6 Places To Visit in Palestine
With news of constant occupation and confrontations happening in Palestine, any average person would be deterred from visiting. However, Palestine is a country full of history, culture, and humanity, with various locations holding significance in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Whenever possible for outsiders, it is more important than ever to travel there to ensure their existence in reality, in memories, and in history, while helping to increase their livelihood through the travel economy.
Aldous Huxley once said, “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” Hence, the best way to see Palestine is to visit Palestine.
Below are the top 6 places for your first visit to Palestine that will take you beyond the usual paths.
#6: Hirbawi, Hebron
This is a less-known touristy spot, and more known for its export. Hirbawi is the last and only authentic kuffiya manufacturer in Palestine. Its main export, the kuffiya, is held in high esteem compared to the duplicates and replicas found anywhere else, due to its high quality and also as the main producer of the kuffiya designed with Palestinian symbolisms.
Hirbawi’s kuffiya implements the three elements of livelihood (fishnet pattern), trade routes (lines cutting through the fishnet shape), and resilience (olive leaves as the symbol of the Palestinian’s strength). For those interested in their kuffiya, you can also check their website, hirbawi.ps, to find out if there’s any resellers near you. The small factory itself is located in Hebron City, nearby Palestine Polytechnic University and Alia Palestinian-Hebron Hospital. You can visit for free, with the best time to visit being between 8am to 3pm when the machines are running, while the shop closes at 8pm.
#5 Canaan Fair Trade Factory, Jenin
Did you know that Palestine has olive trees that are almost 3,000 years old? As a place abundant with olive trees and orchards – to the point that olive harvesting deserves its own tours in the country – it makes sense that one of the tourist attractions is an olive oil factory.
Canaan Fair Trade was founded by a Palestinian-American named Nasser Abufarha on 2004, in the village of Burqin, west of Jenin. It is the source of livelihood for more than 2,000 Palestinian farmers from 52 villages, and is represented by the Palestine Fair Trade Association. The organisation also has a scholarship program for the farmers’ children, which covers 4 years full-tuition to West Bank universities for four students each year.
Open to tourists, the company employs green and sustainable farming. Among the products manufactured here are authentic Palestine olive oil, couscous, honey, za’atar spice mix, and tahini paste. They also provide fresh vegetable deliveries to nearby cities. Meanwhile, their products are available online at canaanpalestine.com, where you can also find out how to visit them. You can also follow them on their Facebook page for updates.
#4 Tell es-Sultan, Jericho
This one will pique the interest of archeology enthusiasts out there. Tell es-Sultan (not to be confused with Tel al-Sultan – the refugee camp near Gaza strip, or Tell Sultan – a village in Syria), also known as Ancient Jericho, is one of the oldest cities in the world, dating back to 10 millennium BC.
A tell is a human-built mound made of earth and stone. Differing from normal mounds that are built within a single period of time, a tell consists of the remains of a city, built and rebuilt over hundreds or thousands of years.
The age of its build earned it a place as a UNESCO-nominated archaeological site, with the main attraction of Tel as-Sultan being the Tower of Jericho, which is one of the earliest stone monuments made by mankind. It was built by unknown people, and thought to be either for religious purposes, for defense, or as an astronomical observatory, and is 23 feet in height with an internal staircase.
Within the area is also the Spring of Elisha (Prophet Ilyas), also called Ein es-Sultan – one of the first settlements built near ancient Jericho, dating back to 8000 BC. Currently Ein as-Sultan is the location of a village and Palestinian refugee camp.
#3 Hisham Palace, Jericho
A short distance from Tell es-Sultan is another archeological site worth visiting. This site was built by the 10th Umayyad caliph, Hisham Ibn Abd al Malik, as his winter residence, during the 8th century. Famous for its vivid mosaic architecture and thermal bathhouse – employing the most advanced technology at the time – Hisham Palace was once revered as the “Versailles of the Middle East”.
Its bathhouse, the Great Bath, has an 825-square-metre floor adorned with intricate mosaic decoration, making it the largest in the Middle East. The mosaic floor had stood against the testament of time as it was buried in sand, thus protected from corrosion throughout the years.
