The notorious Israel passport stamp problem has been lingering around for a good few years, adding unwanted stress to the traveller who wants to visit Israel, along with many of the countries around the world that have boycotted the nation.
Will you have a lifetime ban from destinations that don’t have a good rapport with Israel?
Also, will Israeli authorities be shitty to you if you have stamps on your passport from countries who they don’t have a good relationship with?
I also catastrophised about the potential outcomes of an Israel passport stamp. It really isn’t as bad as you think, but it does require some knowledge and planning depending on your situation.
Put that brown paper bag down that you’re breathing into, grab yourself a falafel and let’s navigate the Israel passport stamp puzzle.
Can I Visit Muslim Countries With an Israel Passport Stamp?
Israel is denounced by a significant amount of Islamic and Arabic nations and therefore recognised as ‘occupied Palestine.‘
There are a few notable exceptions such as Egypt and Jordan and there are a couple of countries that still disclaim Israel’s existence as a country, but have dramatically improved their diplomatic relations with them such as Bahrain, Morocco, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
If you have an Israel stamp on your current passport; you can completely forget about a visit to the following countries until your passport runs out:
- Iraq (Mainland Iraq, no Iraqi Kurdistan)
The two big changes here are Saudi Arabia and Iran, who now won’t hold any visits to Israel against you and will allow you entrance to their country.
Travelling to mainland Iraq with an Israeli passport stamp is a no-no, but Iraqi Kurdistan is absolutely fine. Another noteworthy mention is Malaysia; you absolutely can enter there with an Israeli stamp, even though the myth continues that you can not.
As you see, it’s not all doom and gloom. I think most of the confusion comes from the fact that 15 Islamic countries have banned Israeli nationals from visiting their countries, but this doesn’t mean that they have banned foreigners who have visited Israel.
Each country is different though, for example, Lebanon takes significant umbrage if they suspect you recently visited Israel before entering. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll deport you.
Still concerned? Couldn’t stomach that falafel due to agonising over your face above a “wanted” sign in your favourite Arabic nation?
I bring more good news…
The Israel Passport Stamp Issue Is No Longer An Issue!
Regardless of what you read in Trip Advisor and angry Reddit forums, Israeli passport stamps have been completely phased out when visiting Israel.
Israel knows which side their pita bread is buttered. Considering the fact they hold the keys to the most religious sites on earth alone, it has a lot to offer in terms of tourism pulling power and it quickly became receptive to the Israeli passport stamp problem.
It responded by replacing the passport stamp with a separate blue entrance slip and a pink exit slip. They leave your passport alone, well in terms of stamping it. They do give it a rigorous check on the way out.
If that piqued your curiosity, let’s talk about that.
Entering Tel Aviv (Ben Gurion Airport)
I was shocked, to say the least upon arrival in Israel’s capital, Tel Aviv at the Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) when the immigration officer barely looked at my passport and welcomed me in with my personalised blue card.
I had heard horror stories of people being interrogated or even sent back on the next plane if they had recently visited Kuwait, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Syria and Yemen and I have been to 4/6 of them.
I guess it comes down to the immigration official on the day and how much their knickers are in a twist. So I skipped into Israel, easy-peasy… or so I thought.
Exiting Tel Aviv (Ben Gurion Airport)
Leaving Israel was incredibly intense and a totally different ball game from the experience of entering.
Israel is the most security-conscious place that I have ever been to (USA, Iraq and Afghanistan are noble contenders).
Most international airports require you to be there for at least two hours before your flight leaves. Double that for Israel, or you could be in trouble. They’ll ask you the same questions five times over. They’ll scan your body. They’ll scan your face. They’ll scan your brain. They’ll scan your condoms… that’s right, even your contraception will get proper public surveillance.
Get there at least 4 hours before departure or you could easily miss your flight.
I had my backpack taped up with a strong black masking tape, labelled for further inspection. It was opened up by two officials who asked me a lot of questions like; why I was in Israel. Did I go to Palestine? If so… why? Was I ex-military? Was I Jewish? Arabic? (I can pass for Arabic with a tan and a beard and am often mistaken for one in certain countries).
This continued on 3 different occasions with different officials en route to boarding the plane out of Israel and I genuinely thought I’d miss my flight, or be temporarily detained for further questioning.
Surprisingly for me, the biggest issue for the Israeli immigration officials upon leaving was my 5 stamps in and out of Malaysia. I had recently visited to attend the Thaipusam Festival in Kuala Lumpur and they couldn’t get their head around why I had visited so many times.
This was not my first rodeo with hostile immigration officials. I learned from the best; the USA when they denied my ESTA visa and gave me so many interrogations that I half-expected Jack Bauer to beat a forced confession out of me.
Land Border Crossings in Israel
There are four options to cross the border into and out of Israel:
- The Allenby Bridge (AKA King Hussein Bridge) between Jerusalem in Israel and Jordan’s capital, Amman.
- The Aqaba Border Crossing (AKA Wadi Araba Crossing) between Eilat in Israel and Aqaba in Jordan.
- The Jordan River Crossing (Sheikh Hussein Crossing) between Beit Shean in Israel and the centre of Jordan.
- The Taba Border Crossing (AKA Menachem Begin Crossing) between Eilat in Israel and the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.
All of the above crossings are relatively easy, with number 3 arguably being the easiest of the 4. In terms of having an Israel passport stamp (you won’t as it’s been phased out), the fact you’re clearly coming from Israel isn’t a big deal to these two countries considering that they have improved diplomatic relations.
However, be aware that you can not go from Israel to Jordan via The Allenby Bridge without obtaining your Jordan visa beforehand.
Just like leaving Israel via air, be prepared to answer any questions about prior travel. Try and keep your cool and stick to the truth; you visited these other countries solely for tourism. You’ll be fine.
Covid-19 Travel Requirements For Israel in 2023
A little bonus category for you. Israel was one of the first countries to enforce strict requirements during the Coronavirus pandemic, however, it opened early in January 2022 and as of May 20th some requirements will be lifted, while some more lenient rules will still apply, such as:
- You will not need to present a negative COVID test upon arrival
- No more PCR mandates
- No more isolation 24 hours after arriving
- Airport mandate of masks to be lifted
- Mask mandate on flights remains in effect
Israel Passport Stamp Problem: A Recap
Unless you are entering another country directly from Israel there is no way to prove that you have been there. Much like visiting North Korea, there is no official stamp on your passport.
Some countries may ask you if you have visited Israel; it’s up to you whether you tell the truth or not. The same goes for if an Israeli immigration official asks you if you have been to certain countries. I told the truth; I simply visited for tourist reasons because I like to travel. It can be uncomfortable but it’s not a fate worse than death, you will be ok.
As it currently stands, it’s never been better than it is right now. I hope this comprehensive guide has finally put you to ease and put the Israel passport stamp problem to bed.