For more reasons to believe that Israel is a safe country, look at Tel Aviv
Your concerns as a mom are super valid. Imagine me explaining to my Asian family that I am living in Israel. It’s tough and it took a while for them to be okay with it. Tel Aviv is a place for young people and your daughter will really really enjoy it.
I live here so if you need any help (or assurance), you can always send me an e-mail or contact me via Instagram DM. I would also love to meet your daughter so I hope you can introduce me to her! I think being confident in living/traveling in Israel is all about having the right contacts.
Whatever you decide, good luck!
I have received a lot of nasty remarks about my ‘poor’ decisions on moving to Tel Aviv. Aside from Instagram stories of my daily life here, I don’t really know how to tell everyone that Israel is safe. Now, in this post, I have to be honest that I can’t speak for the whole country because I only stayed in Tel Aviv longer. Most of the Israeli cities I visited were short stays (1-10 days) so I do not have the first-hand experience in the safety department. Regardless of gender and travel preference, you will find the answers to your questions about Israel’s safety through Tel Aviv in this post.
Now, I don’t expect you to believe everything I say but if you’d take time, click on the items below to jump to the content you are more interested in.
Tel Aviv vs Israel
When I am outside of Israel, I have this habit of psychologically testing everyone. In every traveler’s story, the question “Where are you from?” always pops.
Sometimes, I feel like saying, “I am from the Philippines but I live in Tel Aviv.” Through this, I found out that not everyone knows about Tel Aviv so I always have to change my answer to “I’m from the Philippines but I live in Israel.”
For people who know both Israel and Tel Aviv, there are two different stories. If I say Tel Aviv, they’d go: “Oh wow, what an amazing city!” But if I say Israel, all those rude comments and hate threads will intertwine and they’ll end up harassing me with questions about war and politics – 2 things I am not greatly involved in.
Why 2 different reactions?
For many, Israel is a war-torn country that has a dispute and never-ending problems with the territory. Israel can also connotate religion and Jews. The single story of Israel has single imagery – the war and combat in Gaza and the West Bank are marked as ‘favorite’ in all the galleries of online media.
But Tel Aviv? It’s a bubble. Before coming here, I don’t have an embedded image of the city’s vibe because nobody shows it. It’s a different world that never implied religion, Judaism, or war. Nobody wants to showcase the city life in the Mediterranean sea because it’s too pleasant. Israel should always be about war so featuring Tel Aviv in the media will ruin that established ‘publicity’.
The media is the by-product of knowing Israel and Tel Aviv as two different worlds and sometimes, if you hear about Tel Aviv and you’re not familiar with it, the image projecting in your mind is ugly and violent.
But this blog is a different kind of media. I’ve been using Tel Aviv as my base since August 2016 and what you will read here are my version and my own truth. Again, as I have stated above, as this is my story, as I have full ownership of this blog as my creative space, you are going to get my version if you choose to continue reading.
Okay, mum. The rockets flying over Tel Aviv is so 2014.
Now let’s lay the facts here. The news you read three years ago is very true. The Israel-Gaza conflict in 2014 is not a secret. There were kidnappings, bombs, and stabbing that shocked the world because it popped the Tel Aviv bubble. For outsiders who are familiar with the city, it is very unimaginable that one of the most vibrant cities in the world was also compromised by this never-ending dispute. I said ‘never-ending’ because it is still happening up to now but not here. The coast is literally clear. Positive or negative, you need to know that.
“Mum, the bombs are so 2014.”
“What do you mean? I saw them flying over Tel Aviv!”
“That was 3 years ago! How can I go out here every day with rockets flying around, huh?”
“I don’t know! But be careful! And don’t fall in love with a Jewish boy!”
I have to change how I put my mother’s actions into words. She is not a CNN fan. She is not believing everything she sees on TV. She doesn’t believe everything she reads on the news. SHE IS A MOTHER and I understand where this is coming from.
