Is it responsible to travel to Israel? 

Both history and present of the state Israel is complicated, often ambiguous, and, if you believe the general media, apparently only full of conflict. Due to the latter I got a lot of both fearful and critical comments when I decided to travel to Israel for the international travel blogger conference TBEX held in Jerusalem mid march.

I got asked things like: How can you support a government enforcing such harsh settlement policies?  And: Aren’t you afraid to get hurt in the middle of these ongoing conflicts? I therefore asked myself:

Is it responsible to travel to Israel?
Safety concerns

So to start, I would like to answer the question of safety. While the extent of security measures when travelling to Israel already at the “home” airport seem out of scale and can become super annoying, one kinda feels safe before even entering the country.

Safe from the start – arrival in Israel. (Photo Credit: Philipp Luther)

Since I have only visited Jerusalem and Tel Aviv this time round, I can only speak for those destinations. However, regarding these two cities I felt safe a 100% in both cities morning, day and night. Jerusalem is full of security with a police check points almost at every corner in the Old City. Tel Aviv is through the modern infrastructure generally more spacious and well lit even at night, which makes you feel safe as well.

And in regards to missiles, which are apparently even these days occassionally directed in this countries direction, Israel has its Iron Dome, which catches them before they can hurt anybody. Sure, there may be rarely times this is not the case and there are times of war, but for the time being I do not think safety concerns should be a barrier for travelling to Israel.

Political concerns

In the Western media I don´t feel there is much coverage in Israel, yet, what is reported usually concerns ambiguous political issues such as the settlement policies. While I would not defend the latter, for example, in any way, I think it is important to recognize that there is a big part of Israelis, who are not in favour of such and other policies and restrictions either. I even heard of a mother never visiting her son, because he decided to move to settlements that she did not support.

Travelling to Israel you actually get a feel for the diversity of this nation and its inhabitants. Yes, there may be discrimination towards Palestinians in certain areas, but there is also discrimination within the Jewish fate depending where people orginally came from, which feels unreal thinking about what they have been through. However, this makes you see, they are neither special nor evil, simply human after all.

To the most part (at least in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv) it is amazing how followers of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith can live side by side in harmony. Somehow it feels like, since with some of the holiest places of each faith being so close together, they know they are not all too different from each other in the end.

The Western Wall and Temple Dome are each one of the most holy places for Jews and Muslims respectively.

Therefore, travelling to Israel may be one of the most responsible things one can do to learn more about these religions and reduce prejudice at the same time.

What was your experience when travelling to Israel? Or if you haven´t been, what are your concern?

About the author

EvaSturm

Eva is a tourism professional with a passion for sustainability and responsible travel. Fostering intercultural exchange through tourism is her life mission.

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19 Comments

  • I have visited Israel a few times and find the security measures more worrying than anything else, although I know they are designed to protect us. There may be missiles pointed at Israel (personally I have no idea) but in this day and age most countries are within the firing some of a missile somewhere so this certainly isn’t a reason not to visit

    • Hi Anne, thanks for the comment. The security measures are truly intense. I was at the verge of saying “fuck it, this trip can never be worth this kind of hassle”, but it truly was afterall. And that is what matters and to be kept in mind I guess 🙂

  • I like the point that you made in the end that travelling may be the best way for us to reduce prejudice and stereotypes about countries that we don’t know much about. The question is…how much do people choose to believe about what they read and how much would they prefer to find out for themselves.

    • Yes, oftentimes it feels like some people prefer to live in ignorance rather than doing any research let alone any travelling to get a bigger picture. There is only so much one can do to inform these people or motivate them to travel, but I will do my best to do my part 😀

  • I have been to Israel twice and both times I came back raving about the scrutinous questioning… which is awesome. That people who are competent and well trained (everyone serves in the military at age 18) looking me in the eye and getting the info they need to make sure I will pose no threat to the state of Israel 🇮🇱 is exactly what the US should have. Instead of a 12 dollar an hour employee looking at my drivers license upside down and waving me through security.

