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 Islamic sites like the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque.

And both Jewish and Arab Israeli soldiers guard the streets of Old Jerusalem, like these two who were stationed just inside the Damascus Gate. Peculiarly, no soldier guards the Christian sites of Golgotha and Jesus' Tomb.

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

Israeli Soldiers - Steel ChamberAn oil barrel-sized chamber with thick steel walls 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, at least the other half of the plaza will be spared.

Wailing Wall Plaza BarriersTravel 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 them both on and off duty, and many civilians carry them as well. It is not uncommon to see men with Uzi submachine guns slung over their shoulders walking with their wife and children in strollers, or a group of teenagers out for an evening with submachine guns slung over theirs. The ubiquity of submachine guns may be unsettling at first but you will get used to them after a few days.