|Capital||Al-Quds (Jerusalem), administrative capital: Ramallah|
|Government||PNA (Palestinian National Authority)|
|Currency||Israeli new shekel (ILS) with Jordanian dinars widely accepted in the West Bank (JOD)|
|Population||3,837,957 (2008 estimate)|
|Language||Arabic; English and Hebrew are the most commonly used foreign languages|
|Religion||Muslim 75% (predominantly Sunni), Christian and other 8%, Jewish Settler 17%|
|Electricity||230V, 50Hz (Israeli plug)|
|Time Zone||UTC +2|
The Palestinian territories consist of three physically separate entities, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. All are currently universally considered parts of Palestine although recognition as a sovereign nation varies by country. The West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip have been under Israeli occupation since 1967 (Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005 although it retains de-facto control of that region's land, sea, and air spaces). The final status of these territories remains the subject of ongoing and future negotiations. The stated outcome of negotiations and final status talks is currently regarded as the eventual creation of a new, sovereign state - to be called simply Palestine. Therefore, it is commonplace to refer to the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip collectively as Palestine although the accepted terminology used by the United Nations remains the "occupied Palestinian territories".
The Palestinian National Authority (PNA or PA) is a semi-autonomous state institution (created in agreement with Israel and the United Nations) that officially is in charge of much of the Palestinian Territories not still under direct Israeli control. As of 2013, this autonomous government body officially refers to itself as the State of Palestine. The PNA, is dominated by the political faction Fatah, and de facto only has control of certain areas of the West Bank depending upon the region; other areas are under Israeli control. Hamas, a rival group of Fatah, is de facto in control of the Gaza Strip. Hamas claims to be the only sole legitimate Palestinian government, but it is not internationally recognized.
The Palestinian territory, in a wider sense and together with Israel, are considered the Holy Land for three of the world's major religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Many sites of religious and archaeological significance from the Biblical periods are to be found within the current administration of the Palestinian National Authority and Israel, most notably Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus and Jericho and of course, East Jerusalem.
The current Palestinian Territories are a sub-division of pre-1948, British Mandate Palestine. United Nations-projected Arab-held areas of the former Mandate were greatly reduced after the 1948-1949 Israel War of Independence, when the embryonic state of Israel, in a pre-emptive strike, attacked its Arab neighbors, then successfully defeated their armies, leading to a re-drawing of the internationally-recognized borders of Israel. Of course, these hostilities were accompanied by much bloodshed and displacement on both sides, much of the focus being on Palestinian refugees who were displaced in large numbers as refugees to neighboring Arab countries, or to Gaza and the West Bank. The Gaza Strip is under the administration of Hamas,democratically elected by popular vote in 2006 but considered an international terrorist organization. Per the Oslo Accords, Area A is under the military and civilian control of the PA. Area B is administered by the PA and under Israeli military control. Area C is under full Israeli administration. Prior to 1967, the West Bank was under Jordanian occupation (Jordan annexed the West Bank in 1950 but this was only recognized by themselves and the United Kingdom) and the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian control.
| West Bank |
Bordering Israel and Jerusalem to the west, Jordan to the east, including a significant coast-line on the Dead Sea. It is de facto under control of Israel and the PNA depending upon the region.
| Gaza |
The Gaza Strip borders the southwestern coast of Israel and Egypt to the southwest. It is de facto under control of Hamas, a rival group of the Fatah-controlled PNA.
- East Jerusalem - has both the Old City and some of the holiest sites of Judaism, Christianity & Islam
- Bethlehem - much like any other city in the West Bank, but the site of Christian holy places such as the Church of the Nativity
- Gaza - coastal city all but cut off to travellers and residents alike due to the effective closure of Egyptian and Israeli borders. Gaza has been effectively blockaded by air, sea, and land since 2007 by Israeli Defence Forces.
- Hebron - highlights include a stunning old city and glass and pottery factories spoilt by its division into Israeli controlled H1 and Palestinian controlled H2
- Jenin - the West Bank's northern-most city, only 26km from Nazareth
- Tulkarm - on the border of the Samarian mountains and settled by Canaanites in 3000BC
- Qalqilyah - populated from prehistoric times with archaic flint tools found within the modern town
- Jericho - so-called 'Oldest City in the World' and about 400m below sea level
- Nablus - the commercial capital of the West Bank and known for its old city and furniture trade
- Ramallah - 10km north of Jerusalem and currently de facto administrative capital of Palestine by hosting the Palestinian Authority; a magnet for both Palestinians seeking work as well as foreign activists
See also West Bank.
Bus services operate on limited routes and times except for those around Jerusalem. You are almost always advised to use Shared Taxis which will be quicker although marginally more expensive. Buses, like shared taxis will also tend to wait until full before departing. You can hail a bus on any road.
Most Shared Taxis have fixed bus-stations, often car-parks near the center of towns or cities. Larger minivans carry 7 passengers and inner-city shared taxis carry 4. Fares are fixed and overcharging on these services is extremely rare. Shared taxis are often distinguished with black stripes on front and back at the sides, particularly the normal-sized cars serving inner-city routes. You should pay the driver directly once the journey has begun, although you can wait until you reach your destination. Passengers will often work out the change between themselves. As you may be sharing with conservative or religious people, you may observe a certain etiquette, particularly when it comes to men and women sitting next to each other.
