Top events in Israel

August
01

Held in August, this week-long festival sees evening performances by top Israeli classical, Jazz and Klezmer performers. It is held in the Jewish...

August
05

Jerusalem's big annual arts, crafts and folklore festival has been running for over 30 years and is one of the summer’s most popular events. More...

September
13

Judaism’s holiest day is a time of fasting, repentance and prayer. The country closes down for 25 hours and it is a special experience as the...

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, Israel
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Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, Israel

© 123rf.com / Joshua Haviv

Israel Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

20,770 sq km (8,019 sq miles).

Population

7.7 million (2013).

Population density

371.1 per sq km.

Capital

Jerusalem.

Government

Republic. The state of Israel was founded in 1948.

Head of state

President Shimon Peres since 2007.

Head of government

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since 2009.

Electricity

230 volts AC, 50Hz. Round three-pin plugs are standard; many European two-pin plugs fit the sockets.

Israel has always been an alluring destination. From the days of prophets to the modern day nomad this tiny slice of land at the far end of the eastern Mediterranean has long attracted visitors. Throughout the centuries this dramatic stretch of land poised between Africa and Asia has seen its fair share of turmoil, where battles for its control have ensued and conquests occurred.

Today Israel is a politically sensitive country, yet its appeal for visitors is simply enormous, and the day-to-day issues facing its residents have little effect on those coming to appreciate its astounding historic relics, impressive religious sites or breath-taking natural beauty.

Israel is a small country with great appeal, and while some arrive in the Holy Land on a spiritual quest, others arrive in search of cultural enlightenment, sunny white-sand beaches or becoming one with nature. From the barren, rocky deserts of the south, dotted with oases, ancient ruins and the great Dead Sea in its midst, to the green, rolling hills and valleys of the north steeped in Biblical history, Israel offers a variety like nowhere else. The old cities of Nazareth, Akko and Tzfat are a step back in time, while modern Haifa and Eilat, and the vibrant seaside city of Tel Aviv represent the secular, cosmopolitan side of the country. The Dead Sea, Red Sea, Sea of Galilee and Mediterranean Sea each emanate their own character, their appeals ranging from unique geological phenomena to tranquil spirituality or vibrant holiday resort.

And then there’s Jerusalem. Few cities in the world can attest to the life that Jerusalem has experienced. As the meeting point for three world religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam - it is a fascinating living museum of ancient buildings, cobbled alleys and fervent worship. Market streets weave through the jumble of ecclesiastical buildings, each of the four quarters as different in its architecture as they are in the beliefs of their inhabitants. At the core of the Old City are three of the most significant religious buildings on the planet – the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Dome of the Rock.

Israel is a modern country with excellent facilities for tourists. High class hotels, well-equipped budget hostels, charming guesthouses or desert eco-kibbutz are all represented, while those looking for something tasty to eat will find the country is positively bursting with good food. From the street snacks such as falafel and hummus to gourmet restaurants and trendy cafes, the choice is enormous. Public transport is efficient, the locals are welcoming and the weather idyllic.

There are crumbling temples, ruined cities, abandoned forts and hundreds of Biblical sites. There are extreme sports, cultural tours, nature and wildlife experiences, hiking and cycling opportunities and relaxing sea- or lakeside retreats. Most of all however, Israel is an incredibly diverse country with an eclectic population that will provide a wealth of unique experiences to entertain, challenge and move every visitor.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 28 July 2014

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

This travel advice covers Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to Gaza. The British Information and Services Office in Gaza is closed until further notice. The FCO can no longer offer any consular assistance in Gaza. Rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel and Israeli air strikes on Gaza continue.

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jenin in light of the increased risk of violent demonstrations over the Eid holiday as a result of tensions created by the current conflict in Gaza.

The FCO arranged an assisted departure of British nationals and their dependants from Gaza on 13 July and a further assisted departure took place on 20 July. The FCO can’t guarantee that there will be further opportunities for assisted departure from Gaza.

