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Israel and the Occupied Territories

If you’re travelling to Israel and the Occupied Territories, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Security status

We advise Irish citizens in Israel and the Occupied Territories to Exercise a high degree of caution.

We advise strongly against all travel to the Gaza Strip. 

Latest Alert

The spate of sporadic attacks, which commenced in October 2015, has continued into 2017. These have included stabbings, shootings, vehicular attacks, arson and stone throwing. A high degree of caution should be used as the possibility of further incidents remains high.

Reaction to these attacks by Israeli security forces has been strong and in many instances has included the use of live fire. All demonstrations and public gatherings should be avoided. We advise citizens to exercise a high degree of vigilance and caution when travelling in and around Jerusalem and to be aware of the potential for political demonstrations or civil unrest to occur, in particular around the Old City and the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount site, where tourists can also expect an enhanced security presence.

Also keep up to date with any developments that could lead to a likely outbreak of regional military conflict and make your travel plans accordingly.

Golan and Northern Israel

Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2012 there have been several incidents of mortar shells and light arms fire impacting on the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan. The situation in and around the Golan, the Israel-Lebanon border and northern Israel remains volatile and possibly subject to further hostilities. The Department of Foreign Affairs advises against all travel to the parts of the Golan Heights that border Syria, east of Highway 98 and also the Sheba'a Farms and Ghajjar along the border with Lebanon (the 'Blue Line'). The situation in the Golan, especially the borders between Syria and Lebanon with Israel, can change very rapidly and it is strongly advised to check DFAT travel advice on the latest developments.

Gaza Strip

We advise strongly against all travel to the Gaza Strip and against non-essential travel within 40km of Gaza. The situation remains very difficult there. In the event that you encounter difficulties, any assistance that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or our Embassy in Tel Aviv may be able to provide is likely to be extremely limited.

West Bank, including East Jerusalem

The situation in the West Bank remains very tense and there is an ongoing high risk of demonstrations and other forms of civil unrest. It is recommended that travel within the West Bank be confined to daylight hours as much as possible. Extreme caution is recommended when visiting the Old City of Jerusalem. The areas around Damascus Gate, Lions Gate and the vicinity of the Haram al Sharif (Temple Mount) and Al Wad Street should be avoided.

Emergency assistance

The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.

Contact the Embassy

If there is an emergency, or if you need help and advice, you can contact the Irish Embassy in Tel Aviv

If you phone outside of working hours, leave us a message giving:

  • Your name
  • The nature of your problem
  • Where you are now
  • Your contact details (mobile phone number or phone number of where you’re staying)

We regularly monitor these messages and one of our staff members will be in contact with you.

Our tips for safe travels

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates
  • Read our Topical ‘Know Before You Go’ guide

 

Safety and security

Social unrest

If you're planning a trip to Israel and the Occupied Territories, we advise you to exercise extreme caution.

Since October 2015 renewed unrest has led to ongoing sporadic attacks, mainly in Jerusalem and in West Bank cities, but also in urban areas of Israel. These include stabbings, shootings, vehicular attacks, arson and stone throwing. Tensions and the possibility of further incidents remain high. Reaction to these attacks by Israeli security forces has been strong and in many instances has included the use of live fire.

Demonstrations

There is a high risk of demonstrations and other forms of civil unrest, sometimes at short notice, particularly in the vicinity of Israeli settlements, Israeli military checkpoints (especially Qalandia), refugee camps, in some areas of East Jerusalem, Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, and in Hebron and the surrounding area.  All demonstrations and public gatherings should be avoided. Restrictions on access are in place in a number of areas across the West Bank. It is recommended that travel within the West Bank be confirmed to daylight hours as much as possible.  You should be especially vigilant after Friday prayers and on religious holidays.

Public Transport

West Jerusalem and occupied East Jerusalem, including the Old City of Jerusalem, remain popular tourist destinations. It is recommended, for the moment, that the public transport system, which has seen a number of violent incidents, be avoided in favour of taxis or shuttle buses. Avoid travel on the light rail beyond Ammunition Hill as there have been regular violent incidents on that part of the route. Extreme caution is recommended when visiting the Old City and the areas around Damascus Gate, Lions Gate, the vicinity of Haram al Sharif (Temple Mount) and Al Wad Street should be avoided. 

