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Favorite thing: It will be so easy to get to Bethlehem by bus or taxi. As for arriving at the airport, I doubt if you will be questioned at all. Now when you arrive at your departing airport for Tel Aviv, that's when you will be questioned. I have landed at Tel Aviv three times in the last four years and never once was questioned. All my questions happened at my departure points. London, Istanbul and New York. When you leave Israel you might get the 2nd degree -- but what are they going to do -- keep you there? I doubt it. Just be polite and answer all their questions honestly. I traveled through the West Bank twice and each time it was easy. You will, however, be surprised by the seemingly prosperity that I encountered -- even in the refugee camp in Bethlehem. It felt, and was, very safe. Have a great trip.
Fondest memory: Having a great meal across from Manger Square and drinking Taipay (sic) beer after strolling around Bethlehem and the Arab market.
Written Jul 28, 2009
Favorite thing: I have been interested in travel for a number of years. Recently I was talking to a member of a local Palestine twinning group. The Walsall/ Kobar twinning group. They were planning to go on a organized trip to Palestine, staying initially near to Bethlehem. Then moving on to Kobar the town with which they were twinned to Walsall. I joined the twinning group and then invited myself along on the Palestine trip.
The flight went to Tel Aviv. I then got a taxi to Jerusalem...
I had an itinerary for the trip. It involved a number of visits and talks with various NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organizations), meetings with various “municipality“ dignitaries and also staying with and visiting local people, visiting a local women’s group, a Christian Aid peace group, a rehabilitation centre and a couple in their own home who I will describe later.
There is a price for good welfare provision. That cost is paid for in Palestine, as anywhere else, by the collection of tax’s from the people. Unfortunately the tax’s in Palestine are collected by the Israeli government. This same government also decides how the money is re-distributed to the Palestine territories and elsewhere. Since the Hamas have become the largest political group in Palestine over one billion pounds has been withheld from the Palestinians. They are now in effect subsidizing the Israeli people! This has had a dramatic effect on its ability to support themselves.
So who is able to support those least able to support themselves in Palestine?
The Palestinian Ministry of Health has been the primary provider of health services to the population in Palestine, followed by the NGO’s and the United Nations (who‘s emphasis is on supporting the many refugees)… the latter two agencies are largely funded by international donors. More than 60 percent of Palestinians are now living on less than US$2 a day, compared with 21 percent in 2000. In fact Kobar where I spent the second part of my time to Palestine has a population of 4000 people. It has an unemployment rate of 80%. There are approximately 150 individuals in the town with disabilities, some had learning difficulties, others had sensory impairments. Some are even more seriously disabled.
I visited one couple in Kobar. The husband was 77 years old, his wife was 70. She’d had a stroke some 6 years ago. Followed by a heart attack. After the initial involvement of local services (there is one ambulance that covers Kobar and 3 other villages) she was offered aids and a wheelchair by the Red Crescent (The Middle East equivalent to the Red Cross) she was left with no services or support other than that from family members. The husband continues to cares for her even to this day. There is a doctor who visit’s the town’s local clinic, once per month, but she can not get down the hill to see him, and he has many other people to see in his short time there. During our conversation I asked what she needed, what would make her life more bearable. She held on to my hand and said that she wanted the medication to make her better. home I wrote to the Red Crescent in Ramallah to ask if such a bed could be provided.
Many individuals are cared for at home and by families. But not all care is provided by the family. A network of care support does exist An example of this is the Star Mountain Rehabilitation Centre.
The Star Mountain Rehabilitation Centre is located close to Ramallah and provides a service to an area of 20,000 people including the inhabitants of Kobar and several other villages and towns. It is run by and funded by the Moravian Church a non profit non governmental organization. There are 30 people employed at this centre including social workers, art therapists, physiotherapists and psychologists, and there services include counselling, therapy, community work, boarding/respite facilities for young disabled people, community based rehabilitation for the “equalization of opportunities and social integration of people with a disability”. Just as with many other countries including the UK it is an daily challenge to change peoples attitudes towards those with disabilities.
As well as trying to change peoples attitudes, in Palestine there are the additional problems caused by the “intifada” (the conflict with the Israelis). Palestinians can not move freely. Medication is stopped from reaching many areas. Ambulances are turned away from checkpoints and people can not reach hospitals. Many individuals are not treated because they cannot reach the proper facility. Some die. Problems are particularly severe near to the dividing walls and close to where settlers live.
A positive future…
The Star Mountain Centre along with its other facilities has the opportunity for study/voluntary work within the areas of social welfare and social sciences. Social work and other social studies courses are also taught at university level at the Universities of Bir Zest, near Ramallah and at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem. Despite restrictions on travel these courses are very popular if not always accessible (internet and home study courses are available as alternatives). There are great opportunities for self-help and support groups within Palestine, for supporting the young people criminalized for challenging the Israeli authorities, for women’s groups and for those who want to rebuild the towns , villages and cities damaged in conflict.
