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Author Walter
#16 | Posted: 8 Sep 2013 12:28 
Hi Solivagant,
As announced, I went to Israel and Palestine in June. Here are some tips.

I rented a car with a major rental company (Sixt, which is called Shlomo there) in Ben Gourion airport.

As said before, you cannot take a rental car into areas A (full control of Palestinian Authority) and some areas B (shared control). The main reason is insurance. In case of accident, insurances will not cover you if you happened to be in area A and some roads in areas B.
Saying that, I saw many rental cars in Bethleem and Jericho (area A), and there was no one to check. Being a bit overcautious, I did not drive my rental car into those areas.

Roads that you cannot take with you rental car are the same Israeli citizen are not allowed to take, and they are clearly marked with huge red signs saying "This road leads To Area "A"... The entrance for israeli citizen is forbidden, dangerous to your lives and against israeli law".
You can plan your trip on google maps, as the "forbidden" roads are ommited.
As a foreigner, you have the right to go beyond, and according to people I met in June, and perfectly safe to travel (except for Gaza Strip of course).

Most sites in the south are reached from Bethlehem. To get to Betlehem, take an arab bus 21 from Damascus gate in Jerusalem, leaving every 20 minutes or so. It costs 8 NIS. It goes to Beit Jala neighborhood of Bethlehem, where it is a 15 walk to Church of Nativity. No check-point to pass on the way in. Back to Jerusalem, you pass a check-point but as a foreigner, most of the time, you just stay in the bus and wave you passport at the soldiers.

About the TL sites:
- Ancient Jericho: Tell es-Sultan: there are numerous guided tour from Jerusalem, or you can take a shared taxi. I went by car to Almog junction, on the road number 1 that goes to the Dead Sea. There is a restaurant and a petrol station where you can park a car, and from there, hail a shared taxi (3 NIS) or a regular taxi (price to negociate, probably 20-40 NIS) to central Jericho. From there, a shared taxi to Tell-es-Sultan for 2 NIS.

- El Bariyah: wilderness and monasteries: This project covers a widespread area which crosses all three A, B and C areas.
Herodion, Saint-George Monastery and Nabi Musa are in area C and can be reached with your rental car (Saint-George is a 30 walk down a wadi).
Mar Saba Monastery is in area C, but the road that leads to it is in area A, so you need to take a taxi from Bethleem (taxis are waiting everywhere in the Bethleem area, and a half-a-day trip from 100 NIS, to negociate; the driver will propose to stop at Herodion on the way; you can also stop at Deit Theodosios, but I was refused entrance because I am not Orthodox !)

-Jerusalem Southern Terraced Landscape (Battir): It is in area B and C, but on a "red road", so you cannot drive your car there. Easiest is to take a cab from Bethleem (around 50 NIS roundtrip) or take a shared taxi from "cinema Square" in central Bethlehem. Ask for Battir village. Ancient roman fountains are within the village, and olive terrace are all around the village (a road crosses the village and leads into a nice valley for a few hundreds meters, just ask the taxi driver to get you there, or walk 15 minutes).

- Old town of Hebron: I went there after my visit to Mar Saba with my taxi driver (for an additional 200 NIS). He showed me the old town and the divided city. Passing check-point as a foreigner is rather straightforward. The highlight however is the Cave of Patriarchs, divided into two parts, muslim and jewish, with bullet-proofed windows in-between. As a foreigner, you are allowed to visit both sides, passing numerous metal detectors.

- Qumran is in area A, and is managed by the Israeli National Parks. It is easy to reach from the road to the Dead Sea.

- I was planning a guided visit to Nablus, Sebastia and Mount Gerizim, but it was cancelled at the last minute for lack of participants, so I cannot comment on those two sites.

- Umm Al Rihan forest is in Area C, and seems to be easy to reach, but I lacked time to get there.

- Finally, the three remaining TL sites are in the Gaza Strip and not recommended for travellers at the moment.

Author Solivagant
#17 | Posted: 8 Sep 2013 15:09 
Thanks for the info Walter - very useful. It also reminds me that I will soon have to start putting my mind to planning this trip!

A couple of further questions/clarifications.

Qumran is in area A, and is managed by the Israeli National Parks. It is easy to reach from the road to the Dead Sea.

"Area A" means "under Palestinian Control" and therefore restricted. Is that correct? I thought Qumran was under Israeli control i.e Area C.

b. Your 200NIS for a taxi to Hebron bought you approximately how much time? That's about 35/Euro 42.

c. Did you choose Sixt/Shlomo because you "knew" they would allow area C. Looking on the Web none of the rentacar companies I have looked at make any statements one way or another - including Sixt. The best deal I have found to date is via which uses all the main brands but doesn't specify which until you book (Though I think I am allowed to cancel)! I don't want to rent via the Web and then find I can't use it in area C

Author Walter
#18 | Posted: 9 Sep 2013 15:25 
Hi Solivagant,
Qumran is Area C (full Israeli control), sorry for the mistake.

Going to Hebron from Bethlehem takes about 20 minutes by taxis, and would cost 40-50 euros for round-trip and visit. Negociate (hard) with taxi driver and set on a price before going. He will drive you to Hebron and walk with you around Hebron old quarter and further (except on jewsih side of Cave of Patriarchs) and then drive you back Bethlehem. Allow half a day.
If you find a good driver, you can always book him for the next day to get to other places.

