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Location - Middle East; Capital - Ramallah; Population - 4 million; Currency - New Israeli Shekel MORE PALESTINE

Public transport from Jerusalem to the West Bank is via several bus stations in Arab East Jerusalem, all within walking distance of Damascus Gate - November 2014.

The Palestinian Territories comprise the West Bank and Gaza Strip, both occupied by Israel following the Six-Day War of 1967, which also saw the annexation of Syria's Golan Heights.

Although Ramallah is home to the Palestinian Authority headquarters, Palestinians see this as a temporary measure, with the aim of Jerusalem becoming the capital of an independent Palestinian state.

Jerusalem: See my Israel 2 & 3 pages which cover East Jerusalem and the Old City.


israelnote1The Israeli Shekel is the legal currency in the West Bank and Gaza, though US Dollars, Jordanian Dinars and Egyptian Pounds (Gaza) may be accepted








palestine1The Separation Wall looms large near Bethlehem, dividing the West Bank from Israel


palestine5Israeli soldiers at the Bethlehem 300 checkpoint 'greet' pedestrians and motorists travelling between Bethlehem and Israel (Jerusalem). The checkpoint has airport-style security: Queue up, show ID, place luggage in X-ray machine, empty pockets etc

palestine6Unlike the Israeli side, the wall facing the West Bank is covered with political graffiti and smatterings of colourful street art














palestine8A Palestianian man stands in front of an isolated section of the Separation Wall - Bethlehem













palestine16Leila Khaled belongs to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and is known for her involvement in airline hijackings in the 1960s and 70s - Bethlehem


palestine14The barrier loosely follows the 1949 Armistice Line dividing the West Bank from Israel. However, when completed, the 700km wall will place almost 10% of West Bank territory in Israel


palestine17A weeping Statue of Liberty - Bethlehem














palestine18'Make Hummus Not Walls' is a well known piece of wall art - Bethlehem














palestine19'Warning! This is illegally occupied land. State of Palestine, 29/11/2012' - Bethlehem


palestine20Famous British street artist Banksy has several works on the barrier - Bethlehem


palestine13The girl with balloons is a copy of a Banksy. On either side are posters belonging to the Wall Museum where locals' experiences are documented - Bethlehem













palestine3The quieter, more circuitous Bethlehem highway checkpoint is an alternative to the stricter Bethlehem 300 crossing. There was no military presence when I passed through, but things change quickly.. Bethlehem












palestine27The police station displays portraits of Mahmoud Abbas (left), Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the late Yasser Arafat (right), former head of the PLO - Bethlehem


palestine21Pope Francis made a papal visit in May 2014, pictured here with Mahmoud Abbas - Bethlehem


palestine22Wow! In the grounds of a cafe just off Manger Square is a Popemobile - Bethlehem














palestine40The Church of the Nativity, left, leads to Manger Square and the Mosque of Omar - Bethlehem














palestine45I visited in early December when a huge Christmas tree stood in Manger Square - Bethlehem


palestine48To the left of the Christmas tree is the Peace Center (a cultural/tourist information office), while on its right is the Church of the Nativity - Bethlehem













palestine49The 19th century Mosque of Omar in Manger Square - Bethlehem















palestine42The Church of the Nativity, site of the birthplace of Jesus and a World Heritage Site, isn't a particularly attractive church - Bethlehem


palestine52I didn't expect this! The tiny entrance to the church, called the Door of Humility, was to prevent attack in past centuries - Bethlehem


palestine56Ridiculous queues as tour groups descend on the church's Grotto of the Nativity - Bethlehem













palestine64The grotto lies beneath the basilica and is said to be Jesus' birthplace - Bethlehem














palestine66The Franciscan cloister, linking the Church of the Nativity to St Catherine's Church - Bethlehem


palestine67The cloister is a peacfeul alternative to the church. Unless a tour group invades! Bethlehem


palestine68A cloister wall - Bethlehem















palestine70A Norwegian band play Manger Square at the opening of the Christmas market - Bethlehem













palestine72The Peace Center Restaurant is a good spot to watch life go by on Manger Square while drinking a Taybeh beer - Bethlehem














palestine74Restaurants and souvenir shops line Manger Square - Bethlehem


palestinebeer6A Cremisan wine, locally made in the Cremisan Valley just outside Bethlehem


palestine30The outskirts of Bethlehem as seen from Manger Street















palestine33Outside the Old Town, Bethlehem is quite hilly. Don't do as I did and find a cheap hotel at the bottom of a seriously steep hill. Knackering!













palestine34A distant view of Herodium, King Herod's hilltop palace-fortress set in the Judean desert - Bethlehem


palestine80The Milk Grotto Chapel is a short walk from Manger Square along Milk Grotto Street - Bethlehem


palestine81Tradition says while Mary nursed Jesus at the site of the Milk Grotto Chapel, a drop of milk dropped to the ground, turning the red rock white - Bethlehem














palestine82The Old Town is a compact area with several churches and a souq (market) - Bethlehem














palestine85A quiet part of the Old Town near the Lutheran Christmas Church - Bethlehem


palestine83It's estimated that today less than 40% of Bethlehem's population is Christian, a major decline on the 85% just after World War II


palestine4Rachel's Tomb is a Jewish holy site sat incongruously next to the Separation Wall, on the Israeli side - Bethlehem