I assured her that this is very unlikely to happen again in Tel Aviv but if it does, you will hear loud sirens in the whole city which literally means “go to the nearest evacuation center and keep calm.” All the areas and neighborhoods in Tel Aviv have their designated shelters and I know where they are all located so I’ll be fine. Even new houses and buildings are constructed to have safe rooms.
I never experienced this but I heard a lot of stories from my friends and most of them are very relaxed about it. They even have funny stories about being caught up in a middle of an activity like swimming on the beach, getting out of the shower, working out in a gym, etc. No matter what you are doing, you have to drop everything when the siren calls.
I didn’t tell my mum about this but if the Philippines experiences this kind of emergency, I don’t think we have designated evacuation areas in my neighborhood that is safe from airstrikes. That is safe from anything! If this happens in my country, everyone will panic and wouldn’t know what to do.
In Israel, there is training. At a very young age, even children know where to go when this happens. They are prepared. The whole country ages 18 and above are trained because every freaking one is required to go to the army. I don’t know any country in this world that has the same level of expertise when it comes to not panicking and exercising order even in the most dreaded circumstance.
You don’t want to talk about it but it’s time we do. When the London Bridge attack happened last week, where did people go? When the terror attack happened in Berlin, Stockholm, Paris, Manchester, Manila, Bangkok, Marawi, Nice, where did people go? There were many shootings in schools in the United States where children were involved but were they instructed to go somewhere safe within the school’s premises? It’s a school! It should be safe for children, right? Even the Normandy Church which was supposed to be a refuge was attacked, remember? Even Charlie Hebdo’s high-end offices in Paris weren’t able to provide shelter.
When Paris was attacked in 2015, where did people run to? To their homes? To another city? Remember that the attack carried on to its neighbor, Brussels and people were not ready for it.
We are trained for floods, earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, and all the natural disasters but when it comes to terrorism, what do we know? Where do we stand?
I don’t want to scare you but I want you to wake up. I am now very awake. We don’t know how to respond to this kind of circumstance and they can happen. In fact, they are already happening. Those questions on Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor that starts with “Is it safe to travel to _______ ?” have been already asked 10,000 times and over 100 countries filled that blank.
This is my state of mind: there is no safe place now but when push comes to shove, I know what to do. No country is responsible for your safety but there is you. Train yourself.
Wow, that shit was heavy. For further reading about safety is not a place’s concept anymore, you can read this post.
Before you enter Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, prepare for a heavy check
I want to debunk the myth that Filipinos are often the ones who are heavily interrogated. When I was boarding my flight from Larnaca to Tel Aviv, I found myself in a long line with Israelis being heavily checked. They were questioned just the same as me. I used to be so scared in entering Ben-Gurion Airport because they might deport me. There are a lot of illegal Filipino workers here and even if I tell them I don’t plan to work here, my passport screams illegal alien so I am automatically in that bandwagon. I can’t be exempted. Seriously, who wants to work here? The salary in Israel is very low. I ain’t going to work for that shit. But I love it here so I always came back without knowing if they will never let me in.
Now, we spoke about terrorism in the first part and you know very well that Israel is not the Gulf nation’s favourite. All the countries surrounding Israel kicked them out of the friend zone. Imagine that! In my opinion, the extensive check is about guaranteeing that no harm will come to the country. I can understand this paranoia so whenever I feel like I am being judged by the Immigration Officer because of my passport, I just smile and go through the process with them. You just have to answer a few questions (okay, not a few. Sometimes a lot) and show your belongings. What’s hard with that? If you ain’t hiding anything, what should you be scared of?
You might also like: The best places to visit in Israel
Just like how I learned we can’t label a country ‘safe’ anymore, in Tel Aviv, I also learned there are no biases with citizenship. My Dutch friend was given a 12-day visa when she arrived Israel from Sinai; a Spanish girlfriend of mine was heavily checked in a separate room in Ben Gurion Airport. And me? 90 days, always. Three times in 1 year, in and out of Israel, always, 90 days.
