Palestine is a country that is often skipped by those visiting Israel, even though many biblical sites can be found there. (East) Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho are the most famous biblical sites found in Palestine, which is also home to the Dead Sea.
Palestine is one of the most controversial independent states in the world. Although most countries do not recognize it as an independent country, Palestine is recognized by the United Nations. Despite the country’s negative reputation, visitors can feel more than welcome. As Palestine doesn't see a big amount of tourists, Palestinians are very happy to see visitors and independent travelers in particular. You may be invited for a tea, lunch or just a conversation on the street on a regular basis.
Hostels can be found in several cities in Palestine. Even when a town you want to visit does not have a hostel, the town can still be visited as a day trip because travel times in Palestine are short. Many hostels can be found in East Jerusalem, which is technically Palestinian territory, but on the Israeli side of the wall. If you want the full Palestinian experience, booking a hostel on the Palestinian side of the wall in cities such as Ramallah, Jericho and Nablus is recommended. Booking a hostel in Bethlehem, which is practically right next to the wall, is also a good choice. Bethlehem is touristy due to its Church of Nativity, the location believed to be where Jesus was born. When you stay in a hostel in Bethlehem, however, you can use is as your base. From there, you can take many day trips to explore far lesser known places in Palestine.
Most travelers who visit Palestine combine it with a visit to Israel. Palestine is significantly cheaper, oftentimes costing half the amount you would spend in Israel. In the hostels in Palestine, you will find more adventurous travelers than in many other countries. Expats working for NGOs or their governments also frequently visit hostels to hang out and meet other Westeners. Despite the fact that Palestine is an Arabic and Islamic country, alcohol is available in shops and most hostels.
Bethlehem and Jericho are the destinations that are most appealing to visitors who are interested in biblical sites. Jericho is said to be the oldest and lowest city in the world. It is much warmer in Jericho than in most other places in Palestine. The Dead Sea is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Middle East. A typical image of a person reading a newspaper while floating in the Dead Sea is a real possibility due to the high concentration of salt in this particular body of water. There are no hostels by the Dead Sea, but Jericho is less than a half-hour drive away.
Hebron is a place worth seeing for the more adventurous travelers who have an interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are many checkpoints in the city. It is, however, no problem for tourists to cross those checkpoints and visit both the Palestinian and occupied Israeli parts of town. Since the Second Intifada, the city’s centre has turned into a ghost town, which is interesting to see. Both the Israelis and Palestinians are happy to talk to you as a visitor, to tell their sides of the story and how the other party misbehaves. Walking around Hebron will feel like walking around a war zone, although the markets are still operating. It is totally safe for non-Jewish travelers to visit, though.
Palestine is a controversial country with a bad image, but when you take the effort to visit, you will be surprised (in a positive way) by what you will find behind the wall!
Hi, I'm Martin Straatman,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Palestine hostels. Welcome.