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Oct
23

10 Reasons to go to Palestine

Great Mosque of Gaza

Great Mosque of Gaza

For most people when you hear the words Palestine or West Bank you don’t immediately think damn, what a great holiday destination!! But this tiny area is packed with more historical, religious and cultural heritage than perhaps anywhere else in the world, and its small size means it’s completely feasible to visit a good proportion of its sights in a fairly short trip. Several new community tourism and hiking or biking holiday operators also make experiencing Palestine’s stunning scenery and great food increasingly easy to get to. And don’t worry, the tours keep you safe and the people are often just happy to be remembered.

Most people visit Palestine over Christmas, because of Bethlehem. Leaders of the various Christian denominations lead processions from Jerusalem, and Manger Square fills with nightly mass. For religious travelers Christmas and Easter are peak times, but prices are lower now, there are less crowds and hotels are easier to find.

Recent years have also seen new hotels, guesthouses, hostels and home-stay programs opening across the West Bank. This makes it easier to stay in Palestine without being tied to the pilgrimage hotels of Ramallah and Bethlehem, and for visitors, some originally from here, to make a real contribution to isolated rural economies and to remember their roots.

bethlehem

bethlehem

Granted, tourism to Palestine still faces many challenges, not least the Israeli border authorities who control all routes into the West Bank. For international travelers, crossing the checkpoints into the West Bank at Qalandia and Bethlehem is usually easy. But Gaza is another matter entirely. Most Foreign Offices advise against all travel here.  But that is Gaza, there are so many places worthy of your attention.

Sebastia

Ruins at Sebastia, Palestine

Ruins at Sebastia, Palestine

The impressive Hellenic watchtowers, ruined Samaritan palaces and crumbling Byzantine churches of Sebastia are a fairly well-known destination. But now there’s an entire community that’s sprung up. Starting with the elegant little Sebastia Guesthouse.

local food breakfast sebastia guesthouse

local food breakfast sebastia guesthouse

They serve up breakfasts of fresh bread, olive oil, herbs and fruit sourced right there on the spot. Eat on a terrace with views over miles of olive groves or in the renovated rooms of Byzantine- and Mamluk-era homes. Young locals have been trained as guides for hikes from the information center to the Ottoman railway station or the ancient maqamat – Islamic shrines – that dot the surrounding hilltops. $100 for a double room.

Haram ash-Sharif, Jerusalem

Al-Haram-ash-Sharif

Al-Haram-ash-Sharif

The great golden Dome of the Rock may be symbol of Jerusalem, but actually getting into the “Noble Sanctuary”, Islam’s third holiest site, can be a bit of an enterprise. The entrance for non-Muslims is tucked away behind the security gates for the Western Wall Plaza. Get there early in the morning, and be prepared to queue, because it’s worth every second of the wait. As well as the soaring gold-and-blue Dome of the Rock (Qubbat as-Sakhra) and the sombre splendour of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the sanctuary complex houses many other smaller, but equally beautiful, structures. Especially worth looking out for is the Mamluk-era Sabil (drinking fountain) of Qait Bey, with its elegant carved stone dome, one of the few of its kind outside Egypt. 
• Official hours (though these are subject to change) are Sun to Thurs 7.30am–11am, 1.30pm–3pm. Usually closed for Islamic holidays, Jewish holidays, Fri/Sat (except Muslim worshippers), and whenever the Israeli authorities consider there to be a security risk. Visit early in your stay, so you can come back if it is shut

Deir Ghassaneh

Deir Ghassaneh

Deir Ghassaneh

Readers of Mourid Barghouti’s I Saw Ramallah will be familiar with Deir Ghassaneh.  Built for the most part in the 18th century, when the village was the base for one of the families who ruled over small parts of Ottoman Palestine, many of these homes still have wells for storing water, olive oil and grain to withstand sieges. Now, the local women’s association offers a way into the village, running a small museum of rural bits and pieces, where they also serve splendid banquets of local food and give afternoon lessons in authentic Palestinian cookery.

