How can I convince my friend's dad she'll be safe to visit me in Israel?
May 24, 2008 8:39 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be studying in Jerusalem next year, and I'd really like it if one of my friends could come and visit me. The only problem is her father - he is very resistant to the idea, and undoubtedly gets his concerns from the news - which we know has an awful tendency of sensationalizing things beyond recognition. I was hoping you guys could help me put something together that she could show her father, to hopefully help assuage some of his fears. I mean, we're not planning on road-tripping down to Gaza or anything!

I don't know if you need more information, but here goes: I'll be staying at the dorms of Hebrew University in Jerusalem's Mt. Scopus campus.

And I know specifically his concerns are about travel into Israel, and then safety within the country.

I'd really appreciate any help - my friend and I have been planning her trip for a while, and it would be really terrible if it were destroyed by something as small as this misunderstanding! I realize there are some risks, but I'd at least like to be able to provide some perspective.

Thank you!
posted by howgenerica to Travel & Transportation around Israel (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I know you've asked for something to show her father, but in my experience that only works when people are being exceptionally rational. As you might imagine, fathers are not often exceptionally rational when it comes to their daughters and unfamiliar situations.

I faced problems with similarly resistant father over a trip to Vietnam during the height of the avian influenza scare. We were never able to completely overcome his fears, but we did assuage them to some degree.

In addition to some help from her mother we had the best luck demonstrating:
A) the threat depicted in the media was exaggeratedly, and that real danger exists primarily in hot spots that can be avoided (in our case, poultry farms)
B) That bad things are happening everywhere, even in places perceived to be familiar and safe (we pointed to the riots in Paris at the time)
C) That we had identified and considered the problem and would take precautionary measures (in our case, we assured him we would avoid poultry markets and farms and would take a course of Tamiflu with us just in case).

I think the best you can do is acknowledge the potential for threat, demonstrate that the threat isn't as great as perceived, and show that your are capable of limiting your exposure to danger.

posted by NormandyJack at 9:18 AM on May 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

[The News] has an awful tendency of sensationalizing things beyond recognition [...] I realize there are some risks, but I'd at least like to be able to provide some perspective.

When you come back, re-read this. You will likely have a different perspective when you come back from long-term travel in any foreign country, but it seems like Israel especially is a place where people arrive expecting one thing, and leave having experienced something entirely different. This seems especially true of some American Jews, who go expecting the promised land of Judiasm, where the cities are full of people who look like they could go to my temple... and instead find themselves in a Middle Eastern society that wasn't at all what they were expecting.

The tension in the Old City and East Jerusalem, and the spillover from occupied territories is real, not manufactured by the media (though given that Arabs and Jews alike are chasing the tourist dollar, you'll be shielded from some of it in some places). The different treatment of and value placed on women in the Middle East is real. The cultural impact and internalization of Zionism is real. The concern about whether this is the last bus you'll ever get onto is quite real.

Your friend's dad has a legitimate concern. He may be taking it to an extreme based on his own misperceptions, but there's nothing that you can show him that will convince him that Israel is a safe place for his 18 year old daughter to go. She might be able to convince him that the risk is worthwhile, or something that she feels she must take as part of her heritage/culture, or that this is not his decision to make... but she's not going to convince him that it's safe.

Also, this is your friend's battle to fight, not yours.
posted by toxic at 9:33 AM on May 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Maybe pass on this link to him? It emphasizes some the major points regarding personal safety in Israel -- you're not going to be in a volatile area, security around the university is presumably top-notch, and the chances of being hurt in a car accident are far greater than being involved in any act of terrorism.
posted by greatgefilte at 9:38 AM on May 24, 2008

You don't mention how old you are.

If your friend's 18, then isn't it her decision? Are you trying to convince the dad to let her go, or just assuage his fears for a trip that's already in the works?

If she's under 18, I wouldn't want my daughter traveling without adult supervision in any country anyway. And basically, her father does have a legitimate concern; you can't promise she'll be safe. I'm not saying "omg teh bombz", but a trip to Israel is not exactly like taking her to the local farmer's market.

