Frequently Asked Questions

You’re read­ing FAQs on Encounter Tours in the Middle East. You can also read more about Encounter’s mission.

Who is eligi­ble?
Can Israelis partic­i­pate in Encounter programs in the West Bank?
Why should I go?
Who do we meet with in Palestinian commu­ni­ties?
Is it safe?
Am I required to have health insur­ance?
Will my insur­ance cover me while I’m in the West Bank?
What does a typi­cal day look like?
What distin­guishes an advanced trip from a begin­ners trip?
When do trips take place?
What do we eat? Is the food kosher?
What does it cost?
How does group prayer work?
What are the accom­mo­da­tions like?
Is the trip appro­pri­ate for chil­dren?
Is this a dialogue or a coex­is­tence trip?

Who is eligible for Encounter?

Encounter welcomes the diver­sity of lead­ers in the Jewish community—rabbis and rabbini­cal students, Federation exec­u­tives and other commu­nal profes­sion­als, phil­an­thropists and lay lead­ers, Jewish educa­tors and social entre­pre­neurs. Participants span the polit­i­cal spec­trum from right to left and prac­tice Judaism within all the major denom­i­na­tions (and outside of them). Check our partic­i­pant profiles to learn more about who goes on Encounter.

Can Israelis participate in Encounter programs in the West Bank?

Unfortunately, Israeli law prohibits Israeli citi­zens from trav­el­ing to Areas A of the West Bank (Palestinian popu­la­tion centers under Palestinian Authority), prevent­ing us from includ­ing Israeli partic­i­pants in most of our trips (includ­ing dual-citi­zens who carry both Israeli and foreign citi­zen­ship).

However, we offer occa­sional programs in Areas B and C of the West Bank, where Israelis are free to travel. Check the sched­ule of upcom­ing tours or contact us if you are Israeli and would like to learn more about partic­i­pat­ing.

Why should I go?

Encounter trips offer unpar­al­leled access to Palestinian life and thought­ful dialogue with other Jewish lead­ers about the complex­i­ties of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict— all on the basis of face-to-face contact with ordi­nary and influ­en­tial Palestinians. Encounter alumni say:

Encounter has given me a small model of what peace through, not despite, diver­sity can look like.”
–-JTS Rabbinical Student

Going on Encounter was the best thing I did this year in Israel.  The program moved me, inspired me, restored me with hope.”
–-Senior staff educa­tor, Camp Ramah

This was a double encounter – I not only listened to Palestinians for the first time in my life, I learned how to listen for the first time to other Jews who think radi­cally differ­ent things from me.”
–-Rachel, Teach for America

Each of our alumni has their own story about why they came and what they took from the expe­ri­ence–browse alumni testi­mo­ni­als. To learn about our broader vision, click here.

Who do we meet with in Palestinian communities? Are they really representative?

Palestinian lead­ers on Encounter tours repre­sent the multi­ple sectors and many subgroups of Palestinian soci­ety, includ­ing Muslims and Christians; women and men; NGO direc­tors, sheikhs, school prin­ci­pals, busi­ness lead­ers, polit­i­cal nego­tia­tors, elected offi­cials, and youth lead­ers. They present diver­gent polit­i­cal posi­tions on key issues from the right of return to the future of Jerusalem, as well as markedly differ­ent polit­i­cal strate­gies.

Is it safe?

The safety and well being of our partic­i­pants is Encounter’s high­est prior­ity. We plan trips with tremen­dous caution to provide our partic­i­pants with back­ground knowl­edge and guide­lines for the safest possi­ble trip, and we have devel­oped our secu­rity measures in consul­ta­tion with American, Israeli and Palestinian part­ners. To learn more about our safety precau­tions, please read the Safety Information page.

Am I required to have health insurance?
Will my health insurance cover me while I’m in the West Bank?

As part of the trip tuition, Encounter purchases addi­tional health and trav­el­ers insur­ance that covers all partic­i­pants in Palestinian areas of the West Bank. In addi­tion, Encounter requires that all partic­i­pants have health insur­ance provid­ing basic cover­age for the dura­tion of their stay in Israel, regard­less of whether that insur­ance also covers them in the West Bank. Different insur­ance poli­cies offer vari­ous levels of cover­age while trav­el­ing in the West Bank. Most Israeli health insur­ance does not provide cover­age in Palestinian areas of the West Bank. Some US poli­cies do and some do not; check with your carrier to learn more. Feel free to contact us if you have any ques­tions about insur­ance.

What does a typical day look like?

Meet with the found­ing direc­tor and students of an elemen­tary school dedi­cated to peace and democ­racy educa­tion; tour Bethlehem and the sepa­ra­tion barrier; hear the personal stories of inspir­ing grass­roots activists, engage in fun activ­i­ties with Palestinian youth lead­ers; hear a polit­i­cal presen­ta­tion from an insider to peace nego­ti­a­tions; dance to tradi­tional Palestinian music with host fami­lies. For a sense of what a full Encounter program looks like, follow these links to sample sched­ules for our programs in Bethlehem, Hebron, and East Jerusalem.

What distinguishes an “advanced trip” from a “beginners’ trip”?

