Before Your Trip
“I was quite in awe of the thoughtfulness that went into the program, and your presence, clarity, and gentle focus as leaders.”
– Josh, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Pardes (Read more testimonials)
Israeli law prohibits Israeli citizens from traveling to most Palestinian population centers in the West Bank. Since those areas are the focus of Encounter’s programs, we are generally unable to accept Israelis as participants in the program. A limited number of our programs each year go to areas that are not prohibited for Israeli citizens; please contact us for more information.
To travel from Israel to the West Bank, you must have a valid passport with a current Israeli visa or stamp. (Your arrival stamp is good for a three-month tourist visit.) As crossing points, your passport may be checked for an up-to-date visa, but will not be stamped, and Israel does not consider travel in the West Bank as an entrance or exit from the country. Encounter programs travel to Palestinian cities in a private bus, and pass through checkpoints as a group.
Israeli shekels are the primary currency used in the West Bank, although American dollars and euros are sometimes accepted by businesses in tourist-heavy areas (such as Bethlehem).
International tourism in the West Bank is popular, and Encounter groups blend in with other international groups. For example, more than one million tourists visited Bethlehem in 2009. In the same year, more than 250 Jewish leaders traveled to Bethlehem on an Encounter program.
In our experience, a little bit of Arabic can go a long way. Palestinians will appreciate your effort to learn and use a few basic greetings.
|“Peace unto you”
Good morning (reply)
The safety and security of Encounter’s participants is our highest priority. Encounter plans trips with tremendous caution to provide our participants with background knowledge and guidelines for the safest possible trip.
Safety risks are an inherent component of any travel experience anywhere in the world, including Israel and the West Bank. Each participant must make the decision to participate in an Encounter trip for him or herself.
Here are a number of security measures we have in place to protect our groups. We’re happy to discuss any of these measures with you; please contact us with any questions.
- Encounter travels as a group on the bus with visible Palestinian partners who are known to Encounter and well-known in the Palestinian community. In doing so, Encounter participants are identified to Palestinian onlookers as a friendly rather than invasive presence.
- Encounter participants travel in a group, primarily in contained environments and known locations. Encounter participants are prohibited from leaving the group to walk in public areas-– whether to go shopping or walking around.
- Encounter participants are asked not to display external signs of Jewish identity while in public places-– including kippot or tzitzit-– and are asked to refrain from speaking Hebrew while in public places. Encounter participants appear like any of the other many international tourist groups that frequent Bethlehem.
- The majority of the places Encounter visits are known areas that Encounter trips have traveled to previously, and the majority of these locations are areas where international tourists travel.
- Encounter recommends that participants register with their embassy for the duration of their time in Israel and the West Bank, and that they read their embassy’s suggestions regarding travel and safety. Most embassies consider Israel and the West Bank as one region, so it is only necessary to register once for an entire trip; you don’t need to register your Encounter trip separately. To register with your embassy, follow the links below to the sign-up process for your country, or search for your country’s embassy online.