Tel Aviv is female-friendly. In fact, super female-friendly!
I wanted to make a dedicated post about safety for female travelers in Israel but I realized you can easily Google that. In travel forums, travel blogs, travel groups, over 15,000 girls will tell you the same: Tel Aviv is very safe for women.
Israeli men can be a bit pushy but not in a bad way. It’s something you shouldn’t be concerned about nor be scared to explore. Below are some women travel stories I published about Tel Aviv:
- Welcome to Israel: where women run the outstanding world of Israeli men
- Tel Aviv Yourself Ep 3: some truths about dating Israeli men
What should I wear as a solo female traveler in Israel?
Tel Aviv is very western. Think Berlin, Hong Kong, New York, Barcelona – but with the Mediterranean sea. What do you see? You can come as you are! You don’t have to cover anything; be braless as you please! The beauty of Tel Aviv is that nobody gives a shit even if you’re walking shoeless. Nobody will judge. Nobody cares. There is so much freedom here it’s too good to be true. In a short time of living here, I think that freedom made me a bolder person as I was before.
Can I walk the streets of Tel Aviv without being harmed?
Yes. My first month in Tel Aviv was extremely surprising. I went out for my birthday, got drunk and was walking on the streets at 3:30am with my bike. I was clearly very wasted but aware of my surroundings – no one ever took advantage of me. I would never do this in any city in the world – not even my own hometown.
Can I trust the Israeli police in case something happens to me?
Tel Aviv is alive 24/7. You will see people having coffee at 2 in the morning, breakfast places hustle catering the after-parties and police are continuously patrolling everywhere. I never had a first-hand experience with police being nasty but I believe they do their job here. If in doubt, you can always trust the locals around you. Israelis are very friendly!
Tel Aviv is the gayest city of all the gay cities
I grew up being bullied because I have two gay uncles. Yes, 2 of my mother’s brothers are gay and my family never drew a line between genders. In a ‘conservative’ society like mine, there is a very clear distinction between genders but I was raised not to participate in putting labels or emphasizing dissimilarity. It has been so hard for my uncles and friends to live a free life in the Philippines because it will always be an issue no matter what you do. This is the reason why I am very inspired by my uncles who were not deterred by pain or danger and continued being themselves.
In Tel Aviv, I got more inspired. How in the world can a city in the Middle East where “being a man” is mandatory be also a city that is super gay-friendly? I thought gays are being stoned to death and crucified upside down here?
Last week, I attended the Tel Aviv’s worldly-known pride parade: ranked as the biggest and the best pride celebration in the world. In here, I saw how everyone has so much respect for the LGBT community. Even straight people were in the parade to extend their support! Gay people speak freely here and they have their own marriage rights according to the civil laws of Israel.
Tel Aviv is home to every nationality
New York, Hong Kong and Barcelona can say they have every nationality in the world but I have never seen such diversity as Tel Aviv. Eastern Europeans, Asians, Americans, Eritreans, a handful of French people – everyone is here! During the Holocaust, the Jews who escaped migrated and traveled all over the world before coming to Israel and that is one of the reasons of the diversity Tel Aviv has.
Not only they are diverse nationality-wise but also religious-wise. Let me tell you about the neighbourhood I live in. Jaffa is located in the south of Tel Aviv and has a mixed community – Muslims, Jews and Christians live here in peace. They interact daily in the flea market, in supermarkets and even small kiosks. This is one of the amazing things I’ve seen while living here. Every day, I am observing my surroundings because I want to be one of the people to tell a story about how people found their way in adapting to each other and living life on their own terms, in one area, without fighting.
Of course, I am not saying it’s all rainbows and unicorns in Jaffa. Some days, people find it hard to set aside their differences so arguments on the street (even fights) are common. No, no, no, they’re not pointing guns at each other. Sometimes, when I hear about stories of petty arguments on the streets, I can’t help but laugh. They really are petty! The way I see it, in order to survive in a mixed community like this, you have to stand your guard and stick to the belief that this is your home – no one can take it away from you. But nobody wants to hurt nobody.
