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Couple questions before my first trip to Israel

Munich, Germany
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Couple questions before my first trip to Israel

Hallo everyone,

my girlfriend and i will fly to Israel next wednesday and i have a couple question i hope you guys can help me with.

1) Is it safe to visit the mount of olives at night ? I`m a hobby Photographeur and would love to take a night shot of Jerusalem. In case it`s not safe, is there a place nearby that is ?

2) Are there any areas in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv we should avoid (like parts of the bronx f.e.) ? According to our foreign ministry East Jerusalem is a place you should be careful in. If i would be alone and without an expensive camera i would definately take a look at it but in my situation im not sure this is a good idea.

3) I´ve read that they sometimes will close the border and you cant get back to Israel if you are in the Westbank. I can`t imagine this is true since so many tourist visit Ein Gedi/Dead Sea/Masada all the time. Or can we really get stuck at the Westbank ?

4) Do you need to have an international drivers licence to rent a car or will be a european driver licence enough ? I assume you are not allowed to drive into palestine territory with an israeli rental car - am i allowed to drive to East Jerusalem / Mount of Olives with it ? Accordingt to Google Maps it is outside the 1949 Agreement Line. Or did i get something wrong here ?

5) And my last one. We will fly with El Al. I´ve heard some storys about people who had to leave their DSLR at the Airport because the Camera + Lenses somehow didnt pass the security test. Anything like that ever happened to someone here ?

Thank you very much in advance !

Greetings Chris

Ottawa, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jerusalem, Galilee, Tel Aviv
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1. Re: Couple questions before my first trip to Israel

HI Chris,

You will find that Israel is generally a very safe place to visit. I have never been on the Mt. of Olives at night. It would be very deserted for one, but if you have a taxi driver take you up to the lookout area and then wait for you, I can't imagine this would be a problem. It is known that this is an area for pickpockets so you should keep your money close and not engage in conversations or purchases on the street. This is the same as in many countries. Keep your wits about you.

Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (including East Jerusalem) are generally very safe for tourists. As with anywhere else you take the usual precautions. I walked around on my last trip with my huge new Nikon camera around my neck and didn't even get a second glance. Some areas are residential areas and may be a little rough (areas in South Tel Aviv for example) but you likely wouldn't be going there anyway.

Extremely unlikely you will be stuck in the West Bank. People cross back and forth all the time, and as you pointed out, the usual way to get to the Dead Sea is on Hwy 1 and Hwy 90 which are under Israeli control. You won't get stuck.

If your drivers license is in English or Latin script, such as German, you don't need an international driver's license. You won't be asked for it and it is totally not necessary.

You can drive a rental car in areas that are under Israeli control such as Jerusalem (all of it), HWY 1 and 90 and to other areas. You can not drive to places under Palestinian control such as Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jericho, Nablus, Jenin, etc etc because the insurance would not be valid there. By the way, if you plan to use a rental car for getting around Jerusalem, that is actually a bad idea. Roads are not in grids and Israelis are very aggressive drivers, and you need to know where you are going, (knowing which are bus and taxi lanes for example when they aren't marked) and parking is a huge pain. When in Jerusalem, use public transit, walking and taxis. It is cheaper than renting a car AND more convenient.

I have never known about anyone having to leave cameras, computers , phones etc on entry into Israel. These stories keep surfacing but no one even looks at the stuff you bring in unless you are coming to work or have some other agenda. As a tourist, you can bring in your camera . If you are entering as a professional photographer and intend to work, then you need the appropriate visa but from your post it sounds like tourism is your goal.

Edited: 29 March 2014, 14:59
Jerusalem, Israel
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2. Re: Couple questions before my first trip to Israel

1. If you come to the top of Mt. of Olives, take a photo and back, I can't see a problem.

2. No, no "Bronx" like areas in Israel. Your foreign ministry advise has no real v

However, you should not drive through ultra-orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem during the Jewish Shabbat (or other holiday). When walking in religious areas, dress accordingly.

3. Haven't heard of such a thing. Anyway, if you have a tourism visa to Israel (you get it in the airport) and you are driving through Area C (Israeli areas of the West Bank) - you will not have any problem.

4. Don't listen to Google maps as far as boundaries, at least in this part of the world.

The entire city of Jerusalem is Israel, so rules and laws apply there as they apply in any other area of the country. The West Bank is divided into Palestinian and Israeli areas, according to the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo II accords from 1995. Israeli areas of the West Bank (Area C) - you can drive there freely, as they were part of Israel. Palestinian Authority areas of the West Bank (Area A + Area B) - you must obey Palestinian legislation. Most Israeli car rental agencies do not have insurance for Palestinian Authority areas, and that's why you cannot drive Israeli rental cars into Palestinian Authority areas. (just to make clear, Palestinian Authority is not the whole West Bank).

You can use this online map of Israel: http://www.abmaps.com

Here the Palestinian Authority areas are shown in dark and light brown colors.

Destination Expert
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3. Re: Couple questions before my first trip to Israel

Just reinforcing anmejoshme's great answers:

As holders of foreign passports, you will NOT be in a situation where you can't back from the West Bank to Israel proper. The checkpoints never completely close and you would always be allowed through.

I would not go to the Mount of Olives alone at night. Anmejoshme's suggestion of a taxi is good. If you're walking anywhere, don't go down deserted alleys on your own late at night - just as I assume you wouldn't in any foreign city, and maybe in your home town too.

Google maps shows an accurate historical border, but one that is partly irrelevant to the present reality. Without getting into the politics of it, for a tourist East Jerusalem currently "operates" as part of Israel.

Look up online to see where the Palestinian Authority areas are. "Areas A" under complete Palestinian control are the areas where you can't take rental cars from the large Israeli companies. But that's roughly three percent of the total area of West Bank, confined to the main Palestinian cities. You can drive elsewhere, though it's best to know where you're going and stick to the main roads.

Do take time to understand a bit this complex land you're coming to, but above all - relax! You'll have a great time and the vast majority of people you meet will be friendly and help you out if you have any problems or get lost.

Edited - I posted before I saw Amos's reply but I think the three replies together paint a clear picture.

Edited: 29 March 2014, 16:00
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4. Re: Couple questions before my first trip to Israel

There is a wonderful vantage point of the old city on Mt. Scopus - it is immediately below the Hebrew Univeristy Campus and is a great alternative to the standard Mt. of Olives overlook.

Munich, Germany
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5. Re: Couple questions before my first trip to Israel

thank you guys VERY much for the awesome answers! This will help me alot and "calms me down" ;)

Again, thank you very very much !

Edited: 29 March 2014, 23:41
6. Re: Couple questions before my first trip to Israel

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