He may also be worried about you two shacking up, and not be able to address that issue directly.
posted by GardenGal at 9:57 AM on May 24, 2008

You don't mention how old you are.

The poster's profile and previous questions reveal that she's a graduating High School senior, and this trip is part of a gap year. In the US, this typically means she's about 18.
posted by toxic at 11:22 AM on May 24, 2008

He's definitely concerned about safety? She's spoken with him about it, and he isn't concerned about costs, or some other activity he may want her to do? And be prepared for those concerns to pop up, he may just be resistant to letting her go off in the world. It happens. I'm not saying it is right. What about other smaller trips, to places other than Israel, is he ok with that sort of thing?
posted by kellyblah at 11:39 AM on May 24, 2008

Safety of young American tourists in Israel is a legitimate concern. There are many, many security incidents throughout Israel daily, most not grave enough to garner international notice. But some make regional notice, although they are, by policy, often suppressed in Israeli media. Many times, I've personally had the experience of flying out of Tel Aviv, landing in Athens or Rome, and getting English newspapers with page 3 stories of bomb blasts in Israel, within blocks of where I had been only the day before, and having not heard anything about it, before, in Israeli media.

It would be naive to imagine that security in a country taking daily rocket attacks in border areas, is air tight. And as a student, with an American visitor, you can't predict when Israel might choose to mount a major military operation, with no prior notice. The U.S. State Department has travel warnings, not just advisories, posted for Israel. And you are inviting your friend to stay in the dormitories of an institution whose recent physical expansion has stirred Palestinian resentment.

It would be one thing if you were studying in Haifa, or perhaps even Tel Aviv, but Jerusalem is always a security risk, even with a constant, massive IDF presence. I'm with toxic and your friend's Dad on this one. Masada, the Temple Mount and the Wailing Wall will still be there, we hope, in 30 years, if something has been worked out politically, in that time.
posted by paulsc at 6:29 PM on May 24, 2008

From a personal perspective I can say that I've been saying to my Israeli friends that I want to go to visit Israel when they're in the country (they live abroad) and for the last few years they've been saying that things are too fucked up and that I should wait. I'm sure that some of it is that they want to present their country in the best possible light, but they're not the kind of people who exaggerate either.
posted by ob at 7:05 PM on May 24, 2008

Just to add in here: it simply is not risk free. People who live there take precautions around where they go, how they behave, what to look out for. You and your friend will not have local knowledge or street smarts, you will look and sound like Americans, and so the level of risk will be somewhat higher for you. Don't be blase. The risk of being injured in a violent incident may be no higher than the risk of dying in car-crash - but by the same token, you wear a seat belt, you drive carefully, etc etc.

(Perhaps things have changed in the last 4 or 5 years but my memory is that the area around Mt Scopus is potentially dangerous for obviously Jewish or foreign people just wandering about. Eg these guidelines here: they are not saying these things for fun.)

If you were my daughter, your best line of defense would be that you're a grown-up and that it's now up to you to assess and maintain your own safety. Come up with your own polite version of "butt out, old man".
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:37 PM on May 24, 2008

The best bet may be to get in touch with someone who runs teen programs. They're used to dealing with parents and knowing what's going on with risk. See what material they have and even if you could get someone to talk with him.

Everyone has different levels of risk tolerance, so I don't want to undermine what others in the thread have said (especially since it's probably what your friend's dad is thinking) going on and on about facts, statistics, and anecdotes. I'll just say that for myself or someone I was responsible for, I'd be totally fine with your plan.

That said:
1. are you sure this is about your friend's dad and not about her? If she's nervous (either about the security situation or some other aspect of travelling by herself to visit you there), his concerns may not really be the problem (not that they're not real, but that it's an easy way for her not to have to fight too hard)
2. it might work better once you've been there for a bit, and can give both of them first hand impressions

Have a great time!
posted by Salamandrous at 9:50 AM on May 25, 2008

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