s) speak Hebrew (official), Arabic used officially for Arab minority, English most commonly used foreign language.

Israeli National Map

Israeli Map

Regions of Israel

Following World War II, the British withdrew from their mandate of Palestine, and the UN partitioned the area into Arab and Jewish states, an arrangement rejected by the Arabs. Subsequently, the Israelis defeated the Arabs in a series of wars without ending the deep tensions between the two sides. The territories occupied by Israel since the 1967 war are not included in the Israel country profile, unless otherwise noted. On 25 April 1982, Israel withdrew from the Sinai pursuant to the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. Israel and Palestinian officials signed on 13 September 1993 a Declaration of Principles (also known as the "Oslo Accords") guiding an interim period of Palestinian self-rule. Outstanding territorial and other disputes with Jordan were resolved in the 26 October 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace. In addition, on 25 May 2000, Israel withdrew unilaterally from southern Lebanon, which it had occupied since 1982. In keeping with the framework established at the Madrid Conference in October 1991, bilateral negotiations were conducted between Israel and Palestinian representatives and Syria to achieve a permanent settlement. In April 2003, US President BUSH, working in conjunction with the EU, UN, and Russia - the "Quartet" - took the lead in laying out a roadmap to a final settlement of the conflict by 2005, based on reciprocal steps by the two parties leading to two states, Israel and a democratic Palestine. However, progress toward a permanent status agreement was undermined by Palestinian-Israeli violence between September 2000 and February 2005. An agreement reached at Sharm al-Sheikh in February 2005 significantly reduced the violence. The election in January 2005 of Mahmud ABBAS as the new Palestinian leader following the November 2004 death of Yasir ARAFAT, the formation of a Likud-Labor-United Torah Judaism coalition government in January 2005, and the successful Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip (August-September 2005), presented an opportunity for a renewed peace effort. However, internal Israeli political events between October and December 2005 have destabilized the political situation and forced early elections, scheduled for March 2006.


Israel Country Profile

Israel has a technologically advanced market economy with substantial government participation. It depends on imports of crude oil, grains, raw materials, and military equipment. Despite limited natural resources, Israel has intensively developed its agricultural and industrial sectors over the past 20 years. Israel imports substantial quantities of grain, but is largely self-sufficient in other agricultural products. Cut diamonds, high-technology equipment, and agricultural products (fruits and vegetables) are the leading exports. Israel usually posts sizable current account deficits, which are covered by large transfer payments from abroad and by foreign loans. Roughly half of the government's external debt is owed to the US, which is its major source of economic and military aid. The bitter Israeli-Palestinian conflict; difficulties in the high-technology, construction, and tourist sectors; and fiscal austerity in the face of growing inflation led to small declines in GDP in 2001 and 2002. The economy rebounded in 2003 and 2004, growing at a 4% rate each year, as the government tightened fiscal policy and implemented structural reforms to boost competition and efficiency in the markets. In 2005, rising consumer confidence, tourism, and foreign direct investment - as well as higher demand for Israeli exports - boosted GDP by 4.7%.

Israeli natural resources include timber, potash, copper ore, natural gas, phosphate rock, magnesium bromide, clays, sand

there are 242 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the West Bank, 42 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, 0 in the Gaza Strip, and 29 in East Jerusalem (August 2005 est.); Sea of Galilee is an important freshwater source

Israeli religion is Jewish 76.5%, Muslim 15.9%, Arab Christians 1.7%, other Christian 0.4%, Druze 1.6%, unspecified 3.9% (2003).

Natural hazards in Israel include sandstorms may occur during spring and summer; droughts; periodic earthquakes.

Travel Advice on Israel

Israel and the Occupied Territories

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Summary (demonstrations).  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • We advise against all travel to the Gaza strip because of the security situation. Despite the ceasefire between Palestinian militant groups and Israel effective from November 2006, there continue to be frequent clashes between armed Palestinian groups and attacks on individuals, resulting in deaths and injuries. On 26-28 January 2007 around 27 Palestinians were killed during clashes, the majority of them in the Gaza Strip, and factional tension remains high.

