Where To Go + What To Do: Israel + Palestine
Eight years ago K traveled to her all time favorite destination: Israel + Palestine. K got the opportunity to visit this beautiful region while she was in high school to learn more about the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict that she had been studying in her history class. She quickly fell in love with Israel + Palestine + has just been waiting for the chance to return to visit. Until then, however, she’s here to share her tips + tricks of how to travel this country!
If you plan on visiting religious holy sites, such as Dome of the Rock, make sure to dress conservatively. You will be asked to leave if your chest and shoulders are not covered. K would also recommend packing a light sweater or scarf in your day bag so that you always have an extra layer if needed. When K was visiting she was asked to cover up more despite having her shoulders covered.
If you’re traveling from a country like the United States, or similar, chances are there will be customs (such as dressing more conservatively) that may be out of the ordinary to you. Remember, you are a visitor + it’s important that you respect their cultural norms, even if they do not make sense to you - they don’t have to.
Get Out + Explore
This was one of K’s favorite trips simply because everything was unlike she had ever seen before. While there are many holy sites in Israel + Palestine, there’s also so much history there both past + present. Even the holy sites are bound to be beautiful + interesting to those of you who are not religious. Additionally, take this time to talk to the locals about their perspectives of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict. This was one of the most eye opening experience K has had - getting to talk with youth in both Jerusalem + Bethlehem to learn more about their opinions on the conflict that you hear so much about in the news.
Keep An Eye Out
If you’re traveling alone, or are a group of female travelers, make sure to keep an eye out for yourself + your friends. K visited with a group of young women from her high school + many shopkeepers in the old city of Jerusalem stopped her + the other young women in the group. Most of it is harmless, but if something doesn’t sit well with you, trust your gut + move along.
Eat All the Food
After eating the hummus in Jerusalem, Trader Joe’s hummus has been ruined for K. The food here is so delicious + K promises you won’t regret eating all the falafel + hummus - as well as the fresh squeezed juice from the street stalls!
If you are planning a trip to Israel or Palestine, here are K’s top suggestions for what to do:
Dome of the Rock: An Islamic shrine on Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, this is one of the most beautiful sites K has seen. Keep in mind that this is an area where you will have to have your shoulder/chest covered + that you may not enter the shrine if you are not Muslim.
The Western Wall/The Wailing Wall: Originally built as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple by Herod the Great, it is considered holy by many due to its connection to the Temple Mount. Men and women have separate areas of the wall to pray, + if you are visiting make sure you are respectful of those there to pray.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre: This church is said to be home to two of the holiest sites in Christianity: where Jesus was crucified + Jesus’ tomb. Even if you are not religious, the church is stunning + one of the largest K has visited. There are multiple services happening throughout the church in a wide variety of languages (K heard some in Latin, Italian + English while she was there).
Masada: Herod the Great built two palaces on this mountain south of Jerusalem + it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’re visiting the Dead Sea this is worth a pit stop before or after. K would recommend trying to get there early in the day to avoid the heat - especially if you plan on hiking Masada as opposed to taking the cable car up. The hike up takes about 60-90 minutes to hike.
Dead Sea: More than 400m below sea level, The Dead Sea is the lowest point on dry land. It is a salt lake that has such high levels of salt that it makes it easy to float with no effort in the water. The mud surrounding The Dead Sea is believed to be full of healthy minerals that are said to be a cure all for everything from psoriasis to back pain.
Yad Vashem: Yad Vashem is a Holocaust Memorial Museum located in Jerusalem that does not charge admission. It was one of the most powerful experiences K has had to date. The museum is a prism triangle + is said to make the attendees feel more claustrophobic, as those who lived during the Holocaust would have felt. If you visit one site during your visit, K would recommend this one.
Israeli West Bank Barrier/Separation Wall: There are differing opinions on the wall constructed along the West Bank, but K highly recommends it as a way to learn more about the present history of the region + inform yourself. Keep in mind that there will be checkpoints to cross the wall, + you will need to show identification like it is a national border crossing. Much of the wall is covered in graffiti - including a piece by the infamous Banksy.
Have you been to Israel or Palestine? If so, let us know in the comments below what your favorite spots in this beautiful region are!