Is it safe for a Muslim to visit Israel nowadays? I got different answers for my question every time I ask. Can somebody with real experience help?
Israel is quite a safe country. However, due to its particular geopolitical situation, there can be surprises. Travel to some regions should be avoided, such as the immediate surroundings of the Gaza Strip and the surroundings of the Lebanese border. Due to the war in Syria, there might be some trouble in the Golan Heights. If that's the case, the region will be controlled by the army and you will probably not be allowed to enter it. Have a look at your favourite travel advice page. As an example, here you have the FCO's page on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Note that the roads are quite dangerous ... that's a real risk. The odds are much higher that you will be hurt in car crash than in a terrorist attack ...
Being a Muslim does not change this. Note that according to an official source, 17.1% of the population are Muslims. There are also 1.6% Druzes, but they are quite localized (near Haifa and in the Golan).
Just go ahead and enjoy. Israel is an interesting country!
Even in turbulent times (2014) I think Israel is a relatively safe country for Muslims. Safer than some other countries in the region. Some things to keep in mind while in the country:
- Avoid demonstrations, both in Israel and even more in the West Bank.
- Display of Islamic clothing or objects can lead to significantly more trouble with authorities and with Jewish people who are standing firmly behind the IDF.
- It is recommended to keep your passport on you, especially if you have a darker skin.
Crossing the border requires some more attention.
First of all, there are many countries that don't allow their citizens to go to Israel (this map is an indication). Israel might still let you in but in this case it's advisable to first contact the Israeli authorities, ideally through a local business or organization that can sponsor your stay in the country.
Second, even as a citizen from a country with visa-free access, with an Arabic name you can expect significantly more questioning when entering Israel.
Around 1.5 million people or 20 percent of the Israeli population is Arabic and most Israeli Arabs are Muslim, so another Muslim visiting from abroad would be pretty much unnoticed as far as locals are concerned. You might get extra attention from the bureaucrats at the airport, but once you leave Ben-Gurion the whole country is your oyster.
Relax and enjoy your vacation.
There are many Muslims living and working in Israel.
This is anecdotal, but I traveled to Israel from Abu Dhabi with heaps of stamps (Yemen, Tunisia, etc) from predominately Muslim countries in my Passport. With an Arabic name, you might be subject to uncomfortable questioning, but you will be safe.
I'd recommend not walking around in traditional dress, however, even though it is legal.