Difference between revisions of "Palestinian Territories"
Revision as of 19:31, 23 September 2010
The Palestinian Territories  consists of two physically separate entities, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The West Bank has been under Israeli occupation since 1967 (Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005) and is not considered part of any sovereign nation. The final status of these territories is a matter of dispute and 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.
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 most of the Palestinian Territories. The PNA, dominated by the political faction Fatah, 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 Territories, in a wider sense and together with Israel proper, are considered the Holy Land for three of the world's major religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Many sites of religious and archeological significance from the so-called Biblical periods are to be found within the current boundaries of the Palestinian National Authority, most notably Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus and Jericho. The ownership of parts of Jerusalem, of course, although claimed by the Palestinian National Authority, remain disputed, with Israel claiming the city as its undivided national capital, lacking any international recognition.
The current Palestinian Territories are a sub-division of pre-1948, British Mandatory 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 was first attacked by its Arab neighbours, then successfully defeated their armies, leading to a re-drawing of the internationally-recognised 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 fled in large numbers to neighbouring Arab countries, or to Gaza and the West Bank. The West Bank and Gaza Strip have been under Israeli occupation since 1967. Prior to that, 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.
Currency: Shekels, though US dollars seem to be widely accepted, especially at tourist shops (Jericho and Bethlehem, for example).
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.
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 organizations offering courses, workshops or learning tours, such as: The All Nations Cafe  in the Bethlehem - Jerusalem area.
Because of ongoing conflict in this area of the world, travellers should take notice of travel advisories issued by various embassies 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:
Wearing or displaying obvious signs of Jewish faith 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 or Arab-looking. 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 checkpoints.
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.