How does the Occupation affect Volunteering in Palestine? One of the main concerns, if not the most worrying, for any volunteer who would like to come to Palestine might be the Israeli Occupation of Hebron specifically and Palestine in general. This is a reasonable concern as Western media and general public perception portray the situation as highly unstable and risky. Nevertheless, this is not the case.
Don’t get this statement wrong. The Occupation is a real issue in Palestine and affects the daily lives and routine of every Palestinian in an unjust and unfair manner but it never gets to affect the daily lives and routine of the volunteers in Palestine themselves. The Occupations does not affect directly the international volunteers in Hebron and Palestine in general. Internationals volunteers have no problems crossing Israeli checkpoints, the laws that rule Palestinians don’t affect internationals and they are even considered as individuals that must be protected by Israeli authorities.
The only two moments that the volunteer will be directly affected by the Occupation will be at the arrival at Ben Gurion and during the arrival at Hebron if you take the Israeli bus from Jerusalem
Once you reach Ben Gurion you will have to inform the Israeli authorities at the passport control about your plans. If your honest, and you should be, you will be taken to another room where the corresponding authorities will try to obtain more information about your background. It can vary greatly. Javier from Spain remarked “In my case, they simply checked my passport, my intern contract and invitation letter from the Excellence Center. After ten minutes waiting they gave back my documents and wished me a safe trip to Hebron with no major issue. On the other hand, a fellow volunteer was interrogated alone and repeatedly asked about her plans in Palestine and whether she knew people from Hebron. After the interrogation, she calmly left to Hebron”.
The internationals volunteer must also consider which form of transport they will use. The volunteer should mainly be aware that the transport either will leave them at the Palestinian Arabic area or at the Israeli area. If you reach the Palestinian area, the Excellence Center and it’s staff will have no issue to directly help you. On the other hand, if you pick a Israeli bus line it’s for sure it will go straight to the occupied “Israeli area” of Hebron forcing you to deal with military, police and checkpoints till you reach the Palestinian area. Expect this to be arduous as Israeli authorities are by default, uncooperative.The Excellence Center cannot access the Israeli area so you this is something you must be aware if you pick an Israeli form of transport.
Aside from these two aspects, volunteers in Palestine should only be expected to be affected indirectly; expect to listen to stories of unjust treatment as well as unfair laws and excessive taxing to the Palestinian people. You should mainly consider that the international volunteers in Palestine will enjoy greater freedom in Hebron and Palestine than it’s own habitants.