How to travel to the Gaza Strip in Palestine (2023)
By Joan Torres 35 Comments Last updated on October 2, 2023
This is a guest post written by fellow traveler @log_nick
Millions of people travel to Israel every year; some of them go farther into the West Bank , but there’s a place over there which almost nobody has visited before – the Gaza Strip .
Very few have ever managed to enter it due to existing travel restrictions and because of safety concerns.
We usually see only bad things about Gaza in the media, so most people associate it with war, destruction, and extremism.
But behind the complex political and ideological issues, there is reality of life.
The reality made of everyday stories of ordinary human beings who live and struggle, cry and smile, dream and despair; of people who take their kids to school in the morning, rush to the mosque for the prayer, buy vegetables from a donkey cart, build homes and plans for the future.
What’s sad is that we know nothing about that reality and see the Strip as a mere black spot on the map.
That’s why, after having had the chance to live in Gaza for some time, I decided to write everything you need to know to travel to Gaza , to color up that black spot and show a human, dignified picture of it.
Although it’s far from being a tourist destination, I do hope that one day the situation will change and everybody will live in peace, while visitors will be able to discover this offbeat destination.
In this travel guide to Gaza you will find:
Table of Contents
- Entry and exit formalities
- Society and culture
- Things to do
- Northern area
- Middle area
- Southern area
- More information
Read: How to travel to Syria (visas, safety, transportation and more!)
Traveling to the Gaza Strip: a short background
Gaza Strip is a small piece of land, roughly 40 km from north to south and 6-12 km from west to east.
Despite being an administrative part of the State of Palestine, it’s geographically separated from the West Bank by Israeli territory.
It’s inhabited by 2 million people, among whom some 1.4 million are Palestinian refugees from towns and villages destroyed or occupied by Israel during the 1948 and 1967 wars.
Many of these people today live in areas which were originally refugee camps, but then grew into big, densely populated neighborhoods with narrow alleys, chaotically built makeshift or concrete houses, inefficient or non-existent infrastructure.
The situation in the Strip has become particularly dire since the Hamas movement came into power in 2006, which led to political divisions with the Fatah government in the West Bank and a suffocating land, sea and air blockade imposed by Israel.
These developments, followed by three wars with Israel in 2008, 2012 and 2014, had a devastating impact on the population and the local economy.
Now more than half of the population is unemployed and unable to leave the Strip, there’s no clean water and electricity is provided for some 5-7 hours a day.
Read: Airbnb in a Palestinian refugee camp
How to get a visa for Gaza
Visiting Gaza is possible, but extremely difficult.
A foreigner needs to apply for a special visa or travel permit at the Israeli or the Egyptian embassy, depending on what border crossing you will use: Erez (Israel) or Rafah (Egypt) .
The whole process, however, can be as tedious and lengthy as for a Gazan citizen wishing to leave the Strip.
To have the permit or visa granted, a foreigner needs to have a specific reason for traveling to Gaza. Reasons which are considered valid are normally limited to diplomatic or humanitarian missions, journalism or important business issues.
This means that tourists can’t to travel to Gaza for tourism or private purposes.
From the Palestinian side, you are not asked for any visa or permit.
Instead, you need a “contact” in Gaza who would notify the Ministry of Interior in advance about your arrival, purpose of visit and accommodation in the Strip.
The same ”contact” person would have to meet you at your point of entry.
How to travel to Gaza: entry & exit formalities
There are two ways of visiting Gaza:
- From Israel
As for my personal experience, I think that the best way to travel to Gaza is from Israel (Erez border crossing) because it’s safer and better organized.
How to travel to Gaza from Israel
On the Israeli side, the building looks like an airport terminal where you go through passport control and get your pink exit card (the one you normally get when leaving Israel).
On the other side of the separation wall, you will find free shuttles driving you through empty land till the first checkpoint, managed by PA officials, who check your bags for prohibited items (e.g., alcohol). Behind the checkpoint, you will always find a taxi ready to drop you at the next checkpoint some 300 meters ahead.
There, some PA officers may ask you some questions about the purpose of your visit in Gaza before letting you through the gate to the Hamas side.
You will find yourself at an intersection full of cars, people and donkey carts.
Hamas officers will take you across the street to their checkpoint hidden behind the military-painted concrete blocks.
They will ask additional questions, check your passport and bags and register your entry into the Strip.
How to travel to Israel from Gaza
When leaving the Strip, you don’t normally face difficulties at the Palestinian checkpoints.
You may have to wait a little bit (from 15 minutes to 2 hours) at the PA checkpoint until the officers coordinate your crossing with the Israeli side.
There’s free wifi and a small shop with drinks and snacks. The officer will call your name as soon as he receives the green light for you to cross.
Once inside the Israeli terminal, you and your luggage will undergo a thorough X-ray and physical checks, then passport control where you’ll receive the blue entry card.
Nota Bene!! To leave the Gaza Strip, you have to use the same border crossing you used for entry. This is the reason why I recommend going through Erez. The Rafah crossing is mainly used by Palestinians as the only gateway to the outside world and is known for being overcrowded and chaotic, with unpredictable delays, closures, and denials to cross.
📚 Best books for traveling to Gaza
Palestine travel guide by bradt.
The guide I bought when I traveled in the West Bank also has a full episode dedicated to the Gaza Strip.
The 51-day war: Ruin and resistance in Gaza, Max Blumenthal
This book narrates the struggle of the Palestinian families during the 2014 war against Israel.
⚠️ Is it safe to travel to Gaza?
Due to its sensitive and volatile context, a trip to Gaza certainly implies certain potential dangers.
Based on personal experience, I can say that the major risk a foreigner can face there is military escalation .
Gazans have gone through several wars and numerous periods of tension in recent years and, today they continue to live in constant fear of new clashes.
If the situation “erupts” while you are there, try to leave the Strip as soon as possible. If the borders are closed, the best option would be to stay at your hotel/accommodation and ask the staff for safety instructions.
IMPORTANT! Remember that there are no sirens or bomb shelters in Gaza.
During normal times, the situation is pretty safe.
Crime in Gaza
As a foreigner, you can freely walk in the streets unescorted. Locals are super friendly and criminality rates, like pickpocketing, robberies or aggression, are very rare. If you face any problem or difficulty, passers-by would be happy to help you.
Scams in Gaza
When you visit the Gaza Strip, it’s also unlikely that you face any serious scams like in some other Middle East countries .
In a shop or at the market, you may try to haggle a bit – which is a sort of tradition – but prices are normally fair from the beginning. Sellers are never pushy and are often willing to give you something for free because it’s an honour for them to see a foreigner in Gaza.
Be careful, however, in the port area where some street vendors may feel tempted to overcharge you (once I was asked to pay 20 ILS for a bottle of juice which actually costs 2-3 ILS).
Read: Visiting Aleppo during the post-war
Also, be extremely cautious with taking pictures. If you’re photographing random people, be polite and ask permission in advance.
Don’t take pictures of government buildings or military facilities and note that some of them can be unmarked and located in normal residential buildings.
In this case, a good precaution is to ask passers-by or a police officer if you can take a picture of something.
🕌 Society and culture: the Gazans
People in the Strip are simple, friendly and warmhearted.
Most of them are devoted Muslims and religion plays a fundamental role in every aspect of their daily lives.
There is also a small Christian community of some 1000 people who live in good relations with the rest of the population.
There’s an incredible level of solidarity among families and random people.
It’s common for a person to share his salary with unemployed relatives to help them feed their big families, besides providing for his own wife and 5-6 children. Or if two strangers start arguing in the street, passers-by will immediately intervene to calm the situation down.
As a rare foreigner in Gaza, get ready to be an attraction for everybody, especially the kids. People will just approach in the street to say hi and ask where you’re from and what you’re doing traveling in Gaza.
Most of them will do everything to make you feel welcome. Learn some phrases in Arabic or, better, get an Arabic-speaking companion because their level of English is very limited.
Since most Gazans have very little contact with the outside, they are curious to learn what life is like in your country and know your opinion on the situation in Gaza.
Their own views in this regard vary from person to person, but for sure everybody is very tired of the blockade, the economic crisis, and unemployment.
Whatever your position is on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s good to empathize with the locals, but not go further into political discussions with random people.
Also, guests must dress and behave appropriately, as they would do in a city like Nablus or Cairo. Women are not obliged to wear a headscarf, but this could be a useful option if you visit rural areas and the refugee camps, where people are more conservative.
In this way, you will avoid unnecessary attention and comments.
🍲 The food in Gaza
There are plenty of options for every wallet: from street food and cafés to posh restaurants.
From personal experience, eating in high-end restaurants on the seafront doesn’t necessarily mean better food quality or more variety of dishes.
Almost all places serve the same Palestinian food; others also have some international dishes like pasta and steaks.
Fast food like pizzas and burgers are also popular.
Alcohol is illegal in the Gaza Strip, so forget about it while you are there.
Average prices per person:
- Street food (falafel, shawarma): 1-4 ILS
- Shawarma/kebab plate: 12-15 ILS
- Burger: 15-20 ILS
- Pizza (depending on the size): 20-35 ILS
- Full meal with drinks in a mid-level restaurant: 25-40 ILS
- Full meal with drinks in a posh restaurant: 80-100 ILS
Also, I think it’s a must for everybody whoever visits Gaza to try one of the local fish and seafood restaurants.
Popular dishes are “ zibdiya ” (a traditional clay bowl with shrimps stewed in tomato sauce with peppers and spices), grilled seabream called “ denis ” and roasted crabs – “ salta’onat ”.
Best restaurants in Gaza
- Mounir – located in Abu Hasira street; owners are a well-known family of fishermen. Everything from fishes to calamari and crabs is fresh and displayed at the entrance. Here you can also try the best fish soup (a little spicy). The ambiance is cozy and the average bill is around 50 ILS per person.
- Matoug – located in Omar al-Mukhtar street, in front of the Unknown Soldier Park. An excellent place to try local specialties like maqluba , fatta , msakhkhan and even zaghalil (stuffed pigeons). It has an English menu.
- Beit Sitti – located in a narrow alley in Old Gaza. The name means “My Grandma’s House” in Arabic and, actually, the restaurant is inside a big Palestinian house with authentic furniture, traditional tools and decorations. It has an English menu and English-speaking staff who are also happy to offer you a tour of the premises.
- Level Up – a panoramic restaurant on the 11 th floor of an office building in Jalaa street, near Saraya square.
You may also want to read: where in the Middle East is safe?
💰 Money in Gaza
The main currency in the Gaza Strip is the Israeli shekel (ILS) .
Agoras are not used and the price is normally rounded up / down to 1 ILS.
Dollars and euros can be easily exchanged in numerous currency shops at a fair rate.
There are also many banks with ATMs, however, I don’t recommend this option as your card may end up being blocked for attempts to withdraw from such a controversial place. Better bring enough cash.
🛺 How to travel around Gaza: transportation
There is no regular public transport in Gaza, except for some private buses that the government and universities hire to transport commuting employees and students for a small fee.
Locals normally move around in shared taxis and by hitchhiking random cars going in the same direction. The system is super easy: you just stand by the road and every third car will beep you to offer a lift. Just tell the driver where you are going and agree on the price.
In the streets, you can spot out old 6-door Mercedes taxis called “ limousines ” by locals. They are absolutely fascinating and typical only of the Gaza Strip. You will not find such cars in Israel or the West Bank anymore.
To move between cities, you may take a shared minivan. Departure is usually from a specific spot in each city. In Gaza city, for example, you can find them near Shifa hospital or in Jalaa street in front of Saraya square.
You can also use Careem app to order a car – it works exactly like Uber and is very popular here.
An example of prices:
- Shared ride within Gaza city: 2-4 ILS
- Shared ride between cities: 5-10 ILS
- Private taxi / Careem within Gaza: 10-15 ILS
- Private taxi / Careem between cities: 30-70 ILS
🏨 Accommodation: where to stay in Gaza
Finding a place to stay in the Strip is easy.
Average accommodation, however, is not as cheap as one may imagine compared to local living standards.
There are quite a few hotels in Gaza City:
Marna House, Al-Deira, Roots, Commodore Gaza, Gloria, Grand Palace, City Star, Palestine .
Most of them are located in Al-Rasheed street which runs along the sea.
Prices range between 60 and 120 dollars per night.
Do expect inconveniences like power cuts and water issues.
To book a room, you need to contact the hotel directly by phone or email – contacts can be found on their Facebook pages.
You can also just show up without booking – chances are high that you will be the only guest .
Today these hotels survive mainly as restaurants and wedding halls.
Also, there are two high-level hotels in Sudaniya district, north of Gaza City:
ArcMed Mashtal and Al-Mathaf .
The latter means “museum” in Arabic and is a private boutique hotel with stylish rooms and authentic Palestinian vibes. The owner is a history and archeology lover – his rich collection of antiquities is displayed for free in the foyer of the hotel.
Only 2 options are available in the whole Strip, but I’m not sure how reliable these listings are.
Couchsurfing and homestays
There seem to be quite a lot of hosts on Couchsurfing offering hospitality throughout the Strip.
My advice here is to select carefully and remember that, under local laws and customs, you are not allowed to live with people of the opposite sex unless they are your relatives.
The situation is different if you are invited to stay with a Palestinian family.
If you are a solo female traveler, it’s not impossible to find a homestay, which could be an authentic and emotionally enriching experience, as well as a good way to offer a small economic contribution to the impoverished local population.
However, this is hardly an option for male travelers because their presence in the house, at a certain point, would become embarrassing and burdening for the female members of the family, obliged to wear headscarves all the time.
Plenty of houses and villas can be found in the countryside which owners offer for short-term rent. Locals call them “ chalets ”.
These houses are normally fenced and furnished, have a courtyard with a swimming pool, a volleyball pitch or just a lawn.
Middle-class Gazans split the cost between relatives and friends and rent them during the weekend to relax, swim and spend time together – a good alternative to overcrowded beaches and polluted sea water.
Chalets can be found on Facebook. Average costs are 100-150 dollars per house per day .
💻 Internet and connectivity
Your Israeli SIM card will not work in Gaza, so you may want to buy a local one.
There are two options: Jawwal and Oooredoo .
Both are good for calls and SMS, though the internet is slow.
You’ll need your passport to buy a SIM card.
Good wifi is available in mid- and high-level restaurants and hotels.
Things to do in the Gaza Strip
Before actually planning to get around the Strip, I recommend three things.
- First, arrange to have an Arabic-speaking companion with you. Although you can move around freely on your own, you’re still likely to face a situation when you need language assistance. A lot of people will stop you in the street out of curiosity, as well as the police may check your documents. Many find it difficult to understand why a foreigner might want to come to Gaza and some individuals may even get suspicious of you. That’s why a local friend may be helpful.
- Second, if you eventually decide to go around alone, use Maps.me – their offline map is the most precise. Google Maps is useless in the Strip since most places and street names are unmarked.
- Third, you will still need a tour guide from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to visit specific sites. You should contact them in advance and they will be happy to assign you an English-speaking guide.
Here are the different options of how you can spend your time traveling in Gaza:
Things to do in Gaza city
Gaza is the main city, busy and lively, divided into 20 administrative districts.
The overall atmosphere feels like Hebron or Nablus, but with more population density and less infrastructure.
Old Gaza City
The main historical sites are concentrated in Daraj , Tuffah and Zeitun districts and are all easily walkable.
Go towards Omari mosque – The oldest and biggest in the Strip. Built by the Mamluks in the 14 th century, it incorporated elements and features of the religious buildings that had stood here in the previous epochs, e.g. St. John’s basilica. Ask for sheikh Tareq – a very welcoming man who works as a guide of the mosque – for a short tour in English.
Qaysariya and Zawiya markets – Adjacent to the mosque you find two markets.
The first is a narrow alley with a vaulted roof and shiny windows of jewelry shops, known as the Gold Market. Well-off Gazans come here to buy dowry for the bride before a wedding. Interestingly, most of these shops belong to local Christian families.
Zawiya market, instead, is an open-air souq in Gaza where you can find any kind of stuff: from vegetables and household items to antiquities and cattle.
Sayed Hashim mosque – Walk through Zawiya market towards Palestine square and turn right. Continue towards Wahda street and in 15 minutes you will reach Sayed Hashim mosque.
This ancient and beautiful mosque hosts the tomb of, allegedly, the great-grandfather of Prophet Mohammad – Hashim ibn Abd Manaf.
I read somewhere on the internet that only Muslims can go inside – this is not true! Dress properly, take off your shoes as in any mosque and ask someone working there to show you around.
Al-Basha Palace – Then, go back to Wahda street and walk eastwards until you reach Al-Basha Palace . This elegant manor used to be the residence of local Mamluk and Ottoman governors.
Under the British mandate, it was transformed into a police station, whose cells and execution chamber can be visited today. The main building now hosts a public archeological museum with artifacts from all over the Strip.
You need an official guide from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to access the Palace.
St. Porphyry church and the Holy Family church – In the opposite part of Old Gaza, you can’t miss the only two churches functioning in the Strip today.
The first is the oldest church in Gaza, dedicated to St. Porphyry, bishop of Gaza in the 5 th century.
The church is impressive from the inside, with frescos, old icons, and an amazing iconostasis.
The church compound with the adjacent Christian cemetery today officially belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church.
The neighborhood is a quiet and pleasant place to walk around and discover some hidden treasures like old buildings, mosques, and distinctive corners.
Not far away, slightly hidden from the street by a tall fence, is the Holy Family church . It serves the local Catholic community of not more than 200-250 people.
Bath and relax in the Samaritan hammam
The only Turkish baths in the Strip. Owned by the ancient Jewish community of Samaritans till the 16 th century, today it’s an excellent place to relax and socialize with ordinary Gazans. The baths have preserved their original structure and heating system.
Entrance to the baths is 20 ILS, plus 18 ILS if you want a body scrub and a massage.
Bring your swimming shorts, flip flops and a towel. Very crowded on Friday and Saturday.
Visit the British war cemetery
Located north of Shujaiya district, it’s a wide green field with over 1700 graves of soldiers most of whom died in this area during World War I.
The majority of them were British, but there are also graves of Australians, Canadians, Indians and Poles.
Today a local family, employed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, takes care of the cemetery. Entrance to the area is free (if the main gate from Saladin street is closed, you can still access the cemetery through the residential area south of it).
Take a boat tour
Inside the port area, you are likely to be approached by touts and teenagers offering boat tours. The boats leave from the dock near the lighthouse and the cost is around 5 ILS for a shared and 20-30 ILS for a private tour.
The tour normally takes place around the port and, obviously, never close to the limit zone patrolled by the Israeli navy. After the tour, you can walk along the pier to take nice photos of the colorful fishing boats with the city in the background.
When exiting the port, turn right and 100 meters after Hassaina mosque you will reach the fish market . Fishermen and their catch are there in the morning.
The amount and variety of the catch depends on the extension of the fishing zone: limits are set and changed by the Israeli authorities based on the political situation.
Go to the beach
All beaches are public and very crowded in the summer. However, finding a chair and an umbrella is never a problem.
You can see Gazans swim and have fun despite the sea being polluted with sewage water, but you’d better not to challenge your immune system. From time to time, street vendors will pass by selling sweet potatoes, biscuits and other snacks.
In the evening, you can enjoy a magical sunset from one of the seafront cafés.
What to visit in the northern area of Gaza
This area comprises everything that is north of Gaza city, in particular, the towns of Jabalia, Beit Lahia and Beit Hanun.
Visit the archeological area of the Byzantine church
Not much can be seen, however, besides an old 5 th -century mosaic with scenes of the Last Supper, images of local flora and fauna and 16 inscriptions in Greek.
The church was completely destroyed in the 9 th century during the Iconoclastic period.
The site is currently undergoing restoration, while the mosaic has been covered with a layer of sand to protect it from damage.
The entrance is from Saladin street, with prior arrangement through the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
Go for a strawberry tasting in a farm in Beit Lahia
This green hilly area is particularly renowned for its citrus fruits and big juicy strawberries, which in better times were largely exported abroad. Contacts of these farms can be found on Facebook. One of them is Al-Shafi’i Farm .
Things to do in the middle area of Gaza
This administrative area comprises the towns and villages situated between Gaza city and Khan Yunis.
Visit St. Hilarion’s monastery
Known locally as Tell Umm Al-‘Amer, this is considered to be the oldest monastery in Palestine, founded in the 4 th century by Hilarion the Great.
As time passed by, the monastery grew into a big compound with chapels, cells for monks and pilgrims, refectory and baths… until its destruction by an earthquake in the 8 th.
Today, not much is left: only some walls, pavements, columns and mosaics. The site is located west of Nuseirat.
You will need to arrange your visit with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in advance, otherwise, the site may be closed.
Pass by the second British cemetery
Located near the eastern entrance to the town of Zawayda.
This one is smaller than the Gaza cemetery, but not less interesting, picturesque and peaceful.
Here you can even notice several Jewish tombs, which for me was something really unexpected.
Attend the harvesting of dates in Deir al-Balah.
The town’s name is literally translated as “the monastery of dates” and, in fact, the countryside between Nuseirat and Deir Al-Balah is dotted with many tall date palms.
During the harvesting season in autumn, farmers climb to the top of the palms with a rope and cut down bunches of ripe dates.
Things to do in the Southern area of Gaza
This administrative area comprises the provinces of Khan Yunis and Rafah.
Go sightseeing in Khan Yunis
The second-largest city in the Gaza Strip. It may appear grey and unattractive at first glance, but it’s definitely worth taking a stroll in the downtown area full of shops, market stalls and warm smiles of locals.
Barquq castle – The city doesn’t have an old part as such, but you can’t miss the iconic Barquq castle overlooking the central square and the main mosque.
What was once part of a big caravanserai – “ khan ” in Arabic – now is only a façade with the former city gate, the minaret and several empty rooms used for storing goods in the past.
Old railway – Not far away is Sikka street, where the Haifa-Cairo railway used to pass before 1967. Some elderly Gazans still remember the times when they could take the train and reach Cairo in one night, without any borders, permits and security concerns.
Part of the railway – “ Sikka ” in Arabic – has been preserved as a monument. Also, the building of the old train station still exists, but is now used as a storage facility by the municipality.
Wednesday market – By the way, today the city is well-known for its Wednesday market which takes place in the central streets and draws people from all over the Strip.
An interesting experience could also be a visit to the cattle market held weekly on a sandy road along a big compound of greenhouses north of the city.
Mosque of the Dome – Also north of Khan Yunis, an unusual mosque called Mosque of the Dome is worth a visit. Head towards Al-Mawasi village and you will see a big golden dome from the distance. It’s simple from the inside, but has impressive natural acoustics.
Visit a Bedouin camp
There’s a number of Bedouin communities in Khan Yunis and Rafah countryside – you can often notice their camel paddocks from the road.
Remember that Bedouins are conservative, sensitive and, unlike in Israel or the West Ban k , are not used to visitors.
That’s why behave with utmost empathy and respect. A good idea is to bring food or something useful as a gift.
Have fun in Asdaa resort.
This big park is located just west of Khan Yunis, on the land where the Israeli settlement of Gush Katif used to be till 2005.
Take a dose of adrenaline on locally constructed rides and the panoramic wheel, splash in the water park, visit “Palestine in Miniature” and the zoo.
The latter risks to become a truly traumatic experience because poor animals and birds are kept in small and dirty cages.
Explore the ruins of Gaza international airport.
A symbol of hope and a better future upon its opening in 1998, the airport was almost completely destroyed by Israeli aviation 2-3 years later and has never been operational ever since.
You will need prior coordination with the Ministry of Interior to access this area, which is close to the Israeli and Egyptian borders.
You will not be allowed to take pictures. To reach the airport, go east of Rafah through Al-Bayuk village.
There’re several other places around Rafah which could be interesting to see, like the archeological area of Tell Rafah and the so-called Swedish village located on the coast some 50 meters from the border with Egypt. But I didn’t get the chance to go there.
Rafah itself has not much to show you, apart from the central square – Sahat Al-Nejma . It’s a roundabout with an “arch of triumph”, a Qassam rocket and a banner with pictures of local martyrs. On the other side of the street is Louvre Café on the top floor of the glass building.
❗ More information for visiting the Gaza Strip
📢 In my Travel Resources Page you can find the list of all the sites and services I use to book hotels, tours, travel insurance and more.
Don’t forget to check our travel guide to Palestine .
As well as all our Palestine articles:
- Travel Guide to Hebron
- A Guide to Kuffiya Factory in Hebron
- Palestinian Refugee Camp in Bethlehem
- Things to know about Palestine
@log_nick is a fellow traveler who loves to explore off the beaten track countries and had the opportunity to spend a fair amount of time traveling in the Gaza Strip. You can follow his trips on Instagram
Hi, Thank you for this very rare insight into Gazan life! Can I ask how you got a permit to enter? I assume you got it for being a journalist, yet I can’t see the Israeli authorities getting all excited about a travel piece on Gaza so I am curious how you managed it.
Hi Maria, I got a special work visa that allowed entry / exit through the Erez crossing. Obviosly, I didn’t go there for tourism or journalism, but during weekends and days-off I took the opportunity to explore the Strip. I don’t see why Israel should be unhappy about this article. It’s just facts and personal impressions of my stay in Gaza 😉
How does one get a journalist visa? I am an independent/freelance filmmaker and would like to make a small documentary about life there (showing the misconceptions of the West)
Hello, Thank you for you advice. I have a question regarding the travel insurance. I am a Belgian citizen and Gaza is listed as a “strongly discouraged area” to travel to, by the Foreign Affairs Ministry. For that reasons many insurance companies refuse to cover my travel, or it is a business trip that I need to do. What did you do to be covered by an insurance? Thank you a lot for your answers. Camille
Hi Camille, honestly I didn’t face the problem of insurance because I was covered by my employer. But I guess it can be the same insurance as for other “specific” countries, like Iran or Syria, but I’m not sure.
Where exactely in Israel did you obtain visa to Ghaza? Police station?
Normally, COGAT is responsible for the permits, but from abroad you should do it through the embassy.
could you give an example of humanitarian ong
examples of humanitarian NGOs in the Gaza Strip
Is it possible to get through erez crossing as a tourist, Im british btw
I am an American citizen born and raised in the Gaza Strip and I would like to go and visit family half of them in the Gaza Strip and the other half in Israel how can I get a permit to enter to the Gaza Strip from Israel any information will help. the way you described the people and the life in Gaza Strip Is the normal Thing for us as a Palestinian. thank you for your honesty and the rare posting
This is very well written and easy to follow and covers virtually all of Palestine. I sort of comments on here stating that Israel had complained about it, I don’t see how they can possibly complain about it at all as it has been not just let off lightly, and even but been given land which is not theirs. Primarily as within the former part of this essay description – there are more places which stste State they are in Israel when they which are actually Palestine, and mentions “conflict“ rather than a brief description of the True reasons for this disruption – if he is well government, I’m going to be making prawn and sweetcorn confirmed as the biggest terrorist organisation on the planet now and for many decades. Israel are causing a ginormous genocidal WAR conflict via their continual murdering of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and theft of Palestinian land, the Palestinians are obviously retaliating just like any British person would if 10 people moved into their garden to live there, with ammunition, destroying their garden and taking their house to peices having just flattened their children’s school with bombs whilst over children still inside it. Just one single example.
Having spent 16 wonderful months in Gaza, I can vouch for the accuracy of your wonderful guide. It is extraordinarily difficult to get into Gaza at this time due to Israeli and Egyptian entry restrictions (and the realities of the Coronavirus pandemic), but it will not always be so, and the effort to secure entry permits will be rewarded once you cross the border and are welcomed by the good people of Gaza. My life in Gaza was life changing in so many ways. At the moment it is impossible to enter Gaza as a tourist, but there are a number of organizations that will welcome you as a volunteer if you can spend some weeks working with them. Those organizations can help you to secure the necessary entry permits and serve as guides while you are there. My recommendation to anyone who is considering a visit as a volunteer is to connect with Palestinians in Gaza well in advance of your travels by using social media – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are great places to explore for friendship opportunities. You can meet some extraordinary people through interactions with a number of groups, including the young writers of We Are Not Numbers, for example. And, if you have a serious interest in spending some weeks in Gaza, I would be pleased to offer any guidance to you that may be helpful in planning your visit.
hi, seen your atricle, is it still possible to visit gaza ? please let me know i have no family there and am not journalist, or NGO. WOULD it be possible?
All I can do just patiently wait all I can do is just patiently wait until things change I waited for 25 years I can wait some more thank you for your comment I wish anybody can help but I guess there’s no help I guess I have to wait wait wait and wait some more
Hi Denny, I have a genuine interest in visiting here, it looks like a beautiful and fascinating place. Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.
Hi denny, I have made contact with a small charity of which I working with but the orgainiser will not let me use his name or organisation for fear of retribution from the Israeli military. Not that we are doing anything wrong by helping homeless children. Could you please give a list of organisations that would be happy for me to volunteer? I am a community artist and I would love to volunteer in order to be able to work and live in Gaza for a time.
