Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 05 August 2015.   New contact details for police in Israel (see Where to get help). The level of advice has not changed. The overall level of advice for Israel remains at 'exercise a high degree of caution'. We strongly advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the West Bank and to reconsider travel in parts of Israel within 5 kilometres of the Gaza Strip. We also strongly advise you not to travel to the Gaza Strip.

Israel overall

West Bank, including Bethlehem, Jericho and Ramallah; all parts of Golan Heights east of Route 98

Areas within 5 kms of the border with the Gaza Strip

Gaza Strip

Summary

  • We advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Israel due to the threat of terrorist attack and the threat of rocket fire. Terrorist attacks could occur at anytime and anywhere in Israel.
  • In 2014 and 2015, numerous terrorist attacks have taken place in Jerusalem, leading to a number of deaths and injuries. Further violence in Jerusalem and surrounding areas is possible.
  • During the most recent military confrontation in July-August 2014, over 4,000 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. Australians visiting Israel should be aware of the risks of travel should further conflict between Hamas and Israel occur.
  • Australians in Israel should familiarise themselves with emergency procedures and how to respond to air raid sirens, including knowing the location of their nearest emergency shelters. Municipality websites maintain lists of public bomb shelters and other emergency preparedness information.
  • We strongly advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to areas of Israel within 5kms of the border with the Gaza Strip due to the threat of rocket attack.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times. You should monitor local media and official announcements, as the security situation may change unexpectedly. In the event of a heightened security alert, security forces may respond by establishing additional roadblocks and by increasing the presence of security forces on the streets. Vehicle inspections may also be conducted and there may be heightened scrutiny of individuals and their belongings.
  • Australians are reminded to exercise a high degree of caution when using public transport in Israel. Due to safety and security concerns, Australian Government officials and dependants have been advised not to use public transport, except taxis, in Israel. In planning your activities, consider the kinds of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided.
  • We continue to strongly advise Australians not to travel to the Gaza Strip due to the dangerous and unpredictable security situation. Australians should depart through official border crossing points if it is safe to do so. Civilians were killed and injured during the military confrontation in July-August 2014. Australians remaining in the Gaza Strip should be aware of the extremely limited capacity of the Australian Government to deliver consular assistance.
  • Australians should reconsider their need to travel to all parts of the Golan Heights to the east of Route 98 near Syria. This is due to the threat of terrorist attack and the activities of militants on the other side of the border. Artillery and small arms fire from Syria have landed in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the West Bank, including Bethlehem, Jericho and Ramallah due to the unpredictable security situation.
  • Australians should avoid all protests, demonstrations and political rallies as they may turn violent. You are strongly encouraged to maintain a heightened level of awareness of current events and security developments.
  • The security situation in the region bordering Egypt could deteriorate at any time. Recent security incidents have resulted in deaths and injuries, and the area remains dangerous. There is a continuing threat of rocket attack in this area.
  • The security situation in the northern region of Israel could deteriorate without notice. The border region with Lebanon and Syria is subject to violent incidents, and there is an ongoing threat of rocket attack, artillery and small arms fire.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

You can visit the Israel Government Portal for information on entry and exit requirements for Israel. Everyone seeking to enter Israel, the Gaza Strip or West Bank is subject to security and police record checks by Israeli authorities and may be refused entry or exit without explanation. You may also be subject to lengthy questioning and bag searches by security officials on arrival and departure.

Israeli authorities have advised that travellers who arrive with the intention of protesting Israeli policies (including as part of flotillas) may be refused entry to Israel and returned to their country of embarkation on the next available flight.

Israeli authorities may impose travel restrictions on some visitors to Israel and the West Bank. The Israeli authorities have not provided clear information about which categories of travellers can expect to be subject to these restrictions.

Visitors entering Israel via the Allenby Bridge crossing who indicate they are planning to travel to the West Bank may have their passports stamped ‘Palestinian Authority Only’. If a passport receives this stamp, the passport holder is restricted to West Bank destinations and prevented from entering Israel and Jerusalem. Travellers should be alert to which stamp they receive. Airport officials may require visitors to sign a form that prohibits them entering the West Bank. The Australian Embassy may have limited ability to intervene in these situations.

