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Israelis warned against travel abroad, with rising terror threats

Unprecedented global threats lead Israel to raise alert level for 80 countries including Western Europe; U.S. remains at the lowest level despite 'potential for violent friction'

Gil Cohen Magen/Xinhua via Getty Images

People wait at the departure hall at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Nov. 28, 2021.

With the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah and the weeklong school break that goes with it fast approaching, Israeli parents who wanted to give their kids a feeling of normalcy during wartime by taking them on a trip abroad may have to reconsider, after Israel’s National Security Council warned on Monday that they could be a target for terrorists in scores of countries.

The National Security Council raised its travel warning for 80 countries, including much of Western Europe and South America, after conducting an analysis of every country in the world.

A senior National Security Council official told reporters that “many terrorist attacks” on Jewish and Israeli targets around the world “were prevented from the start of the war.”

While the official would not state a number, he said, “We never saw such a rise across the board…There were individual incidents in Western Europe, but not in recent years nor in such quantities.”

“There is an awakening among global jihadist groups, like Al Qaeda and ISIS,” the senior official warned. A National Security Council statement said that “from the start of the war, we see increased efforts by Iran and its proxies, as well as by Hamas and other global jihad factors, to harm Israeli destinations and Jews around the world, together with a continuing and significant rise in incitement, attempted attacks and antisemitic acts in many countries.”

At the same time, the official said, “It’s not that there’s a terrorist around every corner…We’re not saying don’t travel; but that every Israel who wants to travel should consider the alert level.” 

The considerations behind the higher alert levels include concrete threats of violence and local authorities’ ability to detect threats and protect Israelis and Jewish communities, as well as diplomatic relations with Israel. Thus South Africa, whose parliament voted to cut ties with the Jewish state last month, jumped from level one – on par with the U.S. and Canada – to level three, which means Israelis are recommended not to travel there unless necessary.

While all of North and Central America remain at threat level one, there is “potential for violent friction even in the U.S. and Canada” with antisemitism on the rise, the senior official warned.

Popular vacation destinations for Israelis including the U.K., France, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, and others are now at level two, which means visiting Israelis should be extra alert.

“An increase from level one to two signals that the reality has changed and one should take caution,” the senior official explained. 

The most popular tourist destination for Israelis, Turkey, remains at the highest threat level of four. The United Arab Emirates remains at level three, a medium threat.

The National Security Council “recommends that the public traveling abroad make informed choices…while taking recommended cautionary steps in all destinations.”

Those steps include delaying trips to countries with travel warnings, especially Arab and other Middle Eastern states, as well as countries in the Caucasus, Muslim countries in Asia and those bordering on Iran. Israelis abroad should be aware of antisemitic incidents even in countries without a higher alert, and stay away from demonstrations.

In addition, the National Security Council said Israelis abroad should avoid showing signs of being Jewish or Israeli in public and stay away from large gatherings of Jews or Israelis.

The senior official said that “there is no problem celebrating at Hanukkah events, but if you’re in a country with a high threat level and there is no security, then it’s a problem. If it’s a level-two country” – like much of Europe – “and there’s security, then it’s not a problem.” 

As for the diplomatic consequences of raising these alerts, the senior official said that “no country likes it when their travel warning level is raised,” but among countries with good relations with Israel “there’s more of an understanding at this time.”

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