I had the opportunity to explore a few places in Palestine, and it is more than what news capture. I was a student in Tel Aviv at that time, learning about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and keen to experience different aspects of it.
Long story short, there is one little piece of land where two nations base their roots and identity. They don’t want to share it and don’t trust each other, which resulted (and still ongoing) in a sequence of conflicts over the time. But whatever conflict they have ongoing, it doesn’t apply to travelers. Both Israelis and Palestinians are very warm and welcoming, trying to make your stay and experience enjoyable.
How to get there?
To get from Israel to West Bank (Palestine) is very easy if you have a foreign passport. “West Bank” is the official/given naming, “Palestine” is the local naming. Together with a few friends, I took a bus from Jerusalem to Ramallah in the morning. It was no queue at the crossing point, and it didn’t take long, just a brief passport check.
We got to Ramallah and wondered around, we had a book guide but it didn’t help much, as many of the streets don’t have names. Locals were always happy to help, so we relied on their help with directions.
We initially wanted to go to Nablus, but because the infrastructure is not developed, it takes a few good hours. It was too much for a day trip, so we decided to go to Jericho instead. For both Nablus and Jericho there are direct minibusses leaving from a big station in Ramallah. It was a bit hard to find the station, but we had a local walking with us all the way just to show it. The buses usually leave when they get full.
It gets really hot
It was during summer, and it gets really really hot. Most of the ride was through the desert, the bus didn’t have AC. We came prepared with lots of water, but I was barely keeping up. Other ladies in the bus were making fun of us (in a friendly way). They were way more dressed than us, and they didn’t seem to sweat at all. And we were all melting on those chairs. For me, it’s still a mystery how they manage that heat.
When we finally got to Jericho, we went straight for some cold drinks. I remember it as the best mint lemonade I’ve had. The place was on the top floor close to the main roundabout, very cozy atmosphere and nice views of the city. Jericho is very rich in history, one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns in the world. I wish I had stayed there longer, but it was getting dark and we still had to make it back to Tel Aviv.
I went to Palestine again for a day trip, to Hebron and Ayda Refugee Camp (Bethlehem), joining a walking tour this time. We met in Jerusalem and took a public bus to Hebron. The tour was focusing on the impact the conflict had and has on the local population. So while it’s very interesting, it gives you goosebumps.
We also went to Ayda refugee camp, where the graffiti and symbols send strong messages. I felt sad, hopeful, frustrated, all mixed up in a strange sensation. We had lunch at a local home and had the chance to speak more with the host. He was interested to know more about other cultures and he wishes he would be able to travel as well, in the future.
During both trips, I felt very safe and the people are kind and welcoming. In certain occasions, I believe they make an extra effort to show travelers there is nothing scary about them and their culture, quite the contrary. I would definitively recommend visiting Palestine and explore a different reality, how people live under occupation in our times and how they cope/fight with it. If possible, visit both Israel and Palestine and without judging, take the time to observe and understand each side of the story.