I want to go to Gaza for relief work and I am read to work with any organisation of there , but I am so confused about getting Permit for entry. Please help me
Hi Denny, Thanks for your note. I would like to send some money to a Gaza family which has survived the latest war but who, like so many others, has been left completely destitute. Could please advise me on the most secure way to do so? Thanks in advance for your assistance.
Thank you for your informative and enjoyable article on Gaza Strip. Your article is a refreshing eye-opener. Through Facebook, I have befriended a lovely family in Rafah, and hope to travel there to attend the son’s wedding in one of the wedding halls, as soon as COVID -19 permits. I agree with you, the people are friendly and very kind. Even via cyberspace, their character shines through. Having friends there has heightened my awareness of the trauma and disorientation families experience due to the nightly Israeli post-midnight bombings. I pray the situation be solved soon, in favor of the Palestinian people.
hello I am a palestinian-american from Gaza Strip migrated to the US in 1983 pursuing higher education I have went back to Palestine in1995 I have spent the most beautiful and joyful three months of my life when I came back to the United States they have stopped me from leaving the country recently I got this restriction taken off and then David 19 hit the world I did not care about quarantine I can live with that but the sad thing is I cannot get into Gaza Strip my family are in Jerusalem Nazareth and Gaza Strip it’s not fair to visit half of the family and not the other half is there anybody can tell me how can I get into Gaza Strip from Israel
Anybody anywhere in a nationalities any politician any human thank you
and by the way I still have my mother side of the family some of them in Rapha they all doctors and Engineers we are well educated we are not dumb but we just been taking over buy denial for the right to exist
Thanks for the interesting information. You should know that when Israelis lived in villages in the Gaza strip (until the 2005 evacuation), people in Gaza enjoyed lots of job opportunities and most of them, oppressed by Hamas, would not let the Israelis leave. Also, I hope people ask themselves why does the Palestinians rely completely on Israeli currency and the Israeli economy? The answer is the their leaders never aimed at developing a successful economy, and used all the money it could to fight and terrorize Israel. Israel is trying for many years to help the Palestinians as much as they can while fight terrorism. As an Israeli I would be glad to visit Gaza, I hope the day is near…
Shlomo, my name is Paul, I welcome the opportunity of writing to you. Please consider, do you truly think that the people of Gaza could develop a buoyant economy when the Zionist state is intent on their elimination. Consider the many children in prison, with no charge, and the way they are treated, also thousands of adults also many with no charge. Consider the erratic and malicious bombing of civilian targets in Gaza, the attacks on working fishing boats, the never ending destruction of palestinian homes and businesses all over West bank and beyond, by so called (JEWISH settlers, many are not they are just opportunists from Eastern Europe looking for gold). the never ending attacks on people by the settler colonialists, backed by or condoned by the Israeli Military. Shlomo please consider the checkpoints, the walls, consider the destruction by the IOF of essential infrastructure all over Gaza and West bank, and indeed all of Palestine. When the European jews were set upon by the Hitler youth and the Nazi criminals they did not try to maintain their economies, rather they tried to survive. These people today try to survive and do do with a smile on their face while the new NAZIS make their lives a hell. Shlomo this is not the Israel of Moshe Dayan, no sir this is now a land of greed, hate and genocide backed by the very dangerous Zionist movements of USA and the world. That the people of Gaza keep smiling and surviving in spite of the consistent attacks they have had to suffer, and the thousands of small children that have been wantonly slain, is in itself a miracle.. thank you for you patience Paul OGarra PS This evil will come to an end as it did with the holocaust years.
There is no point of discussion when you base your claims on misinformation, compare us to nazis and wish for our failure. Luckily, I know better than you what happened in the holocaust (my grandparents’ family was murdered there) and what kind of people have done it (very different than us). Luckily, the Jews are not the poor people they were before 1948, and we will soon, g-d willing, get our chance to teach the world what is justice and how it is done. We are not anyone’s punching bag anymore. Not yours, not the Palestinians (who prove again and again that it’s not their land, the way they treat it or the people on it). We will keep our hand open for peace and help for anyone who accepts us, and will not hesitate to stop anyone who doesn’t.
Its unfortunate you mention the Holocaust. As the occupation of Israeli’s and their oppression of the palestinians bear striking resemblances to how the Jews were treated under the cruel regime of Nazi Germany. (ie the curfews, the changing border controls & ID without warning, the slow reduction of palestinian rights and their ability to move around their own land). There is a strong argument that the Jews learnt from their oppressors and took the systems they were persecuted under and inflicted them on another race & religion. Also every Israeli i have met has a one-sided view that they can just take more land without any consequences and a cruel disregard of the families and communities that live there.
I am a Palestinian migrated to USA in 1965 as student. I graduated from Oklahoma state with master degree in Architectural engineering. I had lost my relatives, all my age family members. I visited Israel three times thru Egypt. I was harassed by the Egyptians always they ask for money. This tome I want to go to Gaza thru Israel, I want to build my mother grave before I die. Any advise.
Hi i am Nabeel khan from India and i want to visit gaza strip through rafah crossing.please let me know the whole procedure
This is the first time that I have read such an in-depth blog on traveling to Gaza. This could be because not many choose this destination for a holiday due to civil unrest. Your courage is appreciative.
Great article, thanks! When you next update it, can you please add “Egypt” to the Background paragraph where you say…” a suffocating land, sea and air blockade imposed by Israel”. I’m living in Sinai, Egypt, and security is a huge concern here. People are quick to blame only Israel for creating security barriers to Gaza and I think it should be clear that ALL surrounding countries are concerned about terrorism.
Thanks for this great article, I am from Gaza and I am very happy that someone is visiting Gaza to convey the truth.
I am ready to help anyone who wishes to visit Gaza for free, and you are all welcome in my humble home.
So is this place still good to travel ?
Probably not, at this point of time… the borders are closed and the war is at it’s highest risk in years, IIRC.
Yes.. it is still a good place to visit regardless of the massacres that are happening there.. From the land to the sea, Palestine will be free.. I really hope everyone with good intentions to visit Palestine will get the chance to do so and meet all our beloved brothers and sisters there.. Aamiin
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Israel Tightens Restrictions on Travel to the Occupied Territories
A new 97-page directive is aimed at restricting the flow of foreigners of Palestinian descent and others who want to visit the West Bank.
Sandra Tamari was traveling to a family wedding in the West Bank when security officers at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport pulled her aside. For hours, they questioned her about her parents, grandparents, employer, and previous travels. They ordered her to write the names and contact details of everyone she planned to visit and made her list all her email addresses. Then, a security officer turned a computer screen toward her and ordered her to log into her Gmail account.
“That’s when I said, ‘No way,’” Tamari, a U.S. citizen of Palestinian descent, told The Intercept. When she refused, she was detained overnight and then deported back to the U.S. An officer told her she was denied entry because she posed a security threat.
While the West Bank and Gaza are occupied territories and not part of Israel, Israeli officials control access to them, monitoring the movement of anyone traveling there — and regularly denying entry to foreigners who are visiting for personal, family, or professional reasons. For years, international travelers, and particularly those of Palestinian descent, have been at the whims of border officials. The process was often degrading, unpredictable, and arbitrary.
Now much of that process has been codified by the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, known as COGAT, the unit of Israel’s Defense Ministry tasked with administering civilian issues in the Palestinian territories that Israel occupies. In a 97-page document issued earlier this spring, COGAT officials introduced a slate of severe restrictions on international travel to the occupied West Bank, which they refer to as “Judea and Samaria.”
“Before this, it was kind of like Russian roulette when you got to an Israeli border crossing if you’re a Palestinian foreign passport holder: You’d just never know, are you going to get in, are you not going to get in,” Zaha Hassan, a human rights lawyer and fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The Intercept. “Now at least you know what the rules are, and they are all in one place. But the rules are pretty egregious.”
The new rules formalize invasive questioning that has long been the reality for those traveling to the territories. Some — like a requirement that those visiting Palestinian family members disclose a series of personal details about them — have always been the norm. But the rules also include a new slate of restrictions that Palestinians in the diaspora warn will drastically curtail their ability to visit their families and homeland. They include a condition that visitors disclose details about any land they might own or expect to inherit in the territories, a limit to the number of trips one can make, and a requirement that visitors apply for a permit 45 days before traveling — a measure introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic, ostensibly for public health reasons, that Israel is now seeking to make permanent.
The rules also curtail the travel of non-Palestinian visitors to the territories, including caps on the number of visiting scholars and students. But they do not apply to those seeking to travel to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which are illegal under international law but which Israel effectively treats as an extension of its territory. The rules were slated to kick in later this month, but a legal challenge raised by an Israeli group has temporarily delayed implementation to early this summer .
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While they apply to Palestinians holding any foreign passports, as well as non-Palestinian foreigners visiting the territories from anywhere else in the world, the rules have raised particular concerns for Palestinian Americans, many of whom have long felt the U.S. government is doing far too little to address Israel’s discriminatory policies toward them. At least two draft letters are currently circulating among legislators, asking U.S. officials to address Israel’s new restrictions on travel to the West Bank. A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department wrote in a statement to The Intercept that officials there “continue to study the new regulations and are engaging with Israeli authorities to understand their application and encourage additional consultation with stakeholders before implementation.” The spokesperson added, “We seek equal treatment and freedom to travel for all U.S. citizens regardless of national origin or ethnicity.”
A spokesperson for Israel’s Ministry of Defense deferred questions to COGAT, which did not respond to a request for comment.
U.S. critics of the rules note that they come at a time when U.S. officials can exercise particular leverage, as Israel is currently seeking to join the U.S. visa waiver program, which allows visitors from participating countries to travel to the U.S. for business or tourism without a visa. In March, the U.S. and Israel signed an information exchange agreement bringing Israel closer to approval for the program. The State Department spokesperson said that officials are “reviewing the regulations in detail in order to determine if there is any linkage to the requirements of the Visa Waiver Program.” He added, “The U.S. government continues to work with Israel towards fulfilling all program requirements, including extending reciprocal privileges to all U.S. citizens and nationals upon arrival — including Palestinian Americans.”
Participation in the visa waiver initiative is predicated on reciprocal treatment — meaning Palestinian Americans seeking to enter Israel and the West Bank should expect the same guarantees as Israeli citizens traveling to the U.S. That’s hardly the case currently: For instance, U.S. citizens who also hold Palestinian IDs are denied access to Ben Gurion Airport altogether and must travel through Jordan, while other U.S. citizens can travel through Israel.
“In the past, American citizens have complained to the State Department about discrimination, and the U.S. response has always been that Israel has sovereign right to exclude people it doesn’t want,” Hassan said. “But the problem here is that Israel is not sovereign over the West Bank. It’s occupied territory.” She added, “This is actually a moment in which the U.S. could very well help to change policies that are impacting Americans attempting to work, study, and visit in the West Bank.”
Palestinian passes through an Israeli security checkpoint from Ramallah into Jerusalem on April 29, 2022, in Ramallah, West Bank.
The new COGAT rules appear to serve multiple purposes: by discouraging travel to the West Bank, they further isolate Palestinians and seek to undercut growing global solidarity with them. They limit the ability of foreigners of Palestinian descent to maintain ties with their families and homeland. And they enable the large-scale collection of personal data on anyone traveling to the territories, feeding into a sprawling surveillance effort already underway that some have dubbed Israel’s “ Facebook for Palestinians .”
“Israel is in the process of creating this massive data project, mapping Palestinian relationships, property holdings, and all kinds of other information,” said Hassan. “This is something they have always done. But now they want you to proactively give them that information.”
“Israel is in the process of creating this massive data project, mapping Palestinian relationships, property holdings.”
The requirement that those applying for permits to visit the West Bank disclose details about land they might own or inherit has caused particular alarm, raising echoes of the “Absentee Property Law” by which Israel has justified expropriating the land of countless Palestinians who left, fled, or were forcibly expelled during its founding. The provision in the new rules is especially concerning to those owning property in “ Area C ,” a large swath of the West Bank where illegal Israeli settlements are fast growing.
“Maybe if you have property in Area C you don’t get in, and maybe under Israeli military law, if a property is abandoned, then the state can take it,” said Hassan, in reference to the new travel requirement. “The issue is that Israel is extending its sovereignty over the West Bank. And these COGAT rules are just an expression of that.”
Palestinian Americans and others critical of Israeli policies have long denounced treatment like the one now codified by COGAT — to little avail.
A car drives past a sign for the Allenby (King Hussein) crossing point to Jordan, in the city of Jericho in the occupied West Bank, on Jan. 28, 2021.
When Tamari was detained at Ben Gurion Airport, she was allowed to call the U.S. Embassy. She recalled that the staffer who responded on the citizen services’ line immediately asked her, “Are you Jewish?” When she said that she was Palestinian, the staffer told her, “There’s really nothing we can do for you,” she says.
“The issue is that Israel is extending its sovereignty over the West Bank. And these COGAT rules are just an expression of that.”
Back in the U.S., Tamari spoke with her congressional representative, and she and her supporters delivered a petition to the State Department and met with officials involved with consular services in Israel. “None of the information we presented was surprising to them,” she told The Intercept. “I don’t think there’s any motivation on the part of the U.S. to protect Palestinians.”
The failed trip was Tamari’s last attempt to visit her family’s homeland: “I have missed out on a whole generation of cousins that I haven’t met,” she said.
Her ordeal was hardly unheard of for Palestinian holders of foreign passports who are regularly turned away by Israeli officials. “There are hundreds and hundreds of stories of Palestinians with U.S. passports who have been denied entry,” Tamari said. “The separation of families is part of the Israeli weaponry against Palestinians, and it’s unfortunately very painful and traumatic.”
So far, few U.S. legislators have been willing to criticize Israel’s treatment even of U.S. citizens.
“We know that Congress has the capacity to really influence these sorts of decisions, especially because at this point, there’s a large population of Palestinians in the United States who would be directly impacted by this,” Iman Abid-Thompson, national director of advocacy and organizing at the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, told The Intercept.
“If there’s a silver lining to be looked at upon here, it’s the fact that we are now able to see, verbatim, what it is that we have been saying,” she added. “The United States can look past it, if it so chooses, as it already does, or it can actually see what Palestinians have been saying for decades.”
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Traveling To Palestine Is Easier and Much Safer Than You Think
W hatever your interest in Palestine is — be it religious, historical, or cultural-political — there is no better way to get a clear picture of the territories than to visit them. Contrary to the images that the mere mention of Palestine conjures, traveling in the region is easy, safe, and the people are incredibly welcoming. Palestine is composed of two territories: the West Bank (located between Israel and Jordan) and the Gaza Strip (land bordering Israel and Egypt). Travelers can go to the West Bank, but the Gaza Strip is closed to tourism. Here is everything you need to know about visiting the West Bank and the Israeli side of the Gaza Strip border.
The Palestinian Territories are the areas delimited by the dotted lines. Photo: Google Maps
- Practical information about the West Bank for travelers
How to get to the West Bank from Israel
What to do in the west bank and where to start your visit, visiting the gaza strip border, the west bank, practical information about the west bank.
The currency used in the West Bank is the same as the one used in Israel: shekel (0.00 per 1 USD). The official language is Arabic although many people in the cities speak basic English. It’s recommended to dress modestly : Both men and women should cover their shoulders and legs, and even their heads and arms to enter some places such as temples and other sacred edifices. Most shops are closed on Fridays because it’s the resting day for Muslims (commercial activity also slows down during the month of Ramadan). But since there is a minority of Christians, some places are also closed on Sundays. Whatever you do, start early, because most places close around 4:00 PM. Note that summer is the hottest time of the year in Palestine, so avoid this season if you can’t handle the heat.
Safety: The West Bank is divided in three areas (A, B, and C), which are administered by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. It has lived in relative peace since the Second Intifada ended (2005), so the answer is yes, it’s safe to travel to the West Bank in general, so long as you follow local guidelines.
Where to stay: Bethlehem has the most accommodation options, which makes it perfect to use as your base. But all places have some kind of lodging. The choice is yours: Airbnb apartments or rooms, hostels, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and even homestays where you can work as a volunteer and participate in the annual olive harvest.
Transportation: We recommend the yellow mini-van shared taxis (pronounced serveece ), which cost about 10 percent of the price of a taxi. Hiring taxi drivers by the hour is an excellent option considering the cost-time benefit, especially if you are sharing the ride with a couple of travelers. Most rental cars companies don’t allow you to take the cars you rent in Israel to the West Bank.
Photo: Peace center restaurant /Facebook
Food: Palestinian cuisine has many Mediterranean influences, so you can expect plenty of fresh vegetables and olive oil. There are many Arabic fast-food places that serve falafels and shawarma, but you can also find other types of restaurants. Besides the ubiquitous hummus, try the musakhan (roasted chicken placed on a slice of bread and topped with chestnuts and tons of caramelized onions) at the Peace Center Restaurant in Bethlehem. For a treat, have a kanafeh , a delicious pastry made out of semolina dough, soaked in syrup, and layered with cheese — it can be purchased at most markets, cafes, street stands, and restaurants, and it pairs amazingly well with Arabic coffee. The West Bank also has some microbreweries worth trying; Taybeh Brewing Company is the oldest and is located in the Ramallah District.
You can get to the West Bank from Israel (through different checkpoints) and from Jordan (via Allenby Bridge about an hour from Amman). In both cases you’ll have to go through Israeli checkpoints. I’ve gone to the West Bank from Israel, and I was stopped and had my passport checked only on my way back to Israel. The process took less than 10 minutes, but the time can vary depending on the checkpoint. You’ll need to have your passport and your visa (the slip that was given to you when you entered the country since Israel doesn’t stamp passports) at all times.
Photo: gary yim /Shutterstock
Start in Bethlehem. Take a taxi (15 minutes) or the Bus 21 from Jerusalem (near Damascus Gate in the Old City, it takes 30 minutes). Once in Bethlehem, hire a taxi driver (negotiate the fixed price first) to take you around.
The best things to see and do in the West Bank depend on your interest, but here are some great spots to check out for those with a spiritual, cultural, or political pursuit.
According to the Bible, Bethlehem is the place where Jesus was born. Today, it has the biggest population of Arab Christians in the West Bank. The Old City, with its white houses and its narrow limestone streets, is a beautiful sight.
Photo: Victor Lauer /Shutterstock
The UNESCO’s World Heritage Church of the Nativity , right in the center of the Old City, is the oldest continuously operating church in the world (326 AD). The temple is administered by three different Christian denominations (Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, and Roman Catholic). Inside the Church, in the Grotto of the Nativity, is a 14-point silver star that marks the spot of Jesus’s birth. There are usually big lines of tourists waiting to enter, but if you go during lunch, you’ll have the place to yourself. You are allowed to bend over and touch the ground underneath the star, an exciting moment for Christian visitors from all over the world.
Photo: Yevgenia Gorbulsky /Shutterstock
Located 7.5 miles from Bethlehem, the Greek-Orthodox monastery of Mar Saba is one of the oldest inhabited monasteries in the world (483 AD), and it’s still functioning. Its founder, Saint Sabas, was one of the first hermit monks in the Negev desert where he worked to establish many other monasteries. The interior of the building is stunning, and one can see the remains of the saint. The setting of the monastery gives one of the most spectacular views of both Israel and Palestine. Women are not allowed to enter, but the drive through the desert to get there and the views are worth the little road trip (especially in the spring when the flowers are in bloom.)
Photo: eFesenko /Shutterstock
Many independent travelers want to visit the refugee camps in Palestine, built and still run by the United Nations and now transformed into established neighborhoods. Both Aida and Dheisheh are located near Bethlehem and are easy to visit. There, you can see the politically charged street art and talk to people, including activists about the current political situation. If you go to any refugee camp, go or stay with someone who is familiar with the security situation. Conflicts can arise quickly. Note that there are Airbnbs inside the camps .
Photo: badahos /Shutterstock
Bethlehem is also known for its street art. There are three pieces adjudicated to Banksy (who also owns a hotel there) although it is believed that only one is authentic. There are hundreds of street art pieces on the security barrier (wall) that Israel built in 2002 to stop the suicide bombers attacks that killed hundreds of civilians in the ‘90s. Although the attacks have stopped, the wall is extremely controversial and is dubbed the “Separation Wall” by Palestinians. You can go to “ The Banksy Shop ” and get some souvenirs (t-shirts, postcards, etc.) or buy spray paint and leave your personal message on the wall.
When hunger strikes, head to the little souq and buy some delicious snacks like fresh fruits, pastries, nuts and caramelized fruit, dates, etc. Hit one the street stands to enjoy a traditional pomegranate juice.
Other places of interest to visit in or near the Old City include the Chapel of the Milk Grotto , a sanctuary for women who want to increase their fertility and have a healthy breastmilk supply; Rachel’s Tomb where it’s said the biblical matriarch died in childbirth on her way to Hebron; The Mosque of Omar , the only mosque in the city; and the Old Bethlehem Museum for traditional and beautiful Palestinian embroidered clothing.
Photo: nayef hammouri /Shutterstock
Hebron is the city of Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic) and the burial place of the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs (excerpt for Rachel), sacred to both Judaism and Islam. It’s not an easy city to visit because the Jewish settlements are within the city center and in the outskirts, so Hebron is geographically divided; you need to go through checkpoints to go from one side of the city to the other. Unlike the other places in the West Bank, the tension here is palpable, especially since 2014 when three Israelis teenagers were kidnapped and killed. Tension can escalate quickly, especially on Fridays.
On the other hand, if one wishes to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the visit to Hebron is essential. Take the Dual Narrative Hebron Tour led by two guides, one from Palestine and the other one from Israel, to get a very well balanced and broad perspective of this complex city.
Located only 6.2 miles north of Jerusalem, Ramallah is the administrative center of the West Bank (both Palestinians and Israelis consider Jerusalem to be their capital). The city is very cosmopolitan, full of shops, cafes and restaurants, people walking around and talking loudly. The center of Ramallah is Al-Manara Square, with its iconic four sculpted lions. Explore the Al-Muntazah neighborhood and visit the many places related to modern Palestine’s history, like Yasser Arafat’s presidential campground, and his gigantic and solemn tomb, guarded by soldiers and perpetually adorned with wreaths.
Photo: posztos /Shutterstock
The archaeological finds suggest that Jericho was built more than 10,000 years ago, which makes it one of the oldest cities in the world. You can visit the archeological site and then take a cable car to the Monastery of the Qurantul, built on the Mount of Temptation, where Christians believe Jesus was tempted by the Devil.
Other places to visit in the West Bank
- Qasr al-Yahud , on the Jordan River, is the place where some Christians believe Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist (you can see Jordan on the other side of this very narrow river). There is another bapstimal place in the North of Israel, near Tiberias.
- Nablus is located in a beautiful valley and known for its olive oil soap factories, olive-wood carvings, and its kanafeh. The old city is beautiful. Check out Mount Gerizim and spend some time learning about one of the world’s last communities of Samaritans. Nablus is also home to many hammams , so pick one to relax at the end of a long day of exploration. Hammam Ash-Shifa is a tried and tested bathhouse that we recommend.
Photo: Val_Yankin /Shutterstock
The Gaza Strip has been closed to tourism since Israel’s blockade (2006) when Islamist party Hamas took control. But, if you really want to learn about the conflict while you are here, you can get closer to the border to visit some of the neighboring villages and kibbutzim and to see the Strip from a distance.
Photo: Laura Bernhein /Facebook
We do not advise to go to the border by yourself, without anyone who is familiar with the security situation. Hamas attacks with rockets (and even with helium balloons full of explosives) are constant in this area and, once the alarms sound, you have only 10 seconds to get to a shelter. So please take it seriously, go with a local, and stay very alert.
Gaza’s population is almost two million people (one of the most densely populated places in the world). The unemployment rate is above 50 percent (some say it’s 70 percent for younger people), and its inhabitants have electricity only four to six hours a day. How things have got so bad in this part of the world is a long, complicated story that differs depending on who you talk to. Take this dual narrative North of Gaza Border Reality Tour for a comprehensive summary on the ancient and current history of the region. For me and my children, the three highlights of the tours were:
- The Ezer Crossing (the only crossing for people between Israel and Gaza open today) where we had the chance to talk to some Gazans who were waiting for the transportation to go to both Israel and the West Bank to receive medical treatment at the local hospitals. An old man told us with a smile, “We are neighbors, all sons and daughters of Ibrahim.”
- This menorah was made with rockets in the town of Sderot. Sderot is located less than one mile from the Gaza Strip and has been the target of attacks from Hamas. For that reason, the town is full of bomb shelters, as well as artworks made with the rockets destined to damage it.
- The visit to the Moshav Netiv HaAsara (a moshav is an agricultural village), where we participated in the Path to Peace Project by leaving a ceramic piece on the first wall (there are more) that signals the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
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Israel, The West Bank and Gaza
Travel Advisory October 14, 2023
See individual summaries.
Updated to reflect the authorized the departure of family members of U.S. government personnel and some non-emergency personnel on a case-by-case basis.
Summary: Terrorist groups, lone-actor terrorists and other violent extremists continue plotting possible attacks in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza. Terrorists and violent extremists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities. Violence can occur in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza without warning. There has been a marked increase in demonstrations throughout Israel, some with little or no warning.
Some areas have increased risk. Read the country information page for additional information on travel to Israel and the West Bank, and Gaza.
Visit the CDC page for the latest Travel Health Information related to your travel.
On, October 13, 2023, the Department authorized the departure of family members of U.S. government personnel and some non-emergency personnel on a case-by-case basis from U.S. Embassy Jerusalem and U.S. Branch Office Tel Aviv due to the unpredictable security situation in Israel.
Do Not Travel To :
- Gaza due to terrorism, civil unrest , and armed conflict
Reconsider Travel To :
- Israel due to terrorism and civil unrest
- West Bank due to terrorism and civil unrest
If you decide to travel to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.
- Check the most recent Alerts at the Embassy website for the latest information on travel in all of these areas.
- Maintain a high degree of situational awareness and exercise caution at all times, especially at checkpoints and other areas with a significant presence of security forces.
- Avoid demonstrations and crowds.
- Follow the instructions of security and emergency response officials.
- Beware of and report suspicious activities, including unattended items, to local police.
- Learn the location of the nearest bomb shelter or other hardened shelter. Download the Home Front Command Red Alert application for mobile devices to receive real time alerts for rocket attacks.
- Obtain comprehensive travel medical insurance that includes medical evacuation prior to travel. Most travel insurance packages do not cover mental health related illnesses/care.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
- Review the Country Security Report for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.
- Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist
Gaza – Do Not Travel
Do not travel due to terrorism, civil unrest , and armed conflict .
The U.S. government is unable to provide routine or emergency services to U.S. citizens in Gaza as U.S. government employees are prohibited from traveling there. Hamas, a U.S. government-designated foreign terrorist organization, controls the security infrastructure in Gaza. The security environment within Gaza and on its borders is dangerous and volatile. Sporadic mortar or rocket fire and corresponding Israeli military responses may occur at any time. During periods of unrest or armed conflict, the crossings between Gaza with Israel and Egypt may be closed.
Visit our website for Travel to High Risk Areas .
If you decide to travel to Gaza:
- Be prepared for an indefinite stay as the crossings between Gaza with Israel and Egypt can close without advance notice and for long periods during times of unrest and armed conflict.
- Have a plan for entering and departing Gaza that does not rely on U.S. government assistance.
Israel – Reconsider Travel
Reconsider travel due to terrorism and civil unrest .
U.S. government employees are currently restricted from personal travel other than mission-critical travel.
The Embassy can impose even greater travel restrictions on its personnel, with little to no notice due to increased security issues or threats.
West Bank – Reconsider Travel
Visit our website for Travel to High Risk Areas .
View Alerts and Messages Archive
No minimum requirement, but your authorized stay will not exceed the validity remaining on your passport and airlines may decline boarding if a traveler has fewer than six months validity on his or her passport.
1 page (although passports are normally not stamped upon entry).
Not required for stays of 90 days or fewer. Please see below for detailed information about entry, exit and visa requirements.
You must declare if you are carrying 50,000 shekels or more when entering or exiting Israel by air and 12,000 shekels if entering or exiting by land.
Embassies and Consulates
U.S. Embassy Jerusalem 14 David Flusser Street Jerusalem 93392 Telephone: + (972) (2) 630-4000 Emergency After-Hours Telephone : + (972) (2) 622-7230 Email: [email protected]
Contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem for information and assistance in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza (including the Erez Crossing), and the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank.
U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs 18 Agron Road Jerusalem 9419003 Telephone: + (972) (2) 630-4000 Emergency After-Hours Telephone : + (972) (2) 622-7230 Email: [email protected]
U.S. Embassy Jerusalem Branch Office Tel Aviv 71 HaYarkon Street Tel Aviv Israel 63903 Telephone: + (972) (3) 519-7575 Emergency After-Hours Telephone: + (972) (3) 519-7551 Email: [email protected]
Contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy Branch Office in Tel Aviv for information and assistance in Israel outside of Jerusalem, and the northern (Sheikh Hussein) and southern (Yitzhak Rabin) border crossings connecting Israel and Jordan, and the border crossings between Israel and Egypt.
