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Middle East and North Africa

Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Still current at: 20 July 2009
Updated: 01 July 2009

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Summary , Terrorism/Security, Jerusalem, West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) and Health sections. We no longer advise against all but essential travel to the West Bank.

 
(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

Travel advice for this country


Travel Summary

  • We advise against all travel to Gaza (including the waters off Gaza).  Both Hamas and Israel have announced cease-fires following the recent conflict in Gaza.  But these cease-fires are fragile and tensions remain extremely high. Palestinian attacks from within Gaza and Israeli strikes have occurred since the cease-fires.

  • It would be reckless to travel to Gaza at this time. In addition to the risk of violence re-escalating and the extremely poor humanitarian conditions, we believe that terrorist groups continue to maintain the intent and capability to kidnap foreigners. If, despite this advice, you decide to travel to, or remain in, Gaza you do so at your own risk.  You should review your security arrangements and seek professional security advice on whether they are adequate.  The level of consular assistance we can provide is extremely limited.

  • However, given the recent conflict and the ongoing urgent humanitarian situation in Gaza we recognise that there is a need for access by major international organisations, including those based in the UK, to carry out humanitarian and reconstruction work and to engage in independent reporting and verification of the situation on the ground. We would advise medical and other essential specialist staff to coordinate their entry to and exit from Gaza with those organisations, to take all possible security precautions and to be aware that our ability to provide consular assistance is limited.

  • We also advise against all but essential travel to areas within 5 kms of the Gaza perimeter (including Sderot).  We advise caution when travelling to areas within 40km of the Gaza perimeter (including Netivot, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Be’er Sheva).

  • Security has improved in the West Bank and we no longer advise against all but essential travel to the West Bank. However, travellers should be aware that the situation remains fragile and could deteriorate quickly. You are advised to consult travel adice regularly and register with the British Consulate in Jerusalem if you intend to visit the West Bank.

  • There are confirmed human cases and further suspected cases of Swine Flu in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories.
    The World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised its Pandemic Threat Alert Phase to Level 6. The WHO website at http://www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/en/index.html has further details. You should monitor local media reports for any developments and advice, e.g. www.haaretz.com. There is a dedicated Swine Flu page on the FCO website.  Guidance on Pandemic Flu can be obtained on the UK Deparment of Health website at www.dh.gov.uk.

  • In the North, we advise against all travel to the Sheba’a Farms and Ghajar, along the border with Lebanon (the “Blue Line”).  There are ongoing tensions along the border and a heavy military presence in the area.

  • While many tourists and business people visit Israel without problems, there is a high threat from terrorism in Israel.  Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.  In July 2008 there were three terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, resulting in four deaths and 53 wounded.

  • You are advised to maintain a high level of vigilance when travelling anywhere in Jerusalem and in the West Bank and to check FCO travel advice regularly. The security situatioin can change rapidly.  For immediate, specific information about planned demonstrations or any other events which may affect the local security situation, you should register with the Consulate-General in Jerusalem.

  • The main types of incidents for which British nationals required consular assistance in 2008 were for replacing lost and stolen passports; dealing with arrests or detentions, for a variety of offences; and assisting those who encountered security problems in the OPTs or difficulties at Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv.

  • We recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. Many policies do not cover you if your claim is the result of terrorism.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.   See the General (Insurance) section of this advice and Travel Insurance for more details.

Safety and security

Terrorism/Security

While many tourists and businesspeople visit Israel without problem, there is a high threat from terrorism.  Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.  

Since the breakdown of the truce between the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Israel at the end of 2008 an upsurge of rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel, killing and injuring Israeli citizens. The Israeli military responded with air, land and sea based attacks on Gaza, beginning on the 27 December. The Israeli operation resulted in widespread loss of life and damage to property and infrastructure.

Israel announced a cease-fire on 17 January 2009, and Hamas announced a cease-fire on 18 January 2009. These cease-fires remain extremely fragile. There have been a number of violent incidents since the cease-fire announcements.

During the recent conflict rockets fire has penetrated further into southern Israel than previously, hitting Sderot, Netivot, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Be'er Sheva. Anyone travelling in this area of southern Israel should take caution and seek advice from the local authorities and be aware of actions to take on hearing warning sirens.

We advise you to maintain a high level of vigilance for your personal and vehicle safety, and you should avoid any political gatherings and/or demonstrations. For more general information see Terrorism Abroad.
 
