Jerusalem Travel Guide

Health & Safety

Despite alarming news headlines, Jerusalem is safe for tourists. Street crime is nearly nonexistent, although pickpockets may work in crowds in the Old City.

There are, however, a few areas in the city where it is important to be mindful of one's dress, religion, and time period visiting. Here are some guidelines:

Dress. When visiting any holy site or religious neighborhood one should dress modestly. For men this means long pants, a closed shirt with sleeves, and a head covering. For women, it means a skirt that falls below the knee, a shirt with elbow-length sleeves and no exposed cleavage or stomach. This applies to churches, mosques, and synagogues, as well as the Temple Mount (Noble Sanctuary) and Western Wall (the plaza by the Wall is essentially an open-air synagogue, and there are mosques on the Temple Mount). When in religious neighborhoods as well, such as Mea Shearim, it is advisable to follow these guidelines.
Religion. Although all of Jerusalem (except for the interiors of The Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque) is accessible to members of all religions, there are some problems with religion-specific discrimination. The main issue involves Muslims and Jews, and the dispute is an old and very territorial one. It is not always safe for those obviously of the Islamic faith (e.g. wearing a hijab or kufi) to enter Jewish concentrated areas, especially on Sabbath, as well as those obviously of a Jewish faith (e.g. wearing a kipah) to enter Muslim concentrated areas, especially at night.
Time Non-Muslims are not allowed on the Temple Mount (Noble Sanctuary) during times of Muslim prayer. During Shabbat and Jewish holidays, one should not publicly use electronic devices or smoke in any synagogue, at the Western Wall, or in any ultra-Orthodox ("hareidi") Jewish neighborhood. (Smoking is, otherwise, rather common in Israel, so nonsmokers should also be forewarned.) Driving in orthodox Jewish neighborhoods on Shabbat is disallowed and roads may be closed off. This also goes for most Jewish holidays. During Ramadan, eating, drinking or smoking in the streets of Muslim areas is culturally insensitive although tourists are rarely interfered with.

Due to the mixture of religions, and the mixture of cultures within religions, tensions can sometimes be high. Avoid any confrontations between locals. Although extremely rare, some locals may carry xenophobic attitudes and ask foreigners to leave the area near their home. You have the right to see all of Jerusalem, but moving along to another area will resolve the situation.

Non-rigorous security checks can be frequent, especially when entering hotels, cinemas/theaters and shopping areas. It is wise to carry some identification.

On the whole, theft is not a large-scale problem. To minimize risk, however, normal precautions apply. Do not leave valuable objects inside a car or in full view in your hotel room. There are many ATMs throughout the city and credit cards are widely accepted, so there is no need to carry large amounts of cash.

Visitors may notice a large amount of military personnel on the streets of Jerusalem, especially around certain sites. This is because every male citizen must perform military service in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) as soon as they reach the age of 18. Many servicemen and civilians carry firearms (handguns) in public, those mostly soldiers going to or from their homes or in an educational tours in Jerusalem. It was, in fact, an off-duty soldier who stopped the Palestinian terrorist driver of the tractor in the incident in July, 2008 was carrying a handgun. When going to the Western Wall it is quite common to see soldiers praying. Sometimes you might see an Israel Defense Forces "swearing in ceremony" near the Western Wall. This is quite common to conduct military oath ceremonies at the Western Wall plaza, because of the historical and religious importance the Western Wall has to the Jewish People.

As of 2007, bombings and other terror attacks have virtually ceased in Jerusalem, due to heightened and controversial security measures. Israeli strikes and Palestinian attacks are not major worries. Tourists have never been the target of attacks and most have occurred well away from tourist sites. Naturally it is important to remain vigilant and alert.

In the case of injury or other emergency incidents, Police services can be reached by dialing 100, Ambulance services can be reached by dialing 101, and the Fire Department can be reached by dialing 102. All emergency services employ English-speaking operators.


source: Wikivoyage

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