Whether you are a novice or seasoned traveller, the thrill of having your finger poised on the “book flight now” button to Palestine is an exciting moment for anyone. Some may get the jitters and not press that button. However, for those that follow through in booking a flight and making the effort to get to Palestine, you will be warmly welcomed with a fascinating journey that will in no doubt leave you wanting to come back time and time again.
The main concerns for travellers, volunteers, interns, tourists or students wanting to come to Palestine are how to physically get here. Palestine itself, is not permitted an airport because of the Israeli control over Palestinian affairs. Given this, the most direct way to get here is by flying through Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. Yes, Palestine is currently a country within another country!
Travellers know that arriving at any airport involves queues, questions and delays, which can be a bit frustrating, especially if you are tired after a long journey. However, arriving in Israel can be a bit more frustrating than the normal hassles of any airport so it is best to be prepared. Upon arrival at the airport, you may find a large queue of people waiting to get through security. You may be stopped and questioned you about your trip (some internationals get stopped and many others do not get stopped at all). If you are stopped, just remain calm and friendly and answer all the questions that you are asked. Usually these questions are about your reasons for visiting Israel and some details of your stay in Israel. Show the security personnel your Invitation letter and tell them the reasons of your stay:
– Visiting famous places in Israel (Which is true, you will go to visit some places in Israel)
– Travel to Hebron to Learn Arabic at the Excellence Center.
There is a possibility that you may also be asked many other questions, for example:
– Why you would want to visit the Palestinian Autonomous Territories?
– If you have any connections to Muslims and, or a Muslim background?
–If you know any Israeli people?
– Why you are visiting Israel and not another country?
–Some details about your life, etc.
They might repeat the same questions 5 or 10 times, and the questions may seem intrusive and intimidating. However, please answer the questions honestly and try not to get nervous.
It is worth mentioning that Israeli security tends to stop and question younger people (18-35) more than older people (above 35 years). They think that younger people may participate in some political actions more than older people.
In rare cases, they may stop you for a couple of hours. If this does happen to you, and remember if only happens rarely, do not get stressed. It does not mean that they will not issue you a visa or deport you. The security personnel want to make sure that you are not going to participate in any political actions. Just have patience and remain friendly at all times and of course you will be issued your 3 months visa.
This may sound over cautious but it’s not recommended to tell people on the plane about your plans to travel to Palestine. The plane will most likely be full of Israelis, so having this type of conversation could cause controversy before you have even arrived, and it certainly will not benefit you at the airport.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to have a name of a hostel or hotel inside Israel that you intend to stay when you arrive, even if you do not actually plan to stay there. We also recommend that you mention and name some places in Israel that you intend to visit during your time in Palestine and Israel.
There have been some cases of Israeli border police ordering people to open their phones and laptops to find out more information about you. Before you arrive, go through your luggage and your phone and delete anything related to the Politics of Palestine and Israel if there is any. This included text messages, Internet history and emails etc. This may sound paranoid but it is better to be safe than sorry.
You may be asked how long you intend to stay, so if you are staying for more than a couple of weeks you may want to consider changing your return flight when you have arrived through border control and are sure of your plans. Alternatively you can say that you are travelling via Jordan on the way back and so do not have a return flight booked.
After passing through security, you will be issued with a 3 months tourist visa, which allows you to visit and travel around Palestine and Israel.
Congratulations, you have almost made it to Palestine (Around 3 hours by a shared Taxi and you will be in Hebron)! It’s important to keep the visa safely with you at all times and it’s a good idea to have it stapled to your passport rather than wedged into a wallet, to avoid any disasters involving your Embassy and Israeli bureaucracy.
After collecting your luggage you have a number of transport options. You can take a bus, a train, or a sherut (shared taxi) from outside the front of the airport, to Palestine. A sherut should cost just 30 NIS (New Israeli Sheqel), and will take you to Jerusalem, which is your gateway to Palestine. Here buses leave regularly for Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron and Jericho.
In conclusion, the only way to travel to Palestine is to come via Israel because it controls all borders and issues the visas for people who would like to visit Palestine. On arrival at the security check, they might stop you and ask you some questions but it does not mean that they will not issue you a visa for 3 months.
Of course many internationals do not even get stop or asked anything.
From our experiences, the Excellence Center has hosted more than 170 internationals from all over the world, 99% get a visa on arrival without any complications. If you are traveling to Palestine/Israel for the first time, we guarantee that 99,9% of you will get the touristic visa. The procedure sounds complicated a bit daunting but it is really simple. Just keep calm and you will find that even this arrival experience to be fascinating and you will learn a lot from your stay.