Learn about the U.S. relationship to countries around the world. Please read the Israel, West Bank, and Gaza Travel Advisory for additional information.
Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements
The Government of Israel administers immigration and security controls at its international land crossings with Jordan (into both the West Bank and Israel), Egypt (at the Taba crossing near Eilat), and at Israel’s airports and seaports. A separate network of security checkpoints and crossings operated by Israeli authorities regulates the movement of people and goods between Israel and the West Bank, and between Israel and Gaza.
The U.S. government seeks equal treatment and freedom of travel for all U.S. citizens regardless of national origin, religion, or ethnicity . All persons seeking to enter or depart Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza are subject to immigration and security screening , possibly including prolonged questioning and physical searches, and may be denied entry or exit consistent with the uniform application of Israeli law. Persons who are denied entry have the right to an immigration court hearing to contest the denial, but they will be detained for the duration of the proceedings. Specific questions about your individual circumstances should be directed to your closest Israeli Embassy or Consulate.
When traveling into Israel, please make sure you have proper travel documentation – including a full validity U.S. passport – before arrival in Israel. Israel may deny entry to an individual using a limited-validity, or emergency U.S. passport.
1. Do I need a visa to enter Israel if I normally live in the United States?
U.S. citizens may use their U.S. passport to enter Israel for business or tourism purposes for stays of up to 90 days without a visa, including U.S. citizens transiting Israel to and from the West Bank. For more information, please contact your nearest Israeli Embassy or consulate and consult this webpage: Entry-Exit into Israel .
2. Do I need a visa to enter the West Bank if I am visiting the West Bank and normally live in the United States?
U.S. citizens who are not West Bank residents can use their U.S. passport to enter the West Bank for business or tourism purposes for stays of up to 90 days without a visa. For more information, visit the Government of Israel’s webpage: Entry-Exit Information: Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
U.S. citizens who are not PA ID/passport holders and who wish to study, teach, research, work, or volunteer in the West Bank should consult the Government of Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) regulations on entry into the West Bank. U.S. citizens who are engaged or are married to West Bank residents and wish to remain in the West Bank should also consult these regulations. Questions regarding these regulations can be directed to COGAT by email at [email protected] or by phone at +972-3-697-7577.
3. Do I need a visa to enter Israel if I normally live in the West Bank?
U.S. citizens who are also residents of the West Bank can either apply for a permit to enter Israel from the Government of Israel’s COGAT or apply for a visa to enter Israel at Allenby Bridge in order to transit through the West Bank to Israel for up to 90 days. For more information, visit the Government of Israel’s webpage: Entry-Exit Information: Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
4. Do I need a visa to enter Gaza through Israel if I normally live in the United States?
Please see the Travel Advisory before traveling to Gaza. Gaza is Level 4 – Do Not Travel. We remind all U.S. citizens seeking to travel to Gaza that the U.S. government is unable to provide routine or emergency services to U.S. citizens in Gaza. U.S. citizens seeking entry into Israel from Gaza (or entry into Gaza from Israel) should follow the instructions provided on the COGAT website to request permission to enter. For more information, visit the Government of Israel’s webpage: Entry-Exit Information: Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
5. Can U.S. citizens registered as residents of Gaza enter or transit Israel?
A U.S. citizen who is also listed on the Palestinian Population registry for Gaza and has a center of life in the Gaza – someone who has spent more than 50 percent of the last five years in Gaza (or more than 912 days) as confirmed by the Israeli government – can apply while they are in Gaza for a permit to enter Israel via the Erez Crossing from the Government of Israel’s COGAT. When outside of Gaza, they may apply for admission to enter Israel through any international port of entry.
A U.S. citizen who is also listed on the Palestinian Population registry for Gaza and has a center of life outside the Gaza Strip – someone who has spent more than 50 percent of the last five years outside of Gaza (or more than 912 days) as confirmed by the Israeli government – may use their U.S. passport to enter Israel for business or tourism purposes for stays of up to 90 days without a visa, including transiting Israel to and from the West Bank. Such U.S. citizens cannot enter on their U.S. passport for the purpose of transiting Israel to Gaza.
For more information, visit the Government of Israel’s webpage: Entry-Exit Information: Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
6. What if I am denied entry?
U.S. citizens should immediately report any denial of entry or harassment or discriminatory treatment by border officials to the American Citizens Services (ACS) unit of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem or the Embassy Branch Office in Tel Aviv.
- U.S. citizens can use the U.S. Embassy Jerusalem and Branch Office Tel Aviv online reporting form .
- U.S. citizens can call the Embassy at the phone numbers on our website (denials of entry only): U.S. Citizen Services - U.S. Embassy in Israel (usembassy.gov)
Please note that the decision to admit or deny a traveler admission to Israel is entirely made by the State of Israel, and the U.S. Embassy cannot intervene on an individual’s behalf. U.S. citizens who are denied entry into Israel or the West Bank should receive a written explanation from Israeli authorities.
The Israeli Ministry of Interior has continued to deny entry into Israel and the West Bank of some foreign nationals (including U.S. citizens) affiliated with certain political and non-governmental organizations that the Government of Israel views as anti-Israel. Participation in Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)-related activities is one of the considerations Israeli authorities consider when deciding whether to refuse entry to individuals into Israel and the West Bank.
In addition to contacting the U.S. Embassy, if you were the subject of mistreatment or harassment by Israeli authorities upon entry to or at exit from Israel, you may also email [email protected] to file a complaint with the Israeli authorities. If the mistreatment or harassment occurred at a check point to the West Bank you may email [email protected] to file a complaint.
7. What if I’m an Israeli citizen?
Individuals with Israeli citizenship, regardless of other nationality, including U.S. citizenship, must enter and depart Israel using their Israeli passports in accordance with Israeli law. Due to a passport backlog, Israeli citizens are temporarily allowed to enter and depart Israel on non-Israeli passports until December 31, 2023. Israeli citizens are prohibited from using the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge crossing. They are also prohibited from entering Gaza and are generally prohibited from traveling to parts of the West Bank under PA control (Area A), to include Bethlehem and Jericho.
Further information on dual nationality , prevention of international child abduction, and customs regulations can be found on our website at travel.state.gov.
Safety and Security
Terrorism: Please view the current Travel Advisory for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza for detailed information regarding the terrorism threat in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. For more information, see our Terrorism page.
Jerusalem: See the Travel Advisory for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza for additional information.
The West Bank: See the Travel Advisory for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza for additional information.
The Gaza Strip: See the Travel Advisory for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza for additional information.
Mortar and Rocket Fire: In the event of mortar or rocket fire, a “red alert” siren may be activated. Treat all such alerts as real. Follow the instructions from local authorities and seek shelter immediately. Know the location of your closest shelter or protected space. U.S. government personnel and their family members may be restricted from traveling to areas affected by rocket activity, sirens, and/or the opening of bomb shelters. For additional information on appropriate action to take upon hearing a siren or explosion, see the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command website (available on devices within Israel) or view the Preparedness Information. U.S. citizens may also wish to download the free Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command application on Android or Apple devices to receive real-time security and safety alerts. Free commercial applications, such as Red Alert: Israel, are also available.
Crime: The crime rate is moderate in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Parked vehicle break-ins are common at public beach areas, national parks, and other tourist sites. Vehicle theft also remains a problem. U.S. citizens should not leave their valuables (including passports) unattended in parked vehicles, on the beach, or unsecured in hotels. Visitors should be aware of their surroundings in tourist areas and watch for crimes of opportunity, such as pickpockets.
For additional information, read the most recent Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) Crime and Safety Report for Israel .
Demonstrations occur frequently. They may take place in response to political or economic issues, on politically significant holidays, and during international events.
- Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly become violent.
- Avoid areas around protests and demonstrations.
- Check local media for updates and traffic advisories.
International Financial Scams: See the Department of State and the FBI pages for information.
Victims of Crime: Report crimes to the local police. The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Israel and the West Bank is 100 for police, 101 for an ambulance, and 102 for the fire department.
U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance. You can reach the U.S. Embassy at the contact information provided above. Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas .
- Help you find appropriate medical care
- Assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- Contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- Provide general information regarding the victim’s role during the local investigation and following its conclusion
- Provide a list of local attorneys
- Provide our information on victim’s compensation programs in the United States
- Israel National Police
- Ministry of Justice
- Ministry of Public Security
- Provide information on Government of Israel assistance to victims of terrorist acts (contact the National Insurance Institute for more information)
- Provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- Help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- Replace a stolen or lost passport
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence should contact local police but may also contact the U.S. Embassy Jerusalem or Embassy Branch Office Tel Aviv to report it.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws and legal systems, which can be vastly different from those in the United States. If you violate Israeli or Palestinian Authority laws, even unknowingly, being a U.S. citizen will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking illegal drugs in Israel and PA-administered areas are severe and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Individuals expressing views, including on social media, which the Government of Israel considers incitement to violence or hate speech may face criminal penalties. Palestinian Authority security officials have also arrested Palestinians who posted criticism of the PA and PA leadership online. In Gaza, individuals publicly criticizing authorities have risked reprisal by Hamas, including arrest, interrogation, seizure of property, and harassment.
Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.
Arrests and Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to immediately notify the U.S. Embassy Jerusalem or the U.S. Embassy Branch Office Tel Aviv immediately. See our website for further information. While the U.S. Embassy may not recommend a particular foreign attorney, the embassy website has the names of several attorneys who have identified themselves as willing to assist U.S. citizen clients. Please note that inclusion on this list in no way represents an endorsement of services by the Department or the U.S. government.
Arrests and Arrest Notification by Israel:
- The Government of Israel is required by a bilateral treaty and customary international law to promptly notify the U.S. Embassy when a U.S. citizen is arrested IF the citizen identifies themself as a U.S. citizen AND requests that the U.S. Embassy be notified. In case of arrest or detention, U.S. citizens should promptly identify themselves as such to the arresting authorities and request that the authorities notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. There are credible reports that U.S. citizens have been mistreated by Israeli security forces during their arrest and interrogation.
- Some youths over the age of 14 have been detained and tried as adults.
- Arrestees have also reported pressure to sign documents in Hebrew that they do not understand.
- U.S. citizens arrested in Israel for criminal or security offenses are entitled to legal representation provided by the Government of Israel. U.S. citizens arrested by Israeli authorities for security offenses may be prevented from communicating with lawyers, family members, or consular officers for lengthy periods. Even after notification, consular access to the arrested individual may be delayed for days to several weeks. Under Israeli law, individuals detained for security offenses may be held for up to six months without charges.
Arrests and Arrest Notification by the Palestinian Authority (PA):
- Individuals arrested by PA security forces in the West Bank for security offenses may be prohibited from communicating with lawyers, family members, or consular officers for lengthy periods. In addition, they may be held in custody for long periods without formal charges or before being brought before a judge for an arrest extension. The PA often does not notify the U.S. Embassy of such arrests, and consular access to arrestees is often delayed or denied. There are credible reports that arrested individuals, including U.S. citizens, have been mistreated by PA security forces during their arrest and interrogation. In case of arrest or detention, U.S. citizens should promptly identify themselves as such to the arresting authorities and should request that the U.S. Embassy be notified immediately.
Gaza: Since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, they have dominated security matters in Gaza. The U.S. government has no contact with Hamas and cannot assist those arrested in Gaza.
Israeli Court Jurisdiction: Civil and religious courts in Israel actively exercise their authority to bar certain individuals, including nonresidents, from leaving the country until debts or other legal claims against them are resolved. Israel's religious courts exercise jurisdiction over all citizens and residents of Israel in cases of marriage, divorce, child custody, and child support. U.S. citizens, including those without Israeli citizenship, may be subject to involuntary and prolonged stays (and even imprisonment) in Israel if a case is filed against them in a religious court, even if their marriage took place in the United States, and regardless of whether their spouse is present in Israel. The U.S. Embassy is unable to cancel the debt of a U.S. citizen or guarantee their departure from Israel when they face a bar from leaving the country until debts are resolved. Purchases of Property: U.S. citizens should always seek legal advice before buying or leasing property in the West Bank and Gaza. Please see the most recent Investment Climate Statement for the West Bank and Gaza for additional information on property rights.
Counterfeit and Pirated Goods: Although counterfeit and pirated goods are prevalent in many countries, they may still be illegal according to local laws. You may also pay fines or be forced to forfeit them if you bring them back to the United States. See the U.S. Department of Justice website for more information.
Faith-Based Travelers: See the following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report – see country reports
- Human Rights Report – see country reports
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTQI+ Rights: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) events in Israel. Israeli anti-discrimination laws protect LGBTQI+ individuals. Acceptance and tolerance of LGBQTI+ people vary throughout the country and from neighborhood to neighborhood. As of August 2014, the Law of Return allows that same-sex spouses of Jews immigrating to Israel – known as “making Aliyah” – are eligible to make Aliyah with their spouses and receive Israeli citizenship. The legal systems in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are based on the 1960 Jordanian penal code which prohibits consensual same-sex sexual activity. However, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has not prosecuted individuals suspected of such activity. Societal discrimination, including from families, based on cultural and religious traditions is commonplace, making the West Bank and Gaza challenging environments for LGBTQI+ persons. PA security officers have harassed, abused, and sometimes arrested LGBTQI+ individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. NGOs have reported that Hamas also harassed and detained persons in Gaza due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQI+ travelers are encouraged to remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings, especially when entering religious or socially conservative areas.
Israel’s Aguda organization provides useful information on LGBTQI+ issues in Israel. See our LGBTQI+ Travel Information page and section 6 of the Department of State's Human Rights report for further details.
Persons with Mobility Issues: Individuals with mobility issues may find accessibility and accommodation in Israel very different from in the United States. Legislation mandates access to buildings and transportation, as well as accommodations for persons with disabilities in services and the workplace. However, the government enforces the laws with only limited success. Societal discrimination and lack of accessibility persist in employment and housing. The law mandates accessibility to urban public transportation but not to intercity buses. Most train stations maintain access for persons with disabilities; however, many buses still do not have such access. Television stations include subtitles or sign language, and the courts accommodate testimony from persons with intellectual disabilities or mental illness. Tourists will find restaurants, foot paths, and public transportation less accessible than in the United States.
Palestinian Authority law prohibits discrimination based on disability. The Palestinian Disability Law was ratified in 1999, but implementation has been slow. It does not mandate access to buildings, information, or communications. Palestinians with disabilities continue to receive uneven and poor-quality services and care. Familial and societal discrimination against persons with disabilities exists in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Students: See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips .
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers .
Modern medical care and medicines are available in Israel. Some hospitals in Israel and most hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza, however, fall below Western standards. Travelers can find information in English about emergency medical facilities and after-hours pharmacies in the Jerusalem Post and the English-language edition of the Ha'aretz newspaper, or refer to the U.S. Embassy’s medical information list .
Ambulance services are widely available in Israel. Ambulance services in the West Bank are available but training and availability of emergency responders may be below U.S. standards. The U.S. government does not have knowledge of ambulance services in Gaza. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) operates in the West Bank and Gaza.
We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare/Medicaid does not apply overseas. Most hospitals and doctors overseas do not accept U.S. health insurance.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas, including for COVID-19. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on type of insurance you should consider before you travel overseas.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance (see our webpage) to cover medical evacuation.
Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. Check with the Israel Ministry of Health to ensure the medication is legal in Israel. Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most health care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage .
For further health information, go to :
- World Health Organization
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Air Quality: Visit AirNow Department of State for information on air quality at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.
The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of doctors and hospitals. We do not endorse or recommend any specific medical provider or clinic.
Health facilities in general:
- Adequate health facilities are available throughout Israel but health care in the West Bank and Gaza may be below U.S. standards.
- Medical staff may speak little or no English.
- Patients bear all costs for transfer to or between hospitals.
Medical Tourism and Elective Surgery
- Medical tourism is a rapidly growing industry. People seeking health care overseas should understand that medical systems operate differently from those in the United States and are not subject to the same rules and regulations. Anyone interested in traveling for medical purposes should consult with their local physician before traveling and visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information on medical tourism, the risks of medical tourism, and what you can do to prepare before traveling.
- We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation in the event of unforeseen medical complications.
- Exercise caution when purchasing medication overseas. Pharmaceuticals, both over the counter and requiring prescription in the United States, are often readily available for purchase with little controls. Counterfeit medication is common and may prove to be ineffective, the wrong strength, or contain dangerous ingredients. Medication should be purchased in consultation with a medical professional and from reputable establishments.
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration are responsible for rules governing the transport of medication back to the United States. Medication purchased abroad must meet their requirements to be legally brought back into the United States. Medication may only be for personal use and must be approved for usage in the United States. Please visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration websites for more information.
Assisted Reproductive Technology and Surrogacy
- If you are considering traveling to Israel to have a child through use of assisted reproductive technology (ART) or surrogacy, please see our ART and Surrogacy Abroad page .
- Surrogacy is subject to complex local regulation. For additional information, visit the Israel Ministry of Health website for information on surrogacy.
- In many areas of the West Bank and Gaza, tap water is not potable. Bottled water and beverages are generally safe, although you should be aware that many restaurants and hotels serve tap water unless bottled water is specifically requested. Be aware that ice for drinks may be made using tap water.
- Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Adventure Travel .
Travel and Transportation
Road Conditions and Safety: While in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
- Israel: Israeli roads and highways tend to be crowded, especially in urban areas. The Government of Israel requires that all occupants of passenger cars always wear seat belts. Passenger cars must use headlights during all intercity travel, both day and night, and during winter. All drivers are required to carry fluorescent vests and safety triangles in the car with them at all times, and they are required to wear the vests whenever they get out of their cars to make repairs or change tires. If a vehicle is stopped for a traffic violation and it does not contain a fluorescent vest, the driver will be fined. These vests can be purchased for a nominal price in all local gas stations. While mobile phone use is prohibited while driving, hands-free units are authorized. The acceptable limit for blood alcohol content is lower in Israel than in the United States.
- West Bank and Gaza: Crowded roads are common in the West Bank and Gaza. During periods of heightened tension in the West Bank, protestors have targeted cars and buses with stone throwing, improvised incendiary devices, small arms fire, barricades, and burning tires. Emergency services may be delayed by the need for Palestinian authorities to coordinate with Israeli officials. Seat belt use is required, and drivers may not drink alcohol. Individuals involved in accidents resulting in death or injury may be detained by police pending an investigation.
Traffic Laws: Aggressive driving is commonplace, and many drivers fail to maintain safe following distances or signal before changing lanes or making turns. Overtaking at high-speed on undivided two-lane roads is common and may result in accidents. Drivers are also prone to stop suddenly on roads without warning, especially in the right lane. Drivers should use caution, as Israel has a high rate of fatalities from automobile accidents.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. We suggest that you visit the website of the country’s national tourist office and Israel's Ministry of Transport and Road Safety for additional information on road safety. Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed that the Government of Israel’s Civil Aviation Authority is in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Israel’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page
For additional travel information
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution and Travel Advisories .
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook .
- See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza . For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act ( ICAPRA ) report.
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- Passports, travel and living abroad
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The Occupied Palestinian Territories
This travel advice covers Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories
This page has information on travelling to Israel and The Occupied Palestinian Territories.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Israel and The Occupied Palestinian Territories set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Israel and The Occupied Palestinian Territories’ entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate .
It is for the Israeli authorities to decide if you can enter Israel. If you have any particular concerns about visas or entry into Israel, you should contact the Israeli embassy .
If you work in Israel without the proper permissions, you can be detained and then deported. This process which could take several months. Consular staff will not be able to help you enter Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territories. They are unable get involved in another country’s immigration policy or procedures.
Visitors entering via Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport are given an entry card instead of an entry stamp in their passport. While this practice is in place at other ports of entry, there have been instances where passports have been stamped for entry purposes. You should keep your entry card with your passport until you leave. This is evidence of your legal entry into Israel and may be required, particularly at any crossing points into the Occupied Palestinian Territories. If you’re refused entry into Israel, your passport may be stamped with an entry stamp and two red lines drawn across it to indicate the refusal.
At the Allenby Bridge crossing with Jordan, and at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport, Israeli border officials have sometimes used an entry stamp for certain travellers that states ‘Palestinian Authority only’ or ‘Judea and Samaria only’. Since travellers entering via the Allenby Bridge crossing must pass through Israeli checkpoints and Israeli-controlled territory to reach Jerusalem or Gaza, this restriction effectively limits travellers who receive this stamp. It is not clear how a traveller receiving the stamp at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport can leave the airport without violating the restriction. This stamp has been issued to travellers who have no Palestinian or other Arab ancestry, and who would not seem to have any claim to a Palestinian Authority ID.
In March 2017, the Israeli Parliament passed a law which gives authority to deny entry to foreign nationals who have publicly called for a boycott of Israel and/or settlements, or who belong to an organisation which has called for a boycott. Contact the Israeli embassy if you need further information.
Previous Travel to Other Countries
Evidence of a previous visit to another country in the region like an entry/exit stamp in your passport does not normally prevent entry into Israel, although it may lead to additional questioning at the border. It is for the Israeli authorities to determine the right of entry into Israel, so if you have any particular concerns about previous travel to another country, you should contact the Israeli embassy .
If you have any particular concerns about visas or entry into Israel, you should contact the Israeli embassy prior to arrival.
Customs and Immigration
It is for the Israeli authorities to decide if you can enter Israel. You may experience lengthy personal questioning and baggage searches by security officials on arrival and departure from Israel. Searches and questioning may be longer in some cases, including but not limited to some visitors with Palestinian or Arab ancestry with evidence of previous travel which may be considered suspicious, or those who are considered to have publicly criticised the state of Israel.
Airside Immigration officials occasionally ask travellers to wait whilst further checks are conducted. This is not routine procedure, but a small number of travellers do experience delays, some for several hours. Israeli security officials have on occasion requested access to travellers’ personal e-mail accounts or other social media accounts as a condition of entry.
Foreign nationals can legally be refused entry if they have publicly called for a boycott of Israel and/or settlements, or if they belong to an organisation which has called for a boycott.
Refusal of entry into Israel
If in the rare event you are refused entry to Israel you will be booked on the next available flight back to the port from which you entered Israel and on the same airline. Depending on the flight schedule you may be taken to the Immigration Detention Centre located a few minutes’ drive from the airport. You will remain there until your flight departs. Whilst there you will have access to a telephone, information in English, and medical assistance if required. Your luggage will remain at the airport so you will need to highlight to officials if you need to retrieve anything urgent from your luggage, for example medication. The Embassy is contactable from the Detention Centre and can assist where possible. But the Embassy cannot intervene with immigration decisions.
Entering the Occupied Palestinian Territories
Entry to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs), including by sea to Gaza, is controlled by the Israeli authorities. You must produce a passport and Israeli immigration slip, to cross between Israel and the OPTs.
On 20 October 2022, the Government of Israel introduced new requirements for foreign nationals entering and residing in the West Bank. You can find more information on the requirements and points of contact for enquiries via the Israeli government website.
Israeli border officials at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport have at times required certain travellers to sign a form that states that they are not allowed to enter territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority. This is unless they obtain advance authorisation from the Israeli ‘Territory Actions Co-ordinator’, violating this restriction may result in the traveller being deported from Israel and barred from entry for up to 10 years.
You may be detained on arrival to Israel and deported if you are intending to enter Gaza without permission. If you are entering Israel for the purpose of working in the OPTs, you may be refused entry.
The FCDO is not able to support individuals applying for entry or exit permits for Gaza. If you decide to visit Gaza against FCDO advice, you will need to contact the relevant authorities well in advance. The FCDO is no longer able to provide administrative support for UK charities wishing to enter Gaza via the Rafah crossing. The Rafah border regularly closes with no warning and for long periods of time. The Erez border also sometimes closes with no warning. At these times it may be impossible to enter or leave Gaza.
Israeli checkpoints may be closed during Israeli public holidays and periods of increased instability. Please refer to this website for information (which is subject to change). For more information, contact the nearest Israeli Embassy.
British nationals of Palestinian origin
If you are a British national of Palestinian origin (on the Palestinian Population Register or holding a Palestinian ID number), you will need a Palestinian passport or travel document in order to leave Gaza or the West Bank. If you are a British national with a Palestinian name or place of birth but without a Palestinian ID number, you may face problems. A number of British nationals of Palestinian origin or British nationals married to Palestinians have been refused entry to the country.
British-Palestinian dual nationals living in the West Bank and Gaza are allowed to travel abroad only via the Allenby and Rafah border crossings (respectively) with Jordan and Egypt and return via the same route. Please note: British/Palestinian dual nationals entering Gaza, which is against our Travel Advice, should check with the relevant authorities on entry/exit procedures. Numbers of such dual nationals permitted to enter and exit Gaza via Erez are very limited and include medical, humanitarian cases and aid workers. The final decision on entry and exit permits via Erez always rests with the Israeli authorities
If you are a dual national check with your nearest Israeli Embassy if pre-approval is required for travel to Israel. Dual nationals holding Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, and Lebanese citizenship have previously been impacted. If you are not a citizen of any of these countries, but have close family ties, it is also advisable to check with your nearest Israeli Embassy.
Children with Israeli parents (father and/or mother) are considered to be Israeli nationals. The Israeli Ministry of Interior insists that these children enter and leave Israel on an Israeli passport.
Entry requirements for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories are the same for all travellers, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
Check the Ministry of Health pages for full details. Further restrictions may be introduced at short notice.
Children and young people
Minors (aged 17 years and under) travelling to Israel alone or with only one parent are advised to carry with them a letter from their parents or guardians confirming their approval, accommodation plans and contact details.
Minors exiting Israel alone should carry a locally issued notarised letter as advised by external firms .
See ‘Dual nationals’ section above concerning children with Israeli parents.
Entry via Land Borders
You can find the latest guidance on entering and exiting Israel via the land borders on the Israeli Ministry of Health’s website .
Those wishing to enter Jordan from Israel will need to register in advance. You can find more information on the Visit Jordan website .
If you’re transiting through Israel/The Occupied Palestinian Territories
Transiting is when you pass through one country on the way to your final destination.
Full guidance on requirements upon arrival and when transiting through Israel is regularly updated online. Check Israeli Population and Immigration Authority pages and the dedicated COVID-19 Air Transport website for full details. Further restrictions may be introduced at short notice.
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
If you are visiting Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories, your passport should be valid for a minimum of six months from the date you arrive.
Check with your travel provider to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
You don’t need a visa to enter The Occupied Palestinian Territories as a tourist. On entry, visitors are granted permission to stay for a period of up to 3 months. However, if you are a dual national, please refer to the ‘Dual nationals’ section of this guidance before travelling.
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West Bank: New Entry Rules Further Isolate Palestinians
Israel's Guidelines Impede Visiting, Studying, Working
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(Jerusalem) – New Israeli guidelines on access to the West Bank for foreigners threaten to further isolate Palestinians from loved ones and global civil society , Human Rights Watch said today. The guidelines, which came into force in October 2022 and were amended in December 2022, set out detailed procedures for West Bank entry and residency for foreigners, a process distinct from the procedure for entry to Israel.
Israeli authorities have long made it difficult for foreigners to teach, study, volunteer, work, or live in the West Bank. The new guidelines codify and tighten longstanding restrictions, threatening to make it even harder for Palestinians in the West Bank, who already face severe Israeli-imposed movement restrictions, to be with family members who lack a West Bank ID and to engage with foreign students, academics, experts, and others.
“By making it harder for people to spend time in the West Bank, Israel is taking yet another step toward turning the West Bank into another Gaza, where two million Palestinians have lived virtually sealed off from the outside world for over 15 years,” said Eric Goldstein , deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “This policy is designed to weaken the social, cultural, and intellectual ties that Palestinians have tried to maintain with the outside world.”
Between July and December 2022, Human Rights Watch interviewed 13 people who detailed difficulties they have faced for years entering or remaining in the West Bank and their concerns about how the new guidelines will affect them. Human Rights Watch also interviewed Israeli lawyers who have represented those challenging the restrictions. Those interviewed include an American psychologist teaching at a Palestinian university, a British mother of two trying to remain with her Palestinian husband and family, and a Palestinian who has lived most of his life in the West Bank but does not have an ID.
In addition, Israeli authorities in July 2022 denied Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director, a permit to enter the West Bank for one week to conduct research and advocacy, citing the army’s broad authority over entry. The Jerusalem District Court upheld the denial in November, following a challenge filed by Shakir and Human Rights Watch .
The 61-page “Procedure for entrance and residence of foreigners in the Judea and Samaria Area [a reference to the West Bank]” replaced a three-page document of procedures first implemented in December 2006. It sets out the Israeli army’s policy and procedures with regard to foreigners who seek to enter solely the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, or to extend a stay for a visit or for a “specific purpose”, for example, to study, teach, volunteer, or work there. The guidelines are distinct from those for entering Israel, which are normally applied at Ben Gurion Airport and other ports of entry. A West Bank permit holder without an Israeli entry visa has no legal authorization to enter Israel, nor occupied East Jerusalem.