Entering the Gaza Strip

The Erez crossing into the northern Gaza Strip from Israel is controlled by Israeli authorities. You must have permission from the Israeli authorities to use the Erez crossing, which may be closed or access highly restricted for extended periods. The Israeli authorities rarely grant permission for individuals to depart Gaza through Erez crossing, and the Australian Government is unable to influence the granting of approval or when the crossing will open.

You must receive permission from Egyptian authorities to enter and exit the Gaza Strip using the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. Regulations and restrictions governing the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip are subject to change. People who enter the Gaza Strip through this border crossing must leave the same way. The crossing may open or close at short notice. Once the crossing is closed it is impossible to enter or leave the Gaza Strip through this crossing. You may be delayed in the Gaza Strip for an extended period (possibly months) while waiting for approval to return to Egypt and for the crossing to open. The Australian Government cannot influence the granting of approval by Egyptian authorities or when the crossing will open.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

As visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice, you should contact the nearest Embassy or consulate of Israel for the most up to date information.

Safety and security

Civil unrest/political tension

There is a high threat of civil unrest in Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and the security situation could deteriorate without warning.

Planned and spontaneous protests can turn violent. You should avoid any large public demonstrations, political rallies and gatherings (including funerals), pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for updates. There are regular demonstrations and attacks on vehicles if being driven on the Sabbath (see under Local customs) in and around ultra-Orthodox neighbourhoods and in East Jerusalem. Israeli security forces monitor large gatherings and may intervene. International events and political developments may prompt demonstrations.

You should be particularly vigilant during Jewish and Muslim religious holidays, such as Rosh Hashana, Ramadan and Pesach.

There is an increased risk of violent confrontation at checkpoints, where options to leave the area can be limited. Australian officials have been advised to avoid traffic congestion at checkpoints.

During the most recent military confrontation in July-August 2014, over 4,000 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. Australians visiting Israel should be aware of the risks of travel should further conflict between Hamas and Israel occur.

Australians in Israel should familiarise themselves with emergency procedures and how to respond to air raid sirens, including knowing the location of their nearest emergency shelters. Municipality websites maintain lists of public bomb shelters and other emergency preparedness information.

The Israel Defense Force's Home Front Command website also provides information on preparedness and on how to respond to rocket attacks.

During military operations, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) may declare an area a closed military zone. Any civilians found in the area in breach of these orders can be arrested, detained in prison and, where considered appropriate, deported.

If you are caught up in military action or civil disorder, it is safest, in the absence of other advice, to remain indoors, monitor the media and adhere to the instructions of local authorities.

Gaza Strip and surrounding areas (including waters off Gaza)

We strongly advise you not to travel to the Gaza Strip because of the extremely dangerous and unpredictable security situation and the potential for further Israeli military operations. We continue to strongly advise Australians to depart the Gaza Strip through official border crossing points if it is safe to do so.

There was conflict between Hamas and Israel in Gaza in July-August 2014. There is a risk that the conflict could resume without warning at any time. Travellers should be aware that some international media representatives have been prevented from departing Gaza.

Australians remaining in the Gaza Strip should be aware of the extremely limited capacity of the Australian Government to deliver consular assistance.

We strongly advise against travelling by sea to the coast of the Gaza Strip in breach of Israeli naval restrictions or participating in any attempt to break the naval blockade. The Israeli Navy routinely patrols territorial waters and a contiguous zone. Attempts to breach the naval blockade along the coast of Gaza have resulted in the injury, death, arrest and deportation of foreign nationals, including Australians.

Large, sometimes violent, demonstrations and threats to Western interests have occurred in the Gaza Strip. Foreign nationals have been injured. In the past, a significant number of foreign nationals have been kidnapped.

If you are caught up in military action or civil disorder, you should remain in a secure location indoors and monitor the media for information.

We strongly advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to areas of Israel within 5 kilometres of the border with the Gaza Strip due to the threat of rocket attack. This includes the cities of Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Be’er Sheva.

West Bank

We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the West Bank, including Bethlehem, East Jerusalem, Jericho and Ramallah, due to the unpredictable security situation. You should not enter closed military zones even where these have been in place for an extended period such as in the old city of Hebron.

