Visiting the West Bank in Palestine was an exciting and interesting experience that made me want to go back to Palestine on my own and explore more of the country.
There’s not much that you hear about Palestine apart from the conflict with Israel. Sadly, many people are not aware of the conflict itself, the situation in the West Bank, and how many barriers the Palestinian people have.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I mention something similar at the end of the post but maybe some people won’t read until the end. I LOVE ISRAEL, the places there, the people, and Tel Aviv is one of my favorite cities. I just don’t like what the military is doing. This post gives you some information on the conflict and the current situation in Palestine. In the past, however, the Palestinians have attacked Israel too, and there are many Israeli and Palestinian people that were killed as a result of the conflict between both countries.
Both Israeli and Palestinian citizens have their rights to stand behind and support their country because of what the other side has done to them and their land. You and I, we’re also free to have our own opinion on the situation. No matter your political view, there will always be people with the opposite one. When you read someone’s opinion or discuss this conflict or another political situation anywhere else in the world, know that there’s no point so stand against it. We as human beings, we’re all different and so are our opinions, respect each other and don’t fight over it. I will return back to Israel at any time. PEACE!
Ever since I wanted to visit Israel, I also wanted to combine that trip with a visit to the West Bank in Palestine. That’s why when I booked my ticket to Tel-Aviv 6 days before departing, I knew that I’ll be visiting the West Bank in Palestine as well.
I would also like to visit Gaza (call me crazy), which is part of the Palestinian territories as well, but unless you are a journalist or an NGO worker entering the Gaza Strip is impossible. (The Palestinian territories are divided into two regions: the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They are both separated by Israel.)
There are many intriguing things to do in Tel-Aviv, but my day trip to visit the West Bank has been perhaps the best one. I visited the West Bank in Palestine on a tour organized by Abraham Tours. During the day tour of the West Bank, we visited three of the highlights of the region – Ramallah, Jericho, and Bethlehem.
I can write down everything that our Palestinian guide told us on the tour, attach some photos and when you see them and read it it’s like you’ve been there yourself already, no need to visit the West Bank physically, right? – Not at all! Visiting the West Bank in Palestine is something that one person should experience on his own and a place that you need to see with your own two eyes.
What is the West Bank?
The West Bank is a landlocked territory under Israeli control, or else under joint Israeli-Palestinian control. It shares borders with Israel to the West, North, and the South and with Jordan to the East across the Jordan River. The West Bank also contains part of the western shore of the Dead Sea.
The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is home to 2.6 million Palestinians and approximately 370k Israeli settlers.
Israel took control over the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a result of the Six-Day War in 1967. The West Bank then came under the control of the Israeli Military until 1982. In 1982, after the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, the military rule was transformed into a semi-civil authority. This authority operates directly under the Israeli Ministry of Defense, taking control of civil matters of Palestinians.
The West Bank was divided into three administrative divisions after the Oslo Accord in 1993:
Area A – administered by the Palestinian Authority
Area B – administered by both the Palestinian Authority and Israel
Area C – administered by Israel
The West Bank territory has been the heart of the ancient Jewish state and its home to many Jewish Holy sites that Jews were previously cut off. So, if Israel controlling the West Bank sounds like good news to the Jews, Palestinians are not very excited to live under the rules of Israeli military authority.
Berlin says what wall?!
Who build walls nowadays?
Can you imagine living in a country that is separated by high walls? Palestinians know how it feels like.
The Israeli West Bank Wall is a separation wall in the West Bank in Palestine. While Israel considers it a security barrier against terrorism, Palestinians call it racial segregation. The wall has a total length of 708 km and it’s 8 meters high with only 15% running along in Israel, and 85% in Palestine. The wall is 18 km cut deep into the West Bank, isolating about 9% of it. That leaves about 25k Palestinians isolated from the bulk of the territory.
Israel started building the wall in 2000. When the wall was built, many families were separated by it – some were left in Jerusalem, while others were left on the West Bank side. Those families are still separated today and cannot cross the border from one place to another and to meet each other.
