Palestinian Freedom Ride Registration
by ray goodlass
I’ve just registered for the Palestinian Freedom Ride, scheduled for March 2014. It is organised by the Freedom theatre, based in the Jenin Refugee Camp. I’m really looking forward to it, as it will be a small contribution of mine to the peace process.
I was only able to pay a brief visit to the Freedom Theatre when I was last in Palestine, so this fortnight long project will be a chance to experience the Freedom Theatre’s work in some depth, and to work with them on a very worthwhile project.
Here are the full details of the Freedom Ride:
MARCH FREEDOM RIDE
17 – 29 MARCH 2014
Welcome onboard the Freedom Bus!
We hope that this information will be helpful in your preparations. We encourage you to contact us if you have any questions that are not answered by reading through the manual.
The March Freedom Ride commences in Jenin at 9:00am on 17 March 2014 and ends in At-Tuwani (South Hebron Hills) at 6pm on 29 March 2014.
We request that international participants contribute 35 USD per day. This contribution will help to offset production costs. Your contribution will also cover:
- Transport costs during the ride (March 17th – 29th)
- Daily meals. (March 23rd and 24th will include rest days in Beit Sahour. Participants will be expected to cover their own evening meal costs on March 23rd and lunch costs on March 24th)
- Simple accommodation during the ride.
For more information about food and accommodation conditions, please see below.
Please note: The Freedom Bus project is currently facing significant shortfall of funding. In order for us to continue our work with communities around Palestine, we rely on your donations. Please consider supporting our work by making an extra financial contribution.
Entry and departure to/from Palestine
Israel controls all the borders into the occupied Palestinian territories, and thus whether you choose to come through the Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv, or from Jordan, or Egypt, you will need to pass an Israeli border control.
Citizens of certain countries must apply for a visa in advance at the Israeli embassy or consulate in your home country. However, most citizens of European countries and the US can obtain an entry permit valid for three months upon arrival. For more information on the regulations applying to your country of origin, contact the Israeli embassy in your home country. You can find a list of addresses on this website.
Please note that your passport must be valid for a minimum of six months after your departure.
At the airport or border crossing, immigration officers will ask you about the purpose of your visit and where you plan to stay. There are several ways to answer these questions, and it is up to you to choose the one that suits you best. The perhaps easiest option is to say that you are coming as a tourist and that you plan to visit some of the tourist attractions in Israel (be prepared to give some examples), without mentioning that you are going to spend most of your time in occupied Palestine. Another is to say that you are part of a religious congregation and plan to visit some of the holy sites. A third is that you are simply coming to enjoy the sun and sea in Tel Aviv, Netanya or Eilat. In all these cases you may be asked the name of the hotel/s where you are going to stay. If you prefer to say that you are traveling to the West Bank and/or that you are joining the Freedom Bus, you will most probably be asked more questions. If so, keep your answers brief and to the point. It is better not to offer additional information as this can lead to a whole new line of enquiry.
Before leaving the airport or border crossing, make sure that you receive an entry stamp in your passport as it can be difficult to travel around without it.
When leaving the country, you might again be subjected to questioning and baggage checks. These checks are sometimes even more thorough than when entering the country. For this reason, it is advised to send sensitive material such as photos, posters, publications, items with the Palestinian flag or other Palestinian symbols by mail to your home country prior to your departure.
If you leave to Jordan from the King Hussein or Allenby Bridge or to Egypt via Eilat there is normally no questioning or extra checking.
Travel from Ben Gurion airport to Jenin
From Ben Gurion Airport take a shared taxi (in Hebrew Nesher sherut) to Jerusalem. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Damascus Gate. From Damascus Gate there is a bus (Number 18) to Ramallah, which leaves as soon as it is full. The station is located on Nablus road and buses usually run until 7-8 pm. From Ramallah take a shared taxi (in Arabic service) from the central station right where the bus from Jerusalem drops you. In Jenin you arrive at the city center. From there take a private taxi to The Freedom Theatre in Jenin refugee camp.
From Ben Gurion airport, catch a train to the central bus station. From there, catch a sherut to Afula. From Afula catch a taxi to Jalame checkpoint. From Jalame checkpoint, catch a taxi to Jenin. In Jenin you arrive at the city center. From there take a private taxi to The Freedom Theatre in Jenin refugee camp.