    • Hi Vicky, thanks for the comment. I guess the security measures could be better in some countries, but the Israeli security was quite extreme in my point of view. I don’t know how it is done in other places, but in Munich I would have wished it may have been better organised with the Israelis working more closely together with the German security. This way it just took too bloody long and was at times slightly humiliating, especially on the way out again. I just hope this does not discourage too many people to come to Israel, cause it is definitely worth it.

  • I like your point about travel reducing prejudism and helping you to learn the culture first-hand. Isn’t that why we all travel? I do have to admit I have been nervous about choosing Israel as a destination, but it would mean so much to be there in person!

    • Hi Tami, thanks for the comment. Some people just travel to be at a beach or in nature, not really caring about what else is going on in the surroundings. If one traveled to Israel just for going to the dead sea and nothing else one would probably not have the same experience.. I guess one has to want the intercultural exchange, which is why I try to encourage people to do it. Glad it is your main reason to travel, too 😊

  • I’ve never been one to engage about whether it is ‘safe’ to travel anywhere, and have always supported the presumption that anything could happen anywhere – but I must admit, I do give myself and extra few seconds thinking time with anywhere in that region in the current climate. It’s great that they have extreme security and whilst all the questioning may be quite confronting, it can only be a good thing!

  • We really do want to visit Israel. Happy to know that you did not face any problems. How long did you stay? We were thinking about making a combined trip to Jordan and Israel either this year or the next.

    • Hi Siddharth and Shruti, thank you for your comment. I only managed to go for a week since I had to get back to work, but I would recommend staying two probably to actually to be able to visit more places than I had a chance to do in this short period of time. Quite a few people who visited Jordan after the conference and I only heard of one encountring some slight difficulties when reentering Israel afterwards. I would therefore only recommend it and am looking forward to hearing your stories when you come back 😉

  • Always good to read positive things about a place and in this case about Israel, which is probably one of the most amazing but less visited countries – thanks to the negative feed and the safety issues. Your post is reassuring and it’s good to know that people from diverse communities are thriving peacefully.

  • Exactly my views on Israel! Before we left, all people surrounding us were concerned about our safety and that made us apprehensive too. The first taste we got at the airport itself when we were interviewed for a long time and our luggage was checked.

    Having said that, it was an awesome experience. We visited Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Tiberias etc. In fact we extended our trip and went to Palestine as well. 🙂

    • Hi Nisha, I am happy that you went anyway and had a great time, too. Once one is there all the security hassle is worth it! ☺

  • Thankyou for writing this – I would love to travel to Israel for the religious and historic significance of the region, though I am very aware of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and I do not support the government of Israel in the slightest.

    I’ve never been a fan of boycotting a country because of their political beliefs, as I agree with you that traveling to experience a culture and country first hand and to open respectful dialogue with it’s people is one of the best ways to gain an understanding of a situation and start to promote change. Or at least know how to promote change moving forward. However the situation here appalls me so much that Israel is one country I would consider a boycott of until the issue with Palestine is resolved.

    That said I do very firmly believe as you have stated that there is a huge difference between government and people, and it’s very unlikely that the people of Israel hold the same views or would take the same action if they could as their government has. That said, they need to stand up and somehow influence their government to make the right decision. But for that, we need to travel and speak to them and smash stereotypes and dissolve the propaganda.

    So yes, I probably would travel to Israel. Though safety wouldn’t be my concern.

    • Thank you, Megan, for your thorough and honest comment. I was struggling with myself quite a bit before coming mainly due to ethical reasons, especially since I got an additional mean hit by an accquaintance saying of course I support Israel since I am a bloody German, which got me really mad. I do not support a big part of Israeli politics cause it is just wrong, but the curiosity to actually visit a place of such significance prevailed. I felt like if you want to have a solid point in an argument about Israel you have to have actually been there first.

      Please give me a shout when you went there, I would love to hear your impressions!

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