You should ensure in advance that you are familiar with contact details for the emergency services as well as any contingency plans prepared by them for the general public. These are available on: http://www.oref.org.il/319-en/PAKAR.aspx.

If you are planning to travel to the OPTs we recommend you register with the British Consulate General in Jerusalem on arrival. When there is an immediate, unforeseen risk to the public or staff, mainly concerning the date and time of a demonstration, the Consulate-General is authorised to distribute a notice providing this information to all registered British nationals. This travel advice will also be updated to contain any new information, but possibly not for all demonstrations given the time constraints. These details will not be provided on the Consulate-General website either.

Please remember to inform the Consulate-General when you have left the area, to prevent you receiving unnecessary messages.
 
You should be aware that the long-standing policy of the British Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British Government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.

Israel

Four nights of rioting occurred between Jewish and Arab residents in the northern city of Acre (Akko) on 8 October 2008.  Underlying tension between Arab and Israeli citizens remains but there has been no further violence since 11 October 2008.

On 4 February 2008 there was a suicide bomb attack in a commercial area in Dimona, southern Israel (approx 30kms from Be’er Sheva), killing one civilian and injuring at least 10 others.

Border Areas

In addition to the advice regarding travel to the Gaza border, we advise against all travel to the Sheba’a Farms and Ghajar along the border with Lebanon (the "Blue Line") because of on-going military operations.  In January 2008 there were reports that a small number of rockets were fired from Lebanon into northern Israel, landing in the vicinity of Shlomi.  There were no casualties.

Following the reported death of Hizballah military commander Imad Mughniyah in Damascus on 12 February 2008 there may be an increased risk of tension between Hizballah and Israel particularly over Israel’s northern border.

We advise against all but essential travel to areas within 5kms of the Gaza perimeter, including Sderot, because of continued risk of rocket fire from Gaza.  During the recent conflict there was an increase in the number of longer range rockets fired from Gaza at the cities of Ashkelon and Beer’sheva.

Some foreign nationals have entered the Gaza through Egypt’s Rafah crossing since the end of Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, but opening of the crossing remains sporadic in both directions. It is liable to be closed completely and without notice. During January 2008 the border wall between Egypt and Gaza was damaged in places and there were clashes at the border between Egyptian border forces and residents of Gaza trying to enter Egypt.

As with all areas where a number of people may congregate, you should maintain a high level of vigilance at border crossing points into and out of Israel and the OPTs.

You should take care at the border and crossing points between Jordan and Israel. On 19 August 2005, a rocket fired from Jordan landed in Eilat, Israel, coinciding with a rocket attack on the Port of Aqaba in Jordan.

Jerusalem

You are advised to maintain a high level of vigilance when travelling anywhere in Jerusalem, and to follow local advice.

There were a number of attacks in Jerusalem during 2008. In the Jaffa Street area of West Jerusalem on 2 July 2008, a bulldozer driver was shot dead after going on a rampage in traffic and ploughing his vehicle into a crowded public bus, killing three and injuring a further 36.  A second bulldozer attack occurred on 22 July 2008 in West Jerusalem, the driver of vehicle injured 16 before being shot dead.   In the Old City on 11 July 2008 one Israel policeman was killed and another injured by a Palestinian gunman.    

There are demonstrations in the Old City and surrounding area, which have the potential to turn violent. The most recent terrorist attack resulting in the death of a foreign national was in 2002. You should exercise caution and follow local advice.

We advise you to maintain a high level of vigilance when travelling anywhere in Jerusalem, and to follow local advice.  If you choose to enter ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods, you should be aware that local residents can react strongly to anyone (particularly women) whom they deem to be dressed in an inappropriate manner. For women this would include wearing trousers. On Shabbat (from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday) these neighbourhoods are blocked off and you should not attempt to drive into them. If you do, local residents may stone your car.   

Gaza

We advise against all travel to Gaza (including the waters off Gaza).  A fragile ceasefire to the recent conflict came into place on 18 January. However, tensions remain high and Palestinian attacks from within Gaza and Israeli strikes on Gaza have occurred since the ceasefire.

It would be reckless to travel to Gaza at this time. In addition to the risk of violence escalating and the extremely poor humanitarian conditions, we believe that terrorist groups continue to maintain the intent and capability to kidnap foreigners. If, despite this advice, you decide to travel to or remain in Gaza you do so at your own risk. You should review your security arrangements and seek professional security advice on whether they are adequate.  The level of consular assistance we can provide in Gaza is extremely limited.

