Welcoming Foreign visitors in Palestine: Palestinian Friendliness: Something that many foreign visitors remark upon when they visit Palestine is the welcoming spirit they encounter among local people. Palestinians are extremely friendly to international visitors, and experiencing Palestinian hospitality is often something of a highlight for people travelling to the region.
Inge, a volunteer at the Excellence Center in Hebron was immediately struck by the friendliness of local people. He says “despite the limited information I could find back home about Palestine, when I arrived I was really surprised to see how welcoming everyone was. There isn’t a day I’ve been here that I haven’t felt welcome. Even on my first day here I was invited in for coffee in someone’s shop. It’s pretty cool. It’s refreshing to see how curious they are.”
Perhaps one reason why Palestinians are so friendly is that unfortunately it is very difficult for Palestinians to travel abroad, and so they have much more limited contact with the international community. Inge also thinks that people are “so welcoming here, because there aren’t that many foreigners here”. While many pilgrims and tourists visit Bethlehem, other areas of the West Bank very rarely have tourists or travellers, and so it may be rare to communicate with international people. Annabel, an intern at the Excellence Center in Hebron, thinks that Palestinian people are often excited to welcome foreigners because it shows to them that the international community have not forgotten the Palestinian struggle. It is important for Palestine for international people to act as witnesses to what life is like under occupation, and to spread the message about what life is like in the West Bank. Even in places which may be more politically tense, such as the city of Hebron which is the only city in the West Bank which has settlers inside the city, foreigners will still be amazed at the friendliness of local Palestinians. Everywhere you go, people will welcome you in Palestine
However, it is not just because of the political situation that Palestinians welcome foreigner visitors in Palestine. In fact, it is just a part of Palestinian culture, which values hospitality highly. Palestinian neighbours frequently pay each other visits, and share coffee, tea and food. For Westerners, this overwhelming friendliness may actually come as a culture shock. You will be invited out to tea, dinner, shisha or even to attend a wedding by people you have only just met. The benefit of this is that it is very easy to make friends here, although Western women may find that some men here may be a little over-friendly.
In conclusion, welcoming foreign visitors in Palestine should be prepared to be welcomed generously and enthusiastically by almost everybody that they meet in Palestine. It is a very special aspect of Palestinian culture, and one which often creates very special memories for travellers to the region, as they will quickly be able to make firm friendships with locals.