I recently spent an amazing few weeks in Israel, and I would love to attempt to answer this question that I get from a lot of solo female travellers – is Israel safe for women? I’d like to give an account that combines my personal experiences with recent factual events to help you to be as informed as possible about travel in Israel.
Make sure that you do your own research for any international trip, of course. But, for me personally, I had an amazing trip to Israel and found it easy and safe to travel there. I wouldn’t change that experience and have no regrets.
Overall I found Israel to be an amazing country with friendly people, amazing religious architecture and great food. It’s one of my favourite countries that I have ever visited and I would love to go back.
My Trip to Israel (March 2017)
I met a lot of other solo female travellers during my time in Israel, in all three cities that I visited – Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I was in Israel to attend the International TBEX conference at Jerusalem ICC.
Israel had been a dream destination of mine due to my interest in religion and history (see my niche blog Templeseeker). For many years, I had been told that Israel was unsafe, and this is fuelled by the media.
Getting on buses and trains in Israel during my March trip was extremely easy. I never felt threatened or in danger. Everyone was extremely helpful and spoke excellent English. In fact, the actual travelling I found easier in Israel than in many other parts of Europe and Africa. The metro in Jerusalem was so easy to use – there was a guy there with a branded jacket on the first day who showed me exactly how to get my ticket! Violent crimes and muggings are relatively low in Israel – many people are religious, and these crimes go against their beliefs.
I visited a lot of the country on private tours which I booked through Abraham Hostel or Tourist Israel. They were very easy to book, safe and reasonably priced.
Above: The Cave where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in Qumran, Israel.
Is Israel Safe – Safety in Tel Aviv
I felt that Tel Aviv was particularly a safe place for solo female travel. There were no safety issues whatsoever during my time in Tel Aviv and it is a popular destination for expats. I even left my camera in a restaurant and still got it back thankfully!
However, Tel Aviv is not without it’s problems altogether. While we were there, it was reported on local news that a Holocaust survivor killed a nurse by setting her alight, because he thought that she was trying to poison him. Of course, survivors of the Holocaust have been through an awful ordeal (If you are interested in this topic I recommend a visit to Yad Vashem).
There have also been past terror attacks on buses near the Grand Synagogue in Tel Aviv. The turbulent history of the country remains.
It is reported that some people have experienced thefts on the beach in Tel Aviv. Although this was not my experience, be aware and look after your belongings – I wouldn’t recommend leaving them unattended just incase.
Travel Tip – Tel Aviv is very modern and secure – it is a good place to have as a base in Israel
Is Israel Safe? Safety in Jerusalem
I also felt safe in Jerusalem, and walked around Jaffa, the Old Town of Jerusalem and Mount of Olives both alone and with a friend and felt extremely safe. The city was easy to navigate and people were very helpful. There was no problems with being hassled in the markets, it’s just harmless salesmanship on quite a low level.
Jerusalem does have more underlying religious and political tensions than Tel Aviv. There were also one or two situations where I felt uncomfortable regarding unwanted male attention (see below).
There were no terror attacks or instances of compromised safety during my time there in March 2017. However, over Easter, there was some distressing news about the murder of a British student on the Jerusalem Metro.
Travel Tip – Avoid certain areas in Jerusalem where tensions may arise and be aware of unrest particularly around political demonstrations and on religious festivals – see Foreign Office Advice.
Stabbing of a British National on Good Friday in Jerusalem
On my return to the UK, I read the horrendous news that a British student from Birmingham University had been stabbed on the Jerusalem metro (see Guardian article). My thoughts are with the family of this young girl – she was just 20 years old.
It happened on Good Friday and apparently was a Palestinian resident of Ras Al Amud (the area where I stayed). It seems to have been a one-off crime as it was committed by someone who recently was released from a mental institution and was mentally unstable.
This event also tied in with the Good Friday and Passover celebrations, so it is may be advisable to avoid busy religious holidays incase this increases tensions. Sadly, the situation can be volatile in Israel, and things can change very quickly.
Unwanted Attention from Boys
There sadly was some unwanted attention from boys/men in Jerusalem particularly. Although I felt safe enough to walk alone day and night in Jaffa, the Old City and Mount of Olives, there are warnings about men attempting to touch women up, particularly on the Ramparts (City Walls).
I’m not gonna beat around the bush here – I got groped! I got groped by a 14 year old boy outside Damascus Gate! He initially approached me and a friend to talk, and we thought that he just wanted to practice english. Then, he attempted to put his arm around me for a photo, which I thought would be fine. So I had a picture taken by my friend – not too much of a problem with that. But then as we carried on walking, he went to hold my hand – wtf?! I specifically said no sternly. As went went to part ways, he actually went for…not the boob, but the……’hoo-haa!’ OMG!
So basically, I got groped, and I have a picture of my groper! Thankfully for him, I’m not going to publish it, mainly because I think he was just a kid trying it on. I didn’t want to out him on a blog. But, I could have if I wanted to.
Saying that, I didn’t at all feel that my safety was threatened, he didn’t actually properly touch me and I could have easily got away from the situation even if I had been alone. I know a few people that think that I shouldn’t blog the negatives because it paints a bad picture and may increase stereotypes, but I wanted to be open and honest about all aspects of my Israel experience.
Travel Tip – Be vigilant against unwanted male attention and don’t walk go alone where you don’t feel safe or certain areas recommended by the locals.
Security entering and Leaving Israel
Security is extremely high in Israel because of the political tensions. In some ways, thats a positive rather than a negative. Many Israelis are shocked by the lack of security in the UK. All Israelis do national service, so it is not unusual to see young girls on the streets with guns, but they are there to protect you.
A Canadian friend of mine got extensively questioned on her arrival in Jerusalem and it shook her up a little. I wondered why it was so easy to get in – I’m from UK, so they just gave me a little slip of paper in my passport. However, I got extensively questioned at airport security on the way out when I was pulled aside, which was probably triggered by the number of Arabic stamps in my passport.
The key to deal with questioning at security is to be as open and honest as possible. Answer questions simply and directly. Try not to get stressed or upset, because that makes them concerned and question even further!
Travel Tip – Don’t be stressed if questioned at airport security, just answer questions calmly and honestly.
Health in Israel
The healthcare in Israel is of a very high standard. If you are insured or have money to pay private, you will be very well cared for indeed. The country is not extreme in climate, so there are not high risks of certain diseases – it is low/no risk for Malaria. Make sure that recommended immunisations are up to date 2 months ahead of travelling to Israel.
Travel Tip – Get good travel insurance that covers you for pre-existing conditions.
Is it safe for a woman to Travel to Israel solo?
So would I recommend that a woman should travel solo to Israel? Yes, I absolutely would. Israel is packed full of ancient archaeological sites and religious place of interest. If you love museums, history, architecture, you have to go! But you need to be aware of the religion, culture and history of the country and familiarise yourself with your governments advice. Remember that there is a risk with any travel.
It’s difficult to say that Israel is certainly safe for solo female travellers right now, simply because the situation can (or has been known to) change rapidly. Do read your government’s advice before travelling (UK Foreign Office advice on travel to Israel).
However, I can say that at the time of visiting (March 2017) I did feel totally safe travelling around Israel, sometimes on my own and sometimes with friends. Despite certain events that may have been exposed on the media, and overcautious foreign office advice, there are thousands of safe and happy travellers enjoying this cultural experience every year. Do your homework. Enjoy Israel. Travel safe.