Safety In the West Bank: When you travel to the West Bank, you may be worried about safety in the West Bank and the possibility of witnessing or encountering violence between Palestinians and Israeli forces. The large amount of press coverage given to incidents of violence in Palestine makes this seem more likely than it actually is. From reading the news, you might anticipate that you will see clashes occur during you time here, but that is not necessarily true. While most of our volunteers never find themselves in such a situation, it will help you feel less nervous to know what to do if any incidents erupt.
First off, it is important to know that your religion, ethnicity, or national origin will not make you a target of violence. Palestinians may strongly disagree with the policies of certain governments, but they make a clear distinction between this and individual people who have nothing to do with what their governments do. For example, although American support for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory is a significant part of the conflict, many Americans volunteer in Hebron and Palestinians enjoy meeting American people. Likewise, many of our volunteers come from Christian or Jewish backgrounds (whether practicing or not) and similarly, there is not any sort of religious resentment among the Palestinian population. The conflict is between Palestine and Israel and if you are not outwardly displaying symbols or supportive feelings towards the state of Israel and/or the occupation, you will not have to worry about anybody being angry with you.
You might still wonder, “What happens if violence erupts and I just happen to be in the area?” One thing to keep in mind is that clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers usually occur in a localized manner, which means that if there is an incident in one part of the West Bank, or even one part of the city, it does not mean that there is instability everywhere. Usually Israeli incursions into Palestinian-controlled territory are for the purpose of arresting Palestinians, and as a foreigner, this will not affect you. Still, if you should find yourself in the middle of a clash, it is advised to move to another area where things are quieter. Often this could be as simple as turning around and going to another street. If you happen to be at home, you can just stay inside until the tensions subside and you will be perfectly safe.
If you still feel uneasy about traveling in the West Bank, Palestine, your home country should usually have some sort of program that will offer you resources and news updates if anything does get messy. For example, the U.S. State Department has a “Smart Traveler Enrollment Program” (STEP) that keeps travelers informed about safety conditions, gives updates about any civil unrest, and keeps them in contact with the embassy in the event that they need diplomatic support. Whether you come from the United States or not, your embassy or state department likely has a similar program that you can enroll in if you so choose.
To reiterate, it is extremely unlikely that you will see any violence or widespread unrest during your time in Palestine (the Excellence Center is in Area A/Hebron 1, which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority). It is even less likely that you will be the target of any violence yourself, as Palestinians do not assign blame to travelers from foreign countries. Being in Palestine will help you see and understand the effects of military occupation on the Palestinian people, but being a foreigner means that you are outside of this conflict as far as clashes are concerned. If you have any questions about safety In the West Bank or emergency procedures, please contact the Excellence Center and we would be glad to share more information with you.