Our begin­ners’ trips are geared towards Jewish lead­ers who have not yet been to Palestinian terri­tory with Encounter. Advanced trips are geared towards alumni whom we bring back on a second or third trip to deepen their under­stand­ing of the situ­a­tion and to culti­vate their lead­er­ship devel­op­ment.

When do trips take place?

We have one trip each month. Many of these are “open enroll­ment” trips that any eligi­ble Jewish lead­ers may apply to join. We also run a limited number of private, tailored trips for visit­ing dele­ga­tions, confer­ences, and missions of promi­nent Jewish lead­ers. Click here to learn more about our dele­ga­tion program­ming.

Check the sched­ule for upcom­ing trips.

What do we eat? Is the food kosher?

Participants may choose to eat vege­tar­ian meals prepared in Palestinian restau­rants or meals prepared in kosher restau­rants and kitchens in Jerusalem.

All food served on Encounter programs is deli­cious, vege­tar­ian Middle Eastern fare. Most meals include an array of color­ful cold salads (hummus, tabouleh, Turkish salad, cabbage salad, etc.) and a hot dish such as makloubeh (rice cooked with roasted vegeta­bles).

What are the accommodations like?

All overnight Encounter trips include two accom­mo­da­tion options: home hospi­tal­ity or hotel. Trip cost is not affected by your choice of accom­mo­da­tions.

Home hospi­tal­ity is a unique oppor­tu­nity to: stay overnight in the home of a Palestinian family with another Encounter partic­i­pant; visit infor­mally with your hosts over tea, dessert, and break­fast; and hear perspec­tives “on the street” to comple­ment the offi­cial speak­ers and lead­ing activists who address the Encounter group over the course of the day. Home hospi­tal­ity is coor­di­nated as a bed and break­fast program by one of our Palestinian part­ners; we have worked closely with all of the host fami­lies, and have strong, long-stand­ing rela­tion­ships with them.

The second option is to stay in a local hotel (3-star), where the Encounter staff also stays. Participants who choose to stay at the hotel are typi­cally assigned to doubles. If you’d like a private room, mention that in your appli­ca­tion.

What does it cost?

The actual cost of Encounter trips fall within a range of $400-$800 per partic­i­pant depend­ing on the specific trip. Through the gener­ous support of our support­ers, we are able to offer heav­ily subsi­dized rates for almost all of our trips. Check the announce­ment for the specific trip you’d like to attend to see the rate for that trip, typi­cally a slid­ing scale of $400-$800 for general partic­i­pants and $250 for young profes­sion­al­s/­full-time students. To help us sustain and expand Encounter’s monthly program­ming, please support our work.

Why do Encounter trips include prayer? Do I have to participate?
How does group prayer work?

Encounter programs include group prayer and reflec­tion, which partic­i­pants frequently cite as a high­light of their trip. We include prayer times so that our partic­i­pants, many of whom pray regu­larly, may partic­i­pate fully in Encounter while embrac­ing their prac­tice and commit­ments. We also include prayer because, as a Jewish orga­ni­za­tion, we see Jewish prayer as support­ing and enhanc­ing the core program­matic expe­ri­ence of listen­ing to Palestinian perspec­tives. All prayer services are optional. If you prefer to talk with other partic­i­pants, take a coffee break, jour­nal privately or pray on your own, you are invited to do so.

Encounter partic­i­pants bring a diverse array of reli­gious and prayer prac­tices, and we arrange prayer so that as many partic­i­pants as possi­ble can partic­i­pate fully based on the pref­er­ences they indi­cate when they sign up. Over the course of each program there are a vari­ety of prayer styles and orien­ta­tions, and we commu­ni­cate these arrange­ments in advance. There are typi­cally three seat­ing areas (men, women, and mixed/undefined); some services are led exclu­sively by men, and some have egal­i­tar­ian lead­er­ship.

Is the trip appropriate for children?

We regret that Encounter is not appro­pri­ate for chil­dren. Encounter programs are intense, full days of speak­ers, presen­ta­tions and group conver­sa­tions, which likely exceed children’s patience, atten­tion spans, and analyt­i­cal capac­i­ties. We regret that we cannot accom­mo­date anyone under the age of 18 with­out parental accom­pa­ni­ment (for mature teenagers).

Are we a dialogue or coexistence group?

Encounter trips are not a forum for formal dialogue between Jews and Palestinians. We call our trips “listen­ing tours,” oppor­tu­ni­ties to fully under­stand and explore the Palestinian perspec­tive. That being said, there is ample oppor­tu­nity to have infor­mal conver­sa­tions with Palestinian fami­lies and youth, during dinner and danc­ing, during ice-breaker games, and at home stays. Our programs also provide a unique oppor­tu­nity for dialogue between rabbis, commu­nal profes­sion­als, phil­an­thropists, Jewish educa­tors and other Jewish lead­ers from diverse back­grounds and views.


Our Mission

Encounter is an edu­ca­tional orga­ni­za­tion dedi­cated to strength­ening the capacity of the Jewish people to be construc­tive agents of change in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Moti­vated by the relent­less Jew­ish pur­suit of hokhma (wis­dom) and binah (under­stand­ing), Encounter cul­ti­vates informed Jew­ish lead­er­ship on the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict by bring­ing...

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