Jerusalem is one of the holiest places on the planet for three major world religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Religious pilgrims from all over the world flock to the city to see important sites such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Western Wall, and Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Even secular visitors are awed by the majestic religious sites in the city as well as the diverse mix of faiths and peoples that characterized its streets for millennia.
Learn about the thousands of years of history both from museums and archeological sites such as the City of David, and by wandering the streets and lively street markets.
Jerusalem is a vibrant city full of different cultures and history, but its tumultuous history bleeds into the present. You might be wondering how safe it is to visit Jerusalem, or if you should admire the photos from afar.
Don’t worry — our travel experts have done the hard work for you. We’ll show you the safest parts of the city, the ones to avoid, common crimes you might encounter, how to avoid them, and more. Let us be your guide!
Is Jerusalem Safe to Visit?
You can visit Jerusalem, but you should exercise caution when you visit. The political situation between Israelis and Palestinians is still very tense, and the city is still contested politically.
Petty crime such as pickpocketing occurs, but most tourists are primarily worried about terrorism. In general, you should be prepared for unrest, terrorist attacks, and other dangerous situations when you visit anywhere in Israel.
The United States State Department advises citizens and employees to Exercise Increased Caution when visiting anywhere in Israel or the West Bank, including Jerusalem.
The security situation can change at any point, so it pays to be cautious. That being said, Jerusalem is one of the safer regions in Israel. It is far safer than border areas with Gaza, Syria including the Golan Heights, and Egypt.
Canada, which breaks its travel advisories for Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip down by region, tells its citizens they have to exercise a high degree of caution in Jerusalem as opposed to avoiding travel.
The biggest dangers in Jerusalem come from civil unrest and terrorism.
The city is still contested with some divided neighborhoods, and clashes can erupt at any time. Every so often there are protests that can turn violent, with attacks on passersby as well as on local businesses and residents.
Since the situation can change at any time, stay alert and follow local news while you are in Jerusalem. There have been terrorist attacks in Jerusalem in the past, especially on public transportation.
The upside of the fact that the security situation can change at any time is that most of the time, the situation is if not calm, at least not violent. Most tourists that come to Jerusalem come away with only positive experiences.
Besides the unique security situation, Jerusalem has many of the problems that tourist destinations around the world have.
This is especially true in places where there tends to be an income gap between foreign visitors and locals. Tourists experience minor crimes such as pickpocketing, bag snatching, sexual harassment, and scams.
To recap, problems visitors to Jerusalem can expect include:
- Petty theft
- Travel scams
- Sexual harassment or discrimination
- Civil unrest or terrorism
Keep in mind that the majority of people that visit Jerusalem have a positive experience in the city without any bad experiences, and that getting caught in a terrorist attack is still extremely rare, especially when you compare it to other regions of the country or the Middle East.
Crime in Jerusalem
The crime rate in Jerusalem is not too bad, especially considering that it is a big city with a tumultuous history. To get an overview of crime in Jerusalem, let’s look at crime in Israel as a whole.
According to statistics shared by The Jerusalem Post, the overall crime rate is 30.4 crimes per 1,000 citizens. That means that any year, only about 3% of Israeli citizens are victims of crimes.
The homicide rate is even lower, at 1.47 incidents per 100,000 civilians. This includes deaths due to terrorist attacks or clashes between Arab and Jewish populations. That means that the rate of intentional, targeted homicides is even lower.
Your risk of getting killed or suffering grievous bodily harm in Jerusalem is very low. It is hard to find crime statistics for Jerusalem specifically in the English language, but an informal survey of people’s attitudes can help us gauge how unsafe the city is.
The site Numbeo conducted an informal survey of people living in Jerusalem, especially expats.
The survey found that only 35.63% of people believed there was a problem with property crimes such as vandalism, and only 30.96% believed there was a problem with violent crimes such as assault or armed robbery.
Most property crime that does occur in Jerusalem doesn’t affect tourists. However, forms of petty theft such as pickpocketing and bag snatching do happen. Thieves are rarely violent, and tourists usually come away from encounters a little poorer and with a bruised pride.
Crime as we might think of it from Western countries is not a problem in Jerusalem as much as terrorism and civil unrest, which are highly unpredictable factors in a city often simmering with tension.
You can’t always predict what will happen when you visit Jerusalem, and it pays to be aware of the risks. However, you also shouldn’t act as if disaster could strike at any moment. Some basic precautions will be enough to help you stay safe.
The most common problem tourists encounter in Jerusalem is petty theft, even though most people worry about more dramatic events such as terrorism. It’s a little embarrassing to spend time worrying about a bomb only to have your wallet walk away.
The Old City with its warren of unnavigable streets is a haven for pickpockets, who know there will be distracted tourists coming around, and that they will not be able to follow the thief through the streets.
Some of the vendors in the market are pickpockets and bag snatchers or work with accomplices. Beware of someone getting close to you under the guise of selling something, especially if they are brushing their goods up against your purse.
If someone is getting aggressive with you about selling you their wares, move away and make sure that your valuables are secure. The Old City is not the only place in Jerusalem where you will encounter pickpockets.