Private taxis are very common and can be hailed down at any point. Fares should be negotiated in advance although there are fixed rates for common journeys and it is worth checking with a local in advance. Some taxis will operate on the meter if requested although this is rare. Rates between cities vary widely and some taxis are not permitted to operate inter-city.
For the West Bank, driving a private car is a very convenient way to see more. You can hire cars in Ramallah with green (Palestinian) plates although it is not clear whether foreigners are allowed to drive in Palestinian registered cars. You can also hire cars with yellow plates in Jerusalem which can be driven in Israel and the West Bank. Try Good Luck Cars +972 2 627 7033 opposite the American Colony Hotel.
- The Nativity Trail, . Trek along the path that took Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem. edit
- Abraham's Path, . Walk along the settings that the Patriarch Abraham wandered through during his journey across the Levant region. The Abraham trail is a joint project with branches in Turkey, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories. edit
Currency: Shekels, though US dollars and euros are widely accepted at major tourist destinations (Jericho and Bethlehem, for example). Additionally, the Jordanian dinar is widely accepted across the West Bank.
Shawarma and falafel sandwiches are really popular foods for Palestinians, as well as olives and hummus. It is traditional to eat with bread and not a spoon or fork. It is unusual to eat a meal without bread.
Taybeh Beer is the only Palestinian national beer with 5 and 6 percent of alcohol. It has a mild taste. The Taybeh Beer Brewery is located in Taybeh village and is accessible by taking a shared taxi/private taxi from Ramallah's bus station Taybeh village (inquire for the price of the trip before taking the taxi)
It is possible to study Arabic and other subjects in the West Bank. Specifically at Birzeit University near Ramallah.
If you are interested in learning about the social, political and cultural aspects of Palestinian life, there are several programs and organisations offering courses, workshops or learning tours, such as: the All Nations Café in the Bethlehem - Jerusalem area, or Green Olive Tours, that offers organised informative and political tours throughout the whole of the West Bank.
Because of ongoing conflict in this area of the world, travellers should take notice of travel advisories issued by various governments before undertaking travel here. Security concerns result in travel between Israel and the Palestinian Territories being tightly controlled on occasions. Travellers should ensure that their travel documentation is entirely in order and should monitor local news channels in case the security situation changes suddenly.
A few hints for a successful trip:
- Fireworks are popular in the cities, and it is possible that what you are hearing is not gunfire at all. Unfortunately however, Gaza remains relatively unsafe as of 2014.
- Always bring a COPY of your passport along with your original and hide the copy in your hotel room. Both Israeli and Palestinian security services may ask for ID, so carry your passport at all times.
- Show respect at places of worship - take off your shoes. Women shouldn't come into a mosque without covering their heads. It is not usually necessary to cover your face.
- As a foreigner you are likely to be noticed and many people will call to you as you walk around. This is almost always friendly and well-intentioned although you should be cautious at night, as in any city.
- Consider hiring a local tour guide/translator who will also keep you out of trouble.
- Beware of local water, including ice cubes - bottled is the way to go.
- Common sense goes a long way.
- Use caution if you wear any types of clothing, jewellery, or anything else that identifies with the Jewish faith. You may be in danger if you do so.
- Use extreme caution when waiting for a bus, taxi, or any other type of ride at a bus stop or hitchhiking stop. There has been a surge of vehicle attacks against innocent bystanders.
- Use caution around political rallies. You might get hurt from stones, tear gas or shot by security forces. Unless you are travelling specifically for this reason, keep your distance from political demonstrations.
Wearing or displaying such symbols which the Palestinians see as hostile is not going to win you any friends. Women should dress conservatively and men should also avoid shorts.
Delays may occur at checkpoints unexpectedly, especially if there has been recent violence or political events, and especially if you are Arab, Arab-looking, or involved with peace activists. Many countries, including the United States, warn that they cannot offer significant assistance to tourists detained at the border or involved in demonstrations.
Sometimes it may be quicker to walk through a checkpoint on foot rather than on a vehicle, and then take a taxi to your destination once you get through.
It is highly advised to keep Palestinian flags, PA/PLO pamphlets, and similar articles out of plain sight when going through Israeli checkpoints. Many people send their souvenirs from the Palestinian territories home by Israeli-postal service parcels to avoid having to take the Palestinian-themed souvenirs through Ben Gurion Airport.
Be sure to carry shekels with you when departing, as there is a departure tax. If you are leaving through one of the ground crossings, such as the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge to Jordan, it's a good idea to try to get to the border as early as possible, especially in the busy summer season. If you are using the Allenby Bridge to exit Palestine, you are required to have a Jordanian entry visa (preferably a multi-entry visa) before coming to the bridge. You will not be allowed to use the Allenby crossing to enter Jordan without having an entry-stamp for Jordan before hand. Preferably, get a 6 month multi-entry visa, this saves you a lot of effort. You can do this either in Jordan, or at the Jordanian Embassy in Ramallah or Tel Aviv.
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