On 22 July the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) instructed US carriers to suspend flights to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours. This was extended for a further 24 hours on 23 July, but subsequently cancelled later the same day. The majority of airlines have now resumed their flights, however if you’re intending to fly in or out to Ben Gurion Airport, check with your airline to confirm the flight status before you go to the airport.

Stay alert in and around the Old City in Jerusalem, especially after Friday prayers and on religious holidays. Isolated protests and demonstrations can occur both in the Old City, and in East Jerusalem. Leave the area immediately if there is evidence of tension or unrest. Road blocks are in place which may affect access to the Old City. Keep up to date with developments, be vigilant and avoid any protests or demonstrations.

On 17 July Israel launched a ground military operation in Gaza, in addition to air and sea strikes. The FCO advise against all travel to areas of Israel within 40km of the border with Gaza (including Sderot, Netivot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Be’er Sheva, and Kiryat HaMalachi) due to the escalation in conflict in the area.

Since 7 July hundreds of rockets have been fired into southern Israel from Gaza, landing in cities including Ashdod, Ashkelon and Beer Sheva, as well as central Israel, including Tel Aviv. Rockets have also been fired into northern Israel, including Haifa, Nahariya and other cities in the Western Galilee region. Shrapnel from missiles reportedly hit civilian maritime traffic off the Israeli coast. In the early hours of 15 July rockets hit the southern city of Eilat.

Hamas’ military wing has publicly stated that rocket attacks on Israeli military units would continue, including those at Ben Gurion airport. The FCO is aware of at least 1 rocket that has been fired at the airport which was intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome defence system.

If you’re currently in Israel you should follow directives from the Israel Defence Force’s Home Front Command, pay attention to local alerts and seek shelter quickly if the siren sounds. The IDF dropped leaflets over the area north of Gaza City (Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahia) advising Palestinians to leave their homes by midday (local time) on 13 July in warning of a ‘short and temporary’ IDF campaign to attack areas from which rockets are being launched.

The Israeli authorities have forbidden gatherings of more than 1000 people within 40-80 km of the border with Gaza, including Tel Aviv-Jaffa Area, Herzliya area, Jerusalem and Ramat Gan.

The FCO advise against all travel to the Sheba’a Farms and Ghajjar along the border with Lebanon (the ‘Blue Line’).

The FCO advise against all travel east of Route 98 along the Syrian border. Rocket attacks and sporadic gunfire have occurred without warning since 2012. An Israeli civilian was killed by fire from the Syrian side of the border fence on 22 June 2014.

Don’t attempt to enter Gaza by sea, breaching the restrictions imposed by the Israeli navy. The FCO advise against participating in flotillas or overland convoys to Gaza because of the risks involved.

The situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem remains tense and the security situation is volatile. A heavy Israeli security presence is likely. You should be especially vigilant after Friday prayers and on religious holidays. Avoid moving around after dark in the West Bank. Current events in Gaza may lead to increased violence in the West Bank. There are frequest demonstrations at the Qalandiya checkpoint between East Jerusalem and Ramallah. These can become violent.

Be extra vigilant and take great care when travelling anywhere in the West Bank, particularly in areas close to refugee camps, in and around Israeli settlements and in the cities of Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah and Hebron. Demonstrations and other forms of civil unrest can occur at short notice and often turn violent. Regional developments can have an impact on the local security situation. Monitor local media and avoid all protests.

Violent protests have broken out in a number of Arab towns in Israel (including Qalansawe, Taybeh, Tira, Baqa al-Garbiyye in the Triangle, Ar’ara in Wadi Ara, and Nazareth) following recent events. You should exercise caution around protests and follow guidance from the local authorities.

The Rafah border crossing with Egypt is reportedly open to Egyptian passport holders, foreign passport holders and those requiring urgent medical attention. If you are in Gaza and leave via this route, please inform the FCO by calling +44 207008 1500. Check the Egypt travel advice before you consider entering Egypt at Rafah.

Visa and other entry requirements are complex. Make sure you are aware of Israeli immigration policies before you travel.

Allow additional time for increased security measures and checks at airports during Israeli holidays and during the peak summer tourist season.

There is a high threat from terrorism.

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