  • We also advise against all travel to the Gaza strip because of the threat of kidnap. The Palestinian security forces continue to advise us that there is a particularly high threat against British nationals. British nationals have been kidnapped and held for up to two weeks in previous incidents.

  • If, despite this advice, you decide to travel to or remain in Gaza, you should review your security arrangements and seek professional security advice on whether they are adequate.  The level of consular assistance we can offer in Gaza is very limited. (See the Gaza section of this advice for more details).

  • We continue to advise against all travel to the Sheba’a Farms and Ghajar on the border with Lebanon because of on-going military operations.

  • We advise against all but essential travel to the West Bank. Terrorist groups continue to maintain the intent and capability to kidnap foreign including British nationals, particularly in Nablus and the northern West Bank.  On 23 January 2007, three French diplomats were held for several hours in Nablus by an armed group before being released. On 26-28 January 2007 factional violence in Gaza spread to the West Bank, increasing the threat of kidnapping and street violence.

  • There are frequent demonstrations in Ramallah and elsewhere in the West Bank, some of which have turned violent.  There is a possibility of demonstrations throughout the West Bank and Gaza on Friday 9 February, in response to construction work being carried out in the Old City of Jerusalem.  For immediate, specific information about planned demonstrations or any other events which may affect the local security situation, you should register with the Consulate-General in Jerusalem.

  • We strongly advise you to maintain a high level of vigilance when travelling anywhere in East or West Jerusalem, and to follow local advice.  There are frequent demonstrations in the Old City, which have the potential to turn violent.  If you visit the Old City you should take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings.

  • A high threat from terrorism and military activity in Israel and in the Occupied Territories remains.  On 29 January 2007, a suicide bomber killed and injured several people in the Red Sea resort of Eilat. On 8 November 2006, Israeli military action in Gaza resulted in at least 20 deaths.  Palestinian militant groups have since threatened attacks inside green line Israel.  On 17 April 2006, a suicide bomber killed nine people and injured around 65 in an attack at the Old Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv.

  • Around 150,000 British tourists visit Israel and the Occupied Territories every year.  Most visits are trouble-free.  The main type of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance in Israel and the Occupied Territories involves replacing lost or stolen passports and in helping those who have encountered security problems while in the Occupied Territories.  Since September 2006, a number of British nationals have not been able to enter Israel or the Occupied Territories unless they agreed for their passports to be stamped.  We are also aware that many people have difficulties on entry and exit at Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv.  Our ability to intervene in these incidents is limited, as Israel has the right to refuse entry to anyone they wish.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling to Israel or to the Occupied Territories.  Many policies do not cover you if your claim is the result of terrorism.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see :  Travel Insurance


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Terrorism/Security

We strongly advise you to maintain a high level of vigilance, especially in public places, including bars and restaurants, and avoid public transport and any political gatherings and/or demonstrations.  You should take sensible precautions (see “Security and General Tips” pages for further information and guidance) for your personal and vehicle safety.  You should ensure in advance that you are familiar with contact details for the emergency services as well as any contingency plans prepared by them for the general public.  These are available on:  http://www.idf.il/homefront/english/ie-welcome.stm.

More than 5,000 people have been killed since violence broke out in September 2000.  Nine British nationals have been killed; three by terrorist attacks inside Green Line Israel; three by terrorist attacks in the Occupied Territories and three by the Israel Defence Forces. 
If you are planning to travel to the Occupied Territories we recommend you register with our Consulate General in Jerusalem, once you have arrived in the area. When there is an immediate, unforeseen risk to the public or staff, the Consulate-General is authorised to distribute a notice providing travel advice to all registered British nationals.  This travel advice will also be updated to contain any new advice.  However, as this can take some time, we recommend you register to receive the immediate advice while you are travelling.
The Consulate-General is also authorised to provide further detailed information about aspects of our travel advice to all registered British nationals. For example, the time and date of any demonstrations that they are aware of.  These details will not be provided on our main website.
Please remember to inform the Consulate-General when you have left the area, to prevent you receiving unnecessary messages.
You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets including places frequented by foreigners.  Please read our “Security and General Tips” and “Risk of Terrorism when Travelling Overseas” pages for further information and guidance.

