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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet

Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Israel - West Bank - Gaza

Israel, the West Bank and Gaza - Consular Information Sheet
August 20, 2001

WARNING (Updated August 10, 2001): The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. There is a heightened threat of terrorist incidents in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Several recent terrorist bombings in Israel have resulted in numerous deaths and serious injuries of civilians, including American citizens, some there as tourists. Further, the situation in Gaza and the West Bank remains extremely volatile with continuing confrontations and clashes.
U.S. Government personnel in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are under tight security controls, including prohibition of unofficial travel to the West Bank and Gaza and the city of Jerusalem or areas within the city, depending on current security conditions. Private Americans who remain in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza despite this warning should follow similar precautions and remain in close communication with the American Embassy in Tel Aviv and the American Consulate General in Jerusalem. American citizens residing in the West Bank and Gaza should consider relocating to a safe location, if they can do so safely.

American citizens in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza should also exercise extreme caution and avoid shopping areas, malls, restaurants and cafes, public buses and bus stops and the areas around them as well as crowded areas and demonstrations. U.S. Embassy and Consulate employees and their families have been prohibited from using public buses throughout Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

From time to time, the Embassy and Consulate General may temporarily suspend public services as necessary to review its security posture. In those instances U.S. citizens who require emergency services may telephone the Consulate General in Jerusalem at (972) (2) 622-7230 or the Embassy in Tel Aviv at (972) (3) 519-7355.

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: 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 parts of Gaza and the West Bank. Palestinian Authority police are responsible for keeping order in those areas and the Palestinian Authority exercises a range of civil functions. 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 is subject to change without prior notice or may not be available.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Israel: A valid passport, an onward or return ticket, and proof of sufficient funds are required for entry. A no-charge three-month visa may be issued upon arrival and may be renewed. Travelers carrying official or diplomatic U.S. passports must obtain visas from an Israeli embassy or consulate prior to arrival in Israel. Anyone who has been refused entry or experienced difficulties with his/her visa status during a previous visit, or who has overstayed a visa, should consult the Israeli Embassy or nearest Israeli Consulate before attempting to return to Israel. Anyone seeking returning resident status must obtain permission from Israeli authorities before traveling.

West Bank and Gaza: Except during periods of heightened security restrictions, most U.S. citizens may enter and exit the West Bank and Gaza on a U.S. passport with an Israeli entry stamp. It is not necessary to obtain a visitor's permit from the Palestinian Authority to travel to the West Bank or Gaza. Private vehicles may not cross from Israel into Gaza and may be stopped at checkpoints entering or leaving the West Bank.

The Allenby Bridge crossing from the West Bank into Jordan, and the Rafah crossing from Gaza into Egypt are under the jurisdiction of the Israeli Government, which also controls entry and exit via the Gaza International Airport. This may have special ramifications for Palestinian Americans and other Arab Americans.

Palestinian Americans: American citizens of Palestinian origin who were born on the West Bank or Gaza or resided there for more than three months, may be considered by Israeli authorities to be residents, especially if they or their parents were issued a Palestinian ID number. Any American citizen whom Israel considers to be a resident is required by Israel to hold a valid Palestinian passport to enter or leave the West Bank or Gaza via Israel, the Gaza International Airport, or the Rafah or Allenby Bridge border crossing. American citizens in this category who arrive without a Palestinian passport will generally be granted permission to travel to the West Bank or Gaza to obtain one, but may only be allowed to depart via Israel on a Palestinian passport rather than on their U.S. passport. The Government of Israel does not require travel on a Palestinian passport for visits of less than 90 days, but may instead require a transit permit for travel to the West Bank or Gaza.

During periods of heightened security restrictions, Palestinian Americans with 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. Specific questions may be addressed to the nearest Israeli Embassy or Consulate.

Israel-Jordan Crossings: International crossing points between Israel and Jordan are the Arava crossing (Wadi al-'Arabah) in the south, near Eilat, and the Jordan River crossing (Sheikh Hussein Bridge) in the north, near Beit Shean. American citizens using these two crossing points to enter either Israel or Jordan need not obtain prior visas, but will have to pay a fee at the bridge. Visas should be obtained in advance for those wanting to cross the Allenby Bridge between Jordan and the occupied West Bank. (Note: The Government of Israel requires that Palestinian Americans with residency status in the West Bank or Gaza only enter Jordan by land by means of the Allenby Bridge.) Procedures for all crossings into Jordan are subject to frequent changes.

