Israel Travel Advisory: Israel is a beautiful and historic country with much to offer visitors. However, there are some important dos and don’ts travelers should keep in mind when visiting. Here are 7 things you should never do when visiting Israel:
1. Don’t Enter Restricted Areas
Some areas in Israel are restricted for security reasons. These include border zones, military zones, and other sensitive sites. Entering these areas without permission can get you into serious trouble. Stick to designated tourist areas and obey all warning signs and barricades. Getting too close to the borders with Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank is particularly risky.
2. Don’t Disrespect Religious Sites
Israel has many holy sites for Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze and others. Be respectful when visiting religious sites like the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, and tombs of prophets and saints. Follow dress codes, rules of conduct, and the instructions of caretakers. Don’t enter areas reserved for prayer and worship if you are just a casual visitor.
3. Avoid Political Demonstrations and Follow the Israel Travel Advisory by Govt
Israel is a politically charged environment with frequent demonstrations. Don’t join protests or counter-protests if they turn violent. Avoid areas seeing clashes between security forces and demonstrators. Even peaceful rallies can turn volatile quickly. Steer clear of all political gatherings for your own safety.
4. Don’t Display Palestinian Symbols
Displaying Palestinian flags, emblems, or slogans in public is illegal in Israel. It can be interpreted as sympathy for terror groups and lead to confrontations or arrests. Don’t wear t-shirts or wave signs with messages supporting the Palestinian cause. While Israel has free speech, flaunting certain symbols is viewed as a provocation. Keep your political views private.
5. Don’t Photograph Military Sites
Israel has strict rules against photographing military personnel, bases, border checkpoints, airfields, equipment, and other security installations. Don’t take pictures of policemen, soldiers, their vehicles, weapons, etc. Using camera drones is also forbidden in many areas. If in doubt, ask permission before photographing sensitive sites.
6. Don’t Purchase Counterfeits
Fake designer goods, pirated DVDs, and other counterfeit products are illegal in Israel, yet often sold to tourists. Don’t buy them, as you can be fined or jailed. Israel also prohibits unauthorized dealing in antiquities. Only buy authentic souvenirs from licensed dealers. Leave any artifacts like coins or figurines found at archaeological sites.
7. Don’t Disrespect Yom Kippur Rules
The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Israel comes to a standstill as businesses close and roads empty. Don’t drive or blare music on Yom Kippur. Dress modestly and avoid smoking, eating, drinking, or other indulgences in public. Even secular Jews observe the somber mood of this reflectful day.
By being respectful and avoiding these trouble areas, you can safely experience Israel’s beauty and have an amazing trip. Use common sense, follow this Israel Travel Advisory, stay alert to the local mood, and you likely won’t have any problems. While Israel has security challenges, it remains a hospitable country for tourists who respect local laws and culture. Welcome to Israel, enjoy your stay, and avoid these 7 novice mistakes.
Here are some FAQs:
What areas are considered restricted zones in Israel?
Restricted areas include border zones along the boundaries with neighboring countries like Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank. Military bases and installations are also off-limits. Pay close attention to warning signs and do not enter areas that have been cordoned off or barricaded for security purposes.
Can I take photos at religious sites in Israel?
Most religious sites in Israel allow photography as long as you are respectful. However, you should avoid taking photos inside areas designated for prayer to avoid disrupting worshippers. Also, check for any signs prohibiting photography at certain sensitive locations. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and not take photos if in doubt.
Is it okay to join political demonstrations as a tourist?
We recommend avoiding any political demonstrations, rallies, or protests during your trip to Israel. Even peaceful gatherings can sometimes turn confrontational or violent quickly due to the complex political environment. For your own safety, steer clear of all protest activities, and do not put yourself in the middle of any political expressions or movements.
What should I wear or bring when visiting religious sites?
When visiting holy sites in Israel like mosques, churches, or the Western Wall, dress modestly out of respect. Cover your shoulders and knees. Both men and women may be asked to cover their heads as well. Do not bring food, drink, or cameras into areas designated for prayer. Following any instructions posted is important. It’s best to look up dress code requirements for specific religious sites in advance.
Is it legal to purchase counterfeit goods in Israel?
No, purchasing counterfeit or pirated goods is illegal in Israel and can result in fines or jail time. This includes fake designer clothing, handbags, electronics, DVDs, etc. Leave any artifacts found at archaeological sites in place as removing them is unauthorized. Only buy souvenirs from licensed shops and vendors to avoid legal issues.
What activities are restricted in Yom Kippur?
Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, is treated as a strict holiday in Israel where most activities are prohibited. Driving, operating machinery, working, listening to loud music, smoking, using electronics, and eating/drinking in public are all forbidden. Stores and offices are closed, and public transportation is limited. Even secular Israelis respect the solemn atmosphere. Best to avoid any activities that could be seen as disrespecting the holy day.