It is also possible to order a private taxi from the airport directly to Jenin, for an extra charge of 550 NIS. (You will not be able to take a regular airport taxi all the way to Jenin as most taxis are not allowed to cross over to the West Bank). Please arrange this in advance by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org including your flight details.
Travel from Amman to Jenin
From Amman airport, catch a taxi to the King Hussein border. You will then cross through border control into Israel. From there, catch a private taxi to Afula. From Afula catch a taxi to Jalame checkpoint. From Jalame checkpoint, catch a taxi to Jenin. In Jenin you arrive at the city center. From there take a private taxi to The Freedom Theatre in Jenin refugee camp.
From Amman airport, catch a taxi to the Allenby Bridge. You will then cross through border control into the West Bank. From the border, take a private or shared taxi to Jericho. From Jericho, take a shared taxi to Ramallah. From Ramallah take a shared taxi from the central to Jenin. In Jenin you arrive at the city center. From there take a private taxi to The Freedom Theatre in Jenin refugee camp.
Even people who regularly travel to new places can experience some degree of culture shock. In addition, traveling to a nation under military occupation is unlike traveling to another country. This section aims to introduce you to some of the customs and norms of Palestine as a whole. However, as anywhere in the world, there are many local variations – particularly between more isolated, smaller communities and the large cities – and we do not in any way propose to offer you the full picture.
Palestine is a predominantly Muslim society although there are also large Christian communities, particularly in the Bethlehem area. Some areas are very conservative, others less. Generally larger cities such as Ramallah and Bethlehem are more liberal than small towns, villages and refugee camps.
It is uncommon for foreigners to visit certain areas of Palestine and thus many people will be curious about you. Be prepared to attract attention. Most of it will be positive, as people are generally very friendly and happy to meet people from abroad.
There are strong taboos surrounding intimate relationships and therefore those traveling in couples are advised to refrain from public displays of affection. Generally, one should be restrictive about physical contact with the other sex, such as touching or hugging.
Some religiously devout will not take the hand of a person of the opposite sex when greeting, but instead raise their right palm to the heart. This is not a sign of lack of respect, rather the opposite. If you are unsure whether to shake somebody’s hand or not, you can just wait and see how the other person reacts and follow their example.
It is common for women to greet each other by kissing the other’s cheeks two, three or even four times. Men also kiss close friends on the cheek and sometimes walk arm in arm.
Drinking alcohol in public is not acceptable. In most areas it is very uncommon to see women smoking in public.
For advice on appropriate clothing, see Packing and What to Wear below.
No matter where the Freedom Bus travels, we are convinced that you will find the hospitality and generosity of Palestinians to be a wonderful part of the culture.
Most of the communities we will stay with are economically impoverished and lack basic services including schools, clinics, electricity, telephone lines, running-water or a sewage system. Infrastructure built to meet these needs is frequently demolished under orders issued by the Israeli Civil Administration.
We will be staying in communal spaces – often in the form of large tents or other simple structures. If you prefer more privacy, we recommend that you bring your own tent.
Internet access will rarely be available. Showering facilities will not be regularly available and in some places we will be using temporary, outdoor toilets.
In the middle of the ride (March 23) we will be staying in a guest house in Beit Sahour. Showers, hot water and internet will be available.
Please bring a sleeping bag, pillow and other bedding if possible.
The currency used in Israel and occupied Palestine is the same; New Israel Shekels (NIS). US dollars are the easiest to change, you can exchange USD for NIS with almost no commission. Most other hard currencies as well as traveler’s cheques are also widely accepted. It is advisable to change money in exchange offices, not on the street.
Credit cards are not accepted in most shops or restaurants in occupied Palestine, but ATMs are widely available. Just make sure your credit card company allow you to use their card in the Palestinian Territories and in Israel.
The voltage in Palestine is 220V, the frequency is 50 Hz. The power sockets used in Palestine are three-pole, with either round or flat poles in a triangular arrangement. However, European two-poled plugs fit into most sockets without the use of an adaptor.
Palestine presents no major health hazards for visitors and no extra vaccinations are required. If you have special health concerns, check with your doctor before leaving. Also make sure to notify the organizers in good time before the ride about any health issues you may have.
Pharmacies are readily available in all towns and cities but if you need to take a specific medication we strongly recommend that you bring enough to cover your stay in Palestine. Also bring the ingredient list so that you can find its equivalent at a local pharmacy in case of loss.
Temporary stomach problems can occur due to different bacterial cultures and food environment. There are various remedies available at local pharmacies but you may want to bring something from home that you have used before.
The sun can be very intense and visitors are advised to wear hats and apply sunscreen to protect against over-exposure. Also remember to drink sufficient amounts of water. Tap water is safe to drink in most areas but make sure to check with the organizers when arriving at a new location as the quality may vary, sometimes from one neighborhood to another. Do not drink from wells or streams unless they are clearly marked as safe for drinking. Locally produced mineral water is available in almost all shops.
Mosquitoes are present in some areas. If you are prone to sensitivity there are remedies available at the pharmacies.
Internet and mobile phones
Hotels and guesthouses offer Internet. In most places Internet cafés are common and in larger cities you will be able to find Wifi in regular cafés as well. However, internet will be limited or not available in many of the communities that we will stay in.
If you wish to use your mobile phone during the ride, make sure it works abroad. Also make sure to turn off all data functions such as surfing before you arrive or you may get an expensive phone bill when you return home.
If you prefer to purchase a local SIM card, Jawwal or Wataniya are the most common in the West Bank. These will not work in Israel, whereas Israeli companies such as Cellcom and Orange will not work in most parts of the West Bank.
The official language in Palestine is Arabic. In many places, especially in larger cities and tourist destinations, English is widely understood and spoken. In other areas the level of English skills vary. During the Freedom Ride translation will be available.
A food committee consisting of Freedom Bus participants and community members will be responsible for preparing meals. Our ability to cater for diverse dietary requirements will be limited. Vegetarian and vegan options will however be available.
There will be some small shops offering basic food items, snacks, sweets and drinks.
Packing and What to Wear
Both men and women need to pay attention to how they dress, as dress codes are important. There are local variations but the general rule is that women should wear long-sleeved and loose-fitting clothes that cover as much of the body as possible. It is not appropriate to wear shorts, short skirts or tank tops. Whilst men can wear T-shirts, it is very uncommon to see Palestinian men dressed in sleeveless shirts or shorts. To walk outside bare-chested is always unacceptable.
Since the weather might be hot during the day it is advisable to bring sun protection, a hat and sunglasses (all these can of course be bought once you arrive).
Comfortable walking shoes and/or a pair of sandals is recommended.
As the temperature can drop at night and most of the events are outdoors, make sure to bring something warm to wear in the evenings.
It is advisable to not carry Palestinian national symbols, such as a Palestinian kaffiye (scarf) or Pro-Palestinian political literature when you enter or leave the country as this can cause unnecessary questions at the Israeli border crossing.
Try to avoid bringing valuables that you do not need. Make sure that the valuables you do want to bring, such as computer and camera, are insured.
Place any medicine that you need to take in your hand luggage in the event of loss or delay of luggage.
We recommend that you bring a copy of your passport and keep it separate from your actual passport at all times in case of loss.
People from around the world regularly visit the West Bank without any threat to their security. We therefore do not anticipate any danger to participants during the ride. Most European governments no longer have any travel restrictions to the West Bank. However we recommend that each participant has an active health insurance policy in case of accident or injury, just as is advisable for any travel abroad. The Freedom Theatre does not cover liability in case of injury or ill-health.
The time zone of Palestine is GMT +2.
Throughout the month of March, daytime temperatures will generally reach around 12-17ºC (54-63ºF). At night the average minimum temperature drops to 8-9ºC (46-48ºF).
The Freedom Theatre
The Freedom Bus is coordinated by The Freedom Theatre, a community-based cultural centre in Jenin Refugee Camp. Convinced that the arts have a crucial role to play in building a free and healthy society, The Freedom Theatre is developing a vibrant and creative artistic community in the northern part of the West Bank. The Freedom Theatre offers a unique programme of activities in performing arts and multimedia, including acting, psychodrama, playback theatre, stage design, filmmaking, photography and creative writing. Read more about The Freedom Theatre here.
Project Leader, The Freedom Bus
The Freedom Theatre
Jenin Refugee Camp
As that’s a lot of text I’ll close by noting that I wanted to go on the Freedom Rides of the early 1960s, but as I was still working my way through high school that wasn’t possible, but now that I’m finally fully retired and in good health the chance has come round again, in a situation very close to my heart.