There are ongoing tensions and violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Stone-throwing and other violent incidents are common, particularly around settlements and military checkpoints. Tensions can arise at short notice and violence occurs in areas frequented by tourists, including in and around the Old City of Jerusalem and in neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem.

Since Israeli military operations in Gaza began in July 2014 protests occurred in several parts of the West Bank. There is a threat of further violent protests, particularly in areas near checkpoints. Large, sometimes violent, demonstrations have occurred in the West Bank. Foreign nationals have been injured. You should avoid all demonstrations.

Israeli authorities may close crossings to the West Bank on local holidays and in response to security incidents.

Israeli security operations take place in the West Bank and can include military incursions. Acts of terrorism may result in an increase in the level of operations.

Strict security measures have frequently been imposed following terrorist actions, and the movement of Palestinians (including dual nationals who are Australian passport holders) has been severely impeded.

If you are in the West Bank and are caught up in military action or civil disorder, you should remain in a secure location indoors and monitor the media for information. In such situations, we urge you to contact the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv immediately.

Israel’s border with Lebanon

You should exercise particular caution if travelling near the Lebanese border and familiarise yourself with local security arrangements. There is an ongoing threat of rocket attack, infiltration attempts, retaliatory fire and other militant activity along the 1949 Armistice line of separation between Israel and Lebanon (known as the ‘Blue Line’).

There have also been isolated instances of kidnappings of Israeli soldiers. There is a significant military presence in the area. The security situation could deteriorate without notice.

Israel’s border with Egypt

You should exercise particular caution if travelling in the desert areas near the Egyptian border. Terrorists operate on the other side of the border in the Sinai Peninsula, where there have been attacks against foreigners.

Gulf of Aqaba and Eilat

As with our overall advice for Israel, we advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in the southern city of Eilat and the surrounding area near the Gulf of Aqaba as the security situation may deteriorate at any time. This includes the border crossing with Egypt near Eilat. Recent security incidents have resulted in deaths and injuries. There is a threat of rocket attack in this area.

Israel’s border with Syria

We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to all parts of the Golan Heights to the east of Route 98 due to the activities of militants in Syria. There was an increase in conflict on the Syrian side of the border in 2014, including cases of kidnapping near the border. Artillery and small arms fire from Syria have landed in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. Parts of Route 98 are sporadically closed due to fighting on the Syrian side of the border.

Terrorism

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Israel due to the threat of terrorist attack. Israel’s proximity to armed groups in surrounding territories makes it an ongoing target for terrorism. Attacks could occur anywhere at any time. Border areas with Lebanon, Syria and Egypt are a particular concern.

In 2014 and 2015, numerous terrorist attacks have taken place in Jerusalem, leading to a number of deaths and injuries. Further violence in Jerusalem and surrounding areas is possible.

Local and international political developments and events may prompt terrorist attacks. You should regularly check the media for news about the region and monitor the media for information about possible new safety and security risks.

Australians are reminded to exercise a high degree of caution when using public transport in Israel. Due to safety and security concerns, Australian Government officials and dependants have been advised not to use public transport, except taxis, in Israel.

In planning your activities, consider the kinds of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. Possible targets include commercial and public areas such as transport infrastructure (including bus stops, buses and bus stations), security personnel and checkpoints, clubs, restaurants, bars, cafes, internet cafes, fast food outlets, hotels, schools, markets, places of worship, shopping areas and malls, theatres, outdoor recreation events, pedestrian precincts and promenades, and tourist areas, including historical sites.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin.

Crime

Purse snatching, pick-pocketing and petty theft can occur. Violent crime is rare.

Theft from vehicles is a growing problem, particularly in beachside areas. Australians have reported thefts from unattended vehicles near tourist sites.

Money and valuables

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Local travel

Road travel

Driving in Israel is erratic andthe road fatality rate is high. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Checkpoints may be set up or closed at any time, often without warning, throughout Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Travellers may encounter delays or difficulties passing through checkpoints.

Israeli car insurance does not usually cover travel into Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank, such as Bethlehem, Jericho or Ramallah. Separate insurance can often be arranged for travel to these areas.

Public transport

You should exercise a high degree of caution when using public transport in Israel. Due to safety and security concerns, Australian Government officials and dependants have been advised not to use public transport, except taxis, in Israel.

