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?
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.
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.
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.
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?