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Israel

Strengthening Relationships in the Middle East
Elevated Risk
A man walks a street in Israel

Jingxiu Jin '18

GSS Country Snapshot

A brief overview of Harvard activities, safety & security, health, cultural, and outbound immigration considerations

Israel is a popular location for hundreds of Harvard affiliates to research, study, and travel each year. There is also an office in Tel Aviv for Harvard Business School’s (HBS) Middle East & North Africa Research Center. Through our Harvard Global Israel entity, we provide international employment services to support the University’s research and academic activities.

At Harvard, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) supports interdisciplinary research and teaching related to the region, most notably the pursuit of firsthand knowledge about the Middle East based on literacy in its languages and understanding of its diverse politics, cultures, and histories. The Center for Jewish Studies serves as an umbrella organization, encompassing and coordinating the many academic and extra-curricular programs in Jewish Studies at Harvard University. The Prince Alwaleed Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University is dedicated to furthering the scholarly study of Islam and the Muslim world on an interdisciplinary, global basis.

The information below is intended as a high-level summary and is not all encompassing. We encourage you to review the additional resources and utilize your Harvard network to learn more. You can also schedule a consultation with us if you’d like to discuss the safety and security or operational matters unique to you and your travel or project. We’ll work with you to minimize risks and help you make informed decisions about your travel and activities.

Safety & Security

The Harvard GSS risk rating for Israel is elevated risk. Note that, per the student travel policy, College students have additional pre-departure requirements for elevated-risk locations.

Some of the other factors that influence this rating for Harvard affiliates include sporadic rocket fire along the Gaza border and militant infiltration along the borders with Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon. Heavily armed soldiers are highly visible on streets and in public locations. Petty crime is a risk in densely populated and tourist areas. Homosexuality is legal in Israel, but only foreign same-sex marriages are recognized. As with any country, you need to research and consider all factors in the context of your identity, your activities in country, and your familiarity with the country and its culture. If a security incident occurs, contact International SOS through the Assistance App or by dialing +1-617-998-0000.

There are several main airport hubs in Israel. Roads are well maintained but often congested in urban areas, and adherence to rules of the road vary. Travelers are advised not to drive because conditions may vary from what you’re used to. Public transportation is not extensive, although there is a bus system and a growing inter-city rail system. Licensed taxis can be booked ahead or flagged down. Note that most transportation services halt operations from Friday afternoon to Saturday evening in observance of the Sabbath. Review the road safety report for Israel (access code: Harvard1636) for more information on public transit, walking, biking, and driving.

Mobile phone coverage is extensive in Israel. Internet access is available throughout most of the country, although reliable access in the desert south may be difficult. There has been a steady increase in cybercrime, including hacking and fraud, against individuals and those working with local partners. Know how to keep your data safe abroad.

Health

Make sure you’re up-to-date on any required and recommended vaccines for Israel. Health risks such as Covid-19, leishmaniasis, rabies, and West Nile virus may be present. If you're traveling with medication, check to see if your medications are legal and available in Israel. Many common U.S. medications and supplements are illegal abroad or require special authorization.

Visit your doctor or a travel clinic (such as Harvard University Health Services) at least a month before your departure to discuss all health risks and your individual health with a professional, to receive any vaccines or medications you’ll need, and to learn how to reduce your risk of infection or transmission.

All travelers have a small risk of developing traveler’s diarrhea in any country. Outside of major cities and towns in Israel, you’re advised to drink only bottled or boiled water to avoid ice, and to eat only properly prepared food. Learn how to make safe food and drink choices.

If you need any medical or mental health assistance while on a Harvard-related trip in Israel, contact International SOS through the Assistance App or by dialing +1-617-998-0000. International SOS can direct you to the appropriate inpatient or outpatient care and provide translation assistance. Specialized care and trauma care facilities are available in Israel.

Culture

Israel is a parliamentary democracy with a highly advanced economy driven by science and technology. About 75 percent of the population identifies as Jewish, 18 percent as Muslim, and two percent as Christian.

Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages, although English and Russian are also widely spoken. Make sure you’re aware of and respect local cultural sensitivities, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, modest attire in and around religious sites, and rules against photography of military and police personnel, equipment, and sites.

Both cash and credit cards are broadly accepted, and ATMs are widely available.

When booking travel or scheduling meetings, be mindful of Israel’s holidays and observances since businesses may be closed or have reduced hours.

Visas & Travel Documents

Before traveling to Israel, make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from your intended date of departure, that you have an onward/return ticket, and proof of sufficient funds. Depending on your citizenship, reason for travel, and length of stay, you may need a visa and to enter. Visa requirements are subject to change, so always check your visa and travel document requirements well in advance.

Immigration inspection upon entry and exit are known to be stringent. Upon arrival at the airport or border crossing, security forces may take laptops, mobile phones, and data storage devices for inspection. All travelers may receive additional screening measures. Additionally, it’s been reported that travelers whose passports show visas for certain Arab states or who are of Arab or Muslim heritage may receive increased security questioning.

Quick Facts

  • Currency: Israeli new shekel (₪)
  • Tipping: customary for hotel staff and 10-12% expected at restaurants (unless a service charge is included)
  • Voltage & plug type: 230 Volts; Types C, H, and M
  • Telephone code: +972
  • Emergency numbers: 100 (police), 101 (ambulance), 102 (fire)
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