Israel

There is a high threat from Palestinian terrorism in Israel.  Since the start of the second Intifada (Palestinian uprising) in September 2000, there have been numerous and frequent terrorist attacks.  Suicide bombings and other attacks have targeted crowded public areas and public transport, resulting in over 1000 deaths and many serious injuries.  These incidents have also been in areas frequented by tourists.  On 8 November 2006, Israeli military action in Gaza resulted in at least 20 deaths.  Palestinian militant groups have since threatened attacks inside green line Israel.
In the most recent incident in Israel on 29 January 2007, a suicide bomber killed and injured several people in the Red Sea resort of Eilat.  17 April 2006, a suicide bomber killed nine and injured around 65 in an attack in the Old Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv.  On 19 January 2006, a suicide bomber attacked the Old Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv injuring 14 people. There were six terrorist attacks in 2005, killing 24 people and injuring at least 245.  These attacks took place in Netanya, Hadera, Be'er Sheva, Shfaram and Tel Aviv.
During the conflict between Israel and Lebanon (12 July 2006 – 14 August 2006) Hizballah missiles hit Haifa, Nazareth, Tiberius, other areas near the Sea of Galilee, and as far south as Hadera.
Border Areas
We continue to advise against all travel to the Sheba’a Farms and Ghajar along the border with Lebanon (the "Blue Line") because of on-going military operations.
There was an exchange of fire between Israeli and Lebanese forces on the Blue Line overnight on 7/8 February 2007.
As with all areas where a number of people may congregate, you should maintain a high level of vigilance at border crossing points into and out of Israel and the Occupied Territories.
You should take care at the border and crossing points between Jordan and Israel.  On 19 August 2005, a rocket fired from Jordan landed on Eilat, in Israel, coinciding with a rocket attack on the Port of Aqaba in Jordan.
Jerusalem
There are frequent demonstrations in the Old City, which have the potential to turn violent.  Terrorist attacks have taken place in a variety of locations around the city and in areas frequented by tourists.  Foreign nationals have not been targeted, but many have been killed and injured.
We strongly advise you to maintain a high level of vigilance when travelling anywhere in Jerusalem, and to follow local advice. You should be particularly aware when entering Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox neighbourhoods.  On 28 June 2006 a group of tourists were attacked in Mea Sha’arim after being identified as Christian.  Three were injured.
West Bank
We advise against all but essential travel to the West Bank other than East Jerusalem. We continue to believe that terrorist groups maintain the intent and capability to kidnap foreign including British nationals, particularly in Nablus and the northern West Bank.  Since 14 March 2006, there have been frequent demonstrations, which have the potential to turn violent, and buildings associated with British and European interests have been attacked.  Diplomatic premises and restaurants frequented by foreigners in Ramallah were targeted in the latest incident, on 25 January 2007. There have also been a number of attempted kidnappings of Westerners.  On 23 January 2007, three French diplomats were held for several hours in Nablus by an armed group before being released.  A US national was kidnapped in Nablus on 11 October 2006.  Following the start of Israeli operations in Gaza on 26 June 2006, there have been a number of Israeli incursions into West Bank towns.  The possibility of Palestinian/Israeli and internal Palestinian violence remains high.  You should avoid the frequent political gatherings and demonstrations, including organised political protests, which may turn violent.
On 30 March 2006, a suicide bomber killed four Israelis outside Kedumim in the West Bank.
We recommend that you do not travel on route 443 (Jerusalem-Tel Aviv via Modi’in) at night.  There have been a number of incidents of shooting and rock throwing on this route.
Travel within the West Bank is not possible without passing through multiple Israeli military checkpoints.  These checkpoints are flash points for violent incidents and have been the scene of several fatal attacks.
Gaza
We advise against all travel to Gaza.  Westerners, including journalists and aid workers continue to be the targets of kidnappings.  Most recently two Italian nationals were kidnapped on 21 November, and released shortly afterwards.  Palestinian security forces, who have advised us that there is a high threat against British nationals, evacuated a foreign national on 17 September after receiving reports of an attempted kidnap.  On 14 August 2006, two foreign journalists were kidnapped in the Gaza Strip and held for two weeks. British nationals have also been kidnapped in previous incidents, and held for up to two weeks, the last incident occurred in December 2005.  On 2 January 2007, Palestinian Security forces contacted the Consulate-General to renew their warning of a threat to British nationals.
We urge all British nationals who do not have adequate and continuous professional close security arrangements to leave Gaza.  If, despite this advice, you decide to enter Gaza or stay you should review your security arrangements and seek professional security advice on whether they are adequate.  The British Consulate-General in Jerusalem can only offer limited consular assistance.
There have been frequent demonstrations in the Gaza Strip, which have the potential to turn violent. On 30 July 2006, demonstrators attacked a UN building in Gaza City to protest against Israeli actions in Lebanon.  On 14 March 2006, the British Council building was attacked and burnt following the Israeli incursion into Jericho.
Israel completed the evacuation of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank (a process referred to as "disengagement") on 24 August 2005 and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) left Gaza on 12 September 2005. Entry into and exit from Gaza through the Erez crossing into Israel is still tightly controlled by the IDF. Due to ongoing military action by the IDF in Gaza, Erez crossing is currently open intermittently.
The Rafah crossing point from Egypt into Gaza is currently closed most of the time.  Entry into and exit from Gaza through the Rafah crossing into Egypt is controlled by the Palestinian Authority for those holding valid Palestinian ID cards.  Advance permission may be granted to other categories of travellers.  With the crossing closed, it is therefore very difficult for Gaza ID holders that left via Rafah, to re-enter.
Crime
Most visits to Israel and the Occupied Territories are crime-free.  You should keep your personal belongings in a safe place.  The theft of passports, credit cards and valuables from public beaches is commonplace.  If travelling on your own and not in a group, be particularly careful to keep wallets, money and valuables out of sight.
On 24 August 2005, a British national was stabbed and killed in the Old City in east Jerusalem.
Crime is generally not a problem in the Occupied Territories, but you should take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings.