For further entry information on Israel, travelers may contact the Embassy of Israel at 3514 International Drive NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 364-5500, or the Israeli Consulates General in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, or Houston.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

DUAL NATIONALITY: Israeli citizens naturalized in the United States retain their Israeli citizenship, and their children usually become Israeli citizens. In addition, children born in the United States to Israeli parents usually 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 should contact the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. to learn more about an exemption or deferment from Israeli military service before going to Israel. Without this document, they may not be able to leave Israel without completing military service or 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 whom the Government of Israel considers residents of the West Bank or Gaza may face certain travel restrictions (see Entry Requirements above). These individuals are subject to restrictions on movement between Israel, the West Bank and Gaza and within the West Bank and Gaza imposed by the Israeli Government on all Palestinians for security reasons. During periods of heightened security concerns these restrictions can be onerous. Palestinian-American residents of Jerusalem are normally required to use laissez-passers (documents issued by the Israeli Government) which contain re-entry permits approved by the Israeli Ministry of Interior.

All U.S. citizens with dual nationality must enter and depart the U.S. on their U.S. passports.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: 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 the West Bank and Gaza. 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. Security-related delays or obstacles in bringing in or departing with cameras or electronic equipment are not unusual. Laptop computers and other electronic equipment have been confiscated from travelers leaving Israel from Ben Gurion Airport during security checks. While most are returned prior to departure, some equipment has been damaged, destroyed or lost as a result. Americans who have had personal property damaged due to security procedures at Ben Gurion Airport can contact the Commissioner of Complaints at the airport for redress. During searches and questioning, Israeli authorities have denied American citizens access to U.S. consular officers, lawyers, or family members. Palestinian Americans have been arrested on suspicion of security crimes when attempting to enter or leave Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. The Israeli National Police have monitored, arrested and deported members of religious groups who they believed intended to commit violent or disruptive acts in Israel.

TERRORISM: 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. Attacks have occurred in highly frequented shopping and pedestrian areas and on public buses. U.S. Embassy and Consulate employees and their families have been prohibited from using public buses. American citizens should exercise extreme caution and avoid shopping areas, pedestrian walkways, malls, public buses and bus stops as well as crowded areas and demonstrations.

American citizens should use caution in the vicinity of military sites, areas frequented by off-duty soldiers, contentious religious sites, and large crowds. Travelers should remain aware of their immediate surroundings, and should not touch any suspicious object.

DEMONSTRATIONS AND CIVIL UNREST: In the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, demonstrations or altercations can occur spontaneously and have the potential to become violent without warning. If such disturbances occur, American visitors should leave the area immediately. In Jerusalem's Old City, where exits are limited, American visitors should seek safe haven inside a shop or restaurant until the incident is over. Demonstrations are particularly dangerous in areas such as checkpoints, settlements, military areas, and major thoroughfares where protesters are likely to encounter Israeli security forces.

Demonstrations by Arab Israelis in northern Israel have occurred on Land Day (March 30) and on Israeli Independence Day (date varies). These demonstrations have generally been peaceful, but on occasion Embassy staff have been told to avoid certain areas on those dates.

AREAS OF INSTABILITY: Jerusalem: In Jerusalem, travelers should exercise 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 occurred in these neighborhoods. Isolated street protests and demonstrations can occur in the commercial districts of East Jerusalem (Salah Eddin Street and Damascus Gate areas) during periods of unrest. U.S. Government employees have been prohibited from traveling to the commercial areas of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, except for mission essential business. Private American citizens should avoid travel to these areas at this time.

West Bank and Gaza: The U.S. Government currently prohibits U.S. Government employees, officials, and dependents from traveling to the West Bank and Gaza, except for mission essential business. Private American citizens should avoid travel to these areas at this time. Embassy staff have also been prohibited from using Rt. 443 (the Modi'in Road) in Israel to travel to Jerusalem.

During periods of unrest, access to 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 and the movement of Palestinian Americans with residency status in the West Bank or Gaza and foreign passport holders have been severely impaired

In the Golan Heights, there are live land mines in many areas and visitors should walk only on established roads or trails. Near the northern border of Israel, rocket attacks from Lebanese territory can occur without warning.

CRIME: The crime rate is moderate in Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. 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. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's 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, .

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Modern medical care and medicines are available in Israel. Some hospitals in Israel and most hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza, however, 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.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have, when a medical emergency occurs, found it life-saving. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses 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's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Travelers from regions where contagious diseases are prevalent may need to show shot records before entry into Israel. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or by visiting the CDC Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Israel:

Safety of Public Transportation: good*
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: good

*U.S. Embassy and Consulate employees and their families have been prohibited from using public buses (please review the earlier section entitled "Terrorism.")

