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Take Israel Off Travel Warnings List

Take Israel Off Travel Warnings List

The U.S. State Department should stop telling Americans to defer travel to Israel.


Over the past few years American students have encountered resistance from their university administrations over one destination in particular: Israel.

Across the country at hundreds of universities, college students are embarking on international study abroad opportunities. They are experiencing new cultures, practicing their foreign languages, trying new foods and broadening their horizons.

Over the past few years, however, American students have encountered resistance from their university administrations over one destination in particular: Israel. Many students, including those at Yale, must take a leave of absence to study aboard in Israel. In these cases, students cannot not receive academic credit for or apply scholarships to study in Israel. Some are even told their scholarships will not be available for them upon their return.

University administration's objections have one common factor: the U.S. Department of State travel warnings. The State Department has travel warnings for 26 countries. The list includes violence hot spots like Haiti, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo, Colombia, Libya, Bosnia, Iran, Lebanon, Algeria and Zimbabwe. Notably absent from this list are sites of recent terrorist activity in the past year, like Greece, Egypt and Spain.

This categorization of Israel has severely damaged Israel's already weak economy.

This categorization of Israel has severely damaged Israel's already weak economy. Before the violence broke out in late 2000, Israel averaged more than 2 million tourists per year (the equivalent, percentage-wise, of almost 100 million people visiting the United States every year). Israeli tourism peaked with 2,416,800 people in 2000. That year, Israel took in $3 billion from tourism. To put this in perspective, Israel receives about $4 billion in foreign aid from the United States. In addition, Israel's tourism comprises almost 3 percent of Israel's economy (all of the agriculture in the United States is only 1.5 percent of its economy).

In 2001, tourism fell more than 50 percent, and in 2002 fell to 35 percent of its 2000 level. Tourism is picking up slowly, and in 2005 Israel is expecting almost 1.5 million visitors, the largest number since 2000. However, this is still only 60 percent of its pre-2000 level.

Every year, Americans (and not just students) of different religions and ethnic and political backgrounds want to travel to Israel but often do not because of fear of terrorist attacks. Without diminishing the horror and brutality of terrorism, it is important to look at comparative statistics about how many people die in terrorist attacks each year in relation to more everyday fatalities for Americans.

From 2001 to 2003, the number of people killed in Israel in traffic accidents (1,607) was almost double the number of people killed in terrorist attacks (870). Furthermore, the per capita number of traffic fatalities (1 in 12,000) is less than half of the number in the United States (1 in 5,000). The State Department does not appear to be advising Americans to not ride in cars.

In addition, the fence the Israeli army built between Israel and the Gaza Strip has virtually eliminated terrorist attacks coming from the Gaza Strip. The unfinished fence between Israel and the West Bank has already reduced terrorist attacks within Israel by 90 percent. Other ramifications of the fence notwithstanding, once it is completed, it will virtually eliminate terrorist attacks within Israel.

Regardless of statistics, Americans will still fear terrorism in Israel. However, terrorism can occur anywhere -- in Spain, Greece, Japan, Ireland or even right here at home. Just three weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, then New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani said to the United Nations General Assembly: "We can't let terrorists change the way we live -- otherwise they will have succeeded... We need to reassert our right to live free from fear with greater confidence and determination than ever before... With one clear voice, unanimously, we need to say that we will not give in to terrorism."

The time has come to move the safer part of Israel (excluding the West Bank and Gaza Strip) off the travel warning list. The United States should continue to advise its citizens of the risk of traveling to Israel, as it does for every country from Egypt to France. However, it should stop telling Americans to defer travel to Israel.

Israel is America's strongest ally in the world today, and there is no better way to show this bond of friendship than by removing barriers for economic and travel cooperation between the two countries.

For too long, the State Department has allowed terrorism to change our lives. Removing the State Department's travel warning for Israel would allow students to study abroad there and would continue to strengthen America's ties with Israel.

(Originally appeared in the Yale Daily News)

January 29, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 15

(15) Aimee, February 1, 2006 12:00 AM

Be smart not restricted

I have travled to and through Israel and the West Bank several times since the most recent eruptions of violence in 2000. Yes, I am an American citizen and yes, it is true that there is animosity toward my country. However, I never felt in danger. You just have to be wise. Avoid large public gatherings or rallies, especially if they look like a funeral. Aviod Palestinian cities centers after Friday prayers. Don't try to stand out or wear your political affiliations on your sleeve. Why miss out on a great experience when there is no real threat to those who use basic street smarts.

(14) pam, September 10, 2005 12:00 AM

Good article -- very informative.

Thanks for this information -- I agree with all of the points you've made.

(13) Anonymous, May 6, 2005 12:00 AM

Israel isn't the only one. And the U.S.A. government isn't the only one.

'Travel warnings' is one of the terror attacks themself.

Victims of recents criminal activies (are they still called criminal activies) currently refered to as 'terror attacks' are always relatively very low in number in comparison of the overall 'normal' criminal activies, but is that somehow these 'terrror attacks' is more important than others that make 'travel advisory' into a travel ban?

These indicate something, there're two possibilities, stupidity, or... the intentional intention to malign. I vote for the later. Other so called reasons are 'political instability', 'high crime', and so on.

I suggest for people from countries or areas that are listed as 'hazardous' and so on to become friends with each other and realized that somewhere out there, there are people who out to defame their areas.

Anyway. This article seems

First of all, it listed some areas as 'violence hot spots', but not considered that in the mind of some people Israel is considered as a 'violence hot spot' (it's not true of course, but hey, if they lie about Israel being not a safe place to vist, don't you think that they could also be lying about other places?).

The article also asked the U.S.A. to advise its citizens of the risk of traveling to Israel, but not advise to defer travel to Israel. What if the advisory is something that could 'terrorize' would be travelers? There wouldn't be the need to advise to defer travel at all, since the would be travelers would be already terrorize by the travel warnings.

Maybe the article instead of asked the U.S.A. government to advise its citizens about the risk of any country at all, it should have asked the U.S.A. government to advise a general (all purpose for all areas) its citizens on how to travel outside the country, instead of focusing in any particular country at all.

(12) Merlock, February 20, 2005 12:00 AM

On Israeli travel...

I don't really understand how this "Do Not Travel" list works, but in my humble opinion, the State Department should continue to warn people of Israel's riskiness, but at the same time not impede economically travel there is a person decides to take that risk; and schools should not punish students for wanting to improve their cultural/spiritual lives, but again, everyone should be warned before they board their planes. In my humble opinion.

(11) pesach aceman, February 7, 2005 12:00 AM

put Chicago New York on travel warning

I would like to suggest that you leave the terms 'west bank and gaza' off of your concerns as they are properly named Yehuda, Shomron and Gush Katif. They are no more dangerous than your cities of New York and Chicago and it further segregates Jewish cities towns and yishuvim as though they are not part of Israel thereby fulfilling your presidents dream of a divided Israel with its enemies at its doors. America Canada or any other nation would never tolerate what we tolerate here BUT IT MUST END. Therefore I ask you to recognize Israel as Israel and not divide it up like our enemies and the Americans want it to be for.....OIL!
Come visit like most of the commentators have said it may grow on you and spark off that light of self awareness that we are all ONE PEOPLE

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