Palestine is under an illegal military occupation. Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza have huge restrictions placed on their freedom of movement and many are unable to travel. So visiting Palestine and the refugee camps in the Middle East is an important act of solidarity. While it is very difficult to travel to Gaza it is relatively easy to go to the West Bank. You can see for yourself the situation on the ground and act as a “multiplier” by returning and talking to others, formally and informally, about what you’ve seen.
There are many ways of visiting Palestine, and many activities that you can undertake while you are there. Solidarity activities include joining protests against the occupation and volunteering in activities such as olive harvesting and teaching. Going on an educational tour will help to equip you to speak about the situation on your return and to increase awareness in the UK about the situation in Palestine.
Palestine is also an excellent place to study Arabic. Of course with the historical sites, good food and wonderful climate, Palestine is also a great destination for a holiday. Those who visit Palestine learn more about the Palestinians’ life under occupation, while experiencing the country’s rich culture, history and scenery. These visits also result in lasting, lifelong friendships.
The following links provide information on how to organise a trip to Palestine:
- The Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities – Tourism.
- Alternative Tourism Group – Tourism.
- The Holy Land Trust – Organises a summer camp, stay with local families while learning the language or doing volunteer work in Bethlehem.
- Zaytoun – Coordinates volunteer olive harvest tours with International Women’s Peace Service.
- The Olive Co-operative – Volunteer with the olive harvest. Stay with a local family in Bethlehem, and take Arabic classes – beginners to advanced.
- The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) – Study tours.
- Universities Educational Exchange with Palestinians (UNIPAL) – Volunteer English teaching.
- International Solidarity Movement – Protests.
- Labour2Palestine – Political visits for Labour Party members.
- Living Stones – Christian pilgrimages.
- Siraj Centre for Holy Land Studies – Travel programs, interfaith, ecumenical dialogue, culture and youth exchange programmes. Study Arabic.
- Zyara – Trips organised twice a year with tours, volunteering and cultural experiences
For more details about twinning groups visit the Britain Palestine Twinning Network website.
The Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association (Orfa), with members in Ramallah was set up on the initiative of members of Oxford PSC. It has been successful in encouraging friendship links between individuals and organisations in each city. Women from Ramallah have spoken at International Women’s’ Day in Oxford. Young People from Al Amari have twice visited Oxford and spoken at local schools, mosques and Churches,at Oxfam, and involved themselves in all kinds of activities with local young people. A visit to Ramallah by young people from Oxford is now being organised. Links with local councillors and with many other people were encouraged by the visit of Janet Michael, Mayor of Ramallah. Visits and communication continues and friendship established. The Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association.
Brighton Tubas Friendship and Solidarity Group. This is a network launched in April 2006 fostering links between community organisations in Tubas, the Jordan Valley and Brighton.
The Tubas Region, which includes the Northern Jordan Valley, is an area which Israel is ethnically cleansing and annexing for illegal settlements which produce fruit, herbs and vegetables for the UK market, while Palestinian farmers have their land and water confiscated for Israeli use.
The group has worked with Amnesty International, the Quakers, Sussex Action for Peace, Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Muslim Women’s Group, Unison, Sussex University Students Union and Palestine Society, Students at Brighton University, Brighton Arabic School and a selection of primary and secondary schools. A delegation from Tubas has visited Brighton and spoken to a wide range of groups about the situation in Palestine. They are hoping to make productive links with many other organisations in Brighton.