Other popular tourist destinations such as the Mount of Olives, Kotel and the public restrooms nearby, Rechov Ha-Guy, and the famous Via Dolorosa are hotspots for pickpockets.
Scammers also operate around Jerusalem’s popular tourist destinations. One popular scam is to pick your pocket, then return your wallet and ask for a tip.
You will encounter a lot of similar scams you would find in other tourist destinations, such as friendly ATM helpers, the bird poop scam where someone tries to wipe bird dung off of you, or people aggressively promising to take you to a best bar down a hidden alleyway.
The Mount of Olives is popular for scammers as well, often people selling fake products.
Other common scams in Jerusalem include red prayer string bracelets near the Western Wall (which you have to pay for without knowing it) and restaurants intentionally not including the prices on their menus.
Some basic common sense and good luck can help you avoid being the victim of a scam or theft. Make sure that your valuables are secure.
Avoid pushy sellers as they probably want more than for you to buy their postcard. Finally, trust your instincts — if a deal feels too good to be true, it probably is.
Terrorism and Civil Unrest
The primary reason why most tourists worry about visiting Jerusalem is terrorism and civil unrest, and with good reason. The topic of who should govern the city still isn’t settled.
The Israeli government claims that it has control over all of Jerusalem, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem and that it was only taken away from them illegally after the 1967 war. The ethnic composition of Jerusalem is still mixed.
The result of these political circumstances is frequent protests by both sides, which easily turn to sectarian violence and violent clashes. These protests often encompass parts of the city that are the most popular with tourists, such as the Old City.
That’s because this falls under East Jerusalem, the disputed part, and contains the holy sites important to all three major religions that venerate Jerusalem.
The UK government advises its citizens to be vigilant when walking anywhere near the Old City or East Jerusalem. Protests are frequent and could turn at any moment. Always stay alert to what local authorities are telling you to do and follow their instructions.
Another good piece of advice is to monitor the behavior of Jerusalem residents, since they have more experience with protests and unrest.
If they’re just going about their daily business, then you can continue sightseeing. If you notice shopkeepers shutting down their businesses and it’s nowhere near closing time, get out of there as soon as possible.
Terrorist attacks are always possible in Jerusalem, so it pays to be vigilant. In November 2022, a bomb at a bus stop killed one person. However, the headlines emphasized that this attack was rare.
In early 2022, violence in the city escalated after Israeli forces evicted Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. Although terrorism is a constant threat in Jerusalem, in a more heightened way than it might be elsewhere, it is hardly omnipresent.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Being careful about where you go in Jerusalem can help you avoid any trouble. When you are visiting the major sites in Jerusalem, watch out for scammers and pickpockets as they lurk in places such as the Old City and Mount of Olives.
The sites may be holy, but the intentions of others there are anything but. The Old City is also prone to many protests as it is one of the contested areas.
Obviously, you should visit the Old City, but be aware of the potential for clashes as well as elsewhere in East Jerusalem. There are several refugee camps around the edge of Jerusalem which are slightly more dangerous due to the lack of services in them.
Things to Consider
Here are some other tips to stay safe in Jerusalem:
- Certain parts of Jerusalem are more conservative than others. Make sure you are wearing modest, loose-fitting clothing, especially in ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods.
- Jerusalem neighborhoods are segregated by religion and ethnicity, so keep that in mind before starting uncomfortable conversations.
- Don’t leave your bag unattended. Not only might it get snatched, but you might also unintentionally set off a bomb scare—people in Jerusalem don’t joke around about those things.
- In the summer, Jerusalem can get very hot, so make sure that you wear sunscreen and bring water.
- Clashes happen more often around Muslim or Jewish religious holidays so try to avoid traveling during that time
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some other questions you might want to know the answers to:
Is it safe to go to Jerusalem in 2023?
Yes, it is safe to go to Jerusalem in 2023. Just keep an eye on the security situation before you go and read local news.
Is it safe to visit Jerusalem and Bethlehem?
Jerusalem and Bethlehem are two holy sites for Christians, so many people want to know if it is safe to visit. Bethlehem is in the West Bank, but it is one of the safest towns in the area.
Can you wear jeans in Jerusalem?
Of course, you can wear jeans in Jerusalem. However, make sure you are not wearing jeans that are absolutely skin-tight when visiting conservative neighborhoods in the city. Also, in the summer jeans won’t be the most comfortable attire, so opt for lightweight, loose pants instead.
What should I be careful of in Israel?
When traveling in Israel, be careful of bringing up politics or religion as you never know what the person you are talking to might believe or might have experienced. Be careful of following the directions of authorities as they can be strict. Finally, be careful of respecting local norms and cultures.
Is it safe to walk alone in Jerusalem?
Yes, it is safe to walk alone in Jerusalem. However, keep in mind that pickpockets tend to target solo travelers, and women might receive a lot of unwanted attention.
So, Is Jerusalem Safe to Visit in 2023?
A trip to Jerusalem might require more precautions than a trip to your local grocery store, but it is still safe to visit. Just make sure to read up on the security situation before you go and stay vigilant to any changes. Happy travels!