Should I go to the West Bank or Gaza?
Both are worthwhile to visit, and offer different opportunities and experiences:
Visiting the West Bank is easy and Ramallah, the major hub of tech activity, is very accessible from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.
Visiting Gaza is more complex and requires advanced planning – you’ll need help from Gaza Sky Geeks to obtain a Gaza entry permit (takes 4-6 weeks to receive).
Please see our Logistics page for more details.
When's the best time to go?
Weekdays (Sun-Thu) are better than weekends (Fri-Sat). This is more relevant if you'd like to meet with techies or see them at work. Many offices, shops, and stores are closed on Fridays and streets are generally quiet. Saturdays are more active, but offices are generally not open.
Visiting any time of year is fine, but if possible avoid:
- Ramadan: Work continues, but people are exhausted (May 15 - June 14, 2018)
- Jewish holidays: Transportation in Israel is severely limited
- Rosh Hashanah (Sep 10 - 11, 2018)
- Yom Kippur (Sep 19, 2018)
- Passover (March 31 - April 2, 2018)
Is it safe?
Most likely, your travel to Palestine will be uneventful and the biggest danger you’ll expose yourself to is a traffic accident. When you’re there, you’ll immediately feel welcome and safe. Hundreds of people have loved mentoring techies in the West Bank and Gaza.
As always when traveling, be alert and use common sense. We suggest you:
- Check the news daily
- Stay away from protests
- Be cautious, calm, and polite whenever interacting with Israeli soldiers
- Avoid wearing outward signs of support for Palestinians (kaffiyah, slogan t-shirts, etc.) and/or Islam in Settler-controlled areas in the West Bank
- Avoid wearing outward signs of support for Israel (and, if possible, symbols of Judaism) inside Palestinian areas as you may be mistaken for a Settler intending harm
Tip: On your way into certain parts of the West Bank (e.g., Ramallah), you’ll see red signs warning Israeli citizens not to go in. Those signs, put up by the Israeli government, only apply to Israeli citizens and not to internationals visiting.
What about checkpoints?
Going in and out of the West Bank you’ll have to go through Israeli military checkpoints (sometimes within the West Bank, too).
Always carry your passport and be cautious, calm, and polite. These are routine and the experience should pass without issue, especially while driving or in a taxi.
When returning from Ramallah to Jerusalem, if you are not in a taxi with an Israeli license plate (i.e., Yellow), you will have to cross the Qalandiya Checkpoint on foot. This can also be an illuminating experience to understand the daily life of Palestinians.
If you are flying into Ben Gurion Airport (TLV), you may be asked a few questions on your way in about the purpose of your trip. These will affect whether or not you are allowed into the country (you are unlikely to be turned away if you are an American Citizen).
You will likely undergo more questioning if you:
- Say you are going to Palestine
- Are Arab/South Asian or have a Muslim name
- Have stamps from countries like Iran, Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, or any predominantly Muslim country
(The border official will hold your passport and send you to a waiting area - this is routine.)
How you choose to approach these questions is your choice. We would urge you never to lie during questioning. At times, border officials who thought someone was lying have banned those people from Israel for 5 or 10 years. The border official will be looking at a computer and reading any information they have about you in the system.
If you’d like, you can choose to divulge information selectively. For example, some people who spend 4 days on a business trip in Israel and 1 day in the West Bank choose not to divulge that they are going to the West Bank unless specifically asked that.
If you are only going to Palestine, we’d suggest you get invitation letters from the people you will be meeting in Palestine. These help, particularly if they state you are a consultant or speaker.
If you are going to Gaza, Gaza Sky Geeks will provide you with a letter and more instructions.
What do I need to know about my arrival to Israel?
Tip: You are required to arrive to the airport 3 hours before your flight in Israel to allow time for security screening.
In the USA, everyone goes through the same security screening.
In Israel, that is not the case: instead, the airport security official profiles you to make a quick decision regarding whether or not to subject you to a screening. You will be screened (based on your looks, passport, and a few questions about your trip) before you check in for your flight and check your luggage.
You are more likely to go through a screening if you:
- Say you went to Palestine for any reason
- Are Muslim/Arab/South Asian
- Have stamps from places like Iran, Pakistan, Colombia, or any Arab country
- Are under the age of 40
- Are not checking any luggage
As mentioned, some people choose to divulge information selectively so as to minimize the chances that they’ll go through a security screening. Again, the choice is yours but we do not encourage you to lie.
If you do go through a security screening, it usually involves:
- Thorough perusal of your checked luggage
- Security scan
- Pat down, sometimes with your pants pulled down
Very occasionally security screenings include:
- Downloading all files from your laptop and mobile phone (and possibly leaving something on them)
- Removal of clothing and body checks
Tip: Stay calm throughout the security screening process. Unfortunately there’s nothing you can do about it – threatening to call a lawyer won’t help. The officials are required to get you to your flight on time if you arrive the required 3 hours beforehand.