While people often visit the West Bank on normal Israeli tourist visas, foreigners on these visas are not permitted to teach, study, volunteer, work, or live in the West Bank. Israeli authorities often deny normal Israel entry visas for these reasons, as well as others known or suspected to engage in pro-Palestinian advocacy. The permit is the only option for many seeking to spend time in the West Bank.
The West Bank guidelines only allow permits to be granted to limited categories of visitors. Some of those eligible for permits, such as the immediate relatives of Palestinians, are eligible to obtain a permit of up to three months upon arrival at the Allenby/King Hussein Crossing between Jordan and the West Bank, pending approval by Israeli authorities there. Others, including academics, students, volunteers, and experts, must apply for a West Bank permit, valid for up to one year, from abroad and obtain approval before travel. The previous guidelines recommended, but did not require, pre-coordination, though Israeli authorities often in practice required approval in advance. Other visitors, such as tourists or those seeking to visit extended family or friends or attend a conference, are not eligible for a West Bank permit.
Citing “the risk” of foreigners “becoming entrenched,” the guidelines also foreclose all paths to remain long-term in the West Bank for all foreigners except Palestinians’ spouses.
The guidelines give Israeli military authorities wide discretion, allowing “general policy considerations” to guide decision-making and noting that “implementation of this procedure shall be contingent on the security situation and the prevailing Israeli policy, which is reviewed and amended from time to time.”
The Israeli army told The Jerusalem Post in May 2022 that the guidelines will make entry to the West Bank “smoother,” presumably by spelling out the procedure in detail, and thereby “benefit all residents of the area.”
However, everyone Human Rights Watch interviewed described major bureaucratic obstacles to remain legally in the West Bank and the impact of the restrictions on their lives. An American businesswoman married to a Palestinian, who has lived in the West Bank for over a decade and asked that her name be withheld for fear of retaliation, said she had to leave her young children behind and stay abroad for several weeks in 2019 after her visa was denied. She said the stress and hardship led her to “break down in sobs in front of my son’s school as I dropped him off not knowing whether I would see him again.” Her visa was reinstated only after diplomats intervened.
While countries have wide discretion over entry into their sovereign territory, international humanitarian law requires occupying powers to act in the best interest of the occupied population or to maintain security or public order. There are no apparent justifications based on security, public order, or the best interests of Palestinians for how significantly Israeli authorities restrict volunteers, academics, or students from entering the West Bank or Palestinians’ loved ones from remaining on a long-term basis, Human Rights Watch said.
By excessively restricting Palestinian families’ ability to spend time together, and blocking the entry of academics, students, and nongovernmental workers who would contribute to social, cultural, political, and intellectual life in the West Bank, Israel’s restrictions fall afoul of its duty, which increases in a prolonged occupation , to facilitate normal civil life for the occupied population.
This necessarily entails living with one’s family. International humanitarian and human rights law both emphasize the importance of the right to family life and unity, including the right to live together. It also means facilitating the work and activities of Palestinian universities, civil society organizations and businesses, and maintaining regular interaction with the rest of the world.
Israel’s duties as an occupying power require it to facilitate foreigners’ entry to the West Bank in an orderly manner. Subject to an individualized security assessment and absent compelling reason of law, Israeli authorities should at minimum grant permits of reasonable duration to foreigners who would contribute to life of the West Bank, including the family members of Palestinians and those working with Palestinian civil society, and residency to immediate relatives.
Israel’s restrictions exacerbate the hardship already imposed on Palestinians in the West Bank by the widespread denial of residency rights , the sweeping movement restrictions, and the attacks on Palestinian civil society . The policy deepens the way that Palestinians are fragmented across different areas and furthers Israeli control over Palestinian life. Israeli authorities’ severe repression of Palestinians, committed pursuant to a policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians, amounts to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution, as Human Rights Watch and major Israeli , Palestinian , and other international human rights groups have found.
“An occupying army has no business determining which professors are qualified to teach at Palestinian universities, blocking human rights defenders from interacting with the occupied population, or cruelly separating families,” Goldstein said. “The US and European states should press Israeli authorities to make it easier, not harder, for people, including their own citizens, to build meaningful connections with West Bank communities.”
Applying for West Bank Permits and Extensions
The West Bank entry guidelines were originally published in February 2022 and amended in September 2022 and again in December 2022. They identify several categories of people, including academics, students, volunteers, and “experts and consultants in unique disciplines and senior employees,” who are all required to apply to Israel in advance, directly to the army, at an Israeli embassy abroad or via the Palestinian Authority, for “permits [to enter the West Bank] for specific purposes.”
The procedure to obtain a permit requires providing significant personal information to Israeli authorities. Several people who spent time in the West Bank said this process could discourage people from applying altogether, given Israeli authorities’ record of denying entry to those engaged in pro-Palestine advocacy. As a result, and in light of the difficulty of obtaining West Bank permits, some West Bank programs have long advised international participants to seek an Israeli tourist visa, instead of a West Bank permit, and to refrain from disclosing the main purpose of their visit in order to maximize their chance of entry.
Foreigners eligible for a West Bank visitors permit on arrival include the spouse, child or first-degree relative of a Palestinian in the West Bank, a businessperson or investor, a journalist accredited by Israeli authorities or those presenting “exceptional circumstances” and with “special humanitarian circumstances” who have not had any prior visa-related complications.
The guidelines limit short-term visitors permits obtained at the Allenby Crossing to three months. Permits can be renewed “for exceptional reasons, for a maximum of 3 more months.” Any further extension “requires approval from the authorized COGAT official on the grounds of special considerations, which must be documented.”
“Permits for specific purposes” obtained in advance of arrival last up to one year and extensions are capped at 27 months, with anyone who wants to stay longer required to leave the West Bank and reapply from abroad. The guidelines restrict academics and foreign experts to a maximum of five years cumulatively in the West Bank, a restriction not written into the prior guidelines. Those wanting to stay longer can apply to enter again after nine months away, but the guidelines authorize additional extensions of up to five more years only “in exceptional cases and for special reasons.”
Palestinians in the West Bank can apply to Israel through a separate family reunification process via the Palestinian Authority to get Palestinian IDs issued for their spouses and other relatives in “exceptional circumstances,” which would allow them to stay on a long-term basis. Israeli authorities processed 35,000 applications in the late 2000s and several thousands in 2021 and 2022 as a gesture to the Palestinian Authority, but otherwise have effectively frozen the process.
The guidelines set out a process for issuing renewable one-year permits for the foreign spouses of Palestinians who have a pending family reunification application that the Palestinian Authority has sent to Israel. However, the guidelines state that no applications will be approved that are inconsistent with the overall “policy of the political echelon.”
The guidelines empower authorities to review the academic qualifications of lecturers or researchers at Palestinian universities, including whether those without a PhD have “special expertise,” and which professions are sufficiently “required or necessary” to warrant allowing foreigners to work in them.
An administrator at Bethlehem University said that 70 percent of the faculty in one of the school’s programs come from abroad and the administration worries that the regulations will make it even harder for them to recruit and maintain professors. A spokesman for Birzeit University said that they lost eight faculty members between 2017 and 2022 due to West Bank entry restrictions, which they said caused them to lose unique expertise and affected the quality of the education the school provides.
One professor, Roger Heacock, left the West Bank with his family in 2018 after 35 years, 33 of them teaching European history at Birzeit when Israeli authorities did not reply in time to his permit renewal request, leaving behind graduate students he supervised. He said the experience “broke our hearts. I haven’t gotten over it.”
The guidelines do not apply to foreigners seeking to visit Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem or to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which are unlawful under international humanitarian law. They must obtain an Israeli entry visa to enter these areas.
The guidelines also do not apply to those who are nationals of, were born in or “hold documents” from Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain, and South Sudan, as well as to nationals of countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. These individuals must apply to Israel via the Palestinian Authority under a separate “ Procedure for Issuance of Permits for Foreign Visits to the Palestinian Authority ,” which sets out that permits are only to be issued in “exceptional and humanitarian cases.” An Israeli lawyer, Leora Bechor, described these permits as “almost impossible” to obtain. There is no apparent justification for making it more difficult in particular for nationals of Jordan, most of whom are Palestinian, as compared to nationals of other countries, to enter the West Bank, Human Rights Watch said.
Born in Europe in the mid-1990s to a Palestinian father from the West Bank and a European mother, “Ayman” has lived in the West Bank most of his life. He asked that his real name be withheld for fear of retaliation. His father left the West Bank in the 1970s, he said to avoid arrest over his political activities, and was forced to leave behind his identification documents. He returned in 1997 when Ayman was a toddler, along with others permitted to return in the aftermath of the Oslo Accords, but Israeli authorities did not immediately return his ID. Each member of Ayman’s family applied for Palestinian ID cards, but only his father received one in early 2022, following a family reunification application filed by Ayman’s grandfather in 2009.
Without a Palestinian ID, Ayman relies on visas issued on his European passport for legal status in the West Bank, even though his family has lived there for generations and he has lived there most of his life. He said that “Palestine for me is home,” as “my childhood, schools, classmates, friends, extended family, relatives, and all the memories I have are all here” and yet “I am in Palestine as a tourist, as a European citizen.”
As a child, Ayman said, he received visas through his mother’s work at a program affiliated with a foreign embassy. In 2015, though, he said Israeli authorities refused to renew his visa, on the grounds that he, as a 20-year-old, could no longer claim dependency on his mother. Shortly thereafter, he left to study abroad for a semester. He returned in December 2015 and said he managed to obtain several short-term visas that allowed him to remain in the West Bank in 2016 and much of 2017 to complete his university studies.
Since September 2017, he has been pursuing graduate degrees in Europe, visiting the West Bank three times as a tourist. He said that, primarily as a result of an Israeli policy to restrict entry to the West Bank for foreigners between March 2020 and February 2022, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, he was unable to visit his family for two years.
Ayman expressed concern that the new entry guidelines make it effectively impossible for him to live in the West Bank and even complicate his ability to visit, including by limiting him to three-month visits absent exceptional circumstances and imposing required periods during which he must leave and stay away from the West Bank. While the guidelines allow entry to those who, like Ayman, are visiting first-degree relatives, he worries about what might happen when his father, the only member of his immediate family with a Palestinian ID, passes away. “I may lose the right to visit, since I won’t have a first-degree relative anymore, I won’t be able to visit as a tourist either according to these regulations,” Ayman said.
“Margaret,” a 46-year-old UK national who asked that her name be withheld for fear of retaliation, lives in Ramallah with her Palestinian husband, who has a West Bank ID, and their two children, ages 9 and 6. She said that she has lived in the West Bank since 1998 and married her husband in 2005. Shortly thereafter, Margaret said, Israeli authorities denied her entry, as part of a blanket policy at the time that, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz , affected thousands of foreign spouses.
Margaret managed to return nine months later and has mostly remained in the West Bank since. She said she applied for a Palestinian ID under the family reunification process in 2006, but has not received an ID. Instead, she has remained on short-term, originally one-year but more recently six-month visas, periodically having to leave the West Bank to maintain her status. Work is not permitted under such visas, but Margaret worked nonetheless, never disclosing it to the Israeli authorities.
When Israeli authorities informed Margaret in August 2021 that she had to leave by January 2022 and re-enter the West Bank to maintain her status, she worried that the extra procedures imposed by Israeli authorities amid the Covid-19 pandemic could block her ability to return to her family. In particular, Israeli authorities required foreigners entering the West Bank to coordinate their plans with them, a process Margaret heard took three or four months for others. Margaret said she felt she could not afford to be away from her young children for that long during the school year.
The Palestinian Authority had announced in late 2021 that Israeli authorities green-lit issuing thousands of IDs for people stuck in situations like hers. In hopes that she would be among those to receive an ID or otherwise would be able to resolve matters with the help of a lawyer, she made the difficult decision to overstay her visa.
Margaret never received an ID and thus lacks legal status. As a result, she says that, since January 2022, she does not “leave Ramallah. I can’t take any risks.”
Susan Power, a 43-year-old Irish national, heads legal research and advocacy for al-Haq, a leading Palestinian human rights organization. Power joined al-Haq, whose headquarters are in Ramallah in the West Bank, in 2013. With a PhD focused on the law of occupation, Power has a unique expertise well-suited to the work of al-Haq, which has for more than 40 years focused on documenting human rights abuses stemming from Israel’s prolonged occupation.
Power said that she has relied on visitor visas to enter the West Bank, which she has been able to extend. She said she had to show a work contract to obtain the visa, even though the visa does not permit her to work. She described the onerous process she regularly has to go through to enter, including at times having to post bonds of up to NIS 30,000 ($8,467) to guarantee that she will leave when the visa expires. She said she worries each time that she will not be permitted entry and, when she is in the West Bank on an active visa, generally declines to travel to visit families, attend meetings, or for any other purpose outside of emergencies.
The new guidelines will make things even more difficult, Power said, requiring her to coordinate her plans and obtain a visa in advance from the Israeli embassy in her home country. She worries that she will not be granted a visa under this process, given the lack of explicit provisions regarding the work of human rights organizations in the guidelines and the five-year cap on foreigners living in the West Bank. Israeli authorities also have outlawed al-Haq , declaring it in 2021 an “unlawful association” under military law applicable in the West Bank and a “ terrorist organization ” under Israeli law.
These restrictions make it harder for Palestinian civil society organizations to attract and hire foreign experts like Power. Even if the experts are able to enter the West Bank, “an organization can’t function or operate not knowing if their workers will be able to come back” each time they leave, Power said.
Power left the West Bank in December, ahead of her visa expiring at the end of the year. She said she fears she will not be allowed to return.
“Laura,” a 57-year-old US citizen who asked that her name be withheld for fear of retaliation, first visited the West Bank in 2012. She is a clinical psychologist and said that for two years she would periodically visit to attend conferences and work as a short-term consultant, obtaining visitor visas on arrival at Ben Gurion Airport. In the summer of 2014, she decided to move with her 10-year-old son to the West Bank to work full-time with at-risk children and teach at a university. She obtained a visa, based on her contract with the university, though the visa formally prohibits her from working, and lived in the West Bank, renewing the visa annually, for the next four years.
She said that maintaining her status had been stressful, including needing to wait for her or her son’s documents for months. “The uncertainty, nothing is clear, the bureaucracy and the feeling that you are not secure during the time of waiting, after doing all the paperwork, going through everything,” she said.
In the fall of 2017, Laura applied to extend her visa, but Israeli authorities did not respond for months, and, in April 2018, returned her passport without a decision or a new visa. Without legal status, she decided in May 2018, when her son’s school year ended, to leave the West Bank. She said that Israeli forces at the Allenby Crossing told her she could not return and publicly berated her for overstaying her visa. “They told me that I had ruined my son’s chances to come back here and ruined his life,” she said.
She returned to the US and hired an Israeli lawyer to help her obtain permission to live again in the West Bank. She said she “chose to fight for my visa because the West Bank is our home and life. It’s where we lived for years, where my son grew up and made friends. He was crying the whole time after we were told we won’t be able to go back. He was there since he was 10 years old. I left behind my career and all our belongings there in our house, his PlayStation, his bicycle, and our clothes.”
Through the lawyer’s efforts, Laura and her son managed to return in late 2018, after posting a bond only to be returned when she left the West Bank, and to teach for a few months. But, given their continued inability to extend their visas and the mounting costs, including for lawyers, Laura felt she had no choice but to sell everything and move back to the US in December 2019. She has only visited once since, on a 30-day visa that Israeli authorities granted her on condition she post a NIS 30,000 ($8,467) bond also to be returned only when she left the West Bank.
Given that the new guidelines limit foreigners from staying in the West Bank for more than five years outside of exceptional circumstances, she said the guidelines effectively block her from remaining longer in the West Bank. She continues to teach virtually for the university, as she says that no one else there has the requisite background to teach her classes.
In July 2021, Omar Shakir, the Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director, applied to the Israeli army for a permit to enter the West Bank for one week to meet with Human Rights Watch staff there, brief European Union diplomats in response to their invitation, and carry out research, including on abuses by the Palestinian Authority. Shakir sought to carry out in-person work that he had been unable to do since Israeli authorities deported him from Israel in November 2019, asserting that his advocacy violated a 2017 law that bars entry to Israel to people who advocate a boycott of Israel or its settlements in the occupied West Bank. Neither Human Rights Watch nor Shakir as its representative has ever called for a boycott of Israel.
After months of not receiving an affirmative or negative response, Shakir and Human Rights Watch filed suit in the Jerusalem District Court against the Israel Defense Forces in April 2022. In July 2022, the army denied the request, citing the Unit for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories’ “broad discretion” with respect to entry to the West Bank of foreign nationals and a stipulation in the West Bank entry guidelines that “all provisions thereof are subject to government policy.”
The army’s letter to Shakir notes that “government policy in this matter (which has been entrenched in primary legislation in Israel) is to prohibit the granting of any type of visa or stay permit to persons who knowingly issue a public call to boycott the State of Israel or any of its institutions or any area under its control” and cites concerns that Shakir would use his visit “to promote a boycott of Israel and entities operating in Israel and in the Judea and Samaria Area.” The decision, in effect, extends the ban on entry to Israel for alleged support of boycotts to entry to the occupied West Bank.
In August, Shakir and Human Rights Watch filed an amended petition contending that the Israeli army exceeded its authority under international humanitarian law, which restricts occupiers to actions that maintain security or public order and safety or are in the best interest of the occupied population. Citing the narrower discretion an occupying army has over entry to occupied territory than a country has over its sovereign territory, the petition said that international humanitarian law does not permit the Israeli army to deny entry to the West Bank over alleged support for boycotts. It said that denying entry to human rights defenders undermines the public interest of West Bank residents, who should have the right to engage representatives of international human rights organizations.
In November, the Jerusalem District Court upheld the government’s denial , ruling that denial of entry based on alleged boycott support falls within the broad authority the army has to maintain “public order and safety” for residents of the occupied territory. The ruling cites the supposed harm that boycott activities pose to Israeli settlers, which it considers part of the local population despite the international humanitarian law prohibition on transferring the occupier’s own population to occupied territory, and to Palestinian laborers working in settlements. It further points to provisions in the West Bank entry guidelines that permit the army to make decisions based on policy and other considerations and that deny any “vested right” to foreign nationals to enter the West Bank, which the army has declared a closed military zone in its entirety.
Although Israel’s refusal to permit Shakir’s visit did not cause as much hardship as the refusal to allow extended permits to a Palestinian family member or a long-term foreign professor, it illustrates how Israel abuses its authority to control entry by foreigners to territory where it is not sovereign.
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Secretary Blinken’s Travel to Tel Aviv, Amman, Ramallah, Baghdad, Ankara, Tokyo, Seoul, and New Delhi
Matthew Miller, Department Spokesperson
November 1, 2023
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will travel to Tel Aviv, Israel; Amman, Jordan; Ramallah; Baghdad, Iraq; Ankara, Türkiye; Tokyo, Japan; Seoul, the Republic of Korea (ROK); and New Delhi, India November 2-10, 2023.
In Israel, Secretary Blinken will reiterate U.S. support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism consistent with international humanitarian law and discuss efforts to safeguard U.S. citizens in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, work to secure the immediate release of hostages, increase the pace and volume of humanitarian assistance entering Gaza for distribution to Palestinian civilians, and prevent the conflict from spreading.
In Jordan, Ramallah, Iraq, and Türkiye, the Secretary will underscore the importance of protecting civilian lives in Israel and the Gaza Strip and our shared commitment to facilitating the increased, sustained delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza, the resumption of essential services, and ensuring that Palestinians are not forcibly displaced outside of Gaza. He will also discuss urgent mechanisms to stem violence, calm rhetoric, reduce regional tensions, and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to working with partners to set the conditions necessary for a durable and sustainable peace in the Middle East, to include the establishment of a Palestinian state.
In Ramallah, Secretary Blinken will also discuss efforts to restore calm and stability in the West Bank.
In Baghdad, Secretary Blinken will reaffirm the importance of the U.S-Iraq strategic partnership as well as discuss the ongoing attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria and the importance of pursuing those responsible and preventing further attacks.
In Türkiye, the Secretary will also discuss Euro-Atlantic security, ongoing support for Ukraine, and the need to maintain NATO Alliance unity, including ratifying Sweden’s NATO accession.
Secretary Blinken will then lead U.S. delegations to Tokyo, Seoul, and New Delhi to advance collaborative efforts to support a free and open Indo-Pacific region that is prosperous, secure, connected, and resilient.
In Tokyo, the Secretary will participate in the second G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of 2023, where G7 foreign ministers will build on the commitments made by leaders at the G7 Hiroshima Summit. Secretary Blinken will also thank Japan for its successful G7 presidency. The Secretary will also have bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and Foreign Minister Kamikawa Yoko to discuss bilateral priorities, including supporting Ukraine’s economic recovery and energy needs and strengthening our cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
The Secretary will then travel to Seoul to meet with President Yoon Suk Yeol, Foreign Minister Park Jin, and National Security Advisor Cho Tae-yong. The Secretary will discuss ways the United States and the ROK can respond to global challenges, including Russia’s war against Ukraine and Russia’s growing military cooperation with the DPRK, as well as instability in the Middle East. They will also discuss mutual efforts to support bilateral investment and economic security.
In Tokyo and in Seoul, the Secretary will underscore the United States’ ironclad commitment to the defense of Japan and ROK and reaffirm the importance of robust and sustained trilateral engagement following the historic Camp David Summit in August.
The Secretary will then travel to New Delhi to participate in the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, joined by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III. The delegation will meet with Minister for External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh, and other senior Indian officials to discuss both bilateral and global concerns and developments in the Indo-Pacific.
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Travel Vaccines and Advice for the Palestinian Territories
The Palestinian Territories of the West Bank and Gaza give travelers access to the famous Dead Sea and a warm Mediterranean climate.
Much of the West Bank is devoted to growing olives, which are important to the Palestinian economy and culture. About 45% of land in the territories is used for olives.
The Palestinian Territories also have one of the world’s oldest churches, the Church of Nativity.
Do I Need Vaccines for the Palestinian Territories?
Yes, some vaccines are recommended or required for the Palestinian Territories. The CDC and WHO recommend the following vaccinations for the Palestinian Territories: hepatitis A , hepatitis B , typhoid , rabies , anthrax , meningitis , polio , measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) , Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) , chickenpox , shingles , pneumonia and influenza .
COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for travel to all regions, both foreign and domestic. Check with your local Passport Health clinic if immunization is offered in your area.
See the bullets below to learn more about some of these key immunizations:
- COVID-19 – Airborne & Direct Contact – Recommended for all unvaccinated individuals who qualify for vaccination
- Hepatitis A – Food & Water – Recommended for most travelers
- Hepatitis B – Blood & Body Fluids – Accelerated schedule available
- Typhoid – Food & Water – Shot lasts 2 years. Oral vaccine lasts 5 years, must be able to swallow pills. Oral doses must be kept in refrigerator.
- Rabies – Saliva of Infected Animals – High risk country. Vaccine recommended for long-term travelers and those who may come in contact with animals.
- Anthrax – Animals & Biological Agents – Vaccination may be recommended or required for U.S. government employees or contractors.
- Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) – Various Vectors – Given to anyone unvaccinated and/or born after 1957. One time adult booster recommended.
- TDAP (Tetanus, Diphtheria & Pertussis) – Wounds & Airborne – Only one adult booster of pertussis required.
- Chickenpox – Direct Contact & Airborne – Given to those unvaccinated that did not have chickenpox.
- Shingles – Direct Contact – Vaccine can still be given if you have had shingles.
- Pneumonia – Airborne – Two vaccines given separately. All 65+ or immunocompromised should receive both.
- Influenza – Airborne – Vaccine components change annually.
- Meningitis – Airborne & Direct Contact – Given to anyone unvaccinated or at an increased risk, especially students.
- Polio – Food & Water – Recommended for some travelers to the region. Single adult booster recommended.
See the table below for more information:
Because of the large amount of immigration in the area, be sure you are up-to-date on any routine immunizations .
Visit our vaccinations page to learn more. Travel safely with Passport Health and schedule your appointment today by calling or book online now .
Do I Need a Visa to Travel to the Palestinian Territories?
The only way to enter the Palestinian Territories is through Israel. You do not need a visa to travel to the Palestinian Territories for stays of 90 days or less. If you are traveling to volunteer in the West Bank you will need a B4 volunteer visa.
Sources: Embassy of Israel and U.S. State Department
You will need a passport valid six months past your entry date with a blank page in it for a stamp. Passports are not normally stamped for entry.
What is the Climate Like in the Palestinian Territories?
Palestinian Territories have a Mediterranean climate with hot and dry summers and mild, rainy winters. Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Jericho are popular tourist destinations in this region. Jerusalem and Bethlehem have similar climates with hot, dry summers, and mild winters. In the summer months (June-August), the temperature averages around 85 degrees, while in winter (December-February), it averages around 50.
Jericho has a desert climate and is one of the hottest places in Palestinian Territories. Summers can be scorching, with temperatures sometimes exceeding 105, while winters are mild and sometimes rainy. The best time to visit Jericho is in the winter months (December-February) when temperatures are more bearable.
If you plan to visit Palestinian Territories, it’s essential to check the weather forecast before traveling, especially if you’re planning outdoor activities.
How Safe are the Palestinian Territories?
General travel safety advice for the Palestinian Territories:
- Be wary of conflicts between Palestinian residents and Israeli security forces. Conflict can break out at anytime and lead to serious problems.
- Petty crime like pick-pocketing does occur. Assaults on foreigners happen in some regions as well. Take extra precautions including traveling as part of a group. Avoid traveling at night.
- Careful research how to be safe in the Palestinian Territories and relations with Israel. It is better to cancel a trip then end up in a dangerous environment.
Float on the Dead Sea
Avoid an embarrassing stop, over 70% of travelers will have diarrhea., get protected with passport health’s travelers’ diarrhea kit .
A large amount of the Dead Sea borders the West Bank. This salt lake is famous for its saline waters which allow travelers to float without the aid of vests. The Dead Sea is also the lowest body of water in the world. Many of the harsh ultraviolet rays of the sun are filtered out leaving calming, gentle light shining through.
Most of the Dead Sea’s water comes from the Jordan River. Over time, the Dead Sea’s water level has been lowering. But, it is still a fascinating and beloved spot for tourists and locals alike.
Tourists not only enjoy floating, but also the mineral-rich mud for restorative masks and treatments. The salt crystals and waters themselves are known for their healing properties.
What Should I Pack for the Palestinian Territories?
When traveling to the Palestinian Territories, it is important to pack appropriate clothes for the weather and local culture. The area has a hot, dry climate in the summer and cool, wet weather in the winter. It’s important to wear modest clothing that covers the knees and shoulders, especially when visiting religious sites.
Comfortable shoes are a must as you will likely be doing a lot of walking. Make sure to bring important travel documents like your passport and visa, and some cash and credit cards.
Don’t forget to bring your camera and charger, and any prescription medications you need. You should also purchase travel insurance before your trip to protect yourself in case of unexpected events.
It’s important to be respectful of the local culture and political situation by avoiding wearing clothing with political or religious slogans, covering your head and shoulders when visiting religious sites, and avoiding discussing politics in public.
U.S. Embassy in Israel
The United States does not have an embassy in the Palestinian Territories, but it does have a consulate in Jerusalem that helps American citizens who are traveling or living in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem. The consulate provides services like help with passports and visas and assistance for citizens in distress.
As many countries do not officially recognize the Palestinian territories, there is no U.S. embassy in the area. The nearest embassy services Israel and the surrounding area:
U.S. Embassy Israel 71 HaYarkon Street Tel Aviv 6343229, Israel Phone: 03-519-7575
If you are a U.S. citizen traveling to the region, you can contact the consulate for more information about their services.
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On This Page: Do I Need Vaccines for the Palestinian Territories? Do I Need a Visa to Travel to the Palestinian Territories? What is the Climate Like in the Palestinian Territories? How Safe are the Palestinian Territories? Float on the Dead Sea What Should I Pack for the Palestinian Territories? U.S. Embassy in Israel
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The ONLY Travel Guide You'll Ever Need When Visiting Palestine
By PaliRoots Team
- November 9, 2021 5 min read
Every Pro-Palestine supporter dreams to one day visit the beautiful land of Palestine. Often times, with Israel being in charge of who can and cannot visit, it's hard to have a peaceful traveling experience. Different tourist sites are blocked off depending on the IOF's mood that day, and you usually need impossible to attain permission to visit major landmarks. We (just as much as anyone else) would love to be able to see and experience Palestine despite the harsh rules set in place by the IOF. For that reason we have made an incredibly useful Palestine travel guide! Use this guide to enhance your travel experience and enjoy the fresh Palestinian air while the unfortunate hassle is minimized through our tips and recommendations.
