The Ultimate Guide to Traveling the West Bank

Is it safe to travel through the West Bank?

In short, YES. However, traveling through different parts of the west bank requires different means of transportation and a tour guide.


Can you define the West Bank?

Like anything else in Israel, it’s complicated. Let’s take you through the basics. First of all, you need to understand that the “West Bank” is a newly constructed term. Jews usually refer to this historical region as “Judea and Samaria”. Palestinians may refer to it as “Palestine”. In the international media the term “West Bank” is the most common.

View from Herodium, King Herod’s grave


When was The term “West Bank” coined?

In 1948, the Jews living in Israel were forced to fight against the neighboring countries, after the British Empire left its mandate. The war of independence ended in 1949. At the end of the war, a green line was drawn between the Jordanian forces and the Israeli military, the IDF. Areas that were under Jordanian control which were west of the River Jordan were branded by the Jordanians as the “West Bank”. The recently independent State of Transjordan changed its name to “Jordan”.


What was the legal status of the West Bank in 1949?

The kingdom of Jordan asked the United Nations to acknowledge its occupation of the West Bank. However, the UN voted almost unanimously against this acknowledgment. Jordan continued its stronghold while applying Jordanian law in the West Bank Regions. All the Jewish sacred sites were left on the occupied Jordanian side. According to the ceasefire agreement with Israel, Jordan was supposed to provide safe passage to the Jewish sacred sites. But in reality, Jews were forbidden from visiting the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, and the Mount of Olives.


What changed in 1967?

A war broke out between Israel and all of its neighboring Arab countries.  In only 6 days, Israel conquered the Golan Heights, the Sinai Peninsula, and the entire West Bank. 


Did Israel annex the West Bank?

Israel chose not to Annex most of the West Bank. Instead, Israel annexed a thin loop around Jerusalem which is commonly referred to as “East Jerusalem”. This is an inaccurate term. Most areas in so-called East Jerusalem are actually in the northern and southern tips of the city.


So who owns the West Bank today? (For more in-depth information, read here about the conflict)

In the year 1995, Israel signed the Oslo Accords with the Palestinian Authority. From that time on, the West Bank was divided into three types of territories.

 “A”: Under complete Palestinian control, such as Bethlehem.

 “B”: Under Palestinian civil control and Israeli military control. These usually include roads leading to Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Both Israelis and Palestinians can use them freely.

“C”: Jewish settlements in the West Bank under complete Israeli control.


What is the future of the Westbank?

Unfortunately, deliberations between the Palestinian Authority and the state of Israel are no longer taking place. On an everyday basis, the West Bank is quite peaceful and there is plenty of cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. There is also cooperation surrounding security issues which keeps the region a lot safer than how it may appear on the news. 

Bethel Winery

Some of the best places to visit while in the West Bank:

  1.  Gush Etzion and the separation barrier:

    Check out the beautiful region of Gush Etzion. Learn about the conflict, see the separation barrier and even go through anti-terrorism training in a special facility.

  2. Herodium:

    This is the administrative Fortress from which King Herod the Great ruled Jerusalem. It is also his burial Mausoleum and contains some of the most astounding archaeological findings dating 2000 years ago. While walking on the peak of the fortress, there is a unique 360-degree view of the entire Jerusalem area including the Judean desert.

  3. Bethlehem:

    The birthplace of Jesus is under Palestinian control, but possible to visit with a Palestinian colleague. Please allow me to make the arrangements.

  4. Shiloh

    : The first place of the Temple and where the Ark of Covenant resided for 400 years. This is also the place where Hannah prayed to God to give her a child. She named him Samuel and chose for him to perform the work of the Lord.  He would later become the prophet that anointed David to be king. After the destruction of Shiloh, Jerusalem was established by King David and became the permanent place of the Jewish temple.

  5. Bethel

    An important city in Samaria with fascinating ancient archaeology. This is where the patriarch Jacob had a dream with angels going up and down a ladder. Bethel also has a wonderful boutique winery.

Latest Posts