The state of Israel is a parliamentary democracy with a modern economy. Tourist facilities are widely available. Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem as a result of the 1967 War. Pursuant to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, an elected Palestinian authority now exercises jurisdiction in most of Gaza and the major cities of the West Bank. Palestinian Authority police have responsibility for keeping order in those areas and the Palestinian Authority exercises a range of civil functions in other areas of the West Bank. The division of responsibilities and jurisdiction in the West Bank and Gaza between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is complex. Definitive information on entry, customs requirements, arrests, and other matters in the West Bank and Gaza may not be available and is subject to change without prior notice.
ISRAEL: A passports, an onward or return ticket, and proof of sufficient funds are required for entry. A three-month visa may be issued for no charge upon arrival, and may be renewed. Anyone who has been refused entry or experienced difficulties with his/her visa status during a previous visit, or who has overstayed a visa, can obtain information from the Israeli Embassy or nearest Israeli consulate regarding the advisability of attempting to return to Israel. Permission must be obtained from Israel for anyone attempting to claim the status of a returning resident.
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: Except during periods of heightened security restrictions, most U.S. citizens, other than Palestinian Americans who now hold or have ever held resident status in the West Bank or Gaza (see below), may enter and exit Gaza and the West Bank on a U.S. passport with an Israeli entry stamp. It is not necessary to obtain a visitor's permit from the Palestinian Authority. Private vehicles may not cross from Israel into Gaza. In addition, private vehicles may expect to be stopped at checkpoints entering or leaving the West Bank.
Palestinian Americans with past or current residency status in the West Bank or Gaza may be subject to the same travel regulations governing entry to and exit from Israel that affect all resident Palestinians. First, such individuals are required to hold a Palestinian passport to enter or depart Gaza or the West Bank via Israel, although this requirement is generally waived for visits of less than 30 days. Those who arrive at Ben Gurion airport without a Palestinian passport are generally granted permission to travel to the West Bank or Gaza to obtain one. Second, they must also obtain a transit permit before re-entering Israel including any planned departure via Ben Gurion airport. A transit permit is not required for departure via the Gaza International Airport or via the Rafah or Allenby border crossings, but a Palestinian passport is required. During periods of heightened security restrictions, Palestinian Americans with past or current residency status in the West Bank or Gaza may not be allowed to enter or exit Gaza or the West Bank, even if using their American passports.
Palestinians who last departed Israel before the May 1994 Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area or the September 1995 Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip should re-enter Israel through the same port of entry from which they last left (and where their travel documents were then deposited).
Specific questions may be addressed to the nearest Israeli embassy or consulate.
ISRAEL-JORDAN CROSSINGS: International crossing points now operate between Israel and Jordan at the Arava crossing (Wadi al-'Arabah) in the south (near Eilat) and at the Jordan River crossing (Sheikh Hussein Bridge) in the north (near Beit Shean). Prior visas are not necessary for American citizens using these two crossing points to enter either Israel or Jordan, but such travelers will have to pay a fee. Visas should be obtained in advance for those wanting to cross the Allenby Bridge which links Jordan and the occupied West Bank. (Note: Palestinian Americans with past or current residency status in the West Bank or Gaza may only cross into Jordan by land using the Allenby Bridge.) Procedures for all crossings into Jordan are subject to frequent changes.
For further entry information, travelers may contact the Embassy of Israel at 3514 International Dr., NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 364-5500, or the Israeli Consulate General in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, or Houston.
Israel has strict security measures that may affect visitors. Prolonged questioning and detailed searches may take place at the time of entry and/or departure at all points of entry to Israel, including entry from any of the areas under Palestinian jurisdiction. Travelers with Arabic surnames, those who ask that Israeli stamps NOT be entered into their passports, and unaccompanied female travelers have been delayed and subjected to close scrutiny at points of entry. For security reasons, delays or obstacles in bringing in, or departing with, cameras or electronic equipment are not unusual. During searches and questioning, American citizens may be denied access to U.S. consular officers, lawyers, or family members.
The Government of Israel is concerned about the potential for violence with the influx of religious travelers and others to witness the coming of the new Millennium, and therefore is taking extra security measures. The Israeli National Police have arrested and deported members of religious groups who they believed intended to commit violent acts in Israel. Members of such groups should be advised that the Israeli authorities will monitor their stay in Israel in an effort to prevent violence.
Although they have not been targeted for attack, U.S. citizens have been injured or killed in past terrorist actions in Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. The most recent attacks have been in highly frequented shopping and pedestrian areas, and on public buses. The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General have warned their employees and American citizens to exercise caution when utilizing public transportation, and when in the vicinity of bus stops and other crowded areas. Travelers should remain aware of their immediate surroundings, and should not touch any suspicious object.
U.S. citizens should not remain in an area where a demonstration or altercation appears to be developing. Such gatherings can occur spontaneously, and have the potential to become violent without warning. American visitors should leave the area immediately if disturbances occur, or, if inside Jerusalem's Old City where means of exit are limited, seek safe haven inside a shop or restaurant until the incident is over.
The crime rate is moderate in Israel, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank. The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Useful information on safeguarding valuables, protecting personal security, and other matters is provided in the Department of State pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to the Middle East and North Africa. They are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
Modern medical care and medicines are available in Israel. However, some hospitals in Israel and most hospitals in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank fall below U.S. standards. Travelers can find information in English about emergency medical facilities and after-hours pharmacies in the Jerusalem Post and English language Ha'aretz newspapers. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide for payment of medical services outside the United States. You should check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via its home page and autofax service.
There is a high rate of fatalities relating to auto accidents, and drivers should use caution. Aggressive driving and car theft are serious problems. While the roads in Israel are well built, the roads in Gaza and most of the West Bank are of poor quality.
