Current Safety in the West Bank: As an international traveling to Palestine safety was the first question on my mind and the subject of almost every question asked by friends and family. Though the West Bank has been politically calm in the past ten years; it still couldn’t be considered a stable region, with protests and demonstrations always being possible. Anyone who wishes to travel to the West Bank should be aware of this possibility, but should also be aware of what it is really like to be in the West Bank during times of protest. After President Trump’s announcement to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the world braced for reactions from the West Bank. Portrayals in the media of the aftermath display demonstrations, flag burnings, and calls for the next Intifada. Though these images and reports are not false, they are only a small fraction and the most extreme reactions.
“As a foreigner (and specifically an American) news of Trump’s announcement caused a sense of unease within me. Before traveling to Palestine, I was well-informed of how delicate the situation was, so I wasn’t surprised when I heard this news. Instead I was unsure of what would happen next and whether I should continue my stay in the region. The fortunate thing about traveling to Palestine through the Excellence Center is you have the advice and counsel of local Palestinians at your disposal. After hearing the news, I asked teachers at the center and spoke with my host family about what I could expect to happen next, and what I should do as a foreigner. I was informed that there would be protests, and all the stores would be closed for the next two days (Thursday and Friday). I was advised to not travel to certain parts of the city. The strongest emotion I felt was uncertainty of how the situation would unfold, but I was assured quickly by the support system around me” Ola from the US said
She added “My fellow foreigners felt similar to me about the situation. Coco from Germany studies Arabic at the center and said she never felt fearful during the situation, instead she kept a clear head and was careful to avoid any areas where demonstrations might be present.”
Mimi from Denmark also studies Arabic at the center and echoed Coco’s remarks, adding that experiencing it yourself is always different and more accurate than what the media portrays. Mimi has had experience traveling in Palestine and remarked that it’s actually a myth that you are more at risk as a foreigner when protests are occurring because neither side wants to be responsible for harming a foreigner. Victor from Belgium volunteers at the center and had the most direct contact with the protests. He, unlike myself and the other foreigners lives within the center of the city and was able to hear protests from his home. He said that while he didn’t feel fearful on Friday (the day protests were the worst) he objectively knew that the situation he was in had potential dangers and in order to avoid them he should simply avoid the protests. So, he spent the day inside and kept safe.
Victor’s decision to stay in his house on Friday was common for most foreigners as a way to avoid any interactions with protests. Coco and myself chose to spend the day inside our host families’ house. This allowed us to be updated on the situation and keep us away from protests. Mimi spent her Friday normally; she went to her Arabic class at the center and attended a wedding in the evening with her host family. While at the center she did hear protests from the street but says she didn’t feel afraid as she kept away from any of the demonstrations.
Now that the initial reactions have happened, life in Hebron is returning to normal. Shops are open, people are walking, cars are back on the street, and any protests that are persisting are small and easily avoided. Though the media may have showed you the protests they won’t also show you the return to normalcy.
Finally, Ola remarked”After the announcement I felt unsure and anxious, however after assurances and now that the situation is cleared I feel secure in my decision to come to the West Bank and in my decision to continue my stay here”.