What are they fighting for in the first place?
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is all about who gets what land and how will control it.
I guess some things would never change, but personally, I don’t like living in the 21st century, in a world where people are fighting and killing each other over a piece of land and who’s going to be the boss of it. And the saddest thing is that this is not happening only in Israel and Palestine.
In the early 20th century, the Jews wanted to establish a homeland in what was then an Arab and Muslim territory. The Arabs refused, claiming that this is their land. The United Nations plan to give both parts of the land, of course, failed, so Israel and the surrounding Arab nations fought several wars over the territory.
1967 was very important because it left Israel in control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Gaza, nowadays is controlled by Hamas – an Islamist fundamentalist party, and is under Israeli blockade but not ground occupation.
Two-state solution or one-state solution?
The two-state solution is the primary approach to solving the conflict. The idea is basically to establish Palestine as an independent state in Gaza and most of the West Bank, leaving the rest of the land to Israel. Sounds easy, but both sides cannot find a way of how to actually put it into practice.
The one-state solution is the alternative solution, which will give all of the lands to either Israel or Palestine. Of course, that means more wars and more victims and would definitely cause more problems than it would solve.
But visiting the West Bank in Palestine is not just conflicts, conflicts, and more conflicts. There are a few reasons why people chose to visit this region:
- To understand better the conflict between Israel and Palestine
- To visit what is it so-called the holiest place on Earth
- To seek adventure
- To explore and experience the culture of one of the most historically, religiously, and politically places in the world
So whether you are interested in the conflict, a backpacker who seeks a new adventure, or a believer and a fan of the Christian sites, visiting the West Bank in Palestine will definitely surprise you.
As mentioned above, I visited the West bank on a day tour organized by Abraham Tours. On the trip we did:
- We visited Bethlehem – the city where Jesus was born
- We visited Ramallah – the modern capital of Palestine
- We visited Jericho – the oldest city in the world
- We enjoyed panoramic views across the hills of the Judean Desert and Jordan in the distance
- We visited the Jordan River where we witnessed baptism rituals
- We had an authentic and delicious Arabic style lunch
- We had the sweet and heavy ”knaffe” dessert
- We had an amazing guide
I did the tour from Tel-Aviv, but it’s also possible and even easier to do it from Jerusalem. No matter where you start your tour from, you won’t make a mistake joining it.
Ramallah is a modern city that currently serves as an administrative capital of Palestine. It’s known as a great place to hang out for a few days with varieties of pubs and restaurants. Ramallah is also famous for its nightlife.
In the past, Ramallah was a Christian city, while today Muslims form the majority of the population.
Arafat’s Mausoleum it’s a complex that includes his tomb, a museum, and a mosque. Ramallah was the first city we visited in the West Bank, plus, it was the weekend, so when we visited the tomb we were the only tourists there.
Yasser Arafat was the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the president of the Palestinian Authority.
Jericho is the oldest inhabited city in the world, as well the lowest city on Earth at 400 meters below sea level. The history of Jericho can be traced to 11 000 years back in time – 9000 BC. The city is situated in the desert and has the biggest number of tourist sites in the region.
The Christian sites in Jericho are the most important for the tourism sector. The Mount of Temptation, which is probably the biggest one, is a monastery on a hill where according to the Bible Jesus was tempted by the Devil.
The archaeological sites have a big potential for attracting tourists as well.
I don’t believe in Jesus and the Bible, so the religious side of the tour was not my favorite. However, learning everything that I did from our guide and seeing the West Bank by myself, has been enough to spark my curiosity for more.
The birthplace of Jesus – hundreds and thousands of people are coming all the way to Bethlehem to see the place where Jesus was born.
The Church of Nativity aka Basilica of the Nativity is where someone said that Jesus was born and it’s the oldest church in the Holy Land. Since 2012, the church complex has been the first Palestinian site that is listed as a World Heritage Site by the World Heritage Committee.
The entrance to the church is free. It’s recommended to try and get there early in the morning otherwise you might get stuck in line for hours. We visited the church in the afternoon and we had the luck not to wait in line for hours. The only thing we waited for was the Armenian prayer to finish and then we entered the cave below the church.
