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Palestine is a violently contested concept. The simple question, "Where is Palestine?", is loaded with political volatility. Exact boundaries do not exist, at present, but it is generally agreed upon that the West Bank and Gaza Strip fall into the land of Palestine.
A quick survey of the names on a map of the West Bank highlights the immense religious and historical significance of the area. The city of Jerusalem is a prime example, with its supreme importance to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. Further south lies Bethlehem, the town of Christ's birth; to the east lies Jericho, the first town in history. It is an area with an incredibly rich history, which is what draws people to it. Yet this very same history is what makes Palestine such a violent and dangerous land.
As a geographic area, the definition of Palestine has varied throughout history, but currently covers what is the modern state of Israel, the West Bank up to the Jordan River and the section of the Sinai, known as the Gaza Strip. Ruled by the Ottoman Empire (1518-1917), this area became part of Mandate Palestine after the end of World War I. The boundaries of two new states were laid down within the territory of the Mandate, Palestine and Transjordan. The partition of Palestine into an Arab state, Jewish state, and a Corpus Separatum was proposed as part of the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine; only the Jewish state materialized, adopting the name Israel. Accordingly, Palestine is a country that does not appear on contemporary political maps, but which is very much alive for its people. Many of its people are refugees who comprise a significant segment of the Palestinian diaspora, accounting for why some Palestinians describe Palestine as, "a country in exile." The Palestinian people's struggle for recognition of their political rights, including statehood, has made this country-without-a-country, a continuing flashpoint for tensions in the Middle East since the late 1920s.
The West Bank is located to the east of Israel and the west of Jordan. The Gaza Strip is located between Israel and Egypt on the Mediterranean coast. The term Palestine is usually used when referring to the geographic region in Western Asia between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands. Boundaries of the region have changed throughout history, and were last defined in modern times by the Franco-British boundary agreement (1920) and the Transjordan memorandum of 16 September 1922, during the mandate period.
Bethlehem is the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth, and home of several sites of particular importance to followers of Christianity and of Judaism, including:
Bethlehem is also a significant centre of Palestinian culture, housing a number of museums and institutions aimed at preserving and promoting Palestinian heritage.
A historic city with a number of important sites, including five mosques, Nablus is also a window into the Palestinian crisis with 3 refugee camps in the surrounding area. It is possible to visit a camp by pre-arranged tour.
Generally acknowledged to be the most permissive and progressive city in the State of Palestine, Ramallah is the current seat of the Palestinian government.
Palestine contains two seperate areas, both of which have generally warm summers and mild and wet winters.
Though there are some differences. The area where Jerusalem is located generally has lower temperatures compared to areas at lower altitude and along the coast, like Gaza, especially during winter. Temperatures from May to September average between 27 °C and 31 °C during the day, between 16 °C and 18 °C at night. December to February has highs of 13 °C to 16 °C and nights are rather chilly, 5 °C to 7 °C. May to October is almost completely dry while January and February have around 130 mm of rain (or, though rare, sometimes snow).
Most of this also applies to Gaza, but with milder winters and higher humidity throughout the year.
Currently, there are no international flights to and from the State of Palestina, although Jerusalem does have its own airport: Atarot Airport (JRS) which has domestic flights only, despite its official name Jerusalem International Airport.
It's fairly straightforward with your own car or a rental car to get to the Palestinian Territory from Israel. Roads between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are good and although there are checkpoints along the route, you won't face any problems if documentation of you and the car are in order.
International and local firms have offices at the Jerusalem airport and in most major cities and towns. Roads are in a good condition but you will have to deal with checkpoints a lot. Be sure to have all your documentation in order. Traffic drives on the right and you will need your national driver's licence to rent a car.
Sheruts are small minibuses and the best way of getting around the Palestinian Territories. Sometimes, sheruts only travel between road checkpoints so you have to switch a few times. Shared taxis are also a possibility and they are faster, albeit a bit more expensive.
See also: Money Matters
See also: Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Palestine. It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Palestine. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended. Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also: Travel Safety
See also International Telephone Calls
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