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There's been a lot of discussion of issues that arise when you visit Israel and countries like Lebanon and Iran. However, the discussion, both on this website and in other places, almost always focuses on Israeli stamps, which countries will reject you once you have such a stamp in your passport and what you can do to avoid getting one. As if Lebanese officials are allergic to Israeli ink or something.

But, as far as I understand, the problem isn't the stamp, the problem is that visiting Israel is a crime in these jurisdictions and the stamp is evidence that you have commited it. So I find it really hard to take the usually provided advice of "chillax and go wherever you want, Israel doesn't stamp passports" - what if they ask me point blank if I have ever been to Israel? I am not in the habit of lying to government officials, especially given that to find evidence of any of my trips all you need is to google my name.

So if I walk up to an immigration officer, give them a passport with no stamp or other evidence of Israeli authorities having handled it and start the conversation with a remark about how I visited Israel recently... In which countries will this get me in trouble? Are there any countries which don't care about your trips to Israel as long as there is no stamp?

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    I have visited quite a few countries that are not exactly on good terms with Israel. I was never asked if I ever visited Israel. In Beirut the immigration officer did go through my passport, and when he noticed that I had a Jordanian stamp in there had a closer look at it. I suppose to check it wasn't for the Allenby Bridge checkpoint. He then just stamped my passport and let me in. I guess in most of those countries the policy is "don't ask, don't tell". I don't volunteer any information at the border unless specifically asked. Jul 5, 2021 at 5:26
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    Not sure if that's a crucial point, but Israeli border control (at least in the main airport) doesn't actually stamp passports anymore. They hand out an external piece of paper which is a replacement. I am not an expert on how international border control systems work, but I would assume that there is some record of your entries in some system which the officers can see on a computer and doesn't rely on a physical stamp or paper alone...
    – Tomerikoo
    Jul 5, 2021 at 10:16
  • @KristvanBesien I've used the Allenby Bridge years ago to enter Israel from Jordan to ensure I had a "clean" passport. But the most obvious mistakes are things like exit stamps from say Egypt, where the only next possible place you can go is Israel.
    – Peter M
    Jul 5, 2021 at 14:00
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    @Peter M: The issue at the Allenby Bridge is in the opposite direction. If you enter Jordan there you will get a stamp. And it will show you entered from Israel. That is why that border guard in Beirut gave my Jordanian stamp a careful inspection. Since I had however entered Jordan at Amman Airport there was no issue. Jul 5, 2021 at 17:18

2 Answers 2

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I could not find a formal statement by any country that previous travel to Israel forbids entry.

www.gov.uk states that a passport indicating such entry may prevent entry to Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lybia, Sudan, Kuwait and Lebanon. However:

  • This is not a formal statement by any of these countries.
  • The problem mentioned is with passport stamps, not a prior visit.

I failed to find official entry requirements for any of these countries.

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Wikipedia has a page titled Arab League boycott of Israel which contains a section Travel Restrictions and a handy little table and map.

Unfortunately, both table and map may be outdated. This is partly because not all countries that participate in this type of boycott necessarily put all the details of their boycott in writing but also countries may choose to join or leave the boycott. However, one can think of various levels of entry refusal from tight to broad with the implicit assumption that the broader categories include the tighter categories above them:

  • only Israeli passports
    (a number of states restrict Israeli passport holders from entering and sometimes even transiting even if they allow other people with evidence of travel to Israel; see the central column of the table on the Wikipedia page)

  • any passport that has a stamp or mark by Israel

  • any passport that has evidence of travel to Israel

Evidence of travel to Israel would typically be a Jordanian or Egyptian entry or exit stamp at a border crossing to Israel (e.g. Wadi Araba for Jordan, Taba for Israel). There is nowhere else to go if you use those border crossings to exit and there is nowhere you could have come from if you enter Egypt or Jordan from those crossings. Probably that is why Israeli border control issued actual passport stamps at Wadi Arava (Israeli side) as late as 2016 (my passport has one).

Now this never applied to upwards of 80 % of tourists visiting Israel, as they would likely fly into Tel Aviv (or maybe Eilat) airport, get their entry slip, and depart through the same airport. There will be practically no ways of knowing you visited the country.

Finally, note that any country that is not your own could refuse you entry for practically any reason. Thus, it is never a good idea to start a friendly chat with the immigration official, talking about your last holiday. Your communication should be a greeting, handing them your passport and then waiting for them to ask whichever questions they might have. Make this your habit and you will never end up in the awkward situation of admitting to having been in Israel to the Lebanese immigration officer.

The possibility remains that they might ask you out of their own motivation. However, I have not heard of this happening on a large scale and a comment by Krist van Besien anecdotally notes that:

I have visited quite a few countries that are not exactly on good terms with Israel. I was never asked if I ever visited Israel. In Beirut the immigration officer did go through my passport, and when he noticed that I had a Jordanian stamp in there had a closer look at it. I suppose to check it wasn't for the Allenby Bridge checkpoint. He then just stamped my passport and let me in. I guess in most of those countries the policy is "don't ask, don't tell".

I strongly assume that if any Israel-boycotting country were to make asking travellers whether they had been to Israel a common policy, we would hear about it.

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  • I guess that the situation can/does change with the war/peace situation between Israel and Arab countries/regions.
    – Willeke
    Jul 23, 2021 at 15:50

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