Israeli roads and highways tend to be crowded, especially in urban areas. Aggressive driving is a serious problem and few drivers maintain safe following distances. Drivers should use caution, as there is a high rate of fatalities from automobile accidents.

For specific information concerning Israeli driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Israel Ministry of Tourism office in New York via the internet at http://www.goisrael.com.

West Bank and Gaza:

Safety of Public Transportation: poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: poor

Crowded roads and aggressive driving are common in the West Bank and Gaza. During periods of heightened tensions, cars with Israeli license plates have been stoned. Emergency services may be delayed by the need for Palestinian authorities to coordinate with Israeli officials. Seat belt use is required outside of cities, drivers may not drink alcohol, and travel by motorcycle is not allowed. Individuals involved in accidents resulting in death or injury may be detained by police pending an investigation.

For additional information about road safety, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page road safety overseas feature at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: 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.html. 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.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Video cameras and other electronic items must be declared upon entry to Israel. Please contact the Embassy of Israel for specific information regarding customs requirements. Definitive information on customs requirements for the Palestinian Authority is not available.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Individuals traveling to the West Bank and Gaza through Israel or Israeli-controlled entry points are also subject to Israeli law and jurisdiction. Persons violating Israel's or the Palestinian Authority's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Israel are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. The Palestinian Authority also has strict penalties for the possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs by persons visiting or residing in its jurisdiction.

ARRESTS AND DETENTION: 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 the police to contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

U.S. citizens arrested by the Israeli Security Police for security offenses, and U.S. citizens arrested in the West Bank or Gaza for criminal or security 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 arrested individual is frequently delayed. U.S. citizens have been subject to mistreatment during interrogation and pressured to sign statements in Hebrew which have not been translated. Under local law 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. When access to a detained American citizen is denied or delayed, the U.S. government formally protests the lack of consular access to the Israeli government. The U.S. Government also will protest any mistreatment to the relevant authorities as well.

U.S. citizens arrested by the Palestinian Authority (PA) Security Forces in the West Bank or Gaza for crimes are entitled to legal representation and consular notification and access. The PA Security Forces normally notify the Embassy (for Gaza) or Consulate General (for West Bank) 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 the police to contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

U.S. citizens arrested by the PA Security Forces in the West Bank or Gaza for security offenses may be prevented from communicating with lawyers, family members, or consular officers for lengthy periods. In addition, they may be held in custody for protracted periods without formal charges or before being taken in front of a judge for an arrest extension. The U.S. Consulate General is often not notified by the PA of the arrests in a timely manner, and consular access to the arrested is occasionally delayed. The U.S. Government does not have a formal mechanism for protesting these delays in notification or access to the Palestinian Authority; however, our concerns are pursued with local PA officials.

COURT JURISDICTION: Civil courts in Israel actively exercise their authority to bar certain individuals, including nonresidents, from leaving the country until monetary and other legal claims against them can be resolved. Israel's rabbinical courts exercise jurisdiction over all Jewish citizens and residents of Israel in cases of marriage, divorce, child custody and child support. In some cases, Jewish Americans who entered Israel as tourists have become defendants in divorce cases filed by their spouses in Israeli rabbinical courts. These Americans have been detained in Israel for prolonged periods while the Israeli courts consider whether they have sufficient ties to Israel to establish rabbinical court jurisdiction. Jewish American visitors should be aware that they might be subject to involuntary and prolonged stays in Israel if a case is filed against them in a rabbinical court, even if their marriage took place in the U.S. and/or their spouse is not present in Israel.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on the international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/childrens-issues.html or telephone: (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: The State Department advises American citizens who plan to be in the region for over a month to register at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv or the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem. E-mail registration for the U.S. Embassy is possible at amctelaviv@state.gov and for the U.S. Consulate General at jerusalemacs@state.gov. When registering, U.S. citizens can obtain updated information on travel and security in the area.

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) 516-4390. The Embassy's e-mail address is amctelaviv@state.gov and its Internet web page is http://consular.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) 622-7200. The number after 4:30 p.m. and before 8:00 a.m. local time is (972)(2) 622-7250. The fax number is (972)(2) 627-2233. The Consulate's e-mail address is jerusalemacs@state.gov and its Internet web page is http://www.uscongen-jerusalem.org.

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 26 Ben Gurion Boulevard, telephone (972)(4) 853-1470, who reports to the Embassy in Tel Aviv. The Consular Agent can provide routine and emergency services in the north.

***********

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated April 18, 2001 to reflect the most recent Travel Warning and updated information on safety and security.



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