While you are there

You should keep up to date with local media and travel reports.  Also keep up to date with any developments that could lead to a likely outbreak of regional military conflict and make your travel plans accordingly.

Gaza Strip

We advise strongly against all travel to the Gaza Strip, where the situation remains very difficult. In the event that you encounter difficulties, any assistance that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or our Embassy in Tel Aviv may be able to provide is likely to be extremely limited.  If you need consular assistance while in Gaza, you should be aware that due to Israeli requirements, diplomatic/consular staff are obliged to give five working days’ notice of an intention to visit the area. There is no guarantee that permission will be given even after complying with this time limit. In addition, the EU rule precluding contact with the de facto authorities in Gaza has rarely been waived and then only in an emergency.

Essential services (water, electricity and health provision) in Gaza are very limited and travel within the area is very risky due to prevailing conditions, including poor roads and infrastructure and the possibility of crime and public order disturbances. The security situation remains uncertain.

Given the uncertain security situation in and around Gaza, and until a period of sustained calm is reached, we also recommend against non-essential travel within 40 kilometres of Gaza, which would be the area most severely affected within Israel should there be a resumption of the conflict. Should there be compelling reasons to travel to this region, extreme caution would be essential.

The Gaza strip continues to be under a Israeli  blockade. We advise against any attempt to enter Gaza by sea, or sailing in the waters off the coast of Gaza.

Crime

Crime remains relatively low in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory but you should take sensible precautions:

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place.
  • Carry a copy of your passport rather than the passport itself.  It is also advisable to keep a physical or electronic copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) somewhere safe.
  • Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you’re alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business.
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, and arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible.
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafés, train and bus stations.
  • If you’re a victim of a crime while in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Tel Aviv if you need help.

Driving

If you’re planning to drive in Israel and the Occupied Territories, you should be extremely careful. Driving is erratic and there are frequent accidents. Radar speed traps operate on Israeli roads and fines for speeding are high. If you’re caught speeding, you may also have your licence confiscated.

If you want to drive:

  • Bring your international driving licence and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights

Vehicle hire

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.    If you are planning to drive in the West Bank, please note that not all hire companies permit their vehicles to be taken into occupied Palestinian territory

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Hitchhiking

It’s not safe to hitchhike in Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territory.

Travelling to the desert

If you’re travelling in the desert:

  • Go with others
  • Carry a sufficient supply of water
  • Take a mobile phone
  • Make sure that somebody is aware of your itinerary and your expected time of return

 

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.

Local culture

You’ll notice a mix of religions and cultures in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Many people feel strongly about their beliefs and customs and you should be aware of local cultural mores at all times.

You should avoid entering Jewish Ultra-Orthodox areas, particularly in Jerusalem, on Shabbat (Friday evening to Saturday evening).

Dress modestly at pilgrimage sites and in religious areas in Jerusalem as well as in the West Bank and Gaza.

Be sensitive when taking pictures of people in Muslim and Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods.

Avoid taking photographs of military or police personnel or installations.

During Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset are forbidden for Muslims over the age of 8. Although alcohol will be available in some hotels and restaurants, drinking alcohol elsewhere may cause offence. As a courtesy, you should avoid drinking, eating, and smoking in public places during Ramadan. In 2017, Ramadan is expected to start at sundown on 26 May and finish on 25 June.

Illegal drugs

Illegal drug use (no matter what the drug) carries stiff penalties, including fines and long prison terms.

Personal identification

We recommend you carry identification with you at all times (eg a photocopy of the personal details page of your passport) in case it’s requested by the local authorities. It is also advisable to make photocopies of your passport in case of theft or loss. 

Buying property/Investment

Buying property in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territory, or the Golan Heights under Israeli occupation is risky and you should be aware that the Irish Government considers these settlements to be illegal under international law.