1. Getting To Palestine: How To Prepare For Travel
There are varying methods on how to get into Palestine, and that all depends on a few things. Do you have a Palestinian passport? Are you only an American citizen? Do you have family in Palestine and or Jordan? All of these things are determinants as to what is going to be the best way for you to get into Palestine.
Flying through Ben Guirion Airport
- The only airport that flew into the West bank was shut down by the Israeli government in 2000. If you want to get into Palestine through his airport, you would need to be carrying a passport other than a Palestinian passport (Hawiya)
- If you're not too confined by dates, you can use the anytime feature on sites like Skyscanner or Google Flights to find the best deals.
- Book on a Sunday, with flights departing on a Tuesday. Those tend to be when you can find slight dips in price. Try your best to book 3 - 6 months in advance as well.
- Sites like Kayak, SkyScanner, are great tools. Avoid TripAdvisor and Booking.com for their refusal to acknowledge Palestines' existence.
- Those who posses a green ID can ONLY use this option
- During the summer, this can be a lengthy process. Taking Up to 14 hours from the time you get to the Checkpoint to the destination.
2. Passing the Checkpoints: What You Need To Know
Both Palestinian territories, Gaza and the West Bank, are subjugated to brutal Military occupation, requiring you to successfully pass through Israeli checkpoints in order to visit.
- Stay Calm - Seeing men and women with large weapons that have the capacity to kill can be very intimidating, it is best to put on your best poker face and get through the quickest way you can.
- Have ALL your Papers on Hand - Passports, ID’s, even tickets sometimes, will be required at these checkpoints so have them in a place where you can quickly grab them.
- Keep your Pride in Check- We ALL know how much pride Palestinians carry in being Palestinian, and these checkpoints can make you feel sub-human but its best to not let it get to your head and ignore their intimidation tactics to cause the least amount of issues.
3. Lodging: Places To Enjoy During Your Stay
Finding the best hotels, owned by Palestinians. There are many hotels owned by Palestinian families and/or Palestine supporters and we have listed a few here for your convenience!
⭐️ Review: "We loved everything about our stay. Location was so central and within a walking distance everywhere we wanted to go to in the old city of Jerusalem. Room were so clean, comfortable beds. The view was astonishing..." - H Neumann
Walled Off Hotel
⭐️ Review: "Across the street from the Apartheid wall in Bethlehem is a hotel that artist Banksy has built a hotel that expresses the life of Palestinians due to the occupation. The staff were efficient, friendly, and so helpful." - Munir Alawi (Google Reviews)
DO NOT BOOK WITH AIRBNB!
In 2018, AirBnB committed to removing all listings from stolen homes in Palestine, but soon reversed their decision in 2019 listing settlements as vacation spots.
4. During Your Stay: Things You NEED To See and Eat
What You Need To See:
- Avoid touristic/historical sites in Jerusalem, the Old City, and the occupied Golan Heights which are run by the Israeli occupation.
- Increasingly visit Palestinian families in both the West Bank and Gaza, as well as camps.
- Traveling to Palestine is not just a vacation, but a beautiful reminder to acknowledge and take in the history and reality of what has happened throughout the land.
- Take a trip to the "Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound" and "The Old City" - Take a trip back into history by taking a step into the Old city of Jerusalem.
Foods You Need To Try:
We totally recommend that you try as much food as you can throughout your stay! There are so many mouthwatering flavors to take in and enjoy all over the streets of Palestine, so take advantage and enjoy the savory tastes the culture has to offer! Here are some hot spots we recommend you make it a point to stop by on your food tour!
- You cannot visit an Arab country without taking a sip of the beautiful caffeinated beverage we call coffee. Lucky for you, we have a separate blog about "6 Must Try Coffee Shops in Palestine" .
- BOOZA!🍦 You can never go wrong by spending an entire vacation eating ice cream. I would even go as far to say that it is sacrilegious to avoid it. Read our blog about the "5 Ice Cream Spots in Palestine You NEED to Know About" and add it to your Palestinian vacation.
5. Enjoying All There Is and More
- Watch a golden sunset at the top of the "Mount of Olives" in Jerusalem. The view at the top gives you the best orientation of the Old City, Ein Karem, and the horizon. This is a view that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world. The view transcends words.
- Don't be scared to rock Pali Gear during your visit. Like aforementioned, avoid Pali Gear at checkpoints and airports, but there should be no fear in rocking a Pali Cap on the beach, or at the Al-Aqsa Compound. Represent your Pro-Palestine Gear with PRIDE.
- If you want to get an idea of what your experience in Palestine could look like, check out PaliRoots' own Palestine Travel Series available on our youtube channel right now.
6. Leaving You On A Final Note
Traveling to Palestine tends to be associated with some heartache and longing that may deter you from wanting to visit but we urge you to make it a point to take the time to explore Palestine's extensive and beautiful history. Take our advice and book your flight to Palestine as soon as you can. This blog was designed for your use to ensure a blissful and purposeful experience for you and your loved ones on your unforgettable journey.
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How to Visit Palestine?
Those who are planning to visit Palestine often ask: How do I get to Palestine/West Bank? What airport do I fly to? How do I get a visa to Palestine? In the following lines, we will answer these questions and put your fears to rest.
To even the most seasoned traveler, the idea of passing through Israeli checkpoints to enter occupied Palestine (the West Bank) is intimidating. Most international travelers, however, are able to enter easily, and, once you are inside the West Bank , you can make your own way to the all Palestinian cities you might visit during your stay in Palestine, with relative ease.
The first decision to be made is the choice of first point of entry. We recommend two options for entering Palestine:
( A) Via Ben Gurion Airport – highly recommended as it saves time and money.
Flying to Ben Gurion (Tel Aviv) is the easiest point of arrival in our opinion. Most Americans and Europeans are issued a 3-month visa upon arrival and clearing customs.
Once you are in the airport, you have two options to enter Palestine (the West Bank):
Option 1: By Shared Taxi
Heading to jerusalem (around 45 minutes).
If you desire to visit Jerusalem you need to ride the shared taxi one which drives straight into Jerusalem. Sheruts (or Services in the West Bank) do not leave for their destinations until they are full, but this generally does not take long! These depart from outside the Ben Gurion Airport arrivals hall. They deliver you directly to your destination in Jerusalem, and should cost about 60-70 shekels (NIS – New Israeli Shekels) (approximately $20).
Internationals traveling to Hebron or other cities in the West Bank should ask to be let off at the Old City of Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate , which is near the old Arab bus station (there are 2 bus stations: the old Arab bus station, and the new Arab Bus station). With the Damascus Gate behind you, the old Arab bus station will be to your right. Walk to the intersection straight ahead of you from the Damascus Gate, cross the intersection, then turn right and walk about 2-3 blocks. The bus station is next to the café with the green neon lights.
Heading to Bethlehem (Around 45 minutes)
If you are visiting Bethlehem , you may take a bus which is found at the old Arab bus station, Damascus Gate, in Jerusalem. You should look for Bus Number 231 to Bethlehem . These buses depart frequently, and the trip from Jerusalem to Bethlehem should take about 45 minutes and cost about seven shekels.
You should stay on the bus until the last stop which is Bethlehem. Although unlikely, there is the possibility that you might have to get off the bus and walk through the checkpoint into Bethlehem. If this is the case, there should be services (shared taxis in Arabic) traveling directly to Hebron. From just inside this checkpoint, Bethlehem’s city center, there are taxis that will go to the Hebron Road/Beit Jala junction (in Arabic, ‘’Bab Azqaq’’) .
Heading to Hebron (Two options)
If you want to visit Hebron there are two options. Option 1 to Hebron from Bethlehem will take about 40 minutes. Upon arrival in Bethlehem, you will likely be greeted by numerous taxi drivers. You may take a private taxi for about $25 (not more than 100 NIS) the rest of the way to Hebron, OR , as we highly recommend, you should walk straight ahead to the main intersection of Beit Jala and Hebron Roads. Here the Services shared taxis, depart from the right side of the street.
The bus station in Bethlehem is usually filled with many yellow Services – they look like minivans. Just ask for the Service to Hebron. The bus to Hebron generally costs about nine shekels (9 NIS). Tell the bus driver where you are headed in Hebron, and he may well drop you off at that specific place if it is along the main route. Otherwise, stay on the bus or Service until it stops at the city center to let everyone off; from there take a private taxi for no more than 10 shekels to the place you want to visit.
Option 2 from Jerusalem allows you to take a Service. The Services are yellow minivans and are usually parked in the busy market area across from the Damascus Gate. The drivers can be heard shouting: “Al Khalil! Al Khalil! (Arabic for Hebron). The cost for one of these will be about 25-35 NIS and the trip should take about 50 minutes. Board the Service, and wait for it to fill up and leave.
Option 2: Private Taxi
If you want to get to your destination by using a private taxi , we can organize a taxi to pick you up at Ben-Gurion Airport. It will take you straight to any destination you desire. This is the easiest and fastest way to get to any of the Palestinian cities; however, this option is quite costly. Please contact us if you are interested in this option.
(B) Entering Palestine from Jordan – costly and takes much time.
From Jordan , the journey into Palestine is significantly longer, and it may well involve lengthy delays, several hours possibly, at the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge . Once you are through the checkpoint, however, you find a shared or private taxi that will take you the rest of the way directly to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron, Nablus, or any other towns.
Traveling to Palestine through the Allenby Bridge (Israeli)/King Hussein Bridge (Jordanian) is something you should try to equip yourself for before your arrival in Jordan. Be prepared to not have anyone communicate with you in English at each of the three borders you have to travel through in order to get into Palestine.
Journeying direct from Amman International Airport (Queen Alia) in Jordan takes roughly an hour. It will cost about 30 JDs (Jordanian Dinars). At the border, the procedure is fairly forthright, but if you carry a foreign passport make sure you ask for directions to the foreign passport checkpoint, and , out of the two buses that take you to the Israeli border, make sure you board the one for foreign passengers.
If you don’t know where the bus for foreign passengers is located, you can ask any person around you. Once on the bus, it can take up to 40 minutes to get from the Jordanian checkpoint to the Israeli checkpoint. It all depends on how long it takes to fill the bus up and the drive over the bridge.
Once you arrive at the Israeli border, collect your baggage and follow the crowd or ask for directions to where you can get your bag tagged, ready for it to be taken away and checked. You will again have to go through basic border control procedures and passport checking, where you may or may not be asked to wait for your details to be verified. Your passport might be held for a number of reasons, and the staff at the Israeli border control are not too keen on explaining why, so it is best not to ask and instead wait it out.
After you leave the Israeli border, you will find shared taxis waiting for you. These Services will take you to Jerusalem. If you are going to other West Bank cities besides Jerusalem, you need to ride another bus to the Palestinian border. Once you are at the border you will find many shared taxis that go to all Palestinian cities. A shared taxi from there will cost you about 35 shekels to Nablus, and about 50 to Hebron or Ramallah.
Although these detailed directions might seem overwhelming, you should remember that the people you will meet on this journey are, overall, extremely welcoming and eager to help! Most of these people will speak English, and they are very eager to enjoy the company of an international visitor and to impart a positive impression of their homeland upon an international. You will very quickly become comfortable with the transportation modes between the cities in Palestine. Our advice? Embrace the journey’s adventure and all the friends you will meet along the way!
- There are ATMs at Ben Gurion to receive NIS/shekels . Don’t worry if you see only the Hebrew language on the ATM – as soon as you insert your ATM card, a menu will appear asking you what language you desire.
- The visa that you receive at Ben Gurion is a 3-month visa and it is valid for Israel and Palestine (West Bank).
- Being stopped at Israeli checkpoints is a fairly routine affair. You will be asked for your passport and visa stamped on the passport and then sent on your way.
- We recommend that you always use a shared taxi/Service (pronounced sair-vees) , especially in Jerusalem or Bethlehem. Not only will you pay less, but you will have the company of other passengers. Private taxis can cost 10 or even 15 times more than a Service. In Palestinian cities, a private taxi fare is an appropriate 2 to 15 shekels, not more than 15.
- Many people speak English in Palestine so that you do not have to speak Arabic to get around. Of course, if you try in Arabic, people will be so pleased!
- A former teacher also advises: get yourself a good guidebook, such as Lonely Planet’s Guide to Israel and the Palestinian Territories before you come to Hebron. Not only will the guidebook provide much useful information, but it comes with a map in your native language. Remember: once here the maps will be in Arabic or Hebrew!
- Do NOT be shy about asking for help . Palestinians are super friendly and are eager to help out!
- Do NOT be shy if you need to use someone’s cell phone. Ask anyone around you for the use of their cell and don’t be surprised if they make the call for you! People will not tell you no. If you appear confused, it is quite possible that a cell will be offered to you and/or the call made for you!
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Travel to Palestine: A Comprehensive Guide and Palestine Itinerary
When you envisage travel to Palestine, what images does your mind conjure up? More than likely it is not lush green landscapes of rolling hills that extend as far as the eye can see, magnificently preserved ruins and cities that date back thousands of years. However, all of that is the reality of travelling in Palestine. Palestinian people are some of the most welcoming and kind hearted people you could find anywhere in the world. They will invite you in for tea and to rest your weary feet after navigating your way through labyrinth-like souks and marketplaces and do their very best to show you the highlights of their country when you are travelling to Palestine.
Travelling in Palestine is about as off the beaten path as it gets, and Palestine is a rewarding destination for every intrepid adventurer -whether their specific interests when travelling surround hiking, history or cultural exploration. To help you plan your travel to Palestine, or at least plant some seeds of inspiration in your mind, I have composed this extensive Palestine Travel Guide which should assist you in planning your adventure, in addition to a cultural Palestine itinerary that will help you make the most of your time in the West Bank.
What to Know Before Travelling to Palestine
I know that there are a lot of politics in this part of the world, however this Palestine travel guide is written from a travel perspective only, and in order to give you the opportunity to experience Palestinian hospitality and culture for yourself, free from the media depictions of this part of the globe.
Gaza Strip and the West Bank
Palestine is divided into two sections which are separated by Israel controlled land in the centre. These sections are Gaza and the West Bank. Travel is permitted in the West Bank and this is a generally safe and rewarding travel experience. Gaza is under the control of the Hamas and travel to this region is not permitted unless you are a local volunteer or media representative. Attempts to enter the Gaza area would result in deportation and potentially jail.
Visa Requirements for Travel to Palestine
You do not need a visa to travel to Palestine, the “occupied Palestinian Territories” are classified as being part of Israel so you do not need anything further to access the West Bank though it is likely that Israeli soldiers will check your passport when crossing the wall. You should carry your blue Israeli travel card with you at all times (will be provided to you upon arrival in Israel)
Travel to Palestine with an Israel Stamp
Palestine is not one of the nations which you cannot access if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport. The reason for this being: you actually have to arrive in Israel as a means of travelling to Palestine anyway. Palestine do not control their own borders so when you are crossing into the West Bank, it will be Israeli forces who check your documents.
Crossing the Border into Palestine from Israel
Palestine does not have an international airport and as such, the only way of accessing the West Bank is overland from Israel. There are frequent buses that run across the border from Jerusalem or drop you at the separation wall. This process is very straightforward. Israeli Officers will ask to see your passport and your blue Israeli entrance slip (do not lose this!) and send you on your way.
From Damascus gate in Jerusalem, you can take the Arab Bus 21, 321 or 324. All of these go straight into Bethlehem and cost just 7 shekels each way. You can either hop off the bus in Bethlehem (a short walk from Manger square and the church of the nativity) or at the wall crossing. (close to the Banksy hotel and the separation wall graffiti).
Taxis run from Jerusalem to Bethlehem (you can find many of the drivers by the Jaffa and Damascus gates) but will charge you upwards of 50 shekels. Personally, I wouldn’t feel any nervousness about taking the bus.
What Language is Spoken in Palestine?
The official language of Palestine is Arabic, although I found English to be very widely spoken. Palestinians are very well educated and generally have a good conversational level of English – even when you venture outside of Bethlehem to places like Jenin and Nablus. As with travelling anywhere, it is polite to try and learn at least a handful of phrases of Arabic before travelling to Palestine.
Currency in Palestine
The Israeli shekel is used in Palestine and exchange offices are widely available. You can find ATMs in the majority of the larger cities though many stores and restaurants are cash-only and so it is prudent to ensure you carry a sufficient amount.
Palestine and Religion
The majority of Palestinians are Muslims, with Sunni Islam being the specific line of Islam that they follow. There is also a large Christian population in Bethlehem with approximately 40% of the city’s population being Arab Christians. Because the West Bank is such a religious place, you should dress conservatively when travelling in Palestine. The cities of Jenin, Hebron and Nablus are more traditional and less accustomed to seeing tourists. Though Ramallah is quite up and coming, and Bethlehem somewhat touristic, you should aim to dress respectfully at all times.
How Safe is Travelling to Palestine?
I travelled to Palestine alone as a solo female and I actually felt more comfortable in Palestine than I did in some parts of Israel. When you hear about clashes and problems in Palestine, the majority of those relate to the Gaza strip – a completely separate piece of land to the West Bank. It is important to bear that in mind to keep things in perspective.
Clashes happen between Palestinians and Israelis from time to time in areas close to the border and the separation wall and so you should monitor this situation before you travel and remain aware of your surroundings at all times. If you start to see signs of a protest or gathering, try to remove yourself from the situation and if you are in Bethlehem, take a cab to the border.
As with travelling anywhere, you should ensure that you have comprehensive travel insurance when you travel to Palestine – ideally a policy that contains a good level of medical coverage, and cover for hiking and adventure activities.
Travelling to Palestine as a Solo Female
It is important to note that travel to Palestine as a solo female is different to travelling to Palestine in general. Palestinians are very hospitable and friendly. Since Palestinians are not accustomed to seeing a lot of international tourists, I was frequently being invited into homes for cups of tea and dinner, and when I entered restaurants, my money was refused.
With that said, I would recommend that if you are a solo female travelling independently in Palestine, it is better to exercise caution when visiting remote places (for example, the Mar Saba Greek Orthodox monastery or desert wadis). Incidents of assault are rare, however there have been some cases of crimes against females from Bedouins and so I would recommend hiring a Palestinian guide for hiking and accessing more off the beaten track places.
Hiring a Guide for Travel to Palestine
I travelled to Palestine independently, though it’s understandable that you may want a guide that can give you more local insight and help you feel more comfortable when venturing into more remote areas.
There are plenty of reputable Palestinian tour guides who can tailor make a fabulous personalised trip for you in Bethlehem and beyond at an affordable rate. Palestinians are excited to show you their country and your guide can propose a schedule that fits your interests perfectly. You can expect to pay around 150 shekels for a day’s guiding. Many tour guides have their own transportation and are able to also act as your driver if you wish to visit some of the more “off the beaten track” cities.
You can take an organised tour through an Israeli travel company to see the major sites, or you can use a local Palestinian guide. It’s all about personal preference but I would ask you to consider supporting the Palestinians and their economy by hiring a local guide. You can head over to the visit Palestine website for information and contact details of authorised guides. I also know a few friendly locals who offer such services so if you require any assistance, don’t hesitate to drop me a comment at the foot of this article or email me for help.
When to Travel to Palestine
Owing to its location in the heart of the Middle East, Palestine has a warm and sunny climate all year around. I travelled to Palestine in July which I would not recommend. The summer months between June and September get incredibly hot with temperatures often exceeding 40 degrees Celsius and making hiking or outdoor activities painful. There are many cultural and religious festivals that take place in Palestine throughout the year which can be the icing on the cake of your West Bank itinerary.
How Much Does Travel to Palestine Cost?
Travel to Palestine can certainly be done on a modest budget and the prices here are significantly lower than in neighbouring Israel. Airbnb accommodation and hotel rooms in Palestine can be found for around $20-$30 a night, shared cabs between cities in the West Bank cost no more than around $5-7 and meals can be enjoyed for just a few dollars. If you are on a very strict backpacking budget, you can consider couchsurfing and hitchhiking as a means to get around though this was something I did not feel comfortable with as a solo female.
Travel to Palestine: Helping Out at NGOs
If you are interested to travel to Palestine, likely you are also interested in learning about helping out local charitable causes. There are many local organisations, institutes and NGOs located throughout Palestine. I would recommend reaching out to these charities directly to establish precisely how you can help them.
The people in Palestine are very happy to see international people helping out and working alongside them. Some notable NGOs that may be of interest are the International Women’s Peace Service (Human Rights Volunteers), and Project Hope (Creating artistic, educational, and recreational programs to empower Palestinian youths and children who have grown up around violence to build a brighter future).
There are also many NGOs that allow you to help out in the agricultural field (i.e. helping families pick seasonal fruits), the medical field (if qualified), and general Human Rights. For additional advice and recommended NGOs, I suggest contacting the Palestinian tourism board here .
If your schedule does not permit enough time to help out when you travel to Palestine, consider doing a local homestay instead of staying at hotels. This way, your money is certainly going towards a good cause.
Travel to Palestine: Getting Around Palestine
It is relatively easy to get around Palestine – owing to the fact that the West Bank area is relatively small and compact. Considering that the roads are often used by Israeli guards and settlers, they are in very good condition.
Driving in Palestine
You can rent a car and self-drive around Palestine, but it should be noted that if you have recently been travelling in Israel, you are not allowed to take an Israeli vehicle into the West Bank. Some rental companies in East Jerusalem enable you to rent a car to drive across the border yourself, however you do not want to be travelling in Palestine with an Israeli licence plate…
Getting Around by Bus
Shared taxis and buses run between most major cities and points of interest in the West Bank. Public transport in Palestine is cheap and efficient with prices rarely costing over $6-7.
Travel to Palestine: What to Wear in Palestine
Palestine is a relatively conservative, religious nation where locals lead traditional lives. You may see the occasional western tourist wearing shorts in Bethlehem, but I would encourage you to always err on the side of conservative and respectful when it comes to your wardrobe particularly as a female traveller. This has the additional benefit of not drawing additional attention to yourself when you travel to Palestine.
As a rule of thumb, men and women should ensure that their shoulders and knees are covered at all times. A light cotton shirt and loose-fitting trousers are fine. It is not necessary for women to cover their hair, though you will be required to do so if you visit mosques and other important sites so it is best to always carry a scarf in your backpack just in case.
Wifi and Internet Access in Palestine
Most hotels and accommodations in Palestine have high speed wifi, though if you are stopping by cafes and restaurants, you will not find wifi readily available. Palestinian sim cards are available but they do not offer 3G or 4G and so your best option is to buy a sim card in Israel which will work just fine in the West Bank. A sim card with a month’s worth of data and calling allowance should not cost you more than $25.
A 10 Day Cultural Palestine Itinerary
Now that you have mentally checked off all of the necessary considerations for travel to Palestine, this two week Palestine itinerary will take you around this beautiful country’s cultural, historical and natural highlights.
Of course, it is possible to spend much much longer than just a few weeks in Palestine and still feel as though you haven’t checked everything across your Palestine travel list. However, this Palestine itinerary is a nice first introduction.
Days One and Two: Bethlehem
With convenient transport links from Jerusalem, Bethlehem makes the logical starting point for this Palestine itinerary.
Visit the Separation Wall
Surrounding and encapsulating Palestine, the separation wall is a 400 mile, 25 feet tall wall that separates Israel and Palestine. The wall is the subject of much controversy since its construction has led to the separation of many villages and neighbours.
Arguably it seems a little morbid to consider the wall as a stopping point on your Palestine travel itinerary but it is important to gain a perspective into the living conditions of those confined within it and the ugly cage they have to wake up to every day. The lengths of the separation wall are covered with graffiti praying for a peaceful resolution with Israel and the chance for Palestinians to return to the homes they once had on the opposite side.
Search for Banksy Graffiti
Some of elusive artist Banksy’s most popular pieces are situated in Bethlehem close to the separation wall – including the masked thug, the white dove, and the legendary Palestinian girl frisking an Israeli soldier. There is also a Banksy hotel directly facing the wall boasting “the worst views in the world”. Proceeds from the hotel go directly to supporting the local Palestinian people.
Visit Important Spots From the Bible
Some of the most important sites in Christianity are located in Bethlehem – owing to the reason as to why more than a million international visitors are travelling to Palestine with each passing year. Wake up early and head to the Church of the Nativity to see the precise spot where Jesus is said to have been born. Watch on as devout religious pilgrims line up patiently to bless their items on the spot.
The Nativity Church in itself is quite a spectacular sight to behold – its interiors are incredibly ornate and beautiful, and the building is actually divided into different sections (Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Catholic) so that followers of different religions have space to pay their respects.
If you have a strong interest in religious history or you are Christian, you may also be interested to see David’s Well, Shepherd’s Field and the Pools of Solomon which are all locations of important events in the bible and are situated on the outskirts of Bethlehem. They are tricky to get to without a car however, so you either need to drive to them independently or hire a guide for the day to access them.
Witness Local Life in Bethlehem
With the exception of Fridays, there are excellent daily local markets in the small residential areas that surround the main centre of Bethlehem where people come together to buy and sell fruits, vegetables, spices and other local produce. These neighbourhoods are filled with beautiful Ottoman architecture and have more of a “small village” feeling to them than that which you would expect to see in the centre of a major city.
Try Authentic Palestinian Cuisine
One of the most famous restaurants in Bethlehem is called “Afteem” and is owned by a wonderful Christian family who moved to Bethlehem from Jaffa after the war in 1948. They have a very sad story, and it isn’t my place to share it here but I certainly recommend a visit to sample their excellent food and hospitality.
Another thing to note is that it is possible to organise a home-cooked meal in the house of a Palestinian family (Breakfast, lunch or dinner as you prefer). Many visitors to Palestine are not aware of this, but locals are very happy to invite visitors into their homes and tell them about our food, culture, and lives. One very popular one is the house of the “Hosh family”. Many travellers that visit Palestine and experiment with local cuisine speak highly of the Hosh family and they believe that the food they eat at this home is among the best in the country!
Visit the Palestinian Refugee Camps
There are a number of refugee camps situated in and around Bethlehem and the wider West Bank. They are an important thing to see when travelling to Palestine as they provide a lot of context with regards to the situation in the region today, and the disagreements with Israel.
After leaving their homes in the area now labelled as “Israel”, many Palestinians were housed in cramped, uncomfortable temporary homes and shacks in the West Bank (aka the Palestinian refugee camps you can see today). The Palestinians were told that they could return to their homes within a matter of weeks, however now, more than six decades later they have still been unable to do so. Many people inhabiting the camps still have the original keys that used to open their homes.
“Aida” refugee camp is the most popular camp to visit however it has also become relatively touristic. Dheisheh refugee camp is another that is worth visiting. The people here are happy to see travellers and share their stories, but keep in mind the sensitivity of their issues when speaking to locals and especially when taking photographs (always ask permission beforehand).
The people living in the refugee camps are very poor and petty crime is common. I would advise you that you are better to visit refugee camps accompanied by a local or a guide.
Palestine Itinerary Day Three: Mar Saba Monastery
In the heart of the Judean desert, perched on the edge of a cliff face, the Mar Saba monastery is an impressive ancient Greek Orthodox monastery situated some 15km away from Bethlehem. Built in the fifth century by St. Sabas, a Turkish monk, the impressive site hails from a time when it was customary to leave civilisation behind and to relocate to a reclusive existence in the desert to be with God. Once home to over 300 monks, the Mar Saba monastery still remains in operation today, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale.
Unfortunately, fellow female travellers are prohibited from entering the monastery complex, though there is a “women’s tower” built specifically to allow women to view the cloisters from above. The winding desert roads leading to the Mar Saba monastery also offer several great vantage points for marveling at the impressive structure and taking photos.
Palestine Itinerary Days Four and Five: Hebron
The West Bank is not exactly the most conventional travel destination as it is, however Hebron provides travellers with a more unique perspective of life in Palestine than relatively tourist-friendly Bethlehem. When travelling to the West Bank, you will note that Hebron is the region’s most troubled city.
Here, bullet proof glass surrounds everything – from apartment windows, to religious sites, providing a reflection of precisely how troubled this place is. Hebron is a controversial city because it is the only location within the West Bank where Israeli settlements are actually situated within the city, in close proximity to Palestinians, as opposed to in the West Bank countryside. Conflicts and clashes between the two sides are common.
Hebron is divided into two quarters – a Palestinian side, and an Israeli side. The two districts are seperated by the heavily guarded Al Shuhada street. Now a ghost town, the street has been closed since 1994 when an Israeli settler went on a rampage and killed a group of Palestinian Arabs – prompting riots and fights between the two groups and leading to the IDF’s decision to close the street.
Things to Do in Hebron
Visit the “h1” arab quarter.
“Hebron” ironically translates to “the city of friendship”. Once upon a time, Jews and Arabs lived alongside each other peacefully now but very few remnants of that remain. The Palestinian quarter of Hebron was once home to vibrant marketplaces and busy restaurants but a rather quiet and depressing shell of the former city remains.
Locals occupy the souks buying their fruits and vegetables but as you look up, the top of the market is covered by a mesh wiring – apparently put in place to stop Israeli settlers from throwing their trash down onto the Palestinian side, however it feels like a cage, a lesser version of the separation wall.
