Israeli Soldiers

Israeli Soldiers

Israeli SoldiersAll able-bodied Israeli men and women must serve as soldiers for 3 years and 2 years, respectively, in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

Jewish Israeli soldiers guard Jewish sites like the Wailing Wall, while Arab Catholic and Arab Orthodox Israeli soldiers guard the Islamic sites like Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque.

And both Jewish and Arab Israeli soldiers guard the streets of Old Jerusalem. The two Israeli soldiers on the right, stationed just inside the Damascus Gate, were both Jewish. Surprisingly, neither Jewish nor Arab Israeli soldiers guard the Christian sites of Golgotha and Jesus' Tomb.

Jerusalem ChamberSecurity is taken seriously in Israel, especially in Old Jerusalem, whose streets and alleys are understandably blanketed with CCTV cameras.

A drum-size chamber with thick steel walls (left) for isolating suspicious objects occupies a central location in the Wailing Wall plaza.

And when tensions rise, explosion-absorbing vertical partitions are installed down the middle of the Wailing Wall plaza (below) so that if something were to detonate, half of the plaza will be spared.

Wailing Wall Plaza guarded by Israeli SoldiersTravel Tip
If violence flares up during your visit, try to avoid large groups of Israeli soldiers, whom the assailants most often target.

And be advised that machine guns are everywhere in Israel. The Israeli soldiers carry guns both on and off duty, and many civilians carry guns as well. It is not uncommon to see men walking with their wives and children with Uzi sub-machine guns slung over their shoulders, or a group of teenagers out for an evening with M16 submachine guns slung over theirs. The ubiquity of guns may be unsettling at first and may take a few days to get used to.