We also advise against all travel by sea to the coast of Gaza. We advise against any attempt to enter Gaza by sea, breaching the restrictions imposed by the Israeli navy. The Israeli Navy routinely patrol territorial waters and a contiguous zone and have fired warning shots across the bows of ships.  Two vessels have been able to enter Gazan waters and dock at the harbour in Gaza without incident. One boat was turned back in international waters by the Israeli Navy. We are also aware of a number of credible reports of Israeli Navy vessels firing into the sea around fishing vessels carrying foreign nationals and directing powerful water jets at such vessels. The Israelis have repeatedly stated that they will consider taking action to prevent any vessel from reaching Gaza.

Given the recent conflict and the ongoing urgent humanitarian situation in Gaza we recognise that there is a need for access by major international organisations, including those based in the UK, to carry out humanitarian and reconstruction work and to engage in independent reporting and verification of the situation on the ground. We would advise medical and other essential specialist staff to coordinate their entry to and exit from Gaza with those organisations, to take all possible security precautions and to be aware that our ability to provide consular assistance is limited.

West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem)

Following an improvement in the security situation in the West Bank over the past year, we no longer advise against all but essential travel. However, the situation remains fragile and could deteriorate quickly. You should remain alert at all times and check this travel advice frequently. You should also register with the British Consulate-General in Jerusalem so that you can receive immediate updates to your mobile phone on any developing security threats.  In Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jericho you should maintain a high level of vigilance at all times and avoid walking on the streets after midnight.  Before travelling to other cities in the West Bak, including Nablus and Hebron you lshoudl check this travel advice for any recent developments. You should maintain a high level of vigilance at all times and avoid walking in the streets after dark - there are frequent incursions by the Israeli security forces. In the closed military zone in the H2 area of Hebron (around Ash-Shuda Street and the Ibrahimi Mosque/Tomb of the Patriachs) there is a risk of a hostile reaction from members of extremist settler groups. In all West Bank cities, particular care is needed in and around the refugee camps.  If you are travelling independently to these cities, you are advised to avoid travelling there during the hours of darkness and familiarise yourself with their layout in advance.  

Israelis living in the illegal settlements in the West Bank occasionally organise demonstrations on West Bank roads: these sometimes turn violent with the settlers throwing stones at passing Palestinian and international vehicles. Particular care should be taken when travelling near settlements.  These settlements are predominantly closed, gated communities and many are protected by armed guards (Israeli defence force, private security companies or the settlers themselves). The smaller settlements (including what are classified as "outposts") on top of hills throughout the West Bank can normally be identified by the use of temporary rather than permanent housing: the residents can be defensive and hostile. Particular care should be taken if walking near any of these settlements including those in the hills around Nablus and in the South Hebron hills. 

The Israeli authorities periodically impose a total closure on movement in and out of the West Bank either on Jewish High Holidays or as a result of a security incident:  this does not normally affect foreign nationals but would affect dual Palestinian British nationals.

Travel within the West Bank is not possible without passing through multiple Israeli military checkpoints. These checkpoints are flash points for violent incidents and have been the scene of several fatal attacks (though not in recent years). You will need a passport to go through these checkpoints. If you are intending to drive in the West Bank, check that you are insured to do so before setting out. It may be easier toarrange West Bank insurance at a hire company in East Jerusalem than from the major hire car companies in Israel.

Crime

Most visits to Israel and the OPTs are trouble-free.  However, the theft of passports, credit cards and valuables from public beaches is commonplace so you should keep your personal belongings in a safe place. If travelling on your own and not in a group, be particularly careful to keep wallets, money and valuables out of sight.

Crime is generally not a problem in the OPTs, but you should take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings.

For more general information see Victims of Crime Abroad.

Political Situation

Israel Country Profile

Local Travel

Road Travel

Driving in Israel and the OPTs is erratic and there are frequent accidents. Radar speed traps operate on roads within Israel and fines for speeding are high. It is not safe to hitchhike in Israel. If you are travelling to the desert, go with others, take a supply of water and a mobile phone and let someone know your itinerary and expected time of return.

For more general information see Driving Abroad.

Local laws and customs

Israel is a country in which a number of religions and cultures mix.  People feel strongly about their beliefs and customs.  You should be aware of this at all times.  For example, it is not wise to go into Jewish ultra-orthodox areas of Jerusalem on Shabbat (Saturday).  Also, you should dress modestly in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
 
You should be aware that during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan eating, drinking or smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims (though not for children under the age of eight).
 
