Israel warns of travel to Turkey and Arab countries; also notes Eurovision risks

Authorities says Israelis traveling to Malmo for song contest should take care not to broadcast their identities, amid efforts by Islamist groups to harm Israelis and Jews abroad

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Illustrative: People cross to Egypt through the Taba Border Crossing, during the summer holiday, in the southern city of Eilat, August 6, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Illustrative: People cross to Egypt through the Taba Border Crossing, during the summer holiday, in the southern city of Eilat, August 6, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Israel’s National Security Council said Thursday that Israelis should avoid traveling to Turkey, Morocco, Jordan and Egypt — including the Sinai peninsula, usually a popular holiday destination for Israelis over Passover — in updated travel warnings it issued for the coming months.

In a general warning for worldwide travel, the NSC said the “potential for terrorist threats against Israelis and Jews more than five months after the start of the war is very high.”

It underscored that the four countries, with which Israel maintains diplomatic ties, “should be avoided at the current time.”

An Israeli official who briefed reporters said Israel is not considering closing the crossing into Egypt, but will do so in the case of a specific threat.

According to the travel warnings, there are growing attempts amid the Gaza war by global jihadist organizations to inspire lone attackers to target Jews and Israelis abroad. The primary threat, said the NSC, is Iran and its proxies.

It said Iranian agents have impersonated other identities to make contact with Israelis to try and abduct or harm them overseas.

Hamas is also trying to target Israelis and Jews abroad, according to the NSC warnings. In December 2023, a Hamas terror network in northern Europe was uncovered.

Red paint is seen on a Eurovision sign in Malmo, Sweden, on March 11, 2024, after it was vandalized in a protest against Israel. (SVT screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

“What has been published is just the tip of the iceberg,” the Israeli official said.

Those journeying to countries with a level 3 or 4 travel warning, indicating medium and high threat levels (as detailed on the NSC website) were advised to avoid crowded places known to be frequented by Westerners and Israelis, to remain alert in public spaces, and not to show outward signs of their nationality.

The Israeli official also said that those traveling to Malmo, Sweden, for the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest in May should take care not to broadcast their nationality, although an official warning was not issued for the Scandinavian country.

Malmo has a large Muslim population.

“We are not saying not to travel there, but those who travel should not display their Zionism,” said the official. “They shouldn’t walk around with little Israeli flags,” the official noted, adding that there are no specific threats right now.

“You can speak Hebrew with each other, but you don’t have to shout to family or friends at the far end of the street.”

The official said the Eurovision site itself will be secure, but that Malmo is “an unfriendly area for Israelis.”

The music contest will take place between May 7 and 11. Israeli singer Eden Golan will compete in the annual song contest, after months of uncertainty over Israel’s participation amid protests and accusations of politicization.

The NSC also looked ahead to the Euro soccer championships in Germany and the 2024 Paris Olympics over the summer as events that thousands of Israelis will travel to.

Jihadist organizations like al-Qaeda and ISIS could target those events, said the official, or could specifically attack Jews and Israelis there.

File: Two Turkish riot police officers walk in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, on June 14, 2022. (Yasin Akgul/AFP)

Turning to other areas, the NSC said in its announcement that Jewish communities in Europe and North America “are also a major target” for the extreme right, “with religious and community institutions being a preferred target on holidays and festivals.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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