July 23, 2024


Travel ideas

War in Gaza – Is Israel Still Safe to Visit?

So the current war raging in Gaza might be putting your ideas of a quick vacation in the Holy Land on hold just a little bit. But living as I do in the center of the country, and where most of the Israel population actually live, and, in fact, where you’d probably spend most of your vacation, you could be forgiven for thinking along the lines of: “War? What, war here in Israel? You’re kidding right?”

Living in Tel Aviv it’s easy to see why things don’t look so terrible. We aren’t constantly interrupted by the sounds of sirens wailing through the air, rushing to shelters or taping up windows. We haven’t stopped going to work, sending our kids to school and kindergarten, or going out for a beer.

We might be watching more news, thanks to the blanket coverage, but are we really aware that less than an hour’s drive away, people are practically living in shelters, school is cancelled, and 18-19 year old boys are preparing to combat a rather nasty bunch of Hamas militants.

Just yesterday, driving home after doing some shopping, I turned to the wife and said “Hard to believe there’s a war going on just an hour’s drive from here…” But she had fallen asleep, so my two littluns in the back seat giggled as I made a face. The streets were full of traffic, while people strolled down the street, laughing at private conversations on their mobile phones while tucking their chins in from the cold breeze whipping through Tel Aviv (yes, it does even sometimes get cold here in Tel Aviv!).

But with the war in Gaza continuing and Tel Aviv a possible target for longer range missiles, I’m not going to tell you that this is the perfect time for a visit to Israel. The bubble that is Tel Aviv is still a safe place to be in (as I sit typing and watching the froth settle on my beer), as is much of Israel. It’s just that I know what the BBC and CNN are showing and you’re probably convinced that the whole country has donned combat pants and jackets with M16s slung over shoulders…

If you’re coming for a trip to Israel, and staying in the centre of the country or even Jerusalem, you’ll be fine. It’s still safe in Israel, especially in the centre of the country. You probably won’t even notice anything out of the ordinary, except for the obsession with watching the latest TV news updates. Tourism to Israel is undoubtedly taking a hit, but the Israel tourism ministry sums it up nicely:

“Representatives of the Tourism Ministry are in direct and continuous contact with all tourism industry elements in Israel and abroad, through the managers of the tourism bureaus located in different countries, and are holding daily evaluations of the situation.

“The ministry would like to clarify that the military operation is taking place in the Gaza Strip and the western Negev, which are far from Israel’s tour and vacation sites, and thus there is no reason for people not to continue their visit to Israel.”

And you can always check out your government’s travel advisory. For example, both the US and UK are warning against certain areas, specifically Gaza, but don’t advise against travelling to Israel in general.

I say come on over, see the Old City in Jerusalem, dip your toes in the Med, have a beer or glass of wine, and watch that sun set from your beach chair. By the time you’ve come and gone, all this will be over anyway. I hope.