Although alcohol will be available in some hotels and restaurants, drinking alcohol elsewhere may cause offence.  As a courtesy, you may wish to avoid drinking, eating and smoking in public places in the OPTs during Ramadan. For more general information see Travelling During Ramadan.
 
You should be sensitive about taking pictures of people in Muslim and Orthodox Jewish areas and you should take care not to take photographs of military or police personnel or installations.
 
When travelling around Israel and the OPTs you should carry identification at all times in case the local authorities ask to see it.  You should carry photocopies of the date and entry stamp pages of your passport to avoid losing the original. 
 
The penalties for smuggling and trafficking in illegal drugs are severe.  Those caught in possession can expect a prison sentence and subsequent deportation.
 
For more general information for different types of travellers see Travel Advice Relevant to You.

Entry requirements

Visas
 
You do not need a visa to enter Israel.  On entry, visitors are granted leave to enter (by means of a stamp in the passport) for a period of up to three months.  In the past the Israeli immigration authorities have agreed to stamp landing cards, where available, and not passports, but since September 2006 they will rarely agree not to stamp your passport. If your passport is not stamped on entry and you have no other evidence of legal entry into Israel you are likely to face problems travelling around Israel, particularly at any crossing points into the OPTs.  If you work in Israel without the proper authority you can be detained and then deported, a process that might take several months.
 
Passport validity
 
If your passport has less than six months' validity you may be refused entry by Israeli immigration authorities.  If you suffer immigration problems on entry to Israel, our ability to intervene is limited as Israel has the right to refuse entry to anyone they wish.
 
Visiting Gaza
 
If, despite our advice, you decide to visit Gaza you will need to contact the relevant Israeli authorities more than five days in advance.
 
Customs and Immigration

You should expect lengthy personal questioning and baggage searches by security officials on arrival and departure from Israel.  Electrical items may be taken from departing passengers for security inspection and returned to them in the UK. Damage may occur.

You should ensure that you comply with customs regulations.  If you arrive with valuable personal items (computers, camcorders etc), you may be required to pay a deposit that is refundable on or after departure.  Tax may be levied on items sent to visitors already in Israel.
 
Entering the OPTs

Entry to the OPTs (including by sea to Gaza) is controlled by the Israeli authorities and you may be detained on your arrival, and subsequently deported, if you are intending to go there.  You will be questioned upon departure.  If you are a Palestinian dual national and/or are entering the country for the purpose of working in the OPTs, you may be refused entry.  Passports and immigration slips (if you were given one) – one of which must have a valid entry stamp - must be produced crossing between Israel and the OPTs.

In addition to this advice, you may also wish to read the Israeli government’s own advice which can be found at: Transit Policy to the West Bank via Israel.

If you do plan to travel to the Occupied Palestinian Territories you should obtain further information from the British Consulate-General in Jerusalem before you travel.  Due to restrictions on travel, consular assistance in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is limited.

British nationals of Palestinian Origin

If you are a British national of Palestinian origin (on the Palestinian Population Register or holding Palestinian ID number), you will need a Palestinian passport/travel document in order to leave. If you are a British national with a Palestinian name or place of birth but without a Palestinian ID number, you may face problems. You should be aware that a number of British nationals of Palestinian origin or British nationals married to Palestinian nationals have been refused entry since May 2006.
 
Travelling with children
 
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.  For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact: Israeli representation in the UK.

Dual nationals

West Bank and Gaza resident British/Palestinian dual nationals are permitted to travel abroad only via the Rafah or Allenby Bridge border crossings into Egypt or Jordan.  The Rafah crossing point is currently closed.

Children with Israeli parents (father and/or mother) are considered to be Israeli nationals. The Israeli Ministry of Interior insists that these children enter and leave Israel on an Israeli passport.

Health

There are confirmed human cases and further suspected cases of Swine Flu in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised its Pandemic Threat Alert Phase to Level 6. The WHO website at http://www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/en/index.html has further details. You should monitor local media reports for any developments and advice, e.g. www.haaretz.com. There is a dedicated Swine Flu page on the FCO website.  Guidance on Pandemic Flu can be obtained on the UK Department of Health website at www.dh.gov.uk.

Healthcare in Israel is not free and medical treatment can be expensive. Hospitals will insist on payment and may take legal action to delay departure until bills are met.
 
