Israel, with its luscious beaches, deep, complicated history and evocative landscapes has always been an alluring destination for international travelers. But if you’ve ever picked up a newspaper you’ll also know they have a fairly charged political relationship with their neighbors. This usually comes as a bane to multi-stop travelers who are looking simply to discover the richness of the land outside of politics. Either way, there are a handful of countries that still refuse to recognize the Israeli state and will not allow entry if your passport is “tainted” by evidence of a visit to the Jewish nation. This Israeli stamp stigma can create all kinds of hardship if you’re interested in traveling around the region.
Lebanon, Syria, Qatar, Yemen, Iran, Libya, Kuwait and Sudan are countries you can forget about getting into if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport. The UAE and Qatar have, in the past, given trouble but have no hard, fast rules about it and these days it’s unlikely you will have trouble with the stamp there. But if you’re traveling to Saudi Arabia or Oman, be wary of problems entering as well.
It may make you feel better to know that it’s possible, even likely, to get through Israeli airports without getting the problem stamp. It’s a different story in you are traveling into or out of the country over land. It’s often illegal for border officials not to stamp your passport. This may cause havoc on a travel itinerary that has you flying onward from inside a country that won’t let you in. Be prepared for this scenario by arranging your route accordingly.
Remember, these procedures and protocols are in a constant state of flux as political situations evolve and ebb (ie, countries reversing their longstanding policies with no notification or reason). The easiest thing to do if you plan on touring the region would be simply to visit Israel last. That way you can feel comfortable if you happen to incur and Israeli stamp. And don’t forget, you will still be denied entry into one of the aforementioned countries as long as the stamp remains in your passport, even if your visit to Israel was on a trip long before.
As always, double check with embassies, consulates and/or visa services to make sure you have your ducks in a row lest you be surprised while on the road. For a wealth of information about Israeli Passport Stigma check Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forums.
In the long run, don’t let any potential stamp or passport problem deter you from visiting Israel. It is a truly amazing place for historian, photographer and religious enthusiast alike. With some care and extra planning you should be able to move freely through the area without any problems.