I want to visit Israel and also go to the West Bank.  How can I do this safely?

See our links to organizations that help arrange travel, tours, and volunteer opportunities in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, and do your own research as well.  In general, and especially since the end of the Second Intifada, Israel has been very safe, and there have been very few attacks on civilians by Palestinians.  The Qassam rockets we have heard so much about before, during, and since the Gaza War that have been fired from Gaza have killed a handful of people in a few towns in the southwest of Israel.  Despite this low death toll, the danger they pose to parts of southern Israel is very real, and anyone traveling to affected parts of the country should exercise caution and be sure that you know what to do and where to go in the event of a rocket attack. 

It is very difficult to gain entry to Gaza at this time because it is still under siege, and Israel makes it very difficult for most internationals to enter.  It is sometimes possible to gain access through an international organization through the largely Egypt-controlled Rafah crossing.  Travel in the West Bank is generally safe at this time, but we strongly recommend that people wishing to travel to the West Bank, especially if it is their first time, should set up contacts ahead of time with an established tour or travel organization, both to help ensure safety and also to enable visitors to meet and talk with Palestinians. 

Safety and security in the occupied territories can change rapidly if Israel chooses to carry out a military operation, so stay informed about the current situation.  Also, be warned that attendance at demonstrations in the West Bank can be dangerous and several Palestinians and a few international activists have been killed or seriously wounded by tear gas canisters, rubber-coated bullets, and live fire in some cases.  Use common sense, and assume that tear gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets can kill you because they can.

While we encourage people to visit the region, we also encourage visitors to support Palestinian businesses and buy Palestinian-made products whenever possible.  For example, if you are traveling to Jerusalem, try to stay in East Jerusalem and support the businesses of Palestinian citizens of Israel, as you can do in most cities inside of Israel.  Whether or not you are attempting to abide by a selective or institutional boycott of Israeli products or institutions, Palestinians--whether citizens of Israel or residents of the West Bank or Gaza--can certainly use your economic support.

Despite these warnings, we strongly urge interested people to visit the West Bank and even Gaza.  We recommend organizations that also arrange home stays with Palestinian families.