Travel Information and Risks for Passover 2018
22 Mar 2018
Passover 2018 will begin on the evening of 30 March and run until the evening of 07 April. This Jewish festival celebrates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt under the leadership of Moses. It is celebrated with a series of rituals which commemorate the biblical stories of the Israelites’ freedom from Egypt. It is one of the most widely observed Jewish festivals, including by secular Jews. There are fears that such an important holiday may be a potential and symbolic terror target.
- The festival of Passover is due to take place between 30 March and 07 April 2018.
- Terror attacks are possible during this Jewish religious festival and recent developments may make such incidents more likely.
- Israeli security forces are preparing for a Palestinian “Day of Rage”.
Travel Information: Passover 2018 will begin on the evening of 30 March and run until the evening of 07 April. This Jewish festival celebrates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt under the leadership of Moses. It is celebrated with a series of rituals which commemorate the biblical stories of the Israelites’ freedom from Egypt. It is one of the most widely observed Jewish festivals, including by secular Jews. There are fears that such an important holiday may be a potential and symbolic terror target.
Passover is traditionally a time for Jews to go to Temple. Due to this, heavy security measures are set to be implemented for the Passover period in Jerusalem. In 2017, more than 3,500 police officers were deployed to patrol Jerusalem during this Passover period. Each year, a particular emphasis is placed on the Old City as authorities generally expect around 150,000 visitors. Both Israel and Palestine claim Jerusalem as their capital, making the site a contentious one.
Security forces in Israel are gearing up for mass protests on the eve of Passover. Palestinians are set to engage in a “Day of Rage” on 30 March 2018. This date commemorates a 1976 decision by Israel to expropriate land in the Galilee region, which led to riots and the deaths of six Arab-Israeli citizens. The “Day of Rage” or “Mass March of Return” may see tens of thousands of protesters surge and storm border fences and checkpoints. This year’s anniversary is more poignant, and potentially more violent, not only because it falls within Passover but also because of the recent decision by US President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Reports from Israeli TV suggests that Hamas is budgeting $10 million for these protests (though this has not been independently verified).
The closure of border crossings is highly likely during the Passover period. In 2017, the IDF enacted a week-long closure of border crossings with the West Bank and Gaza strip. The closures came ostensibly as a preventative measure against potential attacks. Under the move, Palestinians were only permitted to enter or exit the West Bank or Gaza Strip in exceptional circumstances. This move caused unrest at border posts and checkpoints. On the morning of 11 April 2017, Israeli forces and Palestinian youths clashed at the Atara checkpoint, north of Ramallah town. Further violent clashes are expected in 2018, especially on Fridays and the aforementioned “Day of Rage”.
In 2017, Israeli authorities also closed the border with the Sinai region of Egypt and strongly advised its citizens not to travel to the region (a popular activity during Passover festivities). The move came after rockets were fired on the border town of Yuval from Sinai on 10 April 2017, supposedly by Islamic State. The terror group, who are fighting an insurgency against the Egyptian state in Sinai, have been reluctant in the past to attack Israel. Israeli authorities were obviously concerned that further attacks may occur during Passover either on its citizens in the Sinai region or at its border. Travellers can expect similar advice in 2018.
The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) fear terror attacks during the Passover period. As noted, security operations are stepped up during this period. In recent years, The IDF has been able to prevent large scale atrocities similar to events such as in 2002 when Hamas carried out a suicide bombing during a Passover Seder (a Jewish ritual feast) at the Park Hotel in Netanya, killing 30 people and injuring 140. Low technology, “lone wolf” attacks are more likely. These incidents are generally aimed at Israeli security forces and involve stabbings or vehicle-ramming attacks. However, civilians can be targeted too. In the lead up to this year’s Passover, on 18 March, an Israeli man was stabbed and killed in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. On the day before, two Israeli soldiers were killed and two more injured after a Palestinian man attacked them in a car near the Mevo Dotan settlement in the northern West Bank. Security forces in Israel have reported that some 200 “lone wolf” attacks have been thwarted since the beginning on 2018.
Jewish communities across the world face potential targeting, with a higher threat during the Passover period. Some of the largest non-Israeli Jewish communities are in the United States. In 2017, federal and local law officials stepped up surveillance of Jewish establishments. This came in relation to the religious festival and recent threats against Jewish locations. The US Anti-Defamation League had tallied more than 160 hoax bomb threats to Jewish schools, synagogues, and cultural centres in the first few months of 2017. Across Europe, antisemitism is reportedly increasing and is closely related to the rising popularity of far-right political parties in countries like the UK, Hungary, and France.
The likelihood of a large-scale terror attack occurring on Israeli soil, including Jerusalem, is low. Israel maintains advanced counterterrorist forces and has strong security measures which have already been implemented. However, âlone wolfâ attacks involving easily accessible attack tools, such as vehicles and knives, are distinct possibilities. As noted, a number of such attacks have occurred in Israel and the West over the past few years. The threat of such attacks is a great deal higher at border posts and checkpoints, where anger at the closing of borders is likely to be more severe.
Travellers should be actively aware of the potential for violent unrest at all times, not only on 30 Marchâs âDay of Rageâ; Israeli security forces are known to use forceful tactics including the use of tear gas. While most protests are likely to take place in or near Gaza and the West Bank, protests may also take place by ultra-orthodox Jews against the governmentâs military draft policy. Protests have seen clashes with police and should therefore always be avoided. Such protests may also be targeted by terrorists. Foreigners involved in protests (even inadvertently) may face harsher punishment or deportation. Israel has grown sensitive to criticism from outside its borders. For example, in March 2017, the Israeli parliament passed a law giving it authority to deny entry to foreign nationals who have publicly called for a boycott of Israel and/or settlements, or who belong to an organisation which has called for a boycott.
During the Passover period, it is important that travellers employ a heightened level of situational awareness and carefully consider their travel requirements. Travellers should maintain a low-profile and avoid travel to contentious and religious sights if possible. Travellers are advised to avoid travel to all of Israelâs border regions (specifically Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, West Bank, and Egypt), unless business-critical.
Solace Global would advise clients to employ enhanced security measures when visiting Israel â airport meet and greet and a security driver for the length of a visit should be a minimum-security precaution for most areas. Solace Global may also advise clients to employ other security measures, depending on the area of travel and client profile. All itineraries to the Occupied Palestinian Territories needs to be thoroughly planned due to the difficulty of travel to such areas. All travellers are advised to make use of a travel tracking and intelligence system; this will permit an employer to execute effective duty of care and permit the traveller to remain up to date with developments to their security environment.
Download Full Report
Please fill out form below to access the full report