Political Situation

Israel Country Profile.
Road Safety
Driving in Israel and the Occupied Territories is erratic and there are frequent accidents.  Radar speed traps operate on roads within Israel and fines for speeding are high.  It is not safe to hitchhike in Israel.  If you are travelling to the desert, go with others, take a supply of water and a mobile phone and let someone know your itinerary and expected time of return.


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

Israel is a country in which a number of religions and cultures mix.  People feel strongly about their beliefs and customs.  You should be aware of this at all times.  For example, it is not wise to go into Jewish ultra-orthodox areas of Jerusalem on Shabbat (Saturday).  Also, you should dress modestly in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
You should be aware that during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (which in 2007 falls between mid September and mid October), eating, drinking or smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims (though not for children under the age of eight).  Although alcohol will be available in some hotels and restaurants, drinking alcohol elsewhere may cause offence.  As a courtesy, you may wish to avoid drinking, eating and smoking in public places in the Occupied Territories during Ramadan.
You should be sensitive about taking pictures of people in Muslim and Orthodox Jewish areas and you should take care not to take photographs of military or police personnel or installations.
When travelling around Israel and the Occupied Territories you should carry identification at all times in case the local authorities ask to see it.  You should carry photocopies of the date and entry stamp pages of your passport to avoid losing the original. 
The penalties for smuggling and trafficking in illegal drugs are severe.  Those caught in possession can expect a prison sentence and subsequent deportation.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

British nationals do not need a visa to enter Israel.  On entry visitors are granted leave to enter (by means of a stamp in the passport) for a period of up to three months.  In the past the Israeli immigration authorities have agreed to stamp landing cards, where available, and not passports, but since September 2006 they will rarely agree not to stamp your passport. If your passport is not stamped on entry and you have no other evidence of legal entry into Israel you are likely to face problems travelling around Israel, particularly at any crossing points into the Occupied Territories.  If you work in Israel without the proper authority you can be detained and then deported, a process that might take several months.
If your passport has less than six months validity you may be refused entry by Israeli immigration authorities. If you suffer immigration problems on entry to Israel, our ability to intervene is limited as Israel is a sovereign state and has the right to refuse entry to anyone they wish.