Speaking with locals here is heartbreaking, as you hear tales of locals massacred by Israeli settlers and IDF forces, however keep in mind that no story has only one side.
Visit the “H2” Israeli Quarter
The Israeli side of Hebron is comprised of several “settlements” each surrounded by protective razor wire and armed Israeli forces standing watch from guard towers. Since Israel assumed control of the West Bank in 1967, more and more Israeli Jews have started relocating here. Their argument for this? Since Hebron is home to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the place where one of their saviors, Abraham is buried, why wouldn’t they want to be close to such a site of religious importance?
The Israeli settlers are not without their share of heartbreaking tales of death and violence either. It’s important to speak to people on both side’s of the fencing to understand how the situation is for each side.
The Tomb of the Patriarchs
The Tomb of the Patriarchs, Abraham’s final resting place is a place of significance in both Islamic and Jewish faith. Arguably this is Hebron’s most notable attraction and this is the only building in the world that has been effectively chopped in half to accommodate two religions. The tomb serves as both a mosque and a synagogue, with bullet proof glass separating and protecting the two sides.
Getting from Bethlehem to Hebron
It is easy to get to Hebron from Bethlehem. Simply board the Hebron bound bus that departs from the Bethlehem bus station that is situated by Hebron road. A ticket costs 9 shekels ($2.50).
As with travel to Palestine in general, as long as you keep updated with current events, exert basic common sense and stay aware of your surroundings, you should not experience issues with travelling to Hebron.
Hebron feels a little more tense than some of the other cities in the West Bank, but conflicts and clashes never target tourists. It is an important place to go to gain an understanding of the situation in the West Bank directly from the mouths of both sides of the argument. Violence and conflicts here come in waves – from raids and riots to stone throwing and petty acts of crime. It’s understandable that stories of such occurrences keep a lot of tourists away. Only you can determine if you are comfortable visiting Hebron when travelling to Palestine.
Palestine Itinerary Days Six and Seven: Ramallah
Palestine itinerary days eight to ten: nablus, take a bus to qualqilya, palestine itinerary days eleven to thirteen: jericho, saint george koziba monastery, hiking at wadi qelt, hisham’s place, palestine itinerary day fourteen: depart to jerusalem, travel to palestine: what to eat in palestine.
There are many, many delicious foods that you can sample in Palestine but in terms of the most popular and locally adored dishes, you should be certain to try out the below.
A stew-like dish that includes meat, rice, and fried vegetables which are placed in a pot which will then be flipped upside down when served. Maqluba literally translates as “upside-down”.
A traditional Arabic dish made of lamb cooked in a sauce made from fermented dried yoghurt and served with rice or bulgur. (This is actually the national dish of Jordan but can also be found in Palestine)
Falafel (or Felafel)
A deep-fried ball, doughnut or patty made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both.
Shawarma (also spelled Shawurma or Shawerma)
A Levantine meat dish where lamb, chicken, turkey, beef, veal, or mixed meats are placed on a spit and may be grilled for as long as a day.
A Levantine bread salad made from toasted or fried pieces of Arabic flat bread combined with mixed greens and other vegetables such as radishes, and tomatoes. This is Savoury, bur quite a popular breakfast choice when travelling to Palestine.
Incredibly filling and flavourful, Msakhan is a popular lunchtime choice and is comprised of roast chicken placed on bread and topped with fried onions and chestnuts.
I expect that you have tried or at least heard of this already, but it is a very important staple at the Palestinian dinner table and we will eat it with most of our meals. It is a Levantine dip made from cooked, mashed chickpeas or other beans, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic.
Palestinian Desserts to Try
Fellow sweettooths can feel rest assured that desserts are a large part of Palestinian food culture. In particular, the locals love pastries so when you travel to Palestine, you should be certain to check out:
Kanafah (also spelled Kunafeh/Kunafah)
This is the speciality dessert of Palestine. It is a Middle Eastern cheese pastry soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup. I recommend that you try this if you are looking for something truly ‘local’.
Baklaua (as the Turkish Baklava)
Baklaua is a rich, sweet dessert pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with syrup or honey. This is popular all across the Middle East, with many countries offering their own national twist on the dish.
Basbousa is a traditional Middle Eastern sweet cake that is made from cooked semolina soaked in syrup. Sometimes we cook this with coconut too or we may use a syrup that contains orange extract or rose flower water.
Qatayef is an Arabic dessert commonly eaten during Ramadan. It is said that Qatayef is of Fatimid origin.
It can feel as though Palestine is an area which we rarely hear anything positive about. Indeed, most of the times we receive media coverage on it seems to be when there is a report of the latest clash between Israel and Palestine, however this is a culturally rich country filled with kind hearted people who are eager to welcome tourists to their land. Do not take everything you see in Western media as an accurate representation, go to Palestine and discover it for yourself.
Have any questions or concerns about travel to Palestine or travelling in Palestine as a solo female? Feel free to reach out to me below.
2 thoughts on “travel to palestine: a comprehensive guide and palestine itinerary”.
I am traveling to Bethlehem in July and would love a Palestinian guide. My husband is born in Palestine and we’r are taking our children. It is a very important heritage trip for our family. Also, how do we find the Hosh family for a meal in their home? Thank you so much.
Thank you kindly for your comment. I am sure that you will have a wonderful time in Palestine! It is such a beautiful country with some of the kindest people I have encountered while travelling. I would advise finding one of the guides through the Visit Palestine website found here – http://visitpalestine.ps/tour-guides/ This way, you can communicate everything with them and correspond in advance of arriving in Palestine. I met with Nizar Lama in Bethlehem (listed on the site) who was very friendly and helpful. It is also worth noting that there is a Palestine tourism centre in Bethlehem where you can pop in to arrange any trips and excursions as well as seek local advice on best restaurants, etc. For very good food, the Hosh family have now set up a restaurant besides their farm. http://www.mahmiyat.ps/en/ecoTourism/199
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Everything You Need To Know Before You Visit Palestine
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Don’t miss the chance to visit Palestine.
If you happen to travel to the Middle East, you really shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit Palestine. This is a place like no other – unique in terms of history and culture; with people that are amongst the most welcoming you can find, and food that is mouthwatering.
I have been to Palestine several times, and each time I have enjoyed it more. The typical question that I get asked when I say I am traveling to Palestine is whether it is safe – well guess what: it is. So safe that I took my mother there. And when I asked her whether she perceived any immediate danger, she said “not at all.” In fact, I think she enjoyed it even more than I did.
This is to say – leave all your worries home, and start planning to travel to Palestine.
In this post, I highlight everything you need to know before visiting Palestine, share some tips on places to visit and on how to make the most of your time there.
Table of Contents
21 Things To Know Before You Visit Palestine
The political situation is complicated.
I won’t go over the details of the history of Palestine or of the conflict – you should visit Palestine, and preferably on a good guided tour (more about this later), to grasp a bit more of that. I will just sum up the political and administrative situation very briefly so that you don’t get as confused as I was last time I visited.
One thing you will notice when you visit is that in some parts there are no Jewish / Israeli people and visitors; while in some there are a few. I noticed this when I visited Herodion Palace – the people at the ticket office where all speaking Hebrew. And I was honestly confused: I thought I had gotten back to Israel without realizing it.
So, here is the thing. Palestine is divided in Area A; Area B and Area C. This division was established during the Oslo Accords , a series of agreements which were signed in the 1990s as part of the peace process.
Area A is in full control of the Palestinian Authorities. There are no Israeli settlements in Area A and Israeli citizens can’t enter it. This counts for around 18% of the West Bank and includes the cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho, and about 80% of Hebron among others.
Area B sees Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control. It counts for about 22% of the West Bank and there are no Israeli settlements.
Area C is the remaining of the West Bank and it is under full Israeli civil and security control.
Palestine is also divided into the West Bank, which is the area you will likely visit, and the Gaza Strip , where only NGO workers and journalists are allowed to enter. The Palestine I refer to in this post is strictly the West Bank.
There are no airports in Palestine
If you decide to visit Palestine, you will have to fly into one of the neighboring countries as there are no airports there. The easiest (and usually also most budget friendly) option is usually to fly to Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport and travel from there. You may want to fly to Amman, in Jordan, but you won’t be able to cross the border directly into Palestine from there.
It’s safer than you think
The reaction you’ll get when you’ll tell your friends and family that you intend to visit Palestine will likely be a blank face. Questions will follow: “Is it actually safe to visit?”
The thing is, whatever people know about Palestine, they get it from the little news that makes it to our countries. Most of the time, news focus about the situation in or near the Gaza Strip, while little is said about the West Bank, which is where you would go.
The West Bank is completely safe to visit. It’s been living in peace for around 20 years now – with occasional protests, which by the way occur in any country. The overall impression you get when you visit is of an extremely friendly, chilled place where it is pleasant to walk around and explore.
Even though Palestine is safe to visit, I recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip. Get yours here .
The local currency is the Israeli Shekel
The official currency in Palestine is the Israeli Shekel (NIS). The Jordanian Dinar is also accepted, and it is often the currency used for savings. Euro and US Dollars are also accepted.
It is not cheap
I bet you think Palestine is nice and cheap to visit, and it will give you a break from the crazy prices of Israel. Think again! Palestine is just as expensive. The only cheap thing you are bound to get in Palestine is staple food – hummus, falafel, and similar.
A meal will cost you between $10 and $20 USD – and that’s if you manage to get to a place that is not overpriced. Accommodation starts from $20 USD for a bed in a dorm. Not exactly a budget friendly place.
Your Israeli SIM card will work in Palestine
Getting a SIM card in Israel is super easy (though it’s not the cheapest thing in the world). The good news is that you can take it with you to Palestine, and it will work just as fine and at no extra charges. This is a better option than getting a Palestinian SIM card, which is usually limited to 3G. High speed wifi is available in most of the country.
People are truly lovely
One thing people never say about Palestine is how nice locals truly are. I think it’s hard to find such kind, friendly, welcoming and truly generous people. These are people that would literally open the door of their houses for you, and make you feel like a king and would feel honored to host you. Expect to be offered freshly brewed coffee anywhere you visit!
Arabic is the official language
People in Palestine speak Arabic – one of the many dialects of it. English is widely spoken in the tourism industry, so chances are that you will be able to have conversations with cab and bus drivers, people at restaurants and shops as well.
Islam isn’t the only religion
The majority of Palestinians are Muslims (Sunni), and modest clothing is appreciated there. Places like Hebron and Nablus tend to be quite conservative, but Ramallah is more modern and thriving with life.
However, you should know that Islam isn’t the only religion in Palestine. Other than the Jewish people that live in the settlements, there is a nice chunk of the population that is actually Christian. Most of them live in Bethlehem, and in other smaller cities.
The food is delicious
One thing you can rest assured with is that food in Palestine is delicious. You have probably heard of Palestinian staples such as falafel (fritters of chickpea flour mixed with parsley, onion and other tasty ingredients) and hummus (a spread of chickpeas with tahina, lemon, garlic and a good dose of olive oil). But there is way more to Palestinian food than hummus!
Make sure to try mansaf – a dish of slowly cooked lamb with yellow rice and a fantastic mix of spices. Most restaurants will serve it, but the best one is homemade!
Maqluba is another must have. The word literally means “upside down” and refers to the way of serving this dish of meat, rice, and fried vegetables – which are flipped when served.
You can actually get alcohol
The presence of Christians in Palestine is good news for those of us who enjoy a drink every now and then. Alcohol is available in Palestine, and you can have wine or beer with your drink. In fact, there even are some really good microbreweries where you can get craft beer and even go on beer tasting tours. The first brewery was founded in Taybeh, where many Christians live. It is easily accessible from Ramallah.
Ramallah is not the capital
Ask anybody in Palestine what their capital is, and they will say that although Ramallah is the center of the local economy and of administration, their capital is Jerusalem. They call it Al Quds.
You can easily get to Bethlehem from Jerusalem
If you want to pop in for a quick visit to Bethlehem, you’ll be glad to know that there are several public buses that will take there from Jerusalem. You need to go to Damascus Gate, where there is a bus station, and hop on bus 231. If you don’t mind having to cross the checkpoint (more about this below), you can also take bus 234.
Though Bethlehem is really close to Jerusalem (around 10 km) the trip can take up to one hour as the bus has to stop several times, and go around town through several streets to avoid the checkpoints.
The trip costs just 7 Israeli Shekels (NIS) one way. You must get off at Bab El-Zalak / Beit Jala Road and it’s about a 15 minutes walk to the center of Bethlehem.
You may have to cross a checkpoint to enter
This is not always the case – it really depends on the route you follow and on the public bus you use. Sometimes you will have to walk through a checkpoint (it’s no more no less than a passport control, really), other times you won’t need to. One thing for sure, whenever you travel to Palestine you need to have your passport with you.
Keep in mind that checkpoints can take time – there may be a line of people trying to get across, and this may delay your arrival to your final destination, and you may end up having less time than you had hoped in Palestine.
If you want to avoid checkpoints altogether, you can opt to do a guided tour like one of those I have suggested.
Make sure to bring your passport and your Israeli visa card any time you plan to go to Palestine.
But you don’t need a visa
You won’t have to apply for a visa to visit Palestine, and your passport won’t be stamped when you cross the border. All you need is the Israeli visa card. Visitors from European Union countries, United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and many more can get a visa on arrival valid for 90 days upon getting to Israel.
You’re better off going to Palestine on a guided tour
I think that a guided tour is a far better option to visit Palestine than going independently – especially if you don’t have much time to make all the arrangements. You really need a local guide that explains you the history, the culture and even a little bit of politics. Plus it is much easier to have everything arranged beforehand so that all you have to do is bring your camera and enjoy the day.
The best tours of Palestine are led by Abraham Tours. I have been on all of them (literally, and some of them actually twice) and I wholeheartedly recommend them. These are the ones I prefer:
- Best of the West Bank tour from Jerusalem with Abraham Tours – a fantastic tour of Palestine that in a day takes you to all the most important places. There is also an identical tour departing from Tel Aviv.
- Hebron Dual Narrative tour – if you only have time for one tour and are interested in the conflict, this is the one you want. Abraham did an excellent job at joining together the narratives of Israelis and Palestinians so you’ll hear both sides of the story.
- West Bank 3-day package tour – another tour by Abraham, perfect if you have a bit more time.
But you can can also visit independently
If you are a convinced independent traveler, you’ll be happy to know that you can visit Palestine independently. It’s a bit more time consuming, and it probably will turn out just as expensive as going on a guided tour, but it is doable. Roads are in good conditions and public transportation works well in the West Bank. Big buses are cheap, but a bit slow. Serveece – yellow minivans – are more expensive but faster.
You can go there any time of year
Any time is a good time to visit Palestine. I have been there in April, in November and in December, and each time had a fantastic experience. Keep in mind that the desert bits such as Jericho can get scorchingly hot in the summer.
There are some incredible places to visit
There are many more places to visit in Palestine than you’d imagine. I have been there several times and I have yet to see them all. Nature wise, Palestine is very varied – there are beautiful hills and forests as well as the desert. Scattered around you will find some very interesting archeological sites; villages and cities. The ones I mentioned are those you really should not miss.
Bethlehem usually is the first stop if you ever visit Palestine – mainly because it is very easy to reach from Jerusalem. The city isn’t the most beautiful you will see in your life, but there are many interesting places to visit – especially if you are keen on seeing Biblical sites. I have selected a few you can’t miss.
For a complete guide about Bethlehem, make sure to read The Crowded Planet’s post .
For a very reliable driver to take you around Bethlehem, you can get in touch with Ali, a taxi driver from Bethlehem. You can get in touch with him via whatsapp at +972 522 912745 or via his Facebook page . He’s an incredibly friendly, reliable person; he drives a good, clean car; and he speaks really good English. Don’t forget to mention my name (Claudia from Italy) when you contact him.
The following are some of the places to visit in Bethlehem you should not miss.
Church and Grotto of the Nativity
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Bethlehem is the Church of the Nativity. This church, which is beautifully decorated, is famous for being home to the Grotto of the Nativity, said to be the place where Mary gave birth to Jesus – though even the rest of the church is really interesting to visit.
The church was built upon orders of Constantine’s mother Helena in 339 AD. Destroyed and rebuilt several times, the church is actually quite large and airy, with some beautiful mosaics – some discovered after renovation works in 1934.
The grotto is quite small. There are a few steps to get to it. Once inside, you will see that there is a 14 point star, which marks the place where Mary gave birth to Jesus; and the manger where Jesus was placed. The Grotto of the Nativity is regularly packed with people chanting or praying – for religious people this is a highly spiritual experience. For Atheists like me, it’s an interesting historical place to visit.
There are normally lines to get to the actual grotto – so make sure to visit first thing in the morning. The church is inevitably more crowded during Christmas time.
Make sure to also visit St. Catherine’s Church, which is right next to the Church of the Nativity.
The Church and Grotto of the Nativity are much better visited on a guided tour: you really need a guide to help you through the crowds and to makes sense of what you are seeing. Read above for the recommended tours.
Chapel of the Milk Grotto
Significantly less visited (we were the only ones there when we went) than the Church of the Nativity, this lovely chapel was built in the 19th century around the Grotto where the Holy Family stayed to preserve baby Jesus from Herod’s massacre of the innocents. According to legend, some drops of milk fell from the Virgin Mary and turned the rock inside the grotto completely white. Nowadays, this is a place of worship especially for couples looking to conceive a child.
Another place to visit in Bethlehem for Christians is Shepherd’s Field – thought to be the place where the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. It’s located a bit outside the center of Bethlehem, in a beautiful, quiet park where you will find a Greek Orthodox church and a catholic one built to remind the structure of the tent where the shepherds would spend the night. Below this, there is a grotto with a small chapel.
This is a sacred site for the three monotheistic religions. In theory, it would be located on the Palestinian side of the Separation Wall, but in order for the Israelis to be able to visit, a detour in the wall was created so that it now is in Israeli territory.
I am not sure I’d call the Separation Wall a tourist attraction. This wall was built for more than 700 km around the border of the West Bank. It is 9 meters tall, with barbed wire on its top. It marks a clear separation between Israel and Palestine and it is a massive source of controversy. The wall itself has been used by graffiti artists – including the famous Banksy – from around the world to express their contempt for the conflict and for the wall itself.
Walled Off Hotel
This lovely boutique hotel was built right in front of the Separation Wall. While most hotels will pride themselves of having a beautiful view, the Walled Off Hotel made the conscious choice of clearly showing a place that has such a strong meaning in the every day life of Palestinians. You can visit the ground floor, where you will find a couple of pieces of Banksy (in fact, this is hotel – also known as Banksy Hotel – was open by the artist in the hope of bringing Israeli tourists and dialogue in Bethlehem), and a quirky yet cozy lounge room.
If you are interested in spending a night there, you will be happy to know that there is something for any budget. Click here for the latest rates .
Located 5 km south east of Bethlehem, this is a palace and a small town the Herod The Great built between 23 and 15 BCE. It is thought that Herod was also buried there. The site is under Israel National Parks Authority and a national park – so you will find Israeli visitors there.
You will have to walk uphill from the visitors’ center to get to the main site, from where you will be able to enjoy incredible views that on clear days span all the way to the Dead Sea. You can walk back down from the secret tunnels.
The entry fee to Herodion Palace is 29 NIS.
Close to the Dead Sea, Jericho is located at around 400 meters below sea level. It’s known as the lowest city on Earth, as well as the oldest one – having been founded around 10000 years ago. The city itself is nothing special – there is an archeological site that has been half excavated, but you can’t really make sense of it without a guide.
The surroundings of Jericho are gorgeous though – lots of hiking trails, and a couple of monasteries which include the Monastery of Temptation, said to be the place where Jesus spent 40 days and nights praying and fasting while he was being tempted by Satan. The monastery can be reached via cable car and from there you can get incredible views of the Dead Sea and of Jericho.
Baptismal Site on the Jordan River
This is the site where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was baptized. Marking the border between the West Bank and Jordan, this is a very important place for Christians, who go there on pilgrimages and immerse themselves in the water to be baptized. You will find several fonts of water – you’ll see many people refilling their bottles, which they often take home to offer to their friends and relatives who were unable to travel.
Ramallah is a must when you visit Palestine. This the biggest and most cosmopolitan (as well as chaotic) city in Palestine. It’s a fun place to spend a few hours, usually the starting point of guided tours of the West Bank. The most interesting place to visit is Arafat Mausoleum and Museum, where you will be able to learn a bit more about the history of Palestine.
Hebron is by far the most interesting place in the West Bank – if you plan to visit Palestine for just one day, this is where you should go. This is a much fought over city – holy for both the Jews and the Muslims, as it is where the Tomb of Abraham is located.
After a series of conflicts, the city has been divided in two separate zones – one strictly for Israeli settlers, who count for around 3% of the population; and one for the Palestinians only, who make up the rest of the residents.
Hebron is not an easy place to move around (though you can get there easily by public bus from Jerusalem central bus station), with all the checkpoints, so you really want to go there on a guided tour. The best ones are run by Abraham Tours and usually see two guides – a Palestinian one to take you around the Palestinian part of the city; and an Israeli one to go around the place inhabited by the settlers.
It’s a very intense place – you go there and hear two sides of the same story, and each one of them is incredibly convincing. You will left speechless, and unable to really make sense of what you have experienced. But it is worth it.
Here are more places to visit in Palestine .
Other useful tips
I recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip to Palestine. Make sure it covers trips to the West Bank. Get yours here .
Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.
Further Readings About Palestine
There is a wealth of material you could be reading to get to know a bit more about Palestine. I recommend heading to your local library and get your hands on on any book that sounds interesting to you. The one you should get your hands on is The Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Tough Questions, Direct Answers.
Traveling to the Middle East? Make sure to read the following posts:
- Why I took a Dual Narrative Tour of Hebron
- 29 Things To Do In Jerusalem You Can’t Miss
- 9 Fantastic Day Trips From Jerusalem
- 21 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Tel Aviv
- The 13 Best Day Trips From Tel Aviv
- A Guide To The Things To Do In Haifa, Israel
- 17 Truly Unmissable Things To Do In Eilat, Israel
- Everything You Need To Know To Hike The Jesus Trail
- The 10 Best Places To Visit During A Trip To Israel
- All The Places To Visit In Jordan For The Ultimate Adventure
- 11 Things to Know Before Visiting Petra, Jordan
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Abraham Tours during my trip to Palestine and I wish to thank them for the wonderful time. As always, the views expressed in this post remain my own.
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6 thoughts on “Everything You Need To Know Before You Visit Palestine”
Hello my name is Anna I’m planing to travel to Palestine in late May 2022 I have a friend who lives in Jericho what would you say is the best way to fly out of Chicago to be near Palestine I know there is no airport ,so do you have to fly into Israel and is it easy to get visa there in Israel if planing to go into Palestine
Your only option is to fly to Tel Aviv. If you are a US citizen, you won’t need a visa but will be given a slip when entering the country and you need to keep that to cross the border with Palestine. Make sure to read my posts on how to plan a trip to Israel for more information.
Hello Claudia, I am Diann and planning a visit to Ramallah in July. I have a few questions… 1. Is it worth the money to hire a “fast track vip service” to help get through the airport in TelAviv? 2. What is the latest on testing for Covid upon arrival in TelAviv? 3. Best mode of transportation to get from airport to Ramallah? (where I will be staying) Thanks for any help you can provide.
Hello Diann, to my knowledge, the fast track service is only available at departures, not at arrivals. Regarding the rules for testing, you should check out the official website of the health authority as that’s where you’ll find the updates. Transport: it really depends on your day of arrival. Also keep in mind Israeli cars can’t travel to Palestine. Depending on which day of the week you are traveling, you can either get the train or a shuttle to Jerusalem, and then either a bus or a taxi to the border. Once there, you will have to change.
Hi Claudia We were recently on a long trip through 5 countries in the Middle East, and wanted to give some input to your posts on Isreal & Palestine seeing that we found it valuable. We are independent explorers travelling to less travelled places, so doing all our own research online and also speaking to locals. On the odd occasion that we did look at a blog post for Palestine – yours stood out with the most in depth and on-the-ground experiences. So thank you.
Travelling from West to East Jerusalem via public transport was spot on with the 2 buses 231 & 234 just outside the Damascus gate. The bus to Bethlehem seemed to avoid the checkpoint entering Palestine, and had a drop off point in the centre of Bethlehem. It was an easy 20 min walk through the old town to the Peace Centre, Church of Nativity etc. No security or other issues as we walked along the Seperation Wall and saw all but 2 of Banksy’s pieces of artwork. I have some of the artwork locations that I’m happy to share.
The most important thing for independent travellers to know if to always have your PASSPORT with you, you cannot cross some of the IDF checkpoints without them. We met a few travellers stuck at checkpoints trying to leave Palestine (cos you dont need it going into Palestine, they did’nt think they needed it going out – which you do).
Thank you for your feedback!
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My guide on how to visit Palestine
The first question that comes to mind when people ask about visiting Palestine is – is it safe? Yes, it is safe, if you stay in the advised areas. Traveling through Palestine isn´t something you do and just think “I´ll wing it”. It takes some research, and you also need to understand that there are parts of Palestine that you are advised to stay away from, and there is a good reason for that. Unless you are willing to risk your life, which I obviously advise against. Other areas are super safe and breathtakingly beautiful. The population is welcoming and the food is mouthwatering. So yes, I highly recommend visiting Palestine when traveling through the Middle East.
Beware that since a lot of governments advise from traveling to Palestine your regular travel insurance might not be valid here. Make sure to get one that is. I would recommend World Nomads.
MY GUIDE ON HOW TO VISIT PALESTINE
The Gaza strip and the West bank | Getting in | Currency | Religion | When to go | Costs | Places to visit in Palestine | Jerusalem | Bethlehem | Hebron | Ramallah | Nablus | Jericho
The Gaza strip and the West bank
Palestinian territories are divided into two regions: the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, both separated by the state of Israel. You can’t enter Gaza unless you are a journalist or an NGO worker. Due to constantly ongoing wars, it is not safe to enter Gaza and therefore this post is for those traveling to the West Bank. The West Bank is a totally different place that has lived in peace with Israel for almost twenty years, since the Second Intifada .
Palestine is also divided into Area A; Area B and Area C. This division was established during the Oslo Accords , a series of agreements that were signed in the 1990s as part of the peace process.
Area A is in full control of the Palestinian Authorities. There are no Israeli settlements in Area A and Israeli citizens can’t enter it. This counts for around 18% of the West Bank and includes the cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho, and about 80% of Hebron, among others.
Area B has Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control. It counts for about 22% of the West Bank and there are no Israeli settlements.
Area C is the remaining of the West Bank and it is under full Israeli civil and security control.
As there are no international airports in Palestine, it is only possible to enter the west bank overland through Israel or Jordan. All Palestinian territories are surrounded by a big concrete wall controlled by the Israeli military hence entering Palestine requires passing through an Israeli military checkpoint. There are two main checkpoints through which you can enter, the Qalandia checkpoint in Israel or the Allenby bridge crossing in Jordan. As an international visitor, it’s easiest to fly into Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and from there it’s a 45 min taxi ride to the checkpoint. However, since Israel is a small country, the West Bank can be reached within a few hours by public transport or car from wherever you are within Israel. Just note that you are not allowed to bring a rental car from Israel into Palestine. If you do so, it is neither insured nor safe to use as means of transportations. The easiest way to enter is by bus to the border and then enter by foot. Well in Palestine the system of public transportation works well. If you are entering via Jordan the Allenby Bridge crossing is accessible by bus or taxi from Amman and takes a little over an hour. The more annoying part of this entry is the line to get in which is notorious for being long. You should allow at least 3h of queuing if you plan to enter through this way.
You use the same currency as in Israel in Palestine namely, New Israeli Shekel (NIS).
The most practised religion in Palestine is Sunni Islam. Therefore, it is advised to dress respectfully and cover shoulders, cleavage, arms and legs. Hebron , Nablus and Jenin are more traditional and conservative, so you should dress even more modestly there, headscarf is advised for women. Ramallah, the most cosmopolitan city on the west bank and also its capital, is a little bit more laid-back. The same goes for Bethlehem, the city with the largest Christian population.
The West Bank is a year-round destination. The winters get just slightly cold and the summers don´t get too hot unless you are traveling to some parts of the desert, like Jericho, where the weather can get extremely hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter.
The West Bank is not really a budget destination, even if it is somewhat cheaper than other places in the Middle East. Count on spending a minimum of 25 – 35 USD per day. The cheapest option for accommodation is staying in hostels, for between 14-20 USD per night. If you´re travelling as a couple or a group of friends, I would suggest you stay in Airbnb´s as that would generally then be the most cost-effective. Where you can really save though is on food as portions are hefty and you really get a lot of bang for the buck.
Places to visit in Palestine
1. jerusalem .
