It is well known among expats in Saudi Arabia that traveling to Israel is risky and can get you denied entry to many countries in the Middle East. Worst case scenario, you will be deported back to your country once the immigration find out that you had an Israeli stamp in your passport.
With the tension between Israel and many Countries in the Middle East, traveling to Israel unless previously arranged as part of a diplomatic mission, will likely subject you to intensive screening and refusal to entry back to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, in less stable countries you might be arrested.
The good news is that since January 2013 the Israeli authorities have not been stamping the passports of the foreigners. Tourists and visitors are given the entrance visa on another piece of paper where the photo and personal information of the person are mentioned. It also says when the visa expires and what type is it. Same process when you leave the country, another piece of paper will be given to you as an exit visa.
If you are an expat working in Saudi Arabia and wish to visit Israel, you need to take an extra precaution and study on how to get to Israel without Saudi Arabia knowing about it. I will share you how I did it and how I was able to come back in Saudi Arabia safe and sound.
GETTING TO ISRAEL
You have options to choose on how to travel to Israel. Either you can fly from Jeddah to Amman and then travel by land from Amman to Israel by crossing the border or you can just fly to Istanbul then from Istanbul to Tel-Aviv by air. I chose the option wherein I flew to Istanbul, stay there for few days then I booked a flight to Tel-Aviv via Turkish Airlines. To be on the safe side, do not book your flight to Tel-Aviv while you are in Saudi Arabia for them not to detect that you are flying to Israel. Please keep in mind to book it while you are in other Countries like Jordan and Turkey. I booked mine and purchased it online while I was backpacking Turkey.
ARRIVING TEL-AVIV AIRPORT
Upon arrival, you are going to be questioned in detail about the purpose of your journey in Israel. Have your hotel reservations ready to show them if they ask you. They might ask (very likely) about your departure and again it is good to show them your flight ticket. Do you know anyone in Israel? Are you planning to go to the West Bank? What is your job in Saudi Arabia? These might be some of the questions.
Once they allow you to get in, simply ask the Israeli immigration official not to stamp your passport, but instead to stamp it on a piece of paper that you can present upon your departure. Although they knew about it already but still your assurance that they will not stamp it on your passport is a must. Most travelers have success with this tactic, but be forewarned, there have been reports of Israeli officials finding this behavior suspicious and singling those travelers out for questioning. So make sure to a lot plenty of time to ready yourself for your departure and arrival.
TIME FOR ADVENTURE
All the doubts and worries you have will be replace by excitement and happiness once you finally entered Israel. There are lots of tourists’ destinations and activities that you can do in Israel. Given that it is considered holy of Christians, Jews and Muslims. Why? Because this was the place where Jesus Christ was born, raised and this is where he teaches his pupils, how he help people, how he make miracles and changed their lives, etc. In short, this was the place where the history begins.
On my first day, I visited the Holy Sepulchre Church also called the Church of the Resurrection. This was the site where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, it is also the place where they place his empty tomb where he is said to have been buried and resurrected.
I also visited the Western Wall or the place of weeping. It is an ancient limestone wall in the Old City of Jerusalem where Jews are permitted to pray and they considered it holy due to its connection to the Temple Mount.
It’s time to visit the birthplace of Jesus Christ. I was surprised and didn’t know that Betlehem is actually part and located in Palestine. For you to be able to visit it, you need to travel by car and cross the border to enter Palestine. On my way, I saw signage’s where they put warning to visitors to take extra precautions and be safe, there are areas that Israelis are not allowed to enter, so many restrictions, etc.
I can’t explain the feeling when I finally entered Palestine, most especially when I was inside the Church of Nativity; the place where Jesus Christ was born. It’s just that there are no words to describe that exact feeling I have when I finally able to see it on my own eyes and touched the same spot where Jesus Christ was born. All I knew in my heart that I was very blessed. Glory to God in the Highest!
After visiting Palestine, we drove back to Jerusalem and headed to Mount of Olives. This was the favorite location for Jesus’ teachings to his pupils, this was the place where he wept over Jerusalem, the place where Judas betrayed Jesus in exchange of 30 pieces of silver coins and also this is the cemetery of Jews.
On my second day, I visited the Dead Sea; the lowest place on Earth. This is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water and people will float due to natural buoyancy. It attracts visitors from around the world for thousands of years and it’s very famous because of black mud that is worldwide known for improving skin’s natural processes and etc.
These were just few of my adventures while I was in Israel, there are a lot more you can visit and do. If you are the person who loves night life, then Tel-Aviv is the best place for you.
If you’ve been in Israel already, I would love to hear your story about your activities and places you’ve been visited. Simply share your experiences by writing it in the comment section.Google+