Living and Volunteering in the West Bank, Palestine :Despite the press, Palestine is a region with so much to see and do that it should be high on anyone’s travel list. That it isn’t is really only a testament to the power of the media and the stereotypes they often produce, because as anyone who has travelled to the region will attest to, Palestine is a part of the world with so much to offer.
Of course, any traveller who Living and Volunteering in the West Bank, Palestine and does make it to this part of the world is going to inevitably be curious about the occupation. The truth is, it is unavoidable – road blocks, walls and soldiers are just part of the landscape in this part of the world. But they are not an impediment to travel – the occupation is, as probably best described, like a slow wound from a knife rather than a battering ram constantly hammering the ground in perpetual rage. Of course, the situation is fluid and can change, but for the most part, a travellers experience of the occupation are road blocks, walls, curious glances by soldiers and the accompanying traffic congestion that sometimes plagues the various checkpoints. For the Palestinian it is so much more, but to experience it as a Palestinian is not something a foreigner can realistically hope to do – the occupation is not targeted at them for the most part, and not growing up in the land and sharing the connection to it as Palestinians do, means to fully experience the occupation is out of reach to a foreigner.
The occupation and its architecture aside, Palestinians are a resolute and determined people. And best of all, they are a hospitable people, and sharing the richness of their land and its culture is something they strive to do. And for any traveller who does come to this region, being spoilt for choice is just part of the experience. Sitting at the cross roads of Empires and cultures, it is no surprise that the Holy Land is literally full of historical and cultural sites. From Bronze Age ruins, to Greek, Roman, Byzantine and then Islamic, Crusader and Ottoman ruins all amidst a thriving Palestinian culture, if history and culture is your thing, Palestine is simply a must.
Perhaps most famously, Palestine is the birthplace of mankind’s three great monotheistic faiths, and in terms of spiritual significance, the region is unmatched in the religious passions it stirs in Jews, Christians of all denominations and Muslims. Of course there is Jerusalem, the center of the these faiths but there is also Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, Hebron, the final resting place of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the three patriarchs of the Jewish and Islamic faiths, and then there is Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, in the north, to name just a few.
If though religion and ruins are not enough to keep you inspired, the natural beauty of the land has inspired people of all cultures for generations. The hills around Hebron, the valleys that criss-cross the land, and the Judean desert are world class. And in many of these areas, eco-tourism ventures have begun to spring up, the most popular being the hiking trail that is said to follow in the footsteps of Abraham, starting at the top of the West Bank and finishing in Hebron.
For anyone curious about this part of the world, the question should not be should I or shouldn’t I, but simply a matter of when. Of course, check the security updates, it would be dishonest to say that all is well in this part of the world, but on the other hand do not be dismayed by the news or the chanting’s and slogans of activists on both sides – Palestine is a part of the world that can be travelled, and one that definitely should.