Tel Aviv's traffic safety
I have a habit of observing Filipinos abroad when I see them on the streets. We are a country who has zero traffic rules and even if we do, they remain forgotten or broken. We are never going to be good at this but the good news is, when Filipinos are outside the Philippines, they truly obey traffic laws.
In Israel, there are pedestrian lights that everyone is following diligently. There is a very high priority here for pedestrians so even in the absence of the lights, you can still cross the street with caution and all the cars will stop for you (as long as you are on the right crossing). I have to clarify this because the Philippines and most organisation challenged countries also can’t find the time to draw lines on the streets. Everyone can just cross wherever they please.
A friend from South Africa is one of those people who is very much amazed by how cars respect pedestrians in Tel Aviv. While waiting on a side street without the lights, he tells me all the time, “Trish, check this out!” He will slowly tiptoe and walk towards the middle of the street and all the cars approaching will stop. I guess crossing the streets in Cape Town is also a struggle.
See also: Tel Aviv food guide
On another note, I also heard a lot of accidents in Tel Aviv so I guess we should just stick to the rules. Note that Tel Aviv is also a bike city. You will see a lot of bikes on side streets so be careful most especially if you are coming out your door or a restaurant parallel to a street. Bikers appear from nowhere so watch out!
I don’t know if you get annoyed by this but I really do: Tel Aviv is a honking city. I don’t understand why everyone has to use their horns all the time. The unnecessary beeping drives me nuts.
I live here! So come!
I arrived here in August 2016 when Vibe Israel invited me to join their media trip – an invitation I accepted without question. Having met a lot of Israelis in South America, I have always been curious how Israel is like. When Israeli friends invite me to come over, I’d smile and say, “of course!” but in reality, this is one of the ‘of courses’ we say when we are not really sure about stuff. It’s like when a friend asks you to have a beer and you have the habit of saying, “I’ll follow” but in reality, you never will.
The truth is, I was also scared to go to Israel because of my mother, because of my grandmother and the news. I met so much Israelis while traveling I thought they were escaping the war in their country! Wow, can you believe that ignorance? I went because girls like me are continuously challenged to tell their own story. I like telling my own story. I love it when I can put a tangible experience into words (although most days, it is very challenging). My inputs above are proof that I have my own story to tell about Israel; proof that I am human and awake.
Here’s my ‘living in Tel Aviv’ situation: Filipinos are allowed to stay here for 90 days visa-free. Since I visited in August 2013, I went out 4 times already and traveled to Georgia, Armenia, Sri Lanka, Jordan and Morocco for a month or two. This is what I call my visa-run.
I stay out of Tel Aviv for at least a month to avoid being held off Immigration. Even if Philippine passport holders are given 90 days here, there are a lot of illegal workers here plus the paranoia with security so I can’t really risk it. I want to clarify that I am not living here illegally. I am on a tourist visa and never did I overstay because it also comes with a grave consequence. Just one day of overstaying and they can ban you go enter Israel for one year. I don’t want that!
To summarise my feelings towards living in Tel Aviv, I have to tell you that I never had this feeling, so strong about living somewhere. I grew up on the road and I liked being out there. I never thought I can come to a point where I can rent my own apartment, have neighbours to share Shabbat dinners with, have friends to have regular brunches with – it’s all so new to me and even if you think I am growing up backwards, I love this self-discovery I am currently in.
A lot of people are quitting their jobs to travel the world so maybe, just maybe, I can give myself a headline about quitting my life of travel to live in Tel Aviv.
Two readers already visited me here (from Europe and Australia) so I hope you will give it a chance. Israel is safe. See it for yourself and write your own story. As always, if you ever come to visit, first round of drinks on me!