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West Bank

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West Bank

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For other places with the same name, see West Bank (disambiguation).

The West Bank is in part a Arab enclave and Jewish area in the Middle East between Israel and Jordan, to the north of the Dead Sea. In other parts it is Israel itself. It is known as the West Bank or Judea and Samaria because it lies on the western bank of the Jordan River. This part of the world is steeped in biblical history and contains sites of religious and archaeological significance to Jews mainly.


Cities

Other destinations

Understand

Map of West Bank

Within the political dispute between the Arabs and Israelis there are two presentations of the West Bank. In Israeli terms it is called the regions of Judea, Samaria and Benjamin. Some Israelis see the West Bank territories as historically Jewish land and a biblical/historical birthright and seek to resettle it by building settlements there. Israel is also building a security barrier partly within the West Bank, aimed at preventing the infiltration of terrorists into Israel's pre-1967 borders. There are 500,000+ Jews and around 1 million Arabs in the territory.

Climate

Temperate; temperature and precipitation vary with altitude, warm to hot summers, cool to mild winters.

Terrain

Mostly rugged dissected upland, some vegetation in west, but barren in east.

  • lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m
  • highest point: Tall Asur 1,022 m

History

The Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (the DOP), signed in Washington on 13 September 1993, provided for a transitional period not exceeding five years of Palestinian interim self-government in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Under the DOP, Israel agreed to transfer certain powers and responsibilities to the Palestinian Authority, which includes the Palestinian Legislative Council elected in January 1996, as part of the interim self-governing arrangements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A transfer of powers and responsibilities for the Gaza Strip and Jericho took place pursuant to the Israel-PLO 4 May 1994 Cairo Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area and in additional areas of the West Bank pursuant to the Israel-PLO 28 September 1995 Interim Agreement, the Israel-PLO 15 January 1997 Protocol Concerning Redeployment in Hebron, the Israel-PLO 23 October 1998 Wye River Memorandum, and the 4 September 1999 Sharm el-Sheikh Agreement. The DOP provides that Israel will retain responsibility during the transitional period for foreign and domestic security and public order of settlements and Israeli citizens. Direct negotiations to determine the permanent status of Gaza and West Bank had begun in September 1999 after a three-year hiatus, but have been derailed by a second intifadah that broke out in September 2000. The resulting widespread violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel's military response, and instability within the Palestinian Authority continue to undermine progress toward a permanent agreement. Futhermore, Fatah control Arab West Bank Cities, whilst the Yesha Council via the authority of Israel controls and manages Jewish revenant areas.

Get in

Barrier along the pre-1967 border with Israel

By plane

There are no civilian airports within the West Bank, and the the nearest major airport is Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion. From Ben Gurion Airport, it is possible to take a 50 minute taxi or train ride to Jerusalem.

Note that Palestinian citizens and their descendants living abroad cannot travel to Israel or the Palestinian Authority through Ben Gurion Airport. The Israeli government requires them to fly to Amman, Jordan and enter via the Allenby Bridge border crossing in the West Bank.

Some Arab families with non-Israeli passports or other citizenships have been stranded because of the new airport requirement. Even if a person of Israeli Arab descent enters through Ben Gurion Airport they cannot leave using the same method.

By car

To enter the Palestinian Autonomous Authority, take a shared taxi from Abu Dis to the city you are traveling to. Before entering Area A, you will come to a checkpoint, where you will be required to show your passport, verify your citizenship, and complete a security check. From the checkpoint you can take a Hizbullah taxi or shared taxi to your destination.

Driving in the West Bank is not recommended at any time due to the political situation. You cannot drive hired/rental cars from Israel into the Palestinian Authority, specifically areas designated as "Area A" under the Oslo accords, although there are many taxis that will take you from Jerusalem to areas in the west bank for a much higher price. As most car-hire companies in Israel have different rules, agreements and regulations, you may or may not be able to drive a hired/rented car to areas in the West Bank under Israeli authority. Inquire with whatever company you plan on using to get their policy on the issue.

If you do happen to drive to areas within the West Bank, take heed and uphold security precautions at all times. Militant groups used to frequently attack cars traveling in the West Bank with Israeli license plates. This resulted in many civilian deaths in the past but is less likely today. Additionally, while roads in Israel proper are kept in excellent condition, this may not always be true in the West Bank. Damage to cars resulted from driving in the West Bank may not be covered, as many insurance policies are invalid outside of Israel proper.

