Frequently Asked Questions - Getting There and Back
There are a number of crossings between Israel, the Israeli controlled West Bank, and Jordan. Knowing which crossing to use and the various requirements can be confusing.
For additional information the US Consulate has created this fact sheet with information on all the Israel-Jordan crossings: http://jerusalem.usconsulate.gov/pdfs/crossings_israel-jordan_2007.pdf
Most of the MEF and HLT staff have traveled extensively in the region and we can offer a lot of advice and provide some contacts.
If you have previously travelled to the Occupied Territories, especially with another organization, you must let Middle East Fellowship and Holy Land Trust know. Certain organizations have been blacklisted by the Israeli government and if you’ve traveled with one of these groups, you might be barred from entering or cause damage to the program.
It is often best to simply not mention your plans to enter the Occupied Palestinian Territories, or, if leaving Israel, not mention that you have been. We do not advocate being dishonest, as that can often cause more trouble than it will avoid, but do not feel obligated to volunteer information. This will be covered in more detail in the Orientation Packet.
The group meeting place is in Jerusalem. The first day of each session is a travel day allowing participants time to arrive at the group meeting place. We will provide transportation from the group meeting place to Bethlehem where participants will be placed with their host families. The next day (2nd day of the program session) Orientation begins. Details about the group meeting place will be provided prior to the program start date. If you have problems at any point in your travels you should contact the Holy Land Trust staff. This information will also be provided prior to the program start date.
All participants are expected to find their own transportation to a group meeting place in Jerusalem. Most participants fly into the Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv and take a shared taxi to Jerusalem. However, if you plan to do additional traveling in the region you may want to be aware of other points of entry. Please be aware that if you plan to visit countries with bad diplomatic relations with Israel we strongly advise you to fly into Amman and request that the Israeli visa stamp be placed on a separate piece of paper.
+ Rafah Crossing into Gaza is often closed and we do not advise using it
+ The Tabah crossing in the Sinai is the most common border crossing
+ Most people don’t know there is a ferry from Nuweiba in the Sinai to Aqaba in Jordan.
+ If you are going from Amman, Jordan to Israel and Palestine you will most likely use the Allenby Bridge crossing. This is known as Jisr al-Malek al-Hussein (King Hussein) bridge in Arabic. Do not get this crossing confused with the Sheikh Hussein crossing farther North.
+ You can also cross between Eilat in Israel to the neighboring city of Aqaba in Jordan.
If you are a U.S. citizen you do not need to apply for a visa to travel to many countries in the Middle East including Israel, Egypt, and Jordan. If you are not a U.S. citizen you may need to apply for visa to travel any where in the region.
Finding cheap flights is often one of the most difficult tasks of traveling to the Middle East. Prices can range from as little as $900 to as much as $2000. Below we provide links, tips, and other information as well as contact information for two travel agents we recommend using.
A few hints:
1. Spend the extra time to compare prices.
2. Buy tickets as soon as possible. The longer you wait the more $$ you spend.
3. Try leaving a day later or arriving a day earlier to see if changing your departure days significantly reduces the price. Keep in mind if you do arrive early or stay late you will need to find housing.
4. Compare flights to neighboring countries. For example if you are going to Israel and Palestine compare both Bun Gurion Airport and Amman.
5. Check with the non-western airlines directly to see if they have travel deals.
And check with other major airfare sites:
www.sidestep.com/ - One of the least known and best online travel tools. It requires a small fee to purchase your tickets. However it often finds the cheapest flights and searches many non-western airlines that other travel websites don't.
Pack light if possible. You will be able to do your laundry so overpacking clothes is unnecessary. But definitely bring layers of clothing, extra money for souvenirs and gifts, a camera (if you have one), a jacket or coat, and a notebook. Be sure that the clothes you pack are MODEST. Sleeveless shirts and short skirts are best left at home. Shorts are usually okay (though long pants are better) and you should probably pack a towel and a swim suit or swim trunks. Laptops can cause delays in airport security so we recommend that you don't bring one unless you really need it (it may be useful for your volunteer opportunity depending on where you are placed). Make sure you bring all critical items (medication, toothbrush, contact information, etc.) on the plane-the airline probably isn't going to lose your luggage but better safe than sorry. Don't forget a gift for your host family!
The US Consulate in Jerusalem has useful information that all travelers should be aware of.
Most Arab countries in the region will not allow you to enter if you have an Israeli visa stamped in your passport. You can ask the Israeli visa to be stamped on a separate sheet of paper. Most people don't know you can apply for a second passport. A second passport is invaluable especially if you plan to travel a great deal in the Middle East.
Because Israel effectively occupies and controls the West Bank you will receive an Israeli visa not a Palestinian visa. Palestinians have no control over their borders. The general entry and exit requirements for Americans traveling to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are as follows: A passport valid for six months beyond duration of stay, an onward or return ticket, and proof of sufficient funds are required for entry. A no-charge, three-month visa may be issued upon arrival and may be renewed. Please note that you may receive a one month visa if you enter Israel and Palestine by land from Egypt or Jordan. Palestinian Americans may be subject to special restrictions.
For more information visit: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1064.html
Many people coming in to the Ben Gurion airport request to NOT have their passport stamped with an Israeli entry visa. Usually the visitor is traveling on to an Arab country where the law does not permit entry for people who have first been to Israel. So, on request, the Israeli authorities stamp a piece of paper which is kept inside the passport and removed on departure from the country, enabling the traveler to arrive in the Arab country without 'evidence' that they have been in Israel.
However recently many people have not been given the stamped paper at the airport or one of the land crossings to Israel which is causing problems at West Bank checkpoints and police inspections. One of our tour groups to Hebron was recently stopped by the police and everyone had to produce a passport. One of the participants had no stamp and was detained at the local police station for 45 minutes. It was all sorted out once the police contacted the Ministry of Interior and determined that the person was in the country legally. However the situation could have been avoided.
Please remember to ASK the immigration police to give you a stamped paper for your visa that you can keep in your passport. DO NOT give the paper away at the inspection point after the immigration station. Sometimes the inspectors who double check the passport keep the piece of paper. Don't let them and this avoid problems later.