What’s the West Bank? If you’ve never visited Israel, it’s a totally valid question! The West Bank is one of two Palestinian Territories (the other is the Gaza Strip) within the borders of what is recognized as Israel according to the United Nations. The West Bank is literally the Palestinian Territory on the west side, or West Bank, of the Jordan River. Here are a few things to know to get you started in your trip planning for Israel and the Holy Land!
Update: We have a podcast! The Israel Travel Podcast is now live on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!
The West Bank is Big
So, the West Bank is more than just the land on the actual West Bank of the Jordan River. The area actually cuts almost all the way to the Mediterranean side of Israel in some areas. You’ll also notice it cuts in sharply toward Jerusalem, because that particular city is divided between Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
It’s all complicated, but the important thing to know is that the West Bank is a large area. You will almost certainly want to see some places within its borders, so just be prepared. (You’re here and reading this, so you’re already doing great!)
Read next: 5 Things to Know Before You Visit Jerusalem
You’ll Need to Bring Your Passport
If you’re coming from the Israeli side of the border, you won’t need your passport to enter the West Bank. However, you may need it on your way from the West Bank back into the Israeli side. It all depends on your mode of transportation and who is checking papers at the border when you cross. As long as you do not have an Israeli passport, you won’t have any trouble. Just keep it with you, and you’ll breeze through!
Also helpful: Your Ultimate Guide to Passports
There are Plenty of Biblical Sites to Visit Here
I know what you might be thinking. Why would I want to visit Palestine? I’m here for the Biblical sites! Well… If Bethlehem, Jericho, Jesus’ Baptismal Site, and the Dead Sea Scrolls Caves are on your list of places to go in Israel, you will be heading into the West Bank!
You don’t need to be worried about it, but if you have opinions, you will need to keep your opinions to yourself. Unless you’re living in Israel or Palestine, are of Jewish or Palestinian descent, or have been studying the conflict for years already, your best course of action will be to say less than you think, and listen much more. There is a lot to learn about the current situation, as well as about your own faith at the Biblical sites in the West Bank.
Keep reading: 10 Things to Know Before You Visit Israel and Palestine
Your Rental Car is Not Allowed
Oh, you want to explore the West Bank on your own? Nope! Sorry. If you rent a car in Israel, you will not be able to drive it across the border. If you do, you will have voided your car rental contract. In any case, guards at the border will be able to tell where your car belongs according to its license plate on the front and back of the car, so you won’t be able to fool them and do it anyway.
Honestly, you’re much better off with a guide and driver or going on a tour anywhere you go in Israel anyway. Let someone else, with the appropriate paperwork, do the driving!
You Israeli Guide Will Not Guide You Here
Israeli tour guides are not allowed to guide groups in the West Bank. Seems unfair, right? Maybe, until you realize that Palestinian tour guides are also not allowed to guide in Israel. There are exceptions, but they are few and hard to come by. This makes logistics kind of complicated for visitors.
This is just one of the many logistical reasons why you’ll want to consider going to Israel and Palestine with a tour company like Elevation Journeys. You want to do this trip the right way, the first time. Letting someone who knows the ropes arrange your plans will make the whole trip easier and more efficient for you!
Read next: The Things Your Tour Guide Wishes You Knew
Want more? Check out my dedicated Israel and Palestine Page!
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