It is also not possible to drive from Jordan to the West Bank.

Also, It must be noted that taking a taxi on Arabs roads can take several times longer if you are stopped, and frequently requires you to walk across roadblocks and catch another taxi on the opposite side.

By bus or shared taxi

Bus service to Jewish revant towns in the West Bank can be found at the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv bus stations by the Israeli bus carrier, Egged (אגד). Due to recent political violence, the Israeli government has installed enhanced security on buses such as bullet proof windows (on certain routes) and crash barriers at bus stops. Still, traveling by bus is discouraged for first time visitors.

For reaching Arab cities in the West Bank, Service Taxis (shared taxis, pronounced Servees) are preferable over Egged buses. They are extremely cheap (5 NIS from Jerusalem to Ramallah), and travel quite fast on the road. The service taxi is a great place to mingle with the locals, but not to practice your Hebrew skills.

By train

Train between Ariel and Central Israel by 2009.

Get around

Highways : total: 4,500 km
paved: 2,700 km
unpaved: 1,800 km (1997 est.)

Taxis are your best bet. If you're part of a tour, your tour bus is even better. Delays at checkpoints are common when you enter or leave Arab cities.

Talk

The main languages in the West Bank are Arabic and Hebrew, although English, as well as Yiddish and Ladino are widely understood. Avoid speaking Hebrew in Arab cities and Arabic in Jewish settlements, as it may arouse suspicion.

Buy

Currency is Israeli Shekels, though US dollars seem to be widely accepted, especially at tourist shops (Jericho and Bethlehem, for example)

Eat

Falafel, Shawarma, Hummus, Musakhan, Tabouli, Kofta, Knafeh, Kibbeh, Maqluba, Baba Ghanoush, and other Kosher cuisine.

Ramallah has an excellent ice cream shop in downtown called Rukab's. The locally-made ice cream is a real treat on a hot West Bank day.

Beitar Ilit has a great bar that serves Kosher Chicken soup with harif!

Drink

In cities, such as Ramallah, alcohol is often available at restaurants. Be aware that Judea and Samaria is predominately religious, and as such public displays of intoxication are considered rude, and are possibly dangerous. Also, if one stumbles around drunk in Jewish areas, you could be arrested.

Sleep

Ariel Eshel HaShomron 5* Deluxe Hotel [1].

Learn

Bier Zeit University is the largest university in the West Bank. There is also the Arab-American University of Jenin located in Zababdeh. Dozens of Yeshivot around as well.

Work

Construction in Israeli rebuilding of ancient Jewish cities such as Shiloh. Inquire at the Amana Building Corp. H.Q. in Kiriat Moshe, Jerusalem.

Stay safe

Watch the news and check the situation before you go. It isn't a good idea to visit if fighting between Hamas and Fatah, or between the Arabs and Israelis, happens to be intense at the given time. However, violence in the West Bank tends to be very localized. Violence in Shechem, for instance, shouldn't necessarly hinder travel to Ramallah. Still, use discretion.

While non-Israeli Jews are generally left alone, symbols associated with the State of Israel or Zionism, such as the Star of David, are best left at home. Israeli citizens generally aren't permitted past Israeli checkpoints into Area A zones, which hold the greatest threat.

Stay healthy

Hospital in Ariel. Stick to Kosher Food and Drink in order to maintain a diahorea-free trip!

Respect

Pretty much the same as Israel. The West Bank is less 'religious' than, say, Saudia Arabia, so women travelers don't need to be completely covered. It is still a good idea to dress conservatively. Again, like Israel, one should not talk disdainfully about Torah, Holocaust, Jewish History insofar to getting a dirty looks from confident recent Jewish returning exiles in major Jewish areas. With Arabs, one should not insult with western mocking jibes at Islam.

Be very wary of bringing up politics and the Israel-Arab conflict, for obvious reasons.

Contact

Israeli company BEZEK and the Palestinian company PALTEL are responsible for communication services in the West Bank

Get out

Delays may occur at checkpoints unexpectedly, especially if there has been recent violence or political events. 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.



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