Jenin’s Old City

Jenin's Old City

Jenin's Old City

Being woken at 4.30am by the waves of the azan, or call to prayer, as they roll along Jenin’s hills is a moment you won’t forget. It’s a moment of calm beauty in this bustling town, sadly better known for the Israeli army’s massive 2002 attack on the refugee camp. But in the ancient, dust colored Old City, staff at the Palestine Fair Trade Association’s Al-Dabbeh Street offices in a stone Ottoman home explain the difference their fair trade olive oil make to the lives of thousands of farmers.

Hiking and biking

The Mar Saba monastery in the Judaean desert

The Mar Saba monastery in the Judaean desert

More and more organized walking and cycling tours are an increasingly popular way to see the Palestinian countryside and meet local families in small towns and villages such as al-Fara’a and Aqraba, which are only just beginning to open up to international visitors. Bike Palestine’s itineraries span the lush hills of the northern West Bank, the eerie Judaean Desert in the south and historical cities such as Jericho and Bethlehem. The Abraham Path and Nativity Trail treks, inspired by the wanderings of the Prophet Abraham and Jesus Christ respectively, are hiking trails through the northern and central West Bank which are open to walkers of all faiths or none. 
 A seven-day bike tour of the West Bank with Bike Palestine (bikepalestine.com) costs $1,400, including meals, accommodation, guides, bike hire. A four-day hike along the Abraham Path with Walk Palestine (+972 2 274 8590, walkpalestine.com) costs $620, including accommodation, meals, guide.

Hammam ash-Shifa, Nablus

Hammam ash-Shifa, Nablu

Hammam ash-Shifa, Nablu

After all that walking and cycling, some serious relaxation might be in order. Nablus is home to two Ottoman hammams, which offer the traditional mixture of hot steam, cold water, locally made olive oil soap and thorough massages. The 17th-century Hamman ash-Shifa is the best known.

Taybeh Oktoberfest

Taybeh Oktoberfest

Taybeh Oktoberfest

The picturesque hilltop village of Taybeh is home to perhaps the world’s most unlikely Oktoberfest. Every autumn, the Taybeh Brewery – run by a local family who learned their brewing skills in Germany – hosts a bustling festival with political hip-hop groups and troupes of traditional Palestinian dabka dancers. But the beer is excellent, and if the crowds are too much the ruins of the 5th century church of St George are close by, with spectacular views across the river into Jordan.

Hisham’s Palace, Jericho

jericho

jericho

The ancient, sleepy desert city of Jericho has a very different vibe from much of the rest of the West Bank. Summertime visitors will find that the residents turn semi-nocturnal to escape the heat, so at night the broad, flat roads fill up with silent cyclists. The “garden restaurants” along Ein As-Sultan Street, confined to indoor tables during the winter, spread out under the jasmine and bougainvillea for late, leisurely Arabic barbecues. Qasr Hisham – Hisham’s Palace – is one of Jericho’s most spectacular sights; intricate carved stonework gives an impression of the glory.

Akka

The Ottoman-era Khan el-Umdan in Akka

The Ottoman-era Khan el-Umdan in Akka

Not to be missed is the old city of Akka (also spelled Acre), a small port on the Mediterranean which is one of the oldest inhabited sites in the world, was the capital of a Crusader kingdom, and whose fortifications put paid to Napoleon’s Middle Eastern ambitions. It’s a popular day trip with tourists to Israel, but it’s worth staying to explore its Arabic heart, away from the “official” tourist complex near the main gate in the city walls. The sleepy port is home to the famous Abu Christo fish restaurant, which serves the fresh catch from the adjacent port.

Compassion

Learn compassion for all races and religions.

Aber irgendwie kommen wir nicht voran, weil nils ohne meine hilfe keine aufgabe lösen hausarbeit schreiben lassen kann , sagt nils mutter

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