It's not possible to follow the wall and walk from the Bethlehem 300 checkpoint to the tomb (Israeli soldiers: because 'it's dangerous, the Arabs throw things'). They flagged down a female driver with Israeli registration plates who drove me the 500m to the tomb


palestine87Hebron is a 45minute service taxi ride south of Bethlehem














palestine88Hebron is a messed up city. It's divided in two: the Palestinian controlled H1 area, and the Israeli H2 area. This is the market on the Palestinian side














palestine94The old souk is the most appealing part of the city - Hebron


palestine95Flags of Palestine hang from the arches of the Ottoman era souq - Hebron


palestine92This Palestinian fruit and vegetable market was shut down by the Israelis - Hebron















palestine91Abandoned homes and shops in the old souk - Hebron














palestine90The closures left this guy to open a makeshift stall further inside the souq - Hebron


palestine99Directly above the old souk is a Jewish settlement where settlers throw rubbish on the cage wire below. Stories of urine, bleach, rotten food and other liquids are not uncommon. You can't make it out in the photo but through the wire an Israeli soldier is looking at me from a watchtower - Hebron


palestine100A Palestinian market stall holder working below the settlement - Hebron














palestine101Head for the Ibrahimi Mosque/Tomb of the Patriarchs via this checkpoint. Empty your pockets, go through the scanner, wait for the buzzer to allow you through, present your ID.
Hebron was the only place where Israeli soldiers asked my religion












palestine102Straight after the checkpoint is the Ibrahami Mosque (to Muslims) or Tomb of the Patriarchs (to Jews), one of the holiest sites for both religions.

Since the 1994 massacre of Muslims inside the mosque by Baruch Goldstein, security dictates the site is divided into Muslim and Jewish sections. Soldiers stand guard asking for ID and religion: Muslims to the left, Jews to the right. Non-Jews/Muslims can gatecrash both - Hebron


palestine104Muslims (and non-Jews) enter the Ibrahami Mosque, said to hold the remains of the Prophet Abraham - Hebron


palestine105Peer through the caged window to view Abraham's Tomb - Hebron














palestine125And exactly the same but from the Jewish side - Hebron














palestine123The Jewish entrance to the Tomb of the Patriarchs - Hebron


palestine126View of the city from the Tomb - Hebron


palestine106Shuhada Street is now infamous for being a ghost town - Hebron















palestine107Two Israeli soldiers stand on the corner of Shuhada Street. It's another place to bring out the passport/ID but Palestinians can't go any further - Hebron













palestine108Shuhada Street has been closed to Palestinians since 2000. So what was a lively market hub became a ghost town, with Palestinian shops and offices being shut down. Only those who still have homes can enter, via designated crossings - Hebron


palestine120The Hebron Jewish community explain the store closures on these concrete barriers: 'After Arabs began the Second Intifada (Palestinian uprising) in September 2000, attacking, wounding and murdering Jews on this road' - Shuhada Street, Hebron


palestine118A series of Shuhada Street murals detail Hebron's history from a Jewish (or rather a Hebron Jewish settler) perspective - Hebron














palestine117The mural reads: 'Destruction. The 1929 riots: Arab marauders slaughter Jews. The community is uprooted and destroyed' - Shuhada Street, Hebron













palestine112Hebron's Jewish settlers may be hardline but not all soldiers are sympathetic to their cause. Breakingthesilence is a website where 'Israeli soldiers talk about the occupied territories' - Hebron


palestine113Concrete blocks dividing Hebron at Shuhada Street


palestine121Next to the Mosque is the Gutnick Centre, a Jewish cultural centre founded by Joseph 'Diamond Joe' Gutnick. The Ultra-Orthodox Australian businessman has bankrolled Jewish setttlements - Hebron













palestine130'Adopt a Soldier' poster at the Gutnick Centre. Pay 65 Shekels for a soldier's food coupon - Hebron


















palestine131Hebron was the only place where I saw (volunteer?) vans, left, driving around the city providing food and refreshments for Israeli soldiers


palestine132Waiting with settlers for the bullet-proof Israeli bus 160 to Jerusalem. In West Bank there's Israeli only and Palestinian only roads (also check out the B'Tselem website). As a tourist if you have an Israeli hire car, Jericho and Ramallah - for example - are likely to be off-limits (yellow plate = Israeli, green plate = Palestinian) - Hebron



Website and content Copyright © 2008-2017 Mark Wilkinson. All rights reserved.


LINKS - Palestine tourist board - B'Tselem campaigns for 'Human Rights in the Occupied Territories' - Israeli soldiers speak out


I am not responsible for the content of external websites.


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