Because of the very special situation in the Palestinian territories, the Palestinians not having their own state and not move being able to move freely between the different parts of the territories, social care has not been consistent throughout the area’s and there is an inability to create a national organisation. Hopefully they will soon.
Fondest memory: I dont know about "fond memories",
While we were in Kobar news reached us of threats from the Israeli army to close down a local orphanage in Hebron. This did not happen during the time of our visit but an e-mail from a Christian Peace group received on my return home would indicate that subsequently that changed. The e-mail read…
Representatives human rights organizations met in Hebron on 8 May to help Hebron’s orphans and students now living with the fear that the Israeli military will close their homes and schools. The representatives selected a core group of Palestinian and International NGO’s to halt the Israeli attack against Islamic Charitable Society orphanages and schools. The core group will also develop programs to ease the anxiety that’s been part of the children’s lives from the day the army first began its crusade.
Since issuing closure and confiscation orders against the ICS on 26 February, the Israeli army raided the central warehouse taking away school busses, clothing, food, stationery, equipment and other supplies intended to fill the needs of the children and their families. Soldiers have welded shut the gates of the nearly completed $2,000,000 Al-Huda girls’ school, raided and looted bakeries that provided bread to the orphanages and on the 1st of April, raided the sewing workshop in the girls’ orphanage, carting away sewing and processing machines, fabric, finished garments and office equipment... all of which they brought to the city dump.
Responding to an appeal filed by Jawad Boulos, attorney for the ICS, the commanding general said that in regard to the schools, orphanages and kindergartens, he “gives himself the complete right to take all necessary measures...if they continue to work in these facilities”.
Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical initiative to support violence reduction efforts around the world. To learn more about CPT's peacemaking work, visit our website www.cpt.org
Written May 31, 2008
Favorite thing: With regards to Fico's story about Palestine I think you will find there was never a Biblical Palestine as the country was named Palestine (Palestinia) by the Romans 135 years after Christ. It was then called Israel when Jacob changed his name to Israel.
I would love to know where he got theses facts which are completely missing from any history book and especially the bible !!!
Written May 10, 2006
Favorite thing: If you want to stay in Palestine for a little longer, it's definitely worth buying a prepaied phonecard. You can get them easily everywhere - e.g. at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport.
After friends recommendet Orange as provider, I bought a SIM-card there. It was around 100 NIS and loaded it with another 100 NIS. From that time on I had my own local cellphone number.
If you travel to the West Bank, Orange will work in most of the bigger cities and near settlements (so you can use your cellphone as settlement-finder!)
If you are staying within the Westbank it might be better to get an Palestinian provider, like Jawwal.
Fondest memory: The bad thing about this is that you have to remember another number ;-)
Written Aug 17, 2005
Favorite thing: Over a week in July 2004 the biggest film festival yet held in the Palestinian Territories took place in Ramallah. Around 80 films from all over the world were screened as well as a competition for local young Palestinian film-makers. The fact that it happened at all was a bit of a miracle after projectors and various other equipment went 'missing' at Tel Aviv airport, held up by the Israeli authorities.
The highlight of the week was without doubt the screening of a new film about the infamous 'wall of partition' being built by the Israeli government. The organisers had the rather brilliant idea of projecting the film onto the wall itself! Not that everything was serious though, one of the biggest films on show was Bend it Like Beckham!
Written Jul 24, 2004
Favorite thing: My fondest memory of Palestine is the drive to Masada hill (which is in Israel, but from Jerusalem the drive takes you through Palestine). If you get a chance to climb it at sunrise, go for it! Stunning.
Updated Mar 21, 2004
Favorite thing: If Visit Bethlehem, try to go it alone & get there early morning or later in the day. It can get very busy when the tourist buses arrive. Try to arrange a visit to a refugee camp. Its a real eye opener, a lot of the hostels in Jerusalem old Arab quarter organise trips.
Fondest memory: My fondest memory of Palestine has to be the friendliness of the people there. And of course spending Christmas day there, of course!
Updated Jan 7, 2004
Favorite thing: If I could I would take someone for a long day trip driving up and down the rolling hills of the West Bank. You might get invited for a cup of steaming sweet, mint tea in a Palestinian village. Or, you might be approached and asked, suspiciously, what you're doing in an Israeli settlement. No matter what, you are bound to bump into some kind of tantalizing encounter.
Fondest memory: Was idyllic - now largely inaccesible...
Updated Aug 30, 2003
Favorite thing: If you route passes through Judaea desert you may see Jericho - the capital of Palestine, located in the oasis of Judaea desert. It is the most ancient town on the Earth, it appeared 4000 BEFORE CHRIST! Once it was damned by God. Tourist business used to prosper here, but noe under the circumstances tourists do not stay here any longer.
Written Sep 12, 2002
Favorite thing: Visit BETHLEHEM, where Jesus Christ was born. Enter the Chirch of Christmas.
Fondest memory: Such Biblical names as Bethlehem surely create certain mood in you - you really touch upon something very sacred.
Written Sep 12, 2002