Inside the cave is the exact place where someone said that Jesus was born, is marked by a fourteen-pointed silver star. People here are pushing you trying to make their way down there, so they can touch the star. At the end of the day, you don’t need to be rude and push the other people, you’ll get in sooner or later. Anyway, I got down as well and someone told me to touch the star and so I did – I have no idea why people do that though. Do you feel more holy after you have touched it? Not me, sorry.
On the way out of the church the line was insane, so you better plan your visit wisely so you don’t get stuck.
The separation wall
Yes, that’s part of that same wall mentioned earlier. In this part of the West Bank, the wall is decorated with mind provocative murals. There you can also find Bansky work, but note that most of the Bansky pieces are fake, very few are real, such as the white pigeon.
The white pigeon is the iconic symbol of peace – it’s dressed in a bulletproof vest with its heart as a target.
Is it safe to visit the West Bank?
The West Bank is a safe destination for travelers. Generally, the people are nice and there’s nothing disturbing going on today. The political situation between Israel and Palestine has been relatively quiet in the past few years and the West Bank has lived in peace for almost twenty years now. Thanks to this the tourism in the region is increasing as well and that’s a huge part of the Palestinian economy.
Can you visit the West Bank on your own?
Of course you can. Even if you’re visiting the West Bank on your own, you should not worry about your safety.
I’m happy that I joined a tour for my first visit to the West Bank because I learned a lot from it and it gave me a glimpse of what it is like to travel around Palestine. And, as I mentioned above, the tour sparked my curiosity to visit the West Bank in Palestine again to explore and experience more on my own.
Do you need a visa to visit the West Bank?
No Visa is required to enter Palestine except that of the country via which Palestine is accessible – Israel or Jordan.
Also, don’t worry about any stamps. For over 5 years now, Israel no longer stamps your passport, whether you are entering or exiting the country. Instead, they give you something like a pass that contains your personal information. You need to keep this with you.
Money in the West Bank
Palestine doesn’t have its own currency, the Israel Shekel is used instead. The Jordanian dinar and the US dollar are accepted in some places as well. Exchange offices and ATM’s are available throughout the country.
The official language in Palestine is Arabic.
Israeli citizens are now allowed to enter Palestine: True or False?
Palestine doesn’t have a law that says that entering Palestine as an Israeli citizen is forbidden. Israel, however, has a law that prohibits its citizens to visit Palestine. Israeli citizens are welcome to Palestine and they should NOT worry about their safety – as the sign on the image below put by Israel says.
Why Israel doesn’t allow its citizens to visit Palestine?
According to the guide on our tour, there are two main reasons for it and I tend to believe in that.
First of all, because in Palestine is much cheaper than in Israel and if the Israelis are coming to do shopping in Palestine, this will improve and increase the economy of the country.
The second reason is because if the Israelis come to Palestine for a visit, they will see how nice and friendly people are and they will see the live people are living there so they will turn against what Israel is causing in the West Bank.
Of course, I cannot say if those are the reasons why, but it makes sense – I’m sure though that it’s not because of danger for their lives.
You love traveling, don’t you?
There is no airport in Palestine and if Palestinians want to travel they need to go to Jordan to do so. To cross the border to Jordan they need a permit. The process of getting a permit might take up to a week sometimes.
I love Israel!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to take a side on the conflict or make Israel look bad in your eyes – NO! So, let me make it clear once again: I love Israel, but I don’t support their military activities in the West Bank and Gaza. I am against wars and I support global peace and humanity. I believe that as human beings, we should all have the same rights in this world, we all deserve freedom, and happiness, regardless of where we were born.
I know that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a delicate topic for Israelis and to me Israelis are one of the nicest and coolest people, so I don’t want to offend anyone with anything that I have said in this post.
I don’t know how to end this so I just want to thank Abraham Tours for having me as a guest on their Best of West Bank Tour. As always, opinions are my own (obviously)!
Thanks for reading,
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