Where to begin? Jerusalem is the holiest place for Christianity, Islam and Judaism. You can literally spend forever here and not stop being amazed, impressed and surprised. I have visited Jerusalem many many times and I never get tired of it. Jerusalem is part of Israel but the eastern part of the city is completely inhabited by Arabs.
Being so important to three main religions also makes it a melting pot for conflicts, meaning you will have to get used to the military constantly patrolling the streets. Their machine guns might seem intimidating, but it is really what makes Jerusalem a safe place.
Remember that you can be asked to show your passport at any time and therefore it is good to carry a copy of it with you.
Things to do in Jerusalem
The Western Wall
Probably one of the most known sights in the World and one of the most important landmarks in the city. It is a very holy place where, every day, thousands of Jews come to pray. It is also called the Wailing Wall as, during the Ottoman period, Jews would go there and lament the destruction of the previously destroyed Temple Mount. Visiting the Western Wall it is required to cover shoulders and knees, if you somehow forgot, there are robes to borrow free of charge. Visit the wall respectfully, do not take pictures of others and remember that it is a holy place and not actually a tourist attraction.
Temple Mount / Al-Haram ash-Sharif
Another landmark of Jerusalem and one of the holiest places both for Jews and Muslims. Biblically, this is where Abraham offered up his son Isaac for sacrifice. The Temple Mount is the third holiest site for Muslims after Mecca and Medina. In Muslim tradition, this is where the Prophet Mohammed made his “Night Journey” to the throne of God. Today, within the area of the Temple Mount, there are about 100 different structures to see spanning different time periods, including prayer locations, arches, and fountains.
Admission is free, but lines can be very long, so get there early. It is closed on Fridays and Saturdays.
Church of the Holy Sepulcher
The Church of the Resurrection is one of the holiest sites within Christianity and is an impressive building, where Jesus was crucified. This site has been continuously recognized since the 4th century as the place where Jesus died, was entombed, and then rose from the dead.
Mount of Olives
Mount of Olives is towering over 800 meters above sea level and provide stunning views over Jerusalem. This holy site is associated with Islam, Judaism and Christianity, and has been used as a place of prayer and burial since the days of the First Temple.
Bethlehem is considered to be the birthplace of Jesus and the home of King David hence it attracts millions of visitors each year. It is a picturesque town overlooking the Judean Desert and during Christian holidays the festivities are endless. The pomp, ornate decor, and beautiful displays continue year-round and whether you are religious or not, it is well worth a visit.
Things to do in Bethlehem
The Church of the Nativity The Church of the Nativity is one of the oldest working churches in existence today. It is the oldest complete church in the world. It was built by the emperor Justinian in the 6th century. Erected in the place where Jesus is believed to have been born.
Aida Palestinian refugee camp
Aida camp was established in 1950 on land UNRWA leased from the government of Jordan. The camp is located between the municipalities of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Jerusalem. It is partially surrounded by the West Bank Barrier. The Aida refugee camp is probably the most well-known refugee camp in the West Bank, but I also found it to be the most commercialized. It is possible to visit the camp and there are several help organizations, such as Volunteer Abroad that offers volunteer programs. The volunteer programs aim to provide help for the refugees but also aim to spread awareness of the situation in the camps.
Mar Saba Day trip
Mar Saba monastery in the Judean Desert is reputedly the oldest continuously inhabited monastery in the world, dating back to 439 CE (equivalent to 439 AD). It´s a Greek Orthodox monastery and women aren´t allowed inside the monastery at all but can view it from the opposite side of the phenomenal cliff-clinging copper-domed hermitage. Men, on the other hand, are permitted inside, where tours are available with one of the 15 monks in residence. Even if you´re a woman and cannot get inside, the surrounding Judean Hills and the Kidron Valley are amazingly beautiful places to hike, and the views are absolutely breathtaking. The monastery is set amid amazing scenery, with paths and steps going down into a beautiful valley below. It is only possible to visit the monastery from Bethlehem and therefore I suggest making a day trip out of it. Note that the monastery is closed on Wednesdays and Fridays and opening hours on other days are limited. For more information visit their website.
It really is a must-visit! With the ancient monastery and unique landscape, it feels like travelling back centuries in time.
Hebron the largest city in the West Bank, might be one of the most interesting places to visit in Palestine, but it is also the place with the most tension. There are Jewish settlements within the city, the old city specifically, and the animosity this creates is really noticeable. You can feel that people are on edge, that there is something bothering basically everyone. The Mosque and Synagogue at the Cave of the Patriarchs, one of the holiest sites for both Jews and Muslims, are separated by bulletproof glass. The military is constantly patrolling the streets. To understand why there is such tension, you need to understand the complicated history of Hebron and the ongoing social and political complications. Jews have been present in Hebron from Biblical times, and Muslims have also lived there for many centuries.
In the middle of the 19th century, Hebron was deeply Muslim, and the social climate was hostile against the Jews present in the city. After the 6 Days War in 1967, Hebron came under Israeli occupation. Because of its strong religious symbolism, the Jews then started to build settlements within the Old City itself. Today the city is divided into two areas, H1 (80% of the city controlled by Palestinian authorities ) and H2 (20% of the city controlled by the Israeli military).
Most of the Old City (H1 area) is protected by a fence, to protect both sides from throwing garbage, eggs, bleach and even excrements at each other. Balconies and windows are protected by heavy metal bars. The hatred towards the Israeli settlers is expressed in every other sentence and more so to foreigners visiting. A large part of the Old City has been abandoned as the Palestinian population there have found it too difficult to make a living under the Israeli Military law and because of the division of the old city restricting Palestinian movement between areas within the old city. In the H1 old city areas, you’ll therefore see a lot of empty houses, shops and restaurants.
To visit Abrahams tomb, you must leave the H1-area through a military checkpoint. From there you can enter the tomb as it is literally located between the synagogue and the mosque, so it’s visible from both sites, but separated by bulletproof glass.
The H2 area, the Jewish side, is basically just a residential area for the Israeli settlers and passage for the Israeli military between and around the settlements.
It is a complex place and the history of the conflict is so complicated it is impossible to know what’s “right or wrong”. In order to best understand what’s going on and to form your own opinion, I encourage you to talk to both the Palestinians and the Jews living in Hebron. The conflict is well known internationally and both sides are happy to share their story. Another great option is to take a guided dual perspective tour . The tour will be done by two guides sharing their life story, their experiences and feelings regarding living in Hebron. All is done with empathy for each of their respective countries and without demonizing the other side. It’s a very interesting experience that brings out a lot of emotions and thoughts about humanity’s bad and good sides. It truly is the best way to see both sides of the story and to get a grasp of the complexity and the scope of the situation.
Ramallah differs a lot from the rest of the cities in the West Bank. Here the tension is less noticeable, people carry on with their daily life and a lot of them even crosses the border every day to go and work in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa or other Israeli cities. It´s a place with lots of restaurants, bars and pubs, but also with lots of history. Here you find the Palestinian History Museum and the tomb of Yasser Arafat.
Things to do in Ramallah
The Mausoleum and Museum
The place where the former President Yasser Arafat is buried is also a Historical Museum that showcases the story of Palestine from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict perspective. It is a really interesting museum and I would recommend spending a few hours, maybe even half a day here.
Eat, eat and eat.
There are so many restaurants in Ramallah and the food is mouthwatering! Palestinian food really is something! Try Peter´s Place , with stunning views over Palestine and the Dead Sea and a décor that brings the history of Palestine alive. The menu always changes and it is really one of the best places to experience Palestinian cuisine. And please, don´t miss out on the hummus. Hummus is generally eaten for two out of three meals per day and it´s safe to say that some of the best hummus in the world is found in the West Bank, and particularly so in Ramallah. Another great hummus place is Abu Walid. It isn´t fancy, rather the opposite. It’s a very simple place, plastic chairs, one big pot of hummus, pickles and lemonade. Located behind the maze-like fruit and vegetable market, Abu Walid is a bit tricky to find, but ask any local and you will be pointed in the direction of some of the best hummus you will ever taste!
Visit the Old City of Ramallah
The Old City will bring you back to the Ottoman empire. The Old City includes ruins of the ancient watchtower and the Ottoman court. This area of the city will give you a real authentic taste of Palestinian life.
Try the nightlife
Yes maybe bars and clubs aren´t the first to come to your mind when thinking about Palestine and the west bank, but this is a big part of life in Ramallah. The places to go is ever-changing and the best way to hit a homerun is to talk to the locals. They will not only tell you where to go, but they will invite you to their pre-drinks and bring you out with them into the young nights of Ramallah.
Nablus is an off the beaten track destination located in a beautiful valley between Mount Ebal and Gerizim. It has one of the most beautiful old cities in the Middle East. It is a vibrant city, the locals are super friendly and the food is just amazing. On top of that, it is home to some of the world´s best olive oil shops.
Things to do in Nablus
The Old City – Qasaba
Nablus itself was actually modelled on the capital city of Damascus and wandering the streets of the Old City you will see remains of ancient mosques, public drinking fountains, the alleyways and passages of the Old City, and traditional balconies.
Eat the world´s best Kanafeh
Kna-what? Kanafeh is a traditional Middle Eastern dessert made with shredded filo pastry, or alternatively, fine semolina dough, soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup, and typically layered with cheese, or with other ingredients such as clotted cream or nuts. Even if it doesn´t sound very appetizing it is one of the most popular deserts in Palestine, and most parts of the Middle East. And let me tell you – it is absolutely delicious. Luckily the world´s best Kanafeh can be found in Nablus at Al-Aqsa. Ask the locals for the way and join them in eating the warm Kanafeh in the street outside the tiny eatery Al-Aqsa.
Jericho is considered the oldest inhabited city in the world. It is also the lowest city on earth, at 400 meters below sea level. It is filled with stunning Christian monasteries as well as ancient ruins, plenty of beautiful hikes and a Bedouin culture.
Things to do in Jericho
Visit Saint George Koziba monastery
A beautiful Greek Monastery was carved into the rocks in Wadi Quilt. The location has great religious significance and is well worth a visit. A dusty road leads up to the monastery and you can either walk or ride on a donkey-taxi to the monastery gate. Unlike many other monasteries, this one is open to female visitors. Even if the entrance is free it´s a good idea to get there early as it quickly fills up with pilgrims and tourists. The monastery welcomes guests from Monday to Saturday 9 am to 1 pm. It is safe to travel to the monastery but probably better to take a guided tour , rather than traveling solo, it is a bit of a haggle going there by public transportation. There are plenty of private tours, but I used Micheal Tours and I was really happy with my choice. Michael is super professional and has a lot of knowledge about the West Bank. The tour groups are small and really gives you a chance to see all that you want to see in one day.
Mount of temptation and the Monastery of Quarantul
One of the most impressive sites in the entire West Bank is the Monastery of the Qurantul, built on the spot where the Bible says Jesus resisted Satan after his 40-day fast in the desert. Visitors to the mount can take the cable car from Tel Jericho to the summit or hike up the mount which will take about half an hour. A visit to the Mount of Temptation is often combined with a visit to Jericho or the Dead Sea because of their proximity. There aren´t really any opening hours for the monastery so the best thing is to go with Micheal tours again or another private tour of your preference.
What are you planning to do when you visit Palestine? Let us know in the comments below.
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Blinken backs ‘humanitarian pause’ but no Israeli cease-fire; civilian travel stymied at Rafah
- Recent strikes batter Gaza schools and health infrastructure
- Blinken, Arab counterparts clash on Gaza cease-fire
- Passage through the Rafah border post stops for civilians
Here's what to know:
Here's what to know, live coverage contributors 39.
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Tens of thousands of Palestinians have fled northern Gaza after Israeli ground troops pushed into Gaza City and clashed with Hamas militants. As the war passes a month of fighting, Israel’s endgame for Gaza is no clearer. Understand what’s behind the Israel-Gaza war .
Hostages: Israeli officials say Hamas militants abducted about 240 hostages in a highly organized attack . Four hostages have been released — two Americans and two Israelis — as families hold on to hope . One released Israeli hostage recounted the “spiderweb” of Gaza tunnels she was held in.
Humanitarian aid: The Palestine Red Crescent Society said it has received over 370 trucks with food, medicine and water in the Gaza Strip through Egypt’s Rafah crossing . However, the PRCS said, there hasn’t been permission yet to bring in fuel to power the enclave’s hospitals, water pumps, taxis and more .
Israeli-Palestinian conflict: The Hamas -controlled Gaza Strip has a complicated history , and its rulers have long been at odds with the Palestinian Authority , the U.S.-backed government in the West Bank. Here is a timeline of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict .
- Israel-Gaza war live updates: Tens of thousands flee as Israeli forces push farther into northern Gaza 28 minutes ago Israel-Gaza war live updates: Tens of thousands flee as Israeli forces push farther into northern Gaza 28 minutes ago
- Israel-Gaza war: Blinken says Israel should not reoccupy Gaza; G-7 backs ‘humanitarian pauses’ November 8, 2023 Israel-Gaza war: Blinken says Israel should not reoccupy Gaza; G-7 backs ‘humanitarian pauses’ November 8, 2023
- Why are Israel and Hamas at war? A basic explainer. Earlier today Why are Israel and Hamas at war? A basic explainer. Earlier today
Gaza death toll tops 10,000; UN calls it a children's graveyard
- LATEST DEVELOPMENTS:
- Biden and Netanyahu discuss pauses, aid, hostages -White House
- UN says 89 aid workers killed, highest ever toll
- Images of hostages projected on Jerusalem's Old City wall
GAZA, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Gaza is becoming a "graveyard for children", U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Monday, amplifying demands for a ceasefire in the enclave, where Palestinian health authorities said the death toll from Israeli strikes had exceeded 10,000.
Both Israel and the Hamas militants who control Gaza have rebuffed mounting international pressure for a ceasefire. Israel says hostages taken by Hamas during its rampage in southern Israel on Oct. 7 should be released first; Hamas says it will not free them or stop fighting while Gaza is under assault.
"Ground operations by the Israel Defense Forces and continued bombardment are hitting civilians, hospitals, refugee camps, mosques, churches and U.N. facilities – including shelters. No one is safe," Guterres told reporters.
"At the same time, Hamas and other militants use civilians as human shields and continue to launch rockets indiscriminately towards Israel," he said, calling for an immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.
Israel said 31 soldiers had been killed since it began expanded ground operations in Gaza on Oct. 27 and reiterated that Hamas was hiding with civilians and at hospitals. Hamas said the idea that Hamas was based in hospitals was a "false narrative that the U.N. should verify.
A Reuters journalist in Gaza said Israel's overnight bombardment by air, ground and sea was one of its most intense since the Oct. 7 attack in which Hamas killed 1,400 people in Israel and seized more than 240 hostages.
The health ministry in the Hamas-controlled enclave said at least 10,022 people in Gaza have since been killed , including 4,104 children.
"Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children . Hundreds of girls and boys are reportedly being killed or injured every day," Guterres said.
International organisations have said hospitals cannot cope with the wounded and food and clean water are running out with aid deliveries nowhere near enough .
Guterres said 89 people working with the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) were among the dead. UNRWA said five colleagues had been killed in the past 24 hours alone.
"We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It's been 30 days. Enough is enough. This must stop now," an earlier statement by 18 U.N. organisations said.
The United States is pushing hard to arrange pauses in the conflict to allow in aid rather than a full ceasefire, arguing, like Israel, that Hamas militants would just take advantage.
U.S. President Joe Biden discussed such pauses and possible hostage releases in a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, reiterating his support for Israel while emphasising that it must protect civilians, the White House said.
The faces of hostages were projected onto the wall of Jerusalem's Old City on the eve of the one month anniversary of the attack.
ISRAEL SAYS IT IS CLOSING IN ON HAMAS
The Israeli military said its forces had taken a militant compound and were poised to attack Hamas fighters hiding in underground tunnels and bunkers in the northern Gaza Strip, having isolated the area with troops and tanks. It released video of tanks moving through bombed-out streets and groups of troops moving on foot.
[1/9] Flares are dropped by Israeli forces, in Gaza City, November 6. REUTERS/Mohammed Al-Masri Acquire Licensing Rights
"Now we are going to start closing in on them," Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Hecht told reporters.
The armed wing of Hamas, the Al-Qassam brigades, said it had damaged 27 Israeli military vehicles in 48 hours and inflicted significant losses in direct engagements with Israeli troops.
The health ministry in Gaza said dozens of people were killed by Israeli air strikes in the north and south, including on Gaza City's Rantissi cancer hospital, where eight people were killed. Israel's military said it was looking into the report.
Gaza's health ministry spokesman said an air strike had also hit a building belonging to Gaza's largest hospital, Al Shifa, where 170 people were being treated and hundreds of evacuees were sheltering. One person was killed and several were wounded, he said. Israel said it had not struck the hospital.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had escorted a four-ambulance convoy of patients from Gaza City to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. Evacuations had been suspended since an Israeli strike on an ambulance on Friday but three Egyptian security sources said dozens of foreign passport holders also left on Monday.
BLINKEN ON REGIONAL TOUR
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has toured the region to try to prevent the conflict escalating and plan a secure future for Israelis and Palestinians as well as get in more aid.
"I think we'll see in the days ahead that assistance can expand in significant ways," Blinken said in Turkey.
He visited the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Sunday to show support for Palestinians there and in Gaza and held talks in Israel as well as in neighbouring Jordan with Arab leaders.
U.S. CIA Director William Burns also visited Israel and was due to go on to other states in the region, the New York Times reported. The CIA did not respond to a request for comment.
Israel said it was striking Hezbollah targets in Lebanon in response to a barrage of rockets fired at northern Israeli cities, an intensification of the worst clashes across the Israel-Lebanon border since 2006.
Hamas said it had launched 16 missiles towards Nahariyya and Southern Haifa in Israel.
Meanwhile, people searched for victims or survivors at the Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza, where the health ministry said Israeli forces had killed at least 47 people in strikes early on Sunday.
"All night I and the other men were trying to pick the dead from the rubble. We got children, dismembered, torn-apart flesh," said Saeed al-Nejma, 53. Asked for comment, the Israeli military said it was gathering details.
The Israeli military said a four-hour window for civilians to leave the north would be repeated daily. U.N. monitoring showed fewer than 2,000 people used the corridor on Sunday, citing fear and road damage. A U.S. envoy said on Saturday between 350,000 and 400,000 people were still in the north .
(This story has been refiled to show that Benjamin Netanyahu is Israel's prime minister, not Israel's president, in paragraph 13.)
Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Ali Sawafta and Simon Lewis in Ramallah, Dan Williams and Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, Trevor Hunnicut in Washington, Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber and Emma Farge in Geneva, Omar Abdel-Razek and Nayera Abdallah; Writing by David Lawder, William Maclean and Philippa Fletcher; Editing by Timothy Heritage, Christina Fincher and Alison Williams
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
A senior correspondent with nearly 25 years’ experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict including several wars and the signing of the first historic peace accord between the two sides.
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Thomas L. Friedman
Israel: From the Six-Day War to the Six-Front War
By Thomas L. Friedman
If you care about Israel, you should be more worried than any other time since 1967. Back then, Israel defeated the armies of three Arab states — Egypt, Syria and Jordan — in what became known as the Six-Day War. Today, if you look closely, you’ll see that Israel is now fighting the Six-Front War.
This war is being fought by and through nonstate actors, nation-states, social networks, ideological movements, West Bank communities and Israeli political factions, and it is the most complex war that I’ve ever covered. But one thing is crystal clear to me: Israel cannot win this six-front war alone. It can win only if Israel — and the United States — can assemble a global alliance.
Unfortunately, Israel today has a prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and a ruling coalition that will not and cannot produce the keystone needed to sustain such a global alliance. That keystone is to declare an end to the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and overhaul Israel’s relations with the Palestinian Authority so that it becomes a credible, legitimate Palestinian partner that can govern a post-Hamas Gaza and forge a broader two-state solution including the West Bank.
If Israel is asking its best allies to help the Jewish state seek justice in Gaza while asking them to look the other way as Israel builds a settlement kingdom in the West Bank with the express goal of annexation, that is strategically and morally incoherent.
It won’t work. Israel will not be able to generate the time, the financial assistance, the legitimacy, the Palestinian partner or the global allies it needs to win this six-front war.
And all six fronts are now hiding in plain sight.
First, Israel is fighting a full-scale war against Hamas in and around Gaza, in which, we can now see, Hamas still has so much residual capacity that it was able to launch a seaborne attack on Israel on Tuesday and on Wednesday fired long-range rockets toward Israel’s southern port city of Eilat and northern port city of Haifa. It is terrifying to see how many resources Hamas diverted to build weapons rather than to aid Gaza’s human capital — and how effectively it hid that from Israel and the world. Indeed, it is hard not to notice the contrast between Gaza’s evident human poverty and the wealth of weaponry Hamas has built and deployed.
Hamas’s dream has long been the unification of the fronts surrounding Israel, regionally and globally. Israel’s strategy has always been to act in ways to prevent that — until this Netanyahu coalition of ultra-Orthodox and Jewish supremacists came to power last December and began behaving in ways that actually helped foster the unification of the anti-Israel fronts.
How so? The Jewish supremacists in Netanyahu’s cabinet immediately began to challenge the status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which is revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and where one of Islam’s holiest sites, the Aqsa Mosque, stands. The Netanyahu government began taking steps to impose much harsher conditions on Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza held in Israeli jails. And it laid plans for a huge expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank to prevent a contiguous Palestinian state from ever coming into being there. This is the first Israeli government ever to make annexation of the West Bank a stated objective in its coalition agreement.
On top of all of this, the United States appeared to be getting close to forging a deal for Saudi Arabia to normalize diplomatic and commercial relations with Israel — which would have been the crowning achievement of Netanyahu’s effort to prove that Israel could have normal relations with Arab and Muslim states and not have to give one inch to the Palestinians.
Which leads to the second front: Israel against Iran and its other proxies. That is, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, Islamist militias in Syria and Iraq and the Houthi militia in Yemen.
All of them in recent days have launched drones and rockets toward Israel or at U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria. I believe that Iran, like Hamas, saw the U.S.-Israel effort to normalize relations between Israel and Arab-Muslim states as a strategic threat that would have left Iran and its proxies isolated in the region. At the same time, I believe Hezbollah came to realize that if Israel obliterated Hamas, as it declared it would, Hezbollah would be next. It would also be much weaker without Hamas draining energy and focus from Israel’s military. Therefore, Hezbollah decided that, at a minimum, it needed to open a low-grade second front against Israel.
As a result, Israel has been forced to evacuate some 130,000 civilians from its northern border along with the tens of thousands of Israelis evacuated from the southwestern border with Gaza. This whole displacement puts a huge stress on housing and the Israeli treasury.
The third front is the universe of social networks and other digital narratives about who is good and who is evil. When the world gets this interdependent, when — thanks to smartphones and social networks — nothing is hidden and we can hear one another whisper, the dominant narrative has real strategic value. That social media was so easily manipulated by Hamas that the episode of a misfired Palestinian missile hitting a Gaza hospital was initially blamed on Israel is deeply disturbing, because these narratives shape the decisions of governments and politicians and the relationship between chief executives and their employees. Be advised: If Israel does invade Gaza, corporations everywhere will be facing competing demands from employees to denounce Israel or Hamas.
The fourth front is the intellectual/philosophical struggle between the international progressive movement and Israel. I believe that some elements of that progressive movement, which I realize is big and diverse, have lost their moral bearings on this issue. For instance, we’ve seen numerous demonstrations on American college campuses that essentially blame Israel for the barbaric Hamas invasion, arguing that Hamas is engaged in a legitimate “anticolonial struggle.” These progressive demonstrators seem to believe that all of Israel is a colonial enterprise — not just the West Bank settlements — and therefore the Jewish people do not have the right either to self-determination or self-defense in their ancestral homeland, whether it’s within post-1967 borders or pre-1967 ones.
And for an intellectual community seemingly concerned about nations occupying other nations and denying their right to self-rule, you don’t see a lot of progressive college campus demonstrations against the biggest oppressing power in the Middle East today: Iran.
Besides crushing its own women seeking greater freedom of thought and dress, Tehran is effectively controlling four Arab states — Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq — through its proxies. Lebanon, a country I know well, has not been able to elect a new president for a year in large part because Iran refuses to allow the Lebanese to have any president who will not always bend to Tehran’s wishes and interests. Unfortunately, independent Lebanese are powerless to remove Iran’s grip over their Parliament and government, exercised largely through the barrel of Hezbollah guns. Middle East Eye reported that back in 2014 Ali Reza Zakani, a Tehran city representative in the Iranian Parliament, was boasting about how Iran now rules in four Arab capitals: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sana, Yemen.
To reduce this incredibly complex struggle of two peoples for the same land to a colonial war is to commit intellectual fraud. Or as the Israeli writer Yossi Klein Halevi put it in The Times of Israel on Wednesday: “To blame the occupation and its consequences wholly on Israel is to dismiss the history of Israeli peace offers and Palestinian rejection. To label Israel as one more colonialist creation is to distort the unique story of the homecoming of an uprooted people, a majority of whom were refugees from destroyed Jewish communities in the Middle East.”
But here’s what’s also intellectually corrupt: buying into the Israeli right-wing settler narrative, now being spread far and wide inside Israel, that Hamas violence is so savage it clearly has nothing to do with anything settlers have done — so more settlements are just fine.
My view: This is a territorial dispute between two people claiming the same land which needs to be divided as equitably as possible. Such a compromise is the cornerstone for any success against Hamas. So, if you are for a two-state solution, you are my friend and if you are against a two-state solution, you are not my friend.
The fifth front is inside Israel and the occupied territories. In the West Bank, right-wing Jewish settlers are attacking Palestinians, while disrupting the efforts of Israel’s military to keep a lid on it in collaboration with the security forces of the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas. We must remember that the P.A. has recognized Israel’s right to exist as part of the Oslo accords. It would be terrible if that front explodes into a confrontation between the P.A. and Israel, because then there would be scant hope for ever enlisting the authority’s help in governing Gaza.
But there will also be no hope for that if Palestinians in the West Bank and around the world don’t insist on building a more effective, non-corrupt Palestinian Authority. That is long past due — and it is not just Israel’s fault that it has not happened. Palestinians have agency too.
The sixth front is inside Israel itself, mostly between its Jewish citizens. That front has been papered over for the moment, but it lurks just beneath the surface. It is the clash driven by Netanyahu’s enduring political strategy at home: divide and rule. He has built his whole political career on pitting factions of Israeli society against one another, eroding the kind of societal unity that is essential to win the war.
His government took that strategy to an extreme after it came into office last December and immediately moved to strip the Israeli Supreme Court of its powers to check decisions of the executive and legislative branches. In the process he turned tens of thousands of Israelis out every Saturday to protect their democracy and prompted air force pilots and other elite war-fighters to suspend their reserve duty, saying they would not serve a country heading toward dictatorship. It divided and distracted Israel and its military at exactly the wrong time — not that there was ever a good time.
How do you win a six-front war? I repeat: only with a coalition of people and nations who believe in democratic values and the right of self-determination for all people. Until and unless Israel generates a government that can generate that coalition, it will not have the time, the resources, the Palestinian partner and the legitimacy it needs to take down Hamas in Gaza. It will be fighting mostly alongside the United States as its only true and sustainable ally.
And a lot of the strength of that alliance today rests on Joe Biden and the fact that he brings to this crisis a set of core, gut principles about America’s role in the world, right versus wrong, democracy versus autocracy. Another president with those instincts may not come along again anytime soon.
In other words, Biden has created diplomatic working capital — that comes with a time limit — for both Israelis and the Palestinian Authority. They must both use it wisely.
The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .
Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram .
Thomas L. Friedman is the foreign affairs Opinion columnist. He joined the paper in 1981, and has won three Pulitzer Prizes. He is the author of seven books, including “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” which won the National Book Award. @ tomfriedman • Facebook
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Israeli military tour of northern Gaza reveals ravaged buildings, toppled trees, former weapons lab
An Associated Press photojournalist embedded with Israeli troops inside the Gaza Strip has been shown weapons they say belonged to Hamas militants. (Nnov. 9)
Israeli army troops are seen next to a destroyed building during a ground operation in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023., Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. Israeli ground forces entered the Gaza Strip as they press ahead with their war against Hamas militants in retaliation for the group’s unprecedented Oct. 7 attack on Israel. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
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An Israeli soldier stands on top of an armored personnel carrier parked next to a destroyed building during a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. Israeli ground forces entered the Gaza Strip as they press ahead with their war against Hamas militants in retaliation for the group’s unprecedented Oct. 7 attack on Israel. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
An Israeli soldier stands in an apartment during a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. Israeli ground forces entered the Gaza Strip as they press ahead with their war against Hamas militants in retaliation for the group’s unprecedented Oct. 7 attack on Israel. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
Israeli army troops are seen on the Israeli-Gaza border during a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. Israeli ground forces entered the Gaza Strip as they press ahead with their war against Hamas militants in retaliation for the group’s unprecedented Oct. 7 attack on Israel. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
Israeli soldiers are seen during a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. Israeli ground forces entered the Gaza Strip as they press ahead with their war against Hamas militants in retaliation for the group’s unprecedented Oct. 7 attack on Israel. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
Israeli soldiers are seen in an armored personnel carrier during a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. Israeli ground forces entered the Gaza Strip as they press ahead with their war against Hamas militants in retaliation for the group’s unprecedented Oct. 7 attack on Israel. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
An Israeli soldier stands in what the army says was a Hamas weapons-making facility during a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. Israeli ground forces entered the Gaza Strip as they press ahead with their war against Hamas militants in retaliation for the group’s unprecedented Oct. 7 attack on Israel. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
INSIDE THE GAZA STRIP (AP) — An Israeli tank rolls across a sandy moonscape, surrounded by rubble. Damaged buildings are visible in every direction. Toppled trees lie along the Mediterranean shoreline.