All rental agencies allow you to drive into area C as it is considered Israeli territory under Isreali driving law. Google map will show you all the roads you can drive on.

Author meltwaterfalls
#19 | Posted: 12 Mar 2014 11:59 | Edited by: meltwaterfalls 
I'm in a bit of a trip free funk, brought on by some broken bones so I've started looking at Israel and Palestine for a potential trip to up my WHS numbers and finally explore somewhere that has been on my wish list for a long long time.

It is very early days and may not even happen, but I was just wondering if anyone can give some general pointers to follow on from the above conversation.

A few questions I have if anyone has the time for answers it would be a great help.

I was looking in the 7-10 day sort of region what can reasonably be covered in this time?

After last year's hitches with a Moroccan trip during Ramadan I was just wondering if there are any times to avoid, and also I guess is the summer heat worth bearing in mind?

Where are good places to be based/ spend a little more time? Jerusalem seems obvious, but Tel Aviv strikes me as a place I may like, does Haifa work for the northern sites?

Is it feasible to have a trip such as Jerusalem -> Bethlehem -> Hebron -> Masada? or is that something to be split into separate trips with no border crossings?

And whilst we are on border crossings, is Petra feasible short (day?) trip from Israel? I'm guessing Tyre isn't.

Anyway, any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Author Assif
#20 | Posted: 12 Mar 2014 15:02 
Hi meltwaterfalls.
1) Israel-Palestine are small. In 10 days you can manage a lot, depending on how much you would like to squeeze into one visit. This said, as you might reckon yourself, you cannot do everything in 10 days. You would probably have to choose what is more interesting for you, but this does not have to depend on travel distances.
2) July-August are very hot and at the coast they are also extremely humid. Otherwise, no times to avoid.
3) Tel Aviv is a city full of atmosphere and very appealing to most tourists, however, it isn't such a good base for site-seeing outside it. Except of ancient Ramle (of which the White Tower is on the T-list) most interesting sites in Israel are either in the South (Negev), in the North (Galilee) or near Jerusalem (Judea).
4) I would not recommend Haifa that much. It is not too interesting touristically and most points of interest in the Galilee can be better explored from more rural areas more to the east. Beautiful towns from which you can explore the Galilee are Pekiin and Rosh Pina. I would avoid the staying at the cities Acre, Safed, Tiberias and Nazareth. I don't think they are nice enough to spend the night at.
5) Hebron, Bethlehem and Masada are all rather easy to reach from Jerusalem. No problem at the border crossing during quiet times. Nonetheless, you should certainly consider a separate day for each of them.
6) Going to Petra is possible as a day-trip from Eilat, but you have to leave early, which means you have to stay there. Petra is probably worth any effort, but just consider going that south would not be necessary otherwise and will be time consuming.
7) My personal favourites in Israel (not including Palestine) are:
Jerusalem (Old City, Olive Mt, Mt Zion, Mahne Yehuda Market, Israel Museum, Yad Vashem - probably 4 days)
Bet Guvrin (this year's unesco candidate)
Masada+Dead Sea+Ein Gedi NP (including an ancient synagogue)
Tel Aviv (my hometown)
Beer Sheva Old City+Tel Beer Sheva+Oboda (Avdat)+Ein Avdat NP+Ramon Crater
Bahai Gardens+Acre+Rosh Hanikra
Beth Shearim+Seppheris (Zippori)+Megiddo
Besan (Beth Shean)!
Old City of Safed and surrounding towns

Author meltwaterfalls
#21 | Posted: 13 Mar 2014 07:15 

Thanks for that Assif, plenty of food for thought.
Especially on point 4, do you have any recommendations for a decent base in the south for visiting sites around Negev, Beer Sheva perhaps?

Surprise to me, I knew Israel was small, but it is only starting to occur to me how compact everything is there. It is the same size as Wales, but with better transport infrastructure!!

Right perhaps time to to start getting a little more serious on this one.

Author Assif
#22 | Posted: 13 Mar 2014 17:44 
Near the Dead Sea I would choose Ein Gedi.
In the Negev probably Mizpe Ramon or one of the Kibbuzim in the area (Mashabei Sade, Revivim).

Author Assif
#23 | Posted: 24 Jul 2017 17:25 
I was wondering how come the magnificent Hisham Palace, a great work of Umayyad architecture, was omitted from the list. To me at least it seems this should be one of the best candidates Palestine has to offer.
On this link there are some explanations as to what difficulties this site faces: lestine-good-news-for-ancient-palace-complex

Still, some Unesco officials would back a nomination:

Author Solivagant
#24 | Posted: 25 Jul 2017 03:10 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Hi Assif - could you (or anyone else?) clarify for me/us the situation regarding the location of Palestinian inscribed and T List sites within the differing "legal" statuses in which the areas claimed by "Palestine" are currently situated?

As I understand it, the Oslo Accords have resulted in the "West Bank" being divided into 3 areas under different forms of "jurisdiction" as between the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Israel -
"Area A is under full control of the Palestinian Authority and consists primarily of urban Palestinian areas.
Area B is under Palestinian civil control and shared Palestinian and Israeli security control and includes the vast majority of the Palestinian rural areas.
Area C is under full Israeli control. Palestinian agencies are responsible for education and healthcare"

In addition there are areas which the PNA would consider to be a part of "Palestine" but which were excluded from the Oslo Accords or given "special" arrangements under it - e.g East Jerusalem and parts of Hebron - but which much of the rest of the World would