Travel to Israel this coming October: Safety advice welcome
March 17, 2023 9:06 PM   Subscribe

Hello Hivemind: My 22-year old stepdaughter, who, like her parents, lives in the PNW, is planning to hold her belated Bat Mitzvah this October in Tel Aviv at the synagogue her beloved grandmother attends (said grandmother can no longer manage international travel). My wife and I are planning to fly to Israel to celebrate with them. Other family members are alarmed by the prospect, and are urging us to not go due to travel warnings and the possibility of random violence. Any additional information or thoughts, especially from Mefites who live there, would be welcome.

Please note: this is a family event and though it's not our first choice of location for obvious political reasons, this is about giving an 86 year old grandmother and her granddaughter a moment together that will be hugely important for both of them. Many thanks.
posted by jokeefe to Travel & Transportation around Israel (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Statistically speaking, you are safer in Israel than in nearly any US state (or even Canada). The US travel warning for Israel (level 2) is the same as that for countries like Germany, France, and Denmark.
posted by kickingtheground at 9:46 PM on March 17 [7 favorites]

The Canadian travel warning risk for Israel (specifically the Tel Aviv area -- other areas like the borders with the occupied territories or Syria, even Jerusalem have higher risks) is also in the second lowest level; "exercise a high degree of caution". The same as the UK, Belgium and Sweden; as well as Mexico, Bahamas and Jamaica. Sounds like it's worth it to me.
posted by Superilla at 10:31 PM on March 17

I have lived overseas twice, once in Egypt and once in East Africa, and I can assure you that US family members who don’t follow travel warnings closely have absolutely no sense of the true danger of traveling to a place. Truly they hear “Middle East” and think terror and bombs. Listen to the State Department; check the Canadian and British travel warnings; and listen to friends in Israel and others who travel there regularly.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:41 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]

I traveled to Israel in 2015 when they were in the midst of a "situation" -- at that time, it was random stabbings, attacks on buses and the like. When I was deciding whether or not to go, I had to consider the fact that living in the US means I could encounter a mass shooting event virtually anywhere -- nightclub, movie theater, synagogue, church, school, shopping center...I mean, you really can't list a place in the US where you're not a risk for a mass shooting.

I went. I'm happy I went. I encountered zero violence.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:26 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]

Travel advice from the UK foreign office suggests that you avoid the Gaza strip area, borders with Lebanon and Syria, and Palestinian refugee camps. I'm guessing none of these were on your itinerary anyway. It also recommends that you don't go to demonstrations or other mass gatherings. Roughly speaking it describes Israel and Mexico in similar terms to each other in relation to safety and security, if that's helpful at all.

I think if you take the same kinds of safety precautions as your family/friends in Israel do, and don't make unhelpful jokes at the airport it should be fine.
posted by plonkee at 1:52 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]

Millions of people live there and just go about their normal day to day lives without incident. Yes there is some risk, but statistically it’s very unlikely that the risk will fall on you. I would definitely go, over the celebration begins the thought of danger will be the last thing on your mind
posted by dis_integration at 5:38 AM on March 18

October is half a year away. Nobody can tell what the situation will be at that time (honestly that's true these days for pretty much any place). Just get tickets you can easily cancel or reschedule should you need to. Also it sounds like her grandmother lives in Tel Aviv, right?
posted by trig at 5:39 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]

Unless people have actual recent experiences travelling to your destination it is normally best to ignore any location specific advice you receive. And unless it comes from very seasoned travellers, also ignore all general travel advice.

Buy travel insurance and tickets you can change and make a decision not to travel in the unlikely event the situation in October warrants it.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:10 AM on March 18

Best answer: A few ideas:

- Asking your daughter to contact the synagogue to ask about how they normally handle more prosaic disruptions that might affect their scheduling (like a power outage or something) would be useful, even if only in terms of considering how she would feel if her Bat Mitzvah couldn't happen on the exact day or at the exact time that's been planned.

- As at any event, your daughter might find it is easier to reassure those who are concerned that she has considered and planned for the ability of everyone who needs to be there to actually make it on time if traffic is bad, public transport is disrupted or if certain streets are closed. For example, can she stay within walking distance of the synagogue and other important locations? If older folks other than her grandmother or families with small children are going to be there, what kinds of accommodations might the plans need to include to maximize the likelihood they can attend and enjoy themselves?

- When choosing a travel insurance policy for your trip, check that the policy language includes the kinds of claims you might make should you be affected by situations like those your relatives fear. What's the insurer's definition of something like "violence" or "terrorism"?

- Regardless of what happens, make sure your daughter knows maximizing the amount of time she gets to spend with her grandmother is more important than making sure the Bat Mitzvah goes exactly according to plan. At 22 I was quite independent, yet I also looked to my parents when navigating complicated situations like this, especially if others involved had invested a lot of time and money and the possibility of disappointing them seemed high.
posted by mdonley at 12:58 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I was in Tel Aviv a couple of years ago right after a large conflict (or really, between them) and had a great time. I spent very early mornings on the beach and evenings eating out at restaurants with co-workers - never felt unsafe and Tel Aviv is just a great city.

There are two things going on in Israel and Tel Aviv in particular right now that seem to be on the mind of my Israeli co-workers.

1) The current government is experiencing potentially a fundamental change to the power structure as it relates to the court system. This is resulting in a large amount of active protests against the conservative government - specifically in Tel Aviv - people fear a fundamental change to the system of government in the country - the largest in 70+ years.

2) There is (currently?) increased conflict between Israeli settlers and Palestinians, and the result has been increased shootings - this is complex, I am not going to try and unpack it all here because..well yeah. I don't want to downplay this, because to Israeli's it's a very big deal - but the US experiences a much higher incidence of mass shootings in our cities and well... I think the bigger risk here is the conflict gets broader, but that's sort of always the risk and something you'll need to be aware of on a day to day basis as the trip approaches.

I want to emphasize that even against these risks I wouldn't hesitate to visit Israel and Tel Aviv again from a safety perspective - politics and other considerations I might think about it some more depending on how the next few months shake out and how my Israeli friends feel about their governments direction and where they feel supported.
posted by iamabot at 1:25 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all; your answers are much appreciated.
posted by jokeefe at 6:29 PM on March 18

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