You should expect lengthy personal questioning and baggage searches by security officials on arrival and departure from Israel. Electrical items may be taken from departing passengers for security inspection and returned to them in the UK. Damage may occur.

You should ensure that you comply with customs regulations. If you arrive with valuable personal items (computers, camcorders etc), you may be required to pay a deposit that is refundable on or after departure. Tax may be levied on items sent to visitors already in Israel.

Entry to the Occupied Territories is controlled by the Israeli authorities and you may be detained on your arrival, and subsequently deported, if you are intending to go there. You will be questioned upon departure. If you are a Palestinian dual national and/or are entering the country for the purpose of working in the Occupied Territories, you may be refused entry. Passports and immigration slips – one of which must have a valid entry stamp - must be produced crossing between Israel and the Occupied Territories.

If you do plan to travel to the Occupied Territories you should obtain further information from the British Consulate-General in Jerusalem before you travel. Due to restrictions on travel, consular assistance in the Occupied Territories is limited.

If you are a British national of Palestinian origin (on the Palestinian Population Register or holding Palestinian ID number), you will need a Palestinian passport/travel document in order to leave. If you are a British national with a Palestinian name or place of birth but without a Palestinian ID number, you may face problems. You should be aware that a number of British nationals of Palestinian origin or British nationals married to Palestinian nationals have been refused entry since May 2006. Children with Israeli parents (father and/or mother) are considered to be Israeli nationals.  The Israeli Ministry of Interior insists that these children enter and leave Israel on an Israeli passport.

Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.  For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact: Israeli representation in the UK.

Dual nationals

West Bank and Gaza Strip resident British/Palestinian dual nationals are permitted to travel abroad only via the Rafah or Allenby Bridge border crossings into Egypt or Jordan.  The Rafah crossing point is currently closed most of the time.


HEALTH

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling to Israel or to the Occupied Territories. Healthcare in Israel is not free and medical treatment can be expensive. Hospitals will insist on payment and may take legal action to delay departure until bills are met. You should check any exclusions, and that your insurance policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake. Please see Travel Insurance
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.  For further information on health, check the Department of Health's website at:  www.dh.gov.uk.

Avian Influenza

On 25 March 2006, the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed evidence of Bird Flu in Gaza.  On 19 March 2006, Israel’s agriculture ministry confirmed evidence of Bird Flu in a number of towns in southern Israel and in Bekaot in the Jordan Valley.  No human infections or deaths have been reported in Israel or the Occupied Territories.

As a precaution, you should avoid live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure that poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.  For further information see the FCO’s Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see:  What We Can Do To Help.

As well as full insurance cover for medical treatment and accidents, you should have cover for unexpected losses such as cancelled flights, stolen cash, credit cards, passport or luggage.  You should be aware that most insurance companies will refuse to cover you if, contrary to FCO advice, you go to those areas where we recommend you do not travel, and some insurance companies may refuse to cover any travel to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

British nationals in Israel and the Occupied Territories are strongly advised to register with and to follow local advice issued by the British Embassy Tel Aviv or British Consulate in Jerusalem (see contact details below).

Money

You should ensure that you carry sufficient funds for your immediate use.  Additional cash can be obtained from cash points (ATMs) in Israel and Jerusalem using internationally accepted credit cards.  You should be aware that there are fewer ATMs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  Scottish and Irish banknotes cannot be exchanged in Israel.  Money transfer through Western Union to a local Israeli post office usually takes 3 to 4 hours during normal working hours.  Post offices and banks in Israel and Jerusalem close from midday Friday to Sunday morning.  In the West Bank and Gaza Strip they are usually just closed on Fridays.