Most Israelis ignore rare 'general' travel warning

'Post' asks departing and arriving travelers at Ben Gurion how security alerts affect their travel plans.

bg airport 88 (photo credit:)
bg airport 88
(photo credit: )
Israelis are all too familiar with the travel alerts and warnings issued on a regular basis by the Counter-Terrorism Bureau in the Prime Minister Office. Last week, the office put out a rare "general" travel warning for Israelis traveling anywhere overseas following Hizbullah's threat to expect "shocking" retaliation for February's assassination in Damascus of arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, which the Islamist group blames on Israel. The Jerusalem Post decided to look into how, if at all, these general warnings were affecting Israelis' travel plans. On Sunday, the Post asked departing and arriving travelers at Ben-Gurion Airport how they had been informed about the alerts and whether they thought the government should use "creative" ways of contacting Israelis abroad, such as text messaging. The answers were very Israeli. "The government does so much to bring back Israelis thrown into dangerous situations abroad, like what happened in Georgia when two planes were sent to evacuate innocent Israeli tourists. Sending a text message is a good idea, and it wouldn't cost them a thing because the phone's owner pays the entire bill while abroad," said Oved Shuti from Or Yehuda. Shuti was on his way to a five-day vacation in Varna, Bulgaria, with his wife and two children. He said his family would take care not to speak in Hebrew loudly, and remove their kippot and Magen David pendants. Simona Abutbul from Rishon Lezion was much more concerned about the alerts. "I don't want you to speak Hebrew to me there. Speak Arabic or French if you can," she instructed her husband, Mordechai. "Of course I'm going to be more alert - we're going to Turkey and it's not the safest place on earth." "We heard about the alert on the news. It said to be careful of abductions and terrorist attacks," Tel Aviv resident Ortal Hatuka, 20, told the Post. She was about to take off to Burgas, Bulgaria, with two friends. "We don't intend to be alone and after dark in remote places and we plan to move from place to place by taxi," added Moriyah Halimov, 21, from Holon. The three women agreed that receiving travel alerts via text messages could be useful, especially for someone who was away for a long time. "I just hope we'll be okay," Revital Kusayev, 21, from Tel Aviv, said in a worried tone. Mazal Iturak from Ashdod and her husband said the travel warning did not affect their plans to enjoy Turkey. "We're originally from there, and we know where its safe and where we'd better not hang out. We wouldn't have changed our plans because of [the warning]." She added that she would not oppose a service offering travel warnings via text message. At the arrivals hall the atmosphere was much more comfortable. After all, the passengers there had arrived home safely. "No one told us about the alerts and we didn't take a cellular phone with us, but we read on the Internet about the alerts that Hizbullah would attempt to abduct Israelis," said Avishai Dabush, 28, from Holon, who had returned from Turkey with his friend Ortal Kazum, 21, from Tel Aviv. Dabush and Kazum thought that informing travelers abroad about alerts was a bad idea. "What good can come out of it? It would ruin the vacation. We live in constant fear, so why reach us abroad, too? If something serious happens, our parents will inform us," Dabush said. Orly Biton from Beersheba left for Bulgaria with her husband and a couple of friends four days ago without hearing a thing about the travel warning. "We already know we should be alert at all times, not to walk alone and not to gather in groups. This is all old news," she said, adding that prior to the trip she had been very nervous, "but when we arrived there I calmed down. The Bulgarian people are very much like the Israelis, and the atmosphere there was relaxing." The Prime Minister's Office said travel alerts and warnings were disseminated via Israeli and foreign media outlets, the office's Web site and embassies and consulates abroad.