The Israeli military escorted international journalists into the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday, giving them a glimpse of the aftermath of 12 days of heavy fighting in the area.
Israel has been at war against Gaza’s Hamas rulers since the Islamic militant group carried out a bloody cross-border attack on Oct. 7, killing over 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping about 240 others. Israel responded with weeks of intense airstrikes before launching a ground operation on Oct. 27.
“It’s been a long two weeks of fighting,” said Lt. Col. Ido, whose last name was withheld under military guidelines. “We’ve lost some soldiers.”
The initial focus of the operation was northern Gaza, near the Israeli border, before troops moved in on Gaza City, which Israel says is the center of Hamas’ military operations.
The Palestinian Health Ministry says 10,500 people have been killed in the Hamas-run territory. Israel says several thousand Hamas militants are among the dead. It also says Hamas uses civilians in residential areas as human shields, and so is responsible for the high death toll. Hamas has denied this.
The drive into Gaza on Wednesday was in a windowless armored vehicle. A screen inside showed images of the shoreline, damaged buildings and downed trees. Israeli tanks and armored vehicles sat motionless as soldiers patrolled the area.
During the tour, the army said it had found ammunition and a weapons-making facility inside one building. Much of the lab had been removed, but the remnants of rockets, thousands of which have been launched at Israel during the fighting, could be seen.
One floor above the lab was what appeared to be a children’s bedroom. The bright pink room had multiple beds, a doll and a Palestinian flag.
During the less than two hours they spent inside Gaza on Wednesday, journalists could hear gunfire but did not witness any live fire. Israeli troops instructed the journalists not to move around too much.
The army ordered civilians to evacuate to the southern Gaza Strip ahead of the ground offensive. While about 70% of Gaza’s population is believed to have fled their homes, U.N. officials estimate that roughly 300,000 people have remained behind.
But in this corner of northern Gaza, Ido said the order appears to have worked.
“We have not seen any civilians here – only Hamas,” he said, adding that militants had been spotted operating aboveground and emerging from their underground tunnel system.
“We gave all the people that live here a good heads-up that we’re coming,” he added.
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'Miles do not matter' to the thousands who descended on Washington, DC, in support of Palestinians: 'This is breathtaking, and it's amazing.'
- Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in DC on Saturday for a pro-Palestinian demonstration.
- Organizers said hundreds of buses brought people from across the country to the nation's capital.
- Insider spoke to people from as far as Georgia and Illinois who made the journey to the protest.
Aali had never been to a protest before he came to the pro-Palestine march in Washington, DC, on Saturday.
"This is good," Aali said at the demonstration. "If you can do something, you have to do it."
It was also Aali's first time traveling for a protest — he told Insider he took a bus from Pennsylvania to the nation's capital on Saturday morning.
"It was about a 2-hour bus ride," he said.
Aali, who asked Insider to withhold his last name due to privacy concerns, is just one of hundreds of people who traveled from outside the Washington, DC, metro area for the National March on Washington: Free Palestine demonstration organized by nine co-sponsoring activism groups.
"Hundreds of buses have been organized by local community groups and progressive organizations to bring activists and people of conscience from cities across the country to join the historic march," organizers said in a statement provided to Insider Saturday morning.
Organizers told Insider before the demonstration they were expecting 100,000 attendees and that they hoped it would be the largest pro-Palestinian demonstration in US history.
Watta, from Philadelphia, told Insider the distance she drove didn't matter, given how much the cause mattered to her.
"It's about two hours from Philadelphia, and I've never driven to DC before," Watta told Insider at the demonstration. "The farthest I can comfortably drive is an hour, but obviously the miles do not matter because I came here in solidarity with the Palestinian people."
Others came from the southern or Midwestern US.
Mary, from Chicago, told Insider the last time she traveled to a protest was 30 years ago.
"This is breathtaking, and it's amazing," Mary told Insider.
Others traveled in large groups by bus. Thejas Wesley, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, told Insider he traveled with 750 people across 14 buses from Boston.
K.B. Butler said she and 200 others from Atlanta boarded a bus at 8 p.m. on Friday to make it in time for the demonstration.
"There are so many people at this protest who are out on the streets for the first time, as well as people who are learning about what's happening in Palestine for the first time," Butler told Insider.
Hundreds of thousands of people are rallying across the world in support of Palestine
Saturday's protesters joined the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who have marched in pro-Palestine rallies in the last several days.
Massive protests swept London, Istanbul, San Francisco, and Los Angeles last weekend after the Israel Defense Forces launched its ground operation in Gaza.
Hamas militants killed more than 1,400 people and kidnapped an estimated 100 to 200 people in a series of terrorist attacks in southern Israel on October 7.
In response, Israel launched punishing air strikes and a ground offensive in the densely populated Gaza Strip, which is home to about 2 million people, nearly one million of them children.
The Hamas-led Palestinian Health Ministry said that the death toll in Gaza is nearing 10,000 people. The Ministry said Saturday at least 3,900 thousands of those fatalities have been children.
The median age in Gaza is 18 .
The Palestinian Health Ministry released a list containing the names, ID numbers, and ages of every person killed by Israeli airstrikes, Insider previously reported , after President Joe Biden publicly doubted the accuracy of their casualty statistics.
Insider is unable to verify the list, but it has been endorsed by officials from the United Nations and the World Health Organization .
As they marched toward the White House, protesters carried a banner that listed the names of the nearly 10,000 people the health ministry listed in their death tolls.
"This is a political awakening for many, many people," Butler said.
Watch: Over 1 million in Gaza forced to evacuate in 24 hours after Israel issues order
Trump, other Republicans call for travel restrictions, sparking new 'Muslim ban' fears
The doors to Adam Abusalah's local mosque, once open to the public, are now locked.
Since Hamas militants' deadly surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, leaders at Abusalah's Detroit mosque have increased security during prayer times. It's a drastic move in a community that prides itself on welcoming Muslim immigrants from around the world, including Abusalah's Palestinian American family.
"Not only are we mourning the lives of people we lost in Palestine, but we have to worry about our safety," said Abusalah, 22. "We are talking about safety during prayers. Right now if you go, the doors are locked, but there is someone at the door who lets you in – that’s not normal."
As Jews face a surge in antisemitism and hate speech, Muslims in the U.S. say they also face a flare-up of Islamaphobia not seen since 9/11. They're not just worried about rhetoric; they fear a new wave of retaliatory policies.
More: Online hate surges after Hamas attacks Israel. Why everyone is blaming social media.
At least a dozen Republicans in Congress and two on the campaign trail – including former President Donald Trump – are calling for another so-called Muslim ban that could restrict travel to the U.S. from Muslim-majority countries. They've introduced legislation to bar Palestinian refugees and called on the president to revoke the visas of anyone supporting Hamas.
The proposals are "reminiscent of post-9/11" said Zainab Chaudry, Maryland director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.
"The fear of being profiled and being discriminated against because of one’s identity is very much at the forefront of many Arab American and Muslim Americans’ minds," she said, as the Israel-Hamas war enters its fourth week.
In a surprise attack on Israel during a major Jewish holiday, Hamas fighters killed more than 1,400 Israelis and kidnapped more than 200 people, including children. Victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack were executed, bound and burned alive; bodies were found decapitated.
Israel responded to the terror with overwhelming force. Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip destroyed neighborhoods and killed thousands of Palestinian civilians before Israel launched its ground invasion. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says at least 9,061 Palestinians have been killed , most of them women and children, and more than 32,000 have been wounded.
More: Hamas built a massive tunnel network in Gaza. Here’s how Israeli ‘weasel’ forces will fight it
Trump proposes 'strong ideological screening' of immigrants
At Republican primary campaign rallies in Iowa and New Hampshire this week, Trump said he would ban Gaza refugees , begin "strong ideological screening of all immigrants" and reboot his ban on travelers from Muslim-majority nations if he wins a second term in office.
"Remember when they said, 'Oh that's so vicious'? But it kept us safe," Trump said Monday after filing for the New Hampshire primary.
Trump's original order – signed during his first week in office – banned foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. It suspended entry of all Syrian refugees indefinitely and stopped any other refugees from coming into the country for four months.
The 2017 order took effect overnight, catching many travelers by surprise and creating chaos at international airports. Some families were separated for years. The ban didn't just affect Muslims: Christian Arab Americans also found their families swept into the travel restrictions.
Last week, Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana introduced legislation that would bar anyone holding a Palestinian Authority passport from entering the U.S. and prevent the Department of Homeland Security from granting entry through its parole program. Daines didn't respond to an emailed request for comment.
Others want the Biden administration to revoke the visas of people already in the U.S. if they're found to support Hamas.
Sen. Marco Rubio, joined by 10 other Republican senators, is seeking a resolution asking the Biden administration "to enforce the law" and " revoke the visas of foreign nationals who endorse or espouse activity in support of Hamas ." It wasn't immediately clear what would qualify as an endorsement of Hamas. Rubio didn't respond to an emailed request for comment.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis moved to disband at least two pro-Palestinian student groups at public universities, claiming their members support "terrorism" and their protests don't constitute free speech.
There is a through-line to Democratic actions in Congress that laid the groundwork for Republican proposals, said Robert McCaw, government affairs spokesman for CAIR. In 2014, during the Syrian conflict, a Democratic Congress subjected a list of countries to additional restrictions that persist today.
"There is a persistent concern in the American Muslim community that our family members’ visas are being subjected to extreme visa vetting and the situation only gets worse in times of conflicts," McCaw said. "We’re not looking at new restrictive policies; we’re looking at additional restrictive policies."
'Families were kept apart'
The proposals are concerning for Arab Americans of all faiths and Muslims, in particular, whose communities across the United States are majority-immigrant and whose families are likely to be of mixed immigration status.
More than half of U.S. Muslims are immigrants, according to Pew Research, owing largely to the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act that lowered barriers to immigration from regions outside Europe.
"Families were kept apart by the ban," said Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrant Rights Project. The ACLU fought Trump's "Muslim ban" executive order to the Supreme Court, which upheld the order.
"It very clearly sent the message to Muslims here and abroad – perhaps most poignantly to American Muslims – that the president was hostile to their religion," he said.
On his first day in office in 2021, President Joe Biden ended the Trump travel ban with a proclamation " ending discriminatory bans on entry to the United States. " He called the bans on entry from Muslim-majority and African nations a "stain on the national conscience" that "separated loved ones, inflicting pain that will ripple for years to come."
'As American as anyone else'
Born and raised in Dearborn, Michigan, Abusalah said he is "as American as anyone else." He posts selfies on Instagram wearing the blue-and-gold gear of the University of Michigan Wolverines and has worked on Democratic campaigns, including Biden's 2020 race.
He is also proud to be Palestinian, his connection to his roots instilled by his 98-year-old grandmother, his Sity, who lives next door and tells him stories of "the old days." His Palestinian parents were both born in Jerusalem and immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s. He has extended family in the West Bank, Jordan and Syria.
He traveled to the region for the first time in August. He surprised his parents during their travels and met his aunts and uncles for the first time. When the war broke out, he canceled his plans to return in November.
Now, he can't stop thinking about his family's homeland and the persistent feeling that maybe he isn't welcome in the country of his birth.
"Right now, I feel my country hates me," he said.
Biden's campaign trail promise to end the Muslim restrictions was one of the reasons Abusalah joined his 2020 presidential campaign. Abusalah's sympathies are with Palestinians, and he is angry Biden hasn't called for a cease-fire.
Biden has stopped short of calling for a cease-fire in the war, saying Israel has a right to defend itself. Hamas must release its more than 200 hostages "and then we can talk," Biden said on Oct. 23. Five hostages have been returned to Israel .
Should any of the Republican proposals prevail, Abusalah and his family may struggle to reunite again in the near future.
"I have people in my family who are immigrants and some who don’t have an American passport, and it is already so difficult," he said. "With all this going on it’s going to be even more difficult."
More: Tensions boil as Israel-Hamas war rages. How do Jewish, Muslim Americans find common ground?
Negara mana saja yang mengecam serangan Israel ke Gaza dan yang mendukung aksi Israel?
Sumber gambar, ANTARA FOTO
Sejumlah peserta Aksi Bela Palestina di Jakarta, pada Minggu (05/11).
Serangan Israel ke Gaza telah memecah belah suara negara-negara dunia seiring dengan meningkatnya korban jiwa dan memburuknya kondisi kemanusiaan di sana.
Banyak negara yang awalnya mendukung Israel setelah serangan Hamas pada 7 Oktober, tapi berbalik setelah Israel melancarkan gempuran udara besar-besaran dan serangan darat di Gaza untuk memerangi Hamas.
Di sisi lain, sejumlah negara nampaknya sudah memantapkan posisi mereka walau pertikaian terus memakan korban sipil.
Saat ini kedua kubu tengah berdebat mengenai gencatan senjata.
Pada 27 Oktober, Majelis Umum PBB mengadopsi resolusi yang menyerukan "gencatan senjata untuk kemanusian segera, bertahan lama, dan berkelanjutan" antara pasukan Israel dan milisi Hamas.
Resolusi tidak mengikat yang diajukan oleh Yordania telah disepakati dengan rincian 120 suara setuju, 14 menentang, dan 45 abstain.
Menteri Luar Negeri Israel, Eli Cohen, menyebut resolusi PBB itu "tercela". Adapun Perdana Menteri Benjamin Netanyahu menolak seruan gencatan senjata, dengan alasan bahwa menghentikan operasi saat ini berarti "menyerah" kepada Hamas.
Sejak saat itu, beberapa negara telah meningkatkan kritik mereka terhadap Israel. Beberapa negara lainnya bahkan telah memanggil pulang duta besar atau memutuskan hubungan diplomatik .
Amerika Serikat, yang memberikan suara menentang resolusi gencatan senjata, telah melunakkan posisinya melalui Presiden Joe Biden yang menyerukan "jeda" dalam pertempuran.
Berikut ini adalah apa yang dikatakan oleh negara-negara di seluruh dunia mengenai pertikaian Israel-Hamas, dan bagaimana mereka memberikan suara di PBB.
Perlu dicatat bahwa ini adalah pandangan pemerintah, yang mungkin berbeda secara signifikan dengan sentimen publik di beberapa negara.
Sumber gambar, Getty Images
Menteri Luar Negeri AS, Anthony Blinken, berkunjung ke Tel Aviv dan bertemu dengan PM Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, untuk mendorong jeda kemanusiaan dalam pertikaian Israel dan Hamas.
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Banyak pemerintah di negara Barat menyatakan mendukung Israel sejak pertikaian dimulai.
Pernyataan awal Presiden AS Joe Biden setelah serangan Hamas pada 7 Oktober lalu menegaskan bahwa Washington mendukung Israel dan akan memastikan bahwa "Israel akan memiliki apa yang dibutuhkan untuk melindungi warganya".
Namun, dalam sebuah acara kampanye pada tanggal 2 November, Presiden Biden menyerukan jeda dalam pertikaian tersebut setelah seorang pengunjuk rasa yang mendesak gencatan senjata menghadangnya.
Keesokan harinya, Menteri Luar Negeri AS Anthony Blinken melakukan kunjungan kedua ke Tel Aviv untuk mendorong jeda kemanusiaan sekaligus membahas langkah-langkah konkret untuk meminimalisir kerugian bagi warga sipil di Gaza.
Gedung Putih kemudian mengatakan, setiap jeda dalam pertempuran harus bersifat sementara dan terlokalisasi. Gedung Putih menolak seruan dari negara-negara Arab dan negara-negara lain untuk melakukan gencatan senjata secara menyeluruh dalam perang tersebut.
Sepuluh ribu orang berkumpul di London dalam beberapa pekan terakhir. Mereka menyerukan gencatan senjata di Gaza.
Perdana Menteri Kanada dan Inggris juga memberi dukungan terhadap "hak Israel mempertahankan diri" dalam reaksi awal terhadap konflik tersebut. Namun, kedua negara tersebut abstain dalam pemungutan suara di Majelis Umum PBB.
Puluhan ribu pengunjuk rasa pro-Palestina berunjuk rasa di pusat kota London dalam beberapa pekan terakhir, menuntut gencatan senjata dalam pertikaian Israel-Hamas.
Uni Eropa mengutuk "dengan sekeras-kerasnya serangan yang dilakukan oleh Hamas", dan menekankan solidaritas terhadap Israel. Namun berbagai anggota Uni Eropa mengungkapkan perbedaan pendapat mengenai gencatan senjata.
Jerman dan Italia, yang mendukung hak Israel untuk mempertahankan diri, abstain dalam pemungutan suara di PBB. Negara-negara lain seperti Spanyol dan Prancis memberikan suara setuju.
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Presiden Prancis Emmanuel Macron, yang pada awalnya mengatakan bahwa Prancis "berkomitmen pada hak Israel untuk mempertahankan diri", tapi kemudian sedikit mengubah posisinya, kemungkinan karena meningkatnya jumlah korban sipil.
"Di Gaza, harus dibedakan antara Hamas dan penduduk sipil," tulis Macron di akun media sosial X, yang sebelumnya dikenal dengan nama Twitter.
"Gencatan senjata kemanusiaan diperlukan untuk melindungi mereka yang paling rentan dan memungkinkan tindakan yang lebih tepat sasaran terhadap para teroris."
Di Gaza, kondisi kemanusian makin memburuk menyusul makanan, bensin, air, dan obat-obatan yang mulai habis.
Sebagian besar negara Timur Tengah memberikan suara mendukung resolusi PBB, dan banyak yang mengecam keras operasi militer Israel.
Uni Emirat Arab dan Bahrain, yang menormalkan hubungan dengan Israel melalui Perjanjian Abraham, pada awalnya mengutuk serangan Hamas.
Namun, pekan lalu Bahrain menarik duta besarnya dari Israel, lalu duta besar Israel di Manama meninggalkan negara tersebut.
Yordania juga menarik pulang duta besarnya di Israel, dan menuduhnya telah menciptakan "bencana kemanusiaan yang belum pernah terjadi sebelumnya".
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Arab Saudi - yang telah berdialog selama berbulan-bulan dengan Israel mengenai kemungkinan kesepakatan normalisasi, di luar dari Perjanjian Abraham - menyerukan agar kekerasan segera diakhiri. Mereka tidak secara eksplisit mengecam Hamas.
Pada tanggal 26 Oktober, para menteri luar negeri dari Uni Emirat Arab, Yordania, Bahrain, Arab Saudi, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Mesir, dan Maroko mengutuk "penargetan warga sipil dan pelanggaran hukum internasional di Gaza".
Pernyataan bersama mereka mengatakan bahwa hak untuk membela diri tidak membenarkan pelanggaran hukum dan pengabaian hak-hak warga Palestina.
Erdogan dari Turki baru-baru ini menyebut Hamas sebagai "kelompok pembebasan yang berjuang melindungi tanah Palestina".
Pekan lalu, Pemimpin Tertinggi Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, menyerukan kepada negara-negara Muslim untuk memutuskan hubungan ekonomi dengan Israel, dan menghentikan ekspor minyak dan makanan ke Israel.
Khamenei dan Presiden Iran, Ebrahim Raisi sama-sama mengucapkan selamat kepada Hamas setelah serangan mereka terhadap Israel Mereka juga memuji para militan atas "keberanian, kegigihan, keberanian, perlawanan, dan inisiatif mereka". Iran membantah terlibat dalam serangan tersebut.
Presiden Turki, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, - yang pada awalnya mencoba untuk menjadi penengah dalam perang ini - makin mengeraskan suaranya setelah ledakan di rumah sakit Al-Ahli Arab pada tanggal 17 Oktober.
Ada beberapa dugaan saling tuduh mengenai penyebab ledakan dahsyat tersebut yang menyebabkan setidaknya 500 orang tewas - menurut Kementerian Kesehatan yang dikelola Hamas di Jalur Gaza.
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Dalam sebuah rapat umum pro-Palestina di Istanbul pada 28 Oktober, Erdogan mengatakan bahwa Turki sedang mempersiapkan pernyataan Israel sebagai "penjahat perang".
Tidak seperti kebanyakan sekutu NATO dan Uni Eropa, Turki tidak menganggap Hamas sebagai organisasi teroris dan mendukung para anggotanya. Presiden Erdogan baru-baru ini menyebut Hamas sebagai "kelompok pembebasan yang berjuang untuk melindungi tanah Palestina".
Turki memberikan suara mendukung resolusi PBB pada tanggal 27 Oktober.
Satu-satunya negara Timur Tengah yang abstain adalah Irak.
Tidak ada negara di Timur Tengah yang memberikan suara menentang resolusi tersebut, kecuali Israel.
Serangan udara di Israel menyebabkan 9.000 orang tewas, menurut laporan kementerian kesehatan yang dikelola Hamas.
Pemimpin Rusia, Vladimir Putin, belum buka mulut selama beberapa hari pertama setelah serangan Hamas ke Israel. Komentar awalnya justru menyindir Amerika Serikat, dengan mengatakan bahwa apa yang terjadi menunjukkan "kegagalan kebijakan Amerika Serikat di Timur Tengah".
Seminggu setelah konflik tersebut, Putin menyatakan bahwa "Israel telah menjadi sasaran serangan yang belum pernah terjadi sebelumnya oleh militan Hamas" tetapi mereka membalas dengan metode yang kejam.
Kremlin tidak menyampaikan belasungkawa kepada Israel atau mengutuk Hamas - bahkan Rusia menjadi tuan rumah bagi delegasi Hamas di Moskow pada 26 Oktober lalu untuk mendiskusikan pembebasan para sandera, termasuk warga negara Rusia.
Rusia, bersama dengan China, memveto rancangan resolusi yang disponsori oleh AS di Dewan Keamanan PBB, sementara resolusi kedua yang didukung Rusia gagal mendapatkan suara yang cukup.
Rusia memberikan suara mendukung resolusi PBB yang menyerukan gencatan senjata kemanusiaan pada tanggal 27 Oktober.
Menteri Luar Negeri Indonesia, Retno Marsudi, menyampaikan pidato dalam demonstrasi bertajuk Aksi Bela Palestina di Jakarta, pada Minggu (05/11).
Hampir semua negara di Asia mendukung gencatan senjata di Sidang Umum PBB, termasuk Indonesia.
"Posisi Indonesia sangat jelas dan tegas, mengutuk keras serangan acak terhadap masyarakat sipil dan fasilitas sipil di Gaza," tegas Presiden Jokowi dalam pernyataan resminya, Senin (30/10).
China, yang mencoba memposisikan diri sebagai mediator perdamaian di Timur Tengah, meminta "pihak-pihak terkait untuk tetap tenang, menahan diri, dan segera mengakhiri permusuhan demi melindungi warga sipil" dalam sebuah pernyataan awal setelah serangan Hamas.
Kementerian Luar Negeri China mengatakan, "jalan keluar dari konflik ini terletak pada penerapan solusi dua negara dan pendirian sebuah negara Palestina yang merdeka."
Seminggu setelah konflik, Menteri Luar Negeri China, Wang Yi mengatakan bahwa tindakan Israel di Gaza telah "melampaui batas-batas pembelaan diri" dan pemerintah Israel harus "menghentikan hukuman kolektifnya terhadap rakyat Gaza".
Demonstrasi bertajuk Aksi Bela Palestina di Jakarta, Minggu (05/11).
India merupakan salah satu negara yang abstain dalam pemungutan suara pada resolusi PBB. Sikap ini dikritik partai-partai oposisi sebagai sesuatu yang "mengherankan".
Pada tahun-tahun awal kemerdekaannya, India memiliki hubungan yang erat dengan Palestina dan kebijakan resminya adalah mendukung solusi dua negara.
Namun sejak pemerintahan sayap kanan Perdana Menteri, Narendra Modi berkuasa, India semakin memperkuat hubungan dengan Israel.
Dalam pernyataan awalnya setelah serangan Hamas pada tanggal 7 Oktober, Modi mengatakan: "Rakyat India berdiri teguh bersama Israel di saat yang sulit ini. India dengan kuat dan tegas mengutuk terorisme dalam segala bentuk dan manifestasinya."
Pakistan, yang tidak memiliki hubungan diplomatik dengan Israel, pada awalnya mengambil sikap yang hati-hati, ketika Presiden Arif Alvi menyerukan "pengendalian maksimum untuk mencegah pertumpahan darah lebih lanjut, dan hilangnya nyawa manusia".
"Situasi ini membutuhkan gencatan senjata segera," dia mengunggah di X.
Namun, setelah pengeboman kamp pengungsi Jabalia di Gaza pada tanggal 1 November, posisi Pakistan mengeras, dengan Kemenlu Pakistan mengutuk apa yang disebutnya sebagai "serangan biadab Israel".
Para pengkritik Israel mengatakan warga sipil di Gaza telah menjadi korban dari hukuman kolektif.
Organisasi negara-negara Afrika, yang berisi 55 anggota mengeluarkan pernyataan pada 7 Oktober untuk mendukung Palestina.
"Penyangkalan terhadap hak-hak dasar rakyat Palestina, khususnya hak untuk menjadi negara yang merdeka dan berdaulat, merupakan penyebab utama ketegangan permanen Israel-Palestina," demikian pernyataan tersebut.
Perdana Menteri Somalia, Hamza Abdi Barre mengatakan, pemerintahnya tidak menganggap Hamas sebagai organisasi teroris, dan siap untuk memberikan dukungan penuh kepada organisasi tersebut.
Lalu, Tunisia. Awalnya negara ini menyatakan solidaritas "penuh dan tanpa syarat" dengan rakyat Palestina, tapi kemudian Tunisia dalam pemungutan suara di PBB.
Hal ini terjadi meskipun Presiden Tunisia Kais Saied mengutuk "kebungkaman internasional" atas "genosida" yang menurutnya dilakukan oleh Israel.
Parlemen Tunisia saat ini sedang memperdebatkan rancangan undang-undang yang akan mengkriminalisasi pengakuan terhadap Israel, dan pembentukan hubungan langsung atau tidak langsung dengan negara tersebut.
Negara-negara Afrika lainnya yang abstain adalah Kamerun, Ethiopia, Sudan Selatan dan Zambia.
Tidak ada negara Afrika yang menolak resolusi yang diadopsi di Majelis Umum PBB pada 27 Oktober lalu.
Sebagian besar negara di Amerika Latin memberikan suara untuk mendukung resolusi PBB tersebut.
Bolivia menjadi negara pertama di Amerika Latin yang memutuskan hubungan diplomatik dengan Israel sejak serangan ke Gaza dimulai.
Pemerintah Bolivia menyebut serangan Israel di Gaza sebagai "agresif dan tidak proporsional".
Israel menanggapi dengan mengecam langkah Bolivia sebagai "menyerah terhadap terorisme".
Di Brasil, masyarakat turun ke jalan untuk mendukung gencatan senjata di Gaza.
Dua negara Amerika Latin lainnya, Kolombia dan Cile, telah menarik pulang duta besar mereka karena krisis kemanusiaan yang meningkat di Gaza.
Cile, yang memiliki populasi Palestina terbesar di luar dunia Arab, mengatakan bahwa mereka mengambil tindakan ini sebagai bentuk protes atas "pelanggaran hukum kemanusiaan internasional yang tidak dapat diterima oleh Israel".
Kolombia telah mengkritik keras serangan Israel ke Gaza sejak awal perang. "Kami tidak mendukung genosida," kata Presiden Gustavo Petro, seraya mengancam akan memutuskan hubungan diplomatik dengan Israel.
Sementara itu, Presiden Brasil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silv,a pada awalnya mengutuk serangan Hamas terhadap warga sipil di Israel dan menyerukan pembebasan semua sandera dengan segera. Tapi dalam pernyataan terbaru ini ia mengkritik keras serangan Israel di Gaza.
Pada tanggal 25 Oktober, Lula da Silva mengatakan: "Apa yang sedang terjadi bukanlah perang. Ini adalah sebuah genosida yang menyebabkan terbunuhnya hampir 2.000 anak-anak yang tidak ada hubungannya dengan perang. Mereka adalah korban dari perang."
Hanya dua negara yaitu Paraguay dan Guatemala dari kawasan Amerika Selatan dan Tengah yang memberikan suara menentang resolusi PBB.
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