#2 Bethlehem City
While Palestine is a Muslim country, the city of Bethlehem is home to the largest Arab Christian community in the world. This is, of course, due to its historical and religious link as Bethlehem is considered the birthplace of Jesus Christ.
The Church of Nativity is also one of the oldest churches in the world. Located at the heart of Bethlehem, Manger Square, inside the church is the Grotto of Nativity, marked as the spot where Jesus was born. Bethlehem hosts many cultural centres and events, regularly held throughout the city.
#1 Al-Aqsa, Jerusalem
No list of Palestinian places to visit is complete without mentioning the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The third most important Islamic site after Makkah and Madinah in Saudi Arabia, the Al-Aqsa would be the first and foremost place to cross a person’s mind when thinking of visiting Palestine.
Generally mistaken as the golden-domed building at the centre, known as the Dome of The Rock – or Temple Mount for the Jews, Al-Aqsa actually refers to the whole area of sanctuary. For Muslims, this place is important as it was the first qibla (direction of prayer) before Makkah, and as the place where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) travelled on the night of Isra’ Mikraj. It is also mentioned in a hadith that one prayer in Masjid al-Aqsa is equivalent to 500 prayers in other mosques.
There is a part of the sanctuary called Ha’it al-Buraq (the wall of Buraq) related to the sunnah where Prophet Muhammad ascended for Mikraj on a creature called Buraq. Meanwhile, for the Zionist Jews, this is also the place that is prophesied to be where their third temple will be built. Nonetheless, its historical and religious importance is what makes Masjid al-Aqsa one of the most important and must-visit places in Palestine. Should you be interested to visit Masjid al-Aqsa, you can get information regarding available tour groups at visitmasjidalaqsa.com.
Is That All?
To be honest, there is an inexhaustible list of places to visit in Palestine. Aside from the spots mentioned here, there are many activities to do (such as olive harvesting) and trails to walk. The best way to experience them is by going with a tour or volunteer groups. For more information on what you can do and where you can go, you can visit these websites:
- Welcome to Palestine (welcometopalestine.com)
- Travel Palestine (travelpalestine.ps)
- Grassroots Al-Quds (grassrootsalquds.net)
- To Be There In Palestine ( tobe-there.com)
- Alternative Tourist Group Study Center (Atg.ps)
- Zaytoun (zaytoun.uk/visit-palestine/)
- Mahmiyat (mahmiyat.ps)
- Visit Palestine (visitpalestine.ps)
- Visit Masjid Al-Aqsa (visitmasjidalaqsa.com)
- Volunteer in Palestine (volunteerinpalestine.org)
- Palestine Trails (palestinetrails.com)
Wait, Is It Safe To Travel To Palestine? And How To Travel To Palestine?
Due to the occupation, it can be difficult, bureaucracy-wise. Palestine does not have its own airport due to iy being destroyed during past attacks. As such, there are currently two ways to enter Palestine: One is from Jordan through the King Hussein Bridge crossing to West Bank, and another is from Egypt through the Rafah crossing to Gaza.
Due to the visa requirement for entering Palestine, it is advised to enter by following certain volunteer groups as it is difficult to enter simply for visiting. Nevertheless, there are plenty of tourism plans and opportunities that will ease the journey to go there. Currently the West Bank area is open for study and agriculture (such as olive harvest tours), whereas the Gaza strip is open only for NGO workers and journalists. Most of the tourist spots listed here are located in the West Bank.
Tourism is an important sector for any country. Not only would it help the economy, it also helps by put a lesser-known country on the map and acknowledges its existence in the world. It is crushing to see such beautiful historical places fade away due to destruction and conflict. So, if there’s anywhere you think should be on your travel list, why not give #VisitPalestine a think?
Related read: Jejak Islam Di Sepanyol
Liana is your non-descript Muslim Malaysian girl who lurks in the shadow as a wannabe ninja. When she’s done overcoming her anxiety and finally orders that ‘teh o’, you’ll find her scribbling furiously in her notebook about her observation of sights and sounds, burning them into written memories in case of amnesia.