US Warning – Avoid the Situation

I don’t know how they got my email, but they have it. So relatively often, I get a message from the US Consulate in Israel warning me that, as an American citizen, I should avoid certain areas of the country (Israel), lest I be harmed. It is something that often provides a smile. According to the Americans, I shouldn’t be traveling to my home (a mere 3 kilometers outside Jerusalem, the capital of Israel). According to the Americans, I shouldn’t travel to my sister’s house, about a 10 minute drive from our main, international airport.

For the most part, I think the warnings are issued so that they can say they warned us if something happens. Today, I am warned not to go into Gaza. Smart move, that one. It’s because of the “ongoing situation in Gaza.” I have to admit – in the last few weeks that Elie has been there, I have called what is happening now in Gaza a “war” and perhaps a “military operation,” but I never thought to call it a “situation.”

To me, a “situation” is when your guests want coffee and you suddenly realize you are out of milk. Now THAT is a situation. When one million people are being attacked by rockets, when fighter jets and artillery and tanks are on the move against booby-trapped houses and anti-tank missiles and rockets and mortars and phosperous and I don’t know what else, the term “situation” kind of makes you want to slam your head against the wall and wonder how the American Consulate could be so out of touch. It’s a WAR. WAR. See…a WAR. They are shooting rockets and trying to kill people. We moved our troops in. They are fighting house to house, finding explosives and guns. WAR.

I am also warned not to go near the Temple Mount; that one I would ignore if I had any plans to go but since it is Friday and I haven’t even put the chicken in the oven yet and I have company tonight (thanks for coming Elan and Rifka and Shani and Ariella and Amira and Haim…and is Herschel coming too?), I won’t be going there anyway.

I could probably get off the mailing list, but I stay on it because it reminds me that some people can live in a country, but never really understand it. You don’t have to warn Israelis (or Americans) to stay out of Gaza. Thanks to 60 years of warfare, you can’t really stumble into Gaza by mistake and if you’re going there, perhaps as a journalist or whatever, you know already that there are dangers.

I don’t know why this one “tickles my fancy” but I’ll post it here. Perhaps it is the formal tone – so different from Israeli society and culture. My son calls his commanding officers by their first names; his soldiers call him, “Elie.” And this warning is so…so formal in its tone.

It is so diplomatically correct – using both the Arab and Jewish ways of referring to the Temple Mount area, citing the Israeli police as the source for this recommendation, or at least part of it. It is so different from the kinds of warnings we receive from Israeli sources – and all these thoughts come just from reading this post:

The Israeli National Police are reporting the possibility of a large demonstration Friday, January 16, 2009, in the Old City and other possible demonstrations throughout East Jerusalem in protest of the ongoing situation in Gaza. There is expected to be a heavy police presence in and around the Old City throughout the day. It is recommended that United States Government employees avoid the Old City and its environs all day on Friday, January 16, 2009.

Access restrictions to the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount and a heavy police presence may spark disturbances at entry points, to include the Damascus, Herod’s and Lion’s gates, in addition to random security checkpoints setup throughout the areas leading to the Old City.

Heightened awareness should continue to be practiced when approaching established and random security checkpoints throughout the Jerusalem area, where crowds and the possibility of spontaneous disturbances may occur. American citizens should exercise caution, stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times.

In addition, the Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip. Conflict and violence can occur and spread rapidly and unpredictably in the Gaza Strip. The State Department strongly recommends that American citizens refrain from all travel to the Gaza strip. This recommendation has been in effect since the deadly roadside bombing of a U.S. Embassy convoy in Gaza in October 2003. It applies to all Americans, including journalists and aid workers. No U.S. government official travel is permitted inside the Gaza Strip at this time.

5 Comments on US Warning – Avoid the Situation

  1. They send these warnings in case you get killed they cannot get sued. Believe it or not, there are some people who sued the State Department for not warning their love ones in places of war.

    Just one chicken for so many people? How do you do it? We are 4 and it takes 2 chickens to feed us. Now a nice size turkey is a blessing. Can feed us for a few days.

  2. It’s OK – I got a similar message from the New Zealand embassy responsible for israel (which is based in Turky). They told me not to go to the Gaza Strip, not sure what i would do if I got called for miluim there (which isn’t very likely) – do I tell them I can’t go ’cause the NZ embassy told me not to?

    If you’re interested, here’s their email:

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has updated its travel advice for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza). Full text below.

    Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza)
    Reviewed: 13 January 2009, 15:10 NZDT
    Still current at: 13 January 2009

    There is extreme risk to your security in the occupied Palestinian territory of Gaza and we advise against all travel.

    There is extreme risk to your security in the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank, and we advise against all travel.

    There is some risk to your security in Israel and we advise caution. There is extreme risk to your security because of ongoing military operations along the border between Lebanon and Israel (the “Blue Line”) and we advise against all travel.

    Acts of terrorism and retaliatory military action in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (Gaza and the West Bank) continue to pose serious risks for visitors who may become caught up in such events.

    Occupied Palestinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza)

    We continue to advise against all travel to Gaza because of ongoing violence and the threat of kidnapping of foreign nationals. On 27 December 2008 Israel commenced military operations in the Gaza Strip. The security situation remains dangerous and unpredictable. Foreign nationals, including a New Zealander, have been kidnapped in Gaza and in the West Bank.

    The situation in the occupied Palestinian territories remains volatile with a high risk of violence. Military operations in the Gaza Strip have resulted in a large number of casualties.

    Entry into and exit from the occupied Palestinian territories into Israel remains tightly controlled by Israeli authorities. If you are a New Zealand national of Palestinian origin (on the Palestinian Population Register or holding a Palestinian ID number), you will need a Palestinian passport/travel document in order to leave. Such NZ/Palestinian dual nationals are permitted to travel abroad from the West Bank and Gaza only via the Rafah or Allenby Bridge border crossings into Egypt or Jordan. The Rafah crossing point is currently closed most of the time.


    We continue to advise against all travel to areas bordering Lebanon (the “Blue Line”). There is extreme risk to your security because of ongoing military operations along the border. On 14 August 2006 a ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon came into effect following the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701. On 8 January, a small number of rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.

    There is a continuing risk of terrorist attacks in Israel, including ongoing rocket attacks fired from Gaza into Israel. The Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip in particular should be avoided because of the danger of stray fire and rockets from Gaza.

    New Zealanders should be security conscious at all times and be extra vigilant in crowded or landmark places as well as proximity to hotels, bars, shopping areas, and tourist resorts. In July 2008, terrorist attacks were carried out in West Jerusalem resulting in a number of deaths and injuries. Demonstrations and public gatherings should be avoided. Public transport facilities should also be avoided. In April 2006 at the Old Central Bus Station, Tel Aviv, a suicide bomber killed 9 people and others sustained injuries.

    Care should also be taken at the crossing points between Israel and Jordan.

    New Zealanders travelling to or resident in Israel should have comprehensive medical and travel insurance policies that include provision for medical evacuation by air.

    New Zealanders visiting or living in Israel are encouraged to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade,

    The New Zealand Embassy Ankara, Turkey is accredited to Israel Contact details are:

  3. “Access restrictions to the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount…”
    Hmmm, Arabic and English but no Hebrew (Har habayit). Is this discrimination against the Jews? Or is it typical patronizing racism against the Arabs, assuming that they don’t know English?

    Shabbat shalom!

  4. This is a very odd, instead of the U.S.A. Helping the Israeli war effort they instead send warning messages, I’m sorry the United States has slacked off the on helping its allies and I know I am from the U.S.A. but I say it enough is enough the united states needs to get its prorates In order

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