Israeli citizens naturalized in the United States retain their Israeli citizenship, and their children are considered Israeli citizens as well. In addition, children born in the United States to Israeli parents acquire both U.S. and Israeli nationality at birth. Israeli citizens, including dual nationals, are subject to Israeli laws requiring service in Israel's armed forces. U.S.-Israeli dual nationals of military age who do not wish to serve in the Israeli armed forces may contact the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. to obtain proof of exemption or deferment from Israeli military service before going to Israel. Otherwise, they may not be able to leave the country without doing military service and may be subject to criminal penalties for failure to serve. Israeli citizens, including dual nationals, must enter and depart Israel on their Israeli passports.
Palestinian Americans with past or current residency status are subject to the same regulations as other resident Palestinians. American citizens with residency rights in Gaza or the West Bank are normally required to depart these areas with Palestinian passports. Residents of Jerusalem are normally required to use laissez-passers with re-entry permits approved by the Israeli Ministry of Interior.
WEST BANK AND GAZA: The U.S. Government maintains security procedures regarding travel of U.S. Government employees, officials, and dependents to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. U.S. Government employees travel to these areas in secure vehicles and are often escorted. At times of heightened tension, they are often instructed not to travel at all to these areas. Those U.S. Government employees who work and travel in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip do so only for specific business purposes (with the exception of tourist visits to sites mentioned below). Moreover, U.S. Government employees are authorized to work and travel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip only if they know well the local area, language and/or security conditions. Travel guidelines for U.S. Government employees may change at any time.
Demonstrations by Palestinians and Israelis in Gaza and the West Bank have led to confrontations and clashes with the police and military, with some turning deadly. Stone throwing and other forms of violence can occur without warning and can escalate quickly. Hebron, in particular, presents a significant risk of confrontation and should be avoided. In view of the continued potential for violence and unrest in the West Bank and Gaza, the State Department advises all American citizens to exercise extreme caution when traveling to these areas. Tourist visits to the West Bank and Gaza are discouraged and should be avoided, except for visits to Bethlehem, Jericho, Highway 1 from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, Route 90 through the Jordan Valley, and tourist sites along these routes. Accessible sites for visits include the Inn of the Samaritan, Nebi Musa, St. George's Monastery, Mount of Temptation Monastery, Qumran, and Qualiah Water Park.
During periods of unrest, the West Bank and Gaza are sometimes closed off by the Israeli government. Travel restrictions may be imposed with little or no warning. Strict measures have frequently been imposed following terrorist actions. In such circumstances, movement of Palestinians (including Palestinian Americans with past or current residency status in the West Bank or Gaza) and foreign passport holders has been severely impaired.
JERUSALEM: In Jerusalem, travelers can reduce their risk of being involved in violent incidents by exercising caution at religious sites on holy days, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Dress appropriately when visiting the Old City and ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhoods. Most roads into ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhoods are blocked off on Friday nights and Saturdays. Assaults on secular visitors, either for being in cars or for being "immodestly dressed," have been known to occur in these neighborhoods.
Normally, U.S. citizens arrested by the Israeli National Police (INP) in Israel and charged with crimes are entitled to legal representation and consular notification and visitation. Typically the INP notifies the Embassy or Consulate General within two days of arrest, and consular access is normally granted within four days. This procedure may be expedited if the arrested American shows a U.S. passport to the police, or asks for access to the Embassy or Consulate General.
However, U.S. citizens arrested for security offenses, and U.S. citizens arrested in the West Bank or Gaza for criminal offenses may be prevented from communicating with lawyers, family members, or consular officers for lengthy periods. The U.S. Consulate General and the Embassy are often not notified of such arrests, or are not notified in a timely manner. Consular access to the arrestees is frequently delayed. U.S. citizens arrested for security offenses may be subject to mistreatment during the interrogation period of their cases. They may be detained for up to six months at a time without charges. Youths over the age of 14 have been detained and tried as adults. Notification may be faster if the detained American shows a U.S. passport, or asks the local authorities to contact the Embassy or Consulate General.
IN THE NORTH: In the Golan Heights, there are live land mines in many areas, and some minefields have not been clearly marked or fenced. Visitors who walk only on established roads or trails will reduce the risk of injury from mines. Close to the northern border of Israel, rocket attacks from Lebanese territory can occur without warning.
The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, is located at 71 Hayarkon Street. The U.S. mailing address is PSC 98, Box 0001, APO AE 09830. The telephone number is (972)(3) 519-7575. The number after 4:30 p.m. and before 8:00 a.m. local time is (972)(3) 519-7551. The fax number is (972)(3) 516-0315. The Embassy's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and its Internet web page is http://www.usembassy-israel.org.il/.
The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy should be contacted for information and help in the following areas: Israel, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and ports of entry at Ben Gurion Airport, Gaza International Airport, Haifa Port, and the northern (Jordan River) and southern (Arava) border crossings connecting Israel and Jordan.
The Consular Section of the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem is located at 27 Nablus Road. The U.S. mailing address is Unit 7228, Box 0039, APO AE 09830. The telephone number is (972)(2) 622-7000. The number after 5:00 p.m. and before 8:15 a.m. local time is (972)(2) 622-7250. The fax number is (972)(2) 627-2233. The Consulate General's Internet web page is http://www.usis-jerusalem.org/visas.htm.
The U.S. Consulate General should be contacted for information and help in the following areas: West and East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Allenby Bridge border crossing connecting Jordan with the West Bank.
There is a U.S. Consular Agent in Haifa, at telephone (972)(4) 853-1446, who reports to the Embassy in Tel Aviv. The Consular Agent can provide routine and emergency services in the north.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has assessed the government of Israel's civil aviation authority as Category 1 - in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Israel's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.htm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at 618-229-4801.