Safety standards

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including adventure activities such as diving, may not be of the same level as in Australia. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if others don't. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, you should use another provider.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Israel.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Israel, West Bank or Gaza Strip you are subject to local laws, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.
Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Travel documents such as passports and visas (or copies) must be carried at all times as proof of identity.

Penalties for drug offences include lengthy jail terms and heavy fines. See our Drugs page.

Under Palestinian law, the death penalty may be imposed for offences including treason, assisting an enemy and deliberate killing.

Islamic law applies in the Gaza Strip, including a prohibition on the consumption of alcohol and homosexual acts. See our LGBTI travellers page.

It is illegal to photograph police and military personnel and buildings and places considered security-sensitive, such as military installations and some government offices. You should exercise judgement when photographing people in Muslim and Orthodox Jewish areas and ask permission before photographing individuals.

The importation of religious materials for the purpose of preaching is not permitted in Israel. Such items are likely to be confiscated.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

You should familiarise yourself with local and religious customs and take care not to offend.

The Shabat or Sabbath (from sunset Friday until sunset Saturday) is closely observed in Orthodox Jewish areas in Israel. During this time of rest, driving and using electricity is restricted. In Orthodox neighbourhoods, driving of cars or use of mobile phones and digital cameras on the Sabbath is likely to cause offence. Public access to these neighbourhoods is usually restricted on the Sabbath and you should not attempt to drive into them.

Public displays of affection are frowned on at religious sites in Israel. You should also take care to observe appropriate standards of behaviour if you are visiting Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods. In the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, public displays of affection may cause offence.

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour at holy sites in Jerusalem and in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Unmarried couples (including same sex couples) are not permitted to live together or share hotel accommodation in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin in early June 2016. During Ramadan, Australians travelling to countries with significant Muslim communities should take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, people who are not fasting are advised to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting. For more information see our Ramadan travel bulletin.

Information for dual nationals

Under Israeli law, you are considered to be Israeli if one or both of your parents are Israeli. Israeli citizens are required to enter and leave Israel on an Israeli passport.

Australian/Israeli dual nationals, both men and women, may be liable for military service. Australian/Israeli dual nationals who are unsure of their military service obligation should consult the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Israel.

Australians of Palestinian background who are, or who once were, holders of a Palestinian ID card are considered by both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to be Palestinian nationals while in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip or Israel. If you are considered to be Palestinian, you may be required to obtain a Palestinian travel document. Australian/Palestinian dual nationals should also contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Israel for the most up-to-date information on entry and exit requirements.

Our ability to provide consular assistance to Australian/Israeli and Australian/Palestinian dual nationals who are detained or arrested may be limited.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities in Israel is high, while facilities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are generally below Australian standards. Doctors may require up-front payment before commencing treatment and costs can be expensive. In the event of a serious illness or accident in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary. Costs for a medical evacuation could be considerable.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases can occur (including West Nile fever, brucellosis, leptospirosis and leishmaniasis) with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time.

In rural areas, it is recommended that all drinking water be boiled or that you drink bottled water.

A decompression chamber is located at Joseph Tal Hospital in Eilat.

Where to get help

Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.
If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police. Tourist police are available on 03-5165382.

If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:

The Australian Embassy

Level 28
Discount Bank Tower
23 Yehuda Halevi Street (corner Herzl Street)
Tel Aviv 65136 ISRAEL
Telephone: (972 3) 693 5000
Facsimile: (972 3) 693 5002
Website: www.israel.embassy.gov.au
Facebook: Australia in Israel

See the Embassy website www.israel.embassy.gov.au for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

Australian Representative Office

7th floor
Trust Building
48 Othman Ben Affan Street
El Bireh Ramallah WEST BANK
Telephone: (972 2) 242 5301
Facsimile: (972 2) 242 8290

See the website www.ramallah.mission.gov.au of the Australian Representative Office for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency – whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy or the Representative Office, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Israel and the Palestinian territories are located in an active earthquake zone. Flash floods can occur in the Judean Hills and Negev desert in winter months (November to March).

Sand and dust storms occur during the warmer months, as do bushfires.

For further information, see our severe weather page. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in Israel, see the following links:



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.