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 $100 for low-income/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.

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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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Encounter welcomes all your ques­tions, comments, stories, and queries.

For general inquiries, including upcoming program infor­ma­tion and dates, please write to:

info@​encounterprograms.​org

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