Is it safe to travel to Israel? Everything you need to know

The cities of Eilat and Tel Aviv are popular winter sun destinations but is Israel still safe to travel?

Israel's growing reputation as a winter sun destination is under threat after tensions in the region were raised by US President Donald Trump's statement about the location of the country's capital. 

British Airways were running flights to Tel Aviv while, before it went out of business, Monarch offered the Israeli city of Eilat as an alternative winter sun destination.

While it would be nice to get away from the cold weather, tensions in the region have become heightened after Trump officially recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced plans to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the country's largest city.

Trump's statement was controversial as while the city - a significant site in Judaism, Christianity and Islam - is claimed by both Israel and the neighbouring Palestinian State as its capital, the international community does not recognize Jerusalem as a capital city. All 86 of Israel's foreign embassies are sited in its second most populous city and finance and tech hub Tel Aviv.

While the government of Israel has welcomed Trump's declaration, Palestinian leaders see it as a violation of international law and a threat to hopes of peace in the area, and there are concerns that it could trigger unrest and street protests across the Middle East.

We found out whether the country is still safe for tourists.

Is it safe?

Following Trump’s announcement there were large demonstrations planned across the West Bank including Ramallah, Bethlehem and in Jerusalem’s Old City.

These are expected to continue over the coming days and tourists should avoid all protests as they may lead to violent clashes.

Foreign Office advice states that the security situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories can be fast moving, tense and unpredictable and say tourists should remain vigilant, keep up to date with local media and travel reports.

Tensions can run high around Jewish high holidays including Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashana, Succoth and after Friday prayers. The Foreign Office says that civil unrest on these occasions can occur at short notice.

Violent incidents have occurred on public transport in Jerusalem. Tourists should avoid using buses or the Light Rail north of Ammunition Hill and remain vigilant in stations.

You should also take extra care on public transport in Tel Aviv.

Rockets have been fired towards Israel from Gaza and tourists should familiarise themselves with the necessary safety actions in the event of a warning siren.

The risk of terrorism is high and the Foreign Office advises against all travel to Gaza and says tourists should steer clear of the Lebanese, Syrian and Egyptian borders.

Who can travel to Israel?

In March 2017 the Israeli government passed a law that means that they are able to deny entry to foreign nationals who have publicly called for a boycott of Israel or belong to an organisation which has endorsed such a boycott.

British nationals of Palestinian origin will need a Palestinian passport or travel document in order to leave.

British nationals with a Palestinian name or place of birth who don’t have Palestinian ID number may face problems and in the past British nationals of Palestinian origin or Brits married to Palestinians have been refused entry to the country.

Children born to an Israeli mother or father are considered Israeli nationals and must enter and leave the country on an Israeli passport.

Lengthy personal questioning and baggage searches by security officials on arrival and departure from Israel should be expected.

Electrical items, including laptops, may be taken from departing passengers for security inspection and either stored in the aircraft baggage hold, or returned to you in the UK.

On some occasions Israeli security officials have asked for access to travellers’ personal e-mail accounts or other social media accounts as a condition of entry.

Other risks

On public beaches theft of passports, credit cards and other valuables is common.

Driving is erratic and there are often accidents on the roads.

If you decide to travel to the desert, the Foreign Office says best practice is to go with others, take water, your mobile phone and let someone know your itinerary and what time to expect your return.

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