In the 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 4,900 adults aged 15 or over in Israel were living with HIV; the prevalence rate was estimated at around 0.1% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%.  You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. For more general information on how to do this see HIV and AIDS.
 
You should seek medical advice before travelling to Israel & the OPTs and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.  For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should check the websites of NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
 
For more general health information see Travel Health.

Avian Influenza

On 3 January 2007, the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture announced that the H5N1 strain of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) had been found in the yard of a kindergarten in Binyamina (around 50km NE of Tel Aviv). The Israeli authorities reported the incident to the World Health Organisation and took measures to stop the virus from spreading. No human infections or deaths have been reported in Israel or the OPTs.

As a precaution, you should avoid live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure that poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked. For further information see Avian and Pandemic Influenza.

General

Insurance
 
We recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling to Israel or to the OPTs. You should check any exclusions, and that your insurance policy covers you for the all activities you want to undertake. 

As well as full insurance cover for medical treatment and accidents,you should have cover for unexpected losses such as cancelled flights,stolen cash, credit cards, passport or luggage.  You should be aware that most insurance companies will refuse to cover you if, contrary to Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice, you go to those areas where we recommend you do not travel,and some insurance companies may refuse to cover any travel to the West Bank and Gaza.

For more general information see Travel Insurance.

If things do go wrong when you are oversees then this is How We Can Help.

Registration

Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.  More information about registering with LOCATE can be found here.

Purchasing Property


There are risks involved with purchasing property in Israeli settlements on land considered to be occupied under international law, in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan. Potential purchasers should be aware that a future peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, or between Israel and Syria, could have consequences for property they purchase in these settlements. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not offer legal advice on or become involved with private property disputes.

Money

You should ensure that you carry sufficient funds for your immediate use.  Additional cash can be obtained from cash points (ATMs) in Israel and Jerusalem using internationally accepted credit cards.  You should be aware that there are fewer ATMs in the West Bank and Gaza.  Scottish and Irish banknotes cannot be exchanged in Israel or the OPTs.  Money transfer through Western Union to a local Israeli post office normally takes 3 to 4 hours during normal working hours.  Post offices and banks in Israel and Jerusalem close from midday Friday to Sunday morning.  In the West Bank and Gaza they are usually just closed on Fridays.
 
Contact Details
 
British Embassy Tel Aviv
 
Address:  British Embassy
               192 Hayarkon Street
               Tel Aviv 63405
 
Telephone:  (972) (3) 7251222
 
Facsimile:    (972) (3) 5101167 Consular
                   (972) (3) 5243313 Trade and Investment
                   (972) (3) 5271572 Chancery
                   (972) (3) 5278574 Management
 
E-mail:  webmaster.telaviv@fco.gov.uk
 
Office Hours:  GMT:  October-March Mon-Thurs:  0600-1400; Fri:  0600-1130
                               April-September Mon-Thurs:  0500-1300; Fri:  0500-1030
Local Time: Mon-Thurs:  0800-1600; Fri:  0800-1330
 
Website:  Israel: British Embassy Tel Aviv
 
British Consulate-General Jerusalem
 
British Consulate-General
19 Nashashibi Street
Sheikh Jarrah Quarter
PO Box 19690
East Jerusalem 97200
 
Telephone:  (972) (2) 541 4100
 
E-mail:  Britain.Jerusalem@fco.gov.uk
 
Website:  www.ukinjerusalem.fco.gov.uk
 
Office Hours:  GMT:   September-March Mon-Thurs:  0530-1330; Fri:  0530-1130
                                April-September Mon-Thurs:  0630-1430; Fri:  0630-1230

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contacts

Israel, Tel Aviv, British Consulate

Address:

Migdalor Building (6th Floor)
1 Ben Yehuda Street
Tel Aviv 63801

Telephone:

(972) (3) 5100166
(972) (3) 5100497
(972) (3) 7251222 Urgent consular enquiries out of office hours

Fax:

(972) (03) 5101167

Email: bricontv@netvision.net.il

Office hours:

GMT:
Visa Section: Mon-Fri: 0600-0900
Passport/Consular Section:
Mon-Thurs: 0600-1100, Fri: 0600-1030

Local Time:
Visa Section: Mon-Fri: 0800-1100
Passport/Consular Section:
Mon-Thurs: 0800-1300, Fri: 0800-1230

Website: http://ukinisrael.fco.gov.uk/en



Jerusalem, British Consulate-General



 

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