Friday, 01 August 2014 06:38

Phil and Janet Tour, 19-25 May 2014

The whole experience was very thought provoking and we learned a lot from it.

Our guide was excellent and i hope our relationship with him was just as enjoyable for him.

We can never hope to fully understand the position of everyday life for Palestinians but we certainly saw something of it, particularly with the way in which we, and everyone else, was treated by the Israeli authorities when the Pope was in town!

Being under curfew was certainly a new experience for us!

 The Greek hostel was fine although we did enjoy our visits out in the evening to sample the local restaurants.


The Old City’s Spice Market.  The colors.  The scents.  The textures.   The infinite possibilities of how to use these spices in cooking.

 Lunch:  Makloubeh is a Palestinian upside-down rice and eggplant casserole, hence the name which is literally translated as "upside-down". It is sometimes made with fried cauliflower instead of eggplant, and usually includes meat.

  In the evening, we participated in preparing dinner:   “Malfouf” which has a dual meaning of “cabbage” as well as “rolled.”  The dish involves rolling cabbage leaves with a stuffing of ground meat, rice, 7 spices.  Next step is stacking them in a cooking pot in layers, and then simmering them on low heat in a sauce made with lemon juice, fried minced garlic, water and salt.

Our trip in Palestine was as always very appreciated by the entire group.

The program allowed us to experience a deep understanding of the environment of the country, and gave us the opportunity for a real full immersion in the local lifestyle.

 The whole group especially appreciated staying with local families.   The night at Bedouin camp and the opportunity to meet locals on the way and at various local culture centers, such as Arab women unions, the boy scout group  in the refugee camp of Fara'h, the Mosaic Center in Jericho, etc.  We also enjoyed the local traditional Palestinian food.

Dar Ramot family in Neve Neeman

“We got to hear the prospective of the conflict from an Israeli family with a son in the army. We learned about why they felt safer with the wall being built and their perspective on whether peace can be achieved.”

 “The narrow and labyrinth like streets in the Old City had merchants along the sides selling candy, fresh fruit, clothes, and jewelry. We were led by our tour guide to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and to the Wailing Wall (the Western Wall).”

The Christoph Jungen Swiss Group arrived on Sunday, March 30th, and had their first tour and meeting in Neve Shalom.  The following morning, the Group were driven along the Mediterranean coast between Tel Aviv and Haifa, where they had the opportunity to visit the ancient port city Caesarea Maritima, which was built by Herod the Great, and today is a national park.  In the afternoon, the Group had the chance to visit the lookout at Muhraka, which is located on the southern end of the Mount Carmel range.  The views of the Mediterranean Sea captivated the visitors.  Overnight was in Nazareth. 

 The morning of April 1st, there was a short visit to the Nazareth Church.  Following, the participants visited Sephoria’s archeological site, located in the central Galilee, 6 kilometers north-northwest of Nazareth.  The site holds a rich and diverse historical and architectural legacy that includes Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Jewish and Islamic influences. It is believed to be the birthplace of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  For dinner and overnight, the participants stayed at the Mt. of Beatitudes, where it is said that Jesus gave his important Sermon on the mountain.  

Practical Information for SIRAJ PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS


Climate and weather

Palestine’s climate is essentially Mediterranean, with hot summers, cold winters and a mild spring and autumn.  Temperatures can reach 40 degrees centigrade midday in midsummer, but the nights are cool in the mountains and desert. There is no rainfall in the summer (June – Sept), but winter brings rain as well as snow to the mountains.

The most beautiful times of the year to visit the area are March to May and September to November. Early spring brings plentiful wildflowers; in late autumn, families are out harvesting the olive trees, and you may well be invited to sit and drink tea with them. If you do visit in the summer, be prepared for very hot weather.



In addition to the hotels on your itinerary, your program may also include the opportunity for homestays in Palestinian family homes, where you may be able to meet children, grandparents, and extended families while sharing their fresh, home-cooked traditional food. All homestays are in homes with electricity and running water. Do note, however, that Palestine is among the most water-challenged countries in the world, so you should use water with great care. If you have the opportunity to shower, make it a quick one. There will always be plenty of bottled drinking water.


Eating and drinking
Traditional Middle Eastern meals – breakfast, too – usually consist of flat bread, cheese, yoghurt, humus, olives and salads. Dinner may include a typical Palestinian cooked dish, often including rice with chicken or meat.

Palestine is primarily a Muslim country, so alcohol is hard to find in some areas and will not be offered in many settings.  Be prepared for endless tiny glasses of sweet black tea, often served with mint, and for grainy, delicious Turkish-style coffee after meals.

In Jerusalem and in Bethlehem, you can find wine and beer in many restaurants. The town of Taybeh, northeast of Ramallah, is home to Palestine’s first brewery. Here you can sample a high-quality, organic lager beer brewed in accordance with the German purity laws of 1516! If you pass through in September or October, you might find the Taybeh version of Bavaria’s legendary Oktoberfest in full swing – two days of Palestinian celebration, music and culture.


Getting there

Traveling to Israel and Palestine is fairly straightforward for European and US travellers. Several airlines offer flights from Europe and the US to Tel-Aviv (Ben Gurion International Airport), which is about a one-hour bus or shared taxi (sheroot) ride away from Jerusalem. If you are arriving from other parts of the Middle East, you will need to check on specific border crossings and routes. Our tour operators can provide advice on the journey and on where to meet.

Be especially sure to familiarize yourself with Israel’s latest entry requirements regarding Covid protocols. You can find them HERE. (Add link)


What to wear

You will need good, comfortable walking shoes and light-weight, easily-washable clothing. Sandals are acceptable, but be sure that they are adequate to navigate sometimes-uneven stone paths. It helps to have the capacity to layer your clothing, since the temperature on a single day can move from cool to hot and back again to cool, depending on the season. Because your itinerary may take you to more rural or conservative areas on any day, both women and men are advised to dress accordingly to show respect to these communities. We ask that both women and men avoid wearing shorts or other clothing which exposes knees and/or shoulders. Three-quarter or full-length pants are appropriate. Please avoid low-cut shirts, tank tops, T-shirts with provocative images, or sheer clothing. Women are not required to cover their heads except in mosques and other holy places. We advise that women always travel with a scarf to be prepared to cover shoulders, arms, or head as needed. Occasionally, women are not allowed into holy sites if they are wearing pants. Because of this possibility, it is advised that women bring at least one skirt. All travelers should consider a hat for protection from the sun.


Looking after your health

Before you travel, be sure to refer carefully to the information provided here by the Israeli Ministry of Health for the most current COVID-19-related protocols.

With the exception of current COVID-19 guidelines, there are no special inoculations required for travel in Palestine, though it is recommended that you be up to date with immunizations against hepatitis A, polio, tetanus, tuberculosis, and typhoid fever. The greatest risks are from heat stroke/exhaustion, sunburn, dehydration and traveler’s diarrhea. All travelers should take the usual health precautions, carry water at all times, ensure that they drink only bottled water, protect themselves from the sun, and carry a small personal first aid kit.  


Safety and security

Palestinians are a friendly and hospitable people with legendary respect for guests and visitors to their land. Despite the increase in security in the West Bank in recent years, it is clearly not possible for the Siraj Center to guarantee the personal safety of every traveler to Palestine. There is still an element of political tension and instability.  Travelers are advised to visit the website of their home government for detailed and up-to-date information about the security situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (see below for relevant web links).

Petty travel-related crime – theft or pick pocketing - is extremely rare in Palestine. We advise that travelers exercise normal caution and use common sense in larger towns and cities.

For more details, refer to “Safety and Security Guidelines and Protocols.”



Travel insurance is your responsibility and you are strongly advised to take out adequate travel insurance before you travel, including emergency health care and repatriation coverage.



Street markets abound in all the major towns, selling everything from fruits and vegetables to sweets, toys and small jewelry. Good quality souvenirs and clothes are best sought in Jerusalem’s Old City, where the covered markets offer hours of great browsing, but prices can be high.


Managing your luggage

The lighter and more efficiently you are able to pack, the more easily your luggage can be transferred during the course of your travels. Bring a small day-pack to carry with you during the day, to hold essentials like a reusable water bottle, hat, sunscreen, camera, etc.


NOTE: To enhance your travel experience, be sure to refer also to “Helpful Travel, Health, and Cultural Information for All Visitors to the Region.”





Revised 4/2022

Tuesday, 29 April 2014 07:46

Harvard Trek Group, By Asma Jaber

This is my third time organizing a spring break trip for my Harvard classmates with the Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies, and I could not ask for a better partner to help share the Palestinian experience with my fellow students.  I have taken over 200 Harvard graduate students to Palestine, and without the Siraj Center’s dedicated work, the three trips would not have been a success.  Every year we have visited both the West Bank and Historic 1948 Palestine, going to cities and villages such as Al Khalil (Hebron), Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nabi Saleh, Al Walaja, Nablus, Nazareth, Haifa, Yaffa, and the Naqab Desert; we have even conducted a Skype call with activists and students in the Gaza Strip.

Visiting the Holy Land: 16th to 23rd March 2014

By:  Helena Paula Niemonen


Sunday 16th March

We, 34 persons from Strängnäs, Sweden, arrived at Tel Aviv Airport, and transferred to Nazareth, St Margaret’s House.  The hotel rooms were ready for us and a very good dinner was served in the evening.

Monday 17th March

We met our guide, Hani al Hayek, in the morning and visited the Church of Annunciation. After that we drove to the Mount of Beautitudes where we celebrated mass up on the hill. We had a very good moment there, hearing people from all corners of the world celebrating their masses in different places close to us.


We took the bus down to Tabgah, and to the restaurant. There were busloads of people but the restaurant was amazing in its effectiveness on serving the meals in no time at all! Having visited Caphernaum we headed towards Jericho and our hotel.