President Donald Trump recently made a statement to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and directed the State Department to begin the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. With this statement, we’ve been asked: what does this mean for future travel and safety in Israel? I cannot see the future, but I can provide my opinion with experience from the last 26 years of specializing in Israel tours and helping churches and ministries with the logistical planning of their trips. Even with all the hype from the news media coming out of the Middle East from Israel’s neighbors, there is still no safer time to be in Israel. No one yet knows the final outcome or if this is a bargaining chip for future peace with the Palestinians and Israelis.
We do know that Israel is the safest country in the Middle East. We do know that Israel welcomed its 3,000,000th tourist in 2017 last month, and we do know that life continues in the streets as normal for those who live in Israel. Thousands of tourists are continuing with their travel plans today, as if nothing has changed. Without turning on the news or picking up a paper, those currently in Israel would not even know that the atmosphere is different. That being said, whenever there is a possible threat or concern, Israel’s security is at its best making sure that all measures are taken to ensure the safety of tourists and all residents of Israel. Their number one priority is that the country remains safe, calm and life continues as normal.
I’ve learned from experience and constant communication with our many friends, partners, guides, and others living in Israel, that if anyone felt for a moment it was unsafe, we would know immediately. Not only would the Israeli Government not allow travel, but the U.S. would not permit travel either if they felt, even for a moment, that it wasn’t safe to travel. If Israeli parents are allowing their children to continue to go to school each day then, as a parent, I see they feel it’s safe and life continues as normal.
We have many groups in Israel as I write this letter. I will also be in Israel later this month and bringing my son with me, and if I didn’t think it was safe, I wouldn’t travel myself. It’s perfectly safe. Honestly, my concern is when things are too quiet and too calm for a long stretch of time in Israel, this is when I am more concerned. At this time, security is at an all-time-high with the recent comments made by President Trump, thus making it one of the safest times to travel. One still needs to use common sense: avoid any potentially large crowded demonstrations, and refrain from using public transportation whenever possible. Just like in America, there are some places you would never go, and others that you would avoid at night; Israel is no different. Our tours never visit areas that are advised to limit visitation to, such as the Gaza Strip, which none of our groups go near. Bethlehem, Jaffa, Jericho, etc. are all safe areas to visit today, as is going up to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. If for any reason it is unsafe, your tour guide and driver are constantly in communication with the local authorities, and we work closely with our partners in Israel to advise you accordingly.
Please keep in mind that the majority of what we hear from the media, especially regarding the Middle East, is hype that we may never witness or experience. Faith is the antidote to fear!