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New tourism: learning about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

An alternative tourism market, which offers tourists a chance to join Palestinians in an olive harvest or tour a refugee camp, has developed in Israel, so that tourists can experience the complex reality of this land.
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Enjoying a Sabbath meal at a West Bank settlement, meeting Palestinian artists in Ramallah, popping over to Israel’s border to see the Gaza Strip from there — a growing number of tourists is interested in seeing more than just the regular tourist sites and attractions of the Holy Land. They want to hear about the people living here, Jews and Palestinians alike, and learn about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from up close. These aren’t study groups that come to Israel and the West Bank with some specific educational objective. They are “ordinary” tourists, who are taking a break from their busy lives, and paying good money to boot, just to experience the complex realities of this land for themselves. What they find is light-years away from any glittery ad campaign.

It is not just educational or political groups such as anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence that now offer alternative tours of contested areas such as Hebron. Various companies offer fascinating tours of Israel, the West Bank, and the Palestinian territories, bringing tourists to places that few Israelis have actually seen. For example, Green Olive Tours offers tourists a chance to participate in the olive harvest with Palestinians, visit the old city in Nablus and see street artist Banksy’s work in Ramallah as part of their daily tours. In contrast, Mejdi Tours takes tour groups to visit Jewish settlements and Palestinian villages, and offers a rich cultural program that focuses, among other things, on the works of Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai and Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

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