Palestine was safe to visit and gave us a lot of beautiful surprises during our travel there. I was mostly impressed by the people’s hospitality and kindness but for this article, I decided to write a summary of the places that I visited in West Bank. I select 5 cities that are easy to visit but I strongly invite you to explore more outside these cities in the villages and small towns to reach another face of Palestine too.
1. Bethlehem – was our first city visited in Palestine, situated 10 kilometers south of Jerusalem. It is quite easy to reach by bus 231 from Damascus Gate Bus stop, and the price is around 7 shekel, less than 2 euros. It’s one of the most touristic cities in Palestine, being visited by many groups of peregrines, approximately 1.4 million in the last year. The main touristic point is the Church of the Nativity, the birthplace of Jesus, and the oldest major church from the Holy Land. Surprisingly, I saw many groups of Romanians tourists in the five days spent there. Besides the Christian importance of this city, tourism was increased lately because of the political situation too. There are many people coming here to visit the Refugee Camps, they could have political tours and they could see the messages and the graffiti on the Separation Wall. Another touristic objective that brings more people to Bethlehem is the Walled Off Hotel, or Banksy’s Hotel, situated in one of the few areas of Bethlehem inside “Area C”, under full Israeli control. However the hotel can be visited by both Israelis and Palestinians, its purpose is to create a space where Israelis can come to learn more about the reality lived by Palestinians.
2. Hebron – is known as the largest city in the West Bank and the second largest from Palestine after Gaza. It’s situated south of Bethlehem, being easy to reach from there by a shared taxi, for approximately 10 shekel. Here you can see the consequences of Israeli settlements because more than 20% of Hebron is part of Area C and the military presence is quite intense there. This situation is in contradiction with the city’s name because, in both Hebrew and Arabic, Hebron means “friend”.
3. Ramallah – is situated 10 kilometers north of Jerusalem, we traveled there from Bethlehem and we had to come back to Jerusalem by bus and change there the buses and the bus station. We took bus 218 from another station than the Damascus Gate, ask for directions because there are three different bus stations for different destinations in Palestine. Ramallah is known as the place where is the headquarter of the Palestinian Authority and of embassies that recognized Palestine as a state. Ramallah is not a very touristic city but it’s considered the most liberal city of Palestine.
4. Nablus – traveling further to the north of West Bank, we reached Nablus, one of the most traditional city in Palestine. We visited the huge market in the old city and we realized that Nablus is an important commercial and cultural center that deserves a visit. Nablus is known for its cuisine, if you are going there, you have to try the Palestinians deserts as Kunafa, called also Nabulsi sweet. Other types of sweets are “Tamriya”, mabrumeh and ghuraybeh, a plain pastry made of butter, flour and sugar shaped as fingers or spirals.
5. Jericho – we finished our tour in the West Bank in Jericho, situated in the Jordan Valley, west to Jerusalem. This is a perfect place for the archaeology lovers because there are many sites discovered by archaeologists that date back to 9000 BC, that’s why Jericho is considered the city with the oldest surrounding wall. The city has many Christian tourists because there are several pilgrimage sites, one the most visited is the Mount of Temptation. We had a short stop in Al-Ouja village and we tried Jericho’s pastry. I honestly recommend you to go there because we were welcomed and treated very well. Once again, I was the witness of Palestinian Hospitality, when we left the store, we received some pastry from the house.