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What you need to know for 12/15/2017

Travel to Israel shouldn't worry Capital Region residents

Travel to Israel shouldn't worry Capital Region residents

'If it's someplace you really want to go, you should continue to go'
Travel to Israel shouldn't worry Capital Region residents
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walking in the Old City of Jerusalem on Dec. 6, 2017.
Photographer: Uriel Sinai/The New York Times

Rabbi Matthew Cutler will travel to Israel in early 2018.

But he'd go tomorrow.

"This is not the first time we have faced this situation," said Cutler, who leads Congregation Gates of Heaven in Schenectady.

RELATED: Palestinians vent their anger after Trump's Jerusalem declaration

The situation is possible danger in Israel. Earlier this week, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem issued security warnings for travel in Jerusalem's Old City and in the West Bank.

Officials are wary the Trump administration's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — and the plan to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — may spark violent protests.

"The U.S. Consulate General reminds U.S. citizens of the need for caution and awareness of personal security," read a security message on the consulate's website. "Review your personal security plans; remain aware of your surroundings, including local events; and monitor local news for updates."

Cutler said he has led trips to Israel every few years for the past 22 years. He is confident in the safety measures and precautions taken by the Israeli government.

"I'm planning on going with a group in February and nothing's changing that," Cutler said Thursday. "My itinerary might be tweaked as we get closer, but there's no place I would rather be in Israel and Jerusalem in February."

Others — connected with the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York and local travel agencies — also believe people traveling to Israel should not have major concerns.

Cutler believes common sense plays a role.

"There are muggings and robberies that happen in New York City all the time," he said. "But I still go to New York City. I won't walk around Central Park at night."

He won't walk around Arab neighborhoods in Israel wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with an American flag. "You're asking for trouble," he said.

Shelly Shapiro, director for the Albany-based Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York, said tour groups have traveled to Israel during troubled times in the past.

"Israel is very good about protecting tourists and rerouting them away from violence," she said. "I suspect that will take place this time."

Eric Stigberg, manager of marketing and public and government affairs for AAA Northway in Schenectady, said Israel is not a popular destination for his clients. But he believes people traveling to the country should stay informed, and that means checking travel advisories and warnings issued by the Department of State.

Stigberg doesn't think people who are leaving soon for Israel will change their plans.

"If you've made them, you're going to go, for the most part," he said. "Obviously, you're going to be much more vigilant, being alert to what's going on around you and taking the necessary precautions."

At Schenectady's Empress Travel & Cruises, owner Ed Plog said travelers are also warned about other destinations.

"If all the places had warnings and we told people not to go, we wouldn't sell much travel," he said. "There are warnings in London, Paris, Rome, all kinds of stuff.

"It's the same old thing," Plog added. "You have to continue living your life. If it's someplace you really want to go, you should continue to go. Just be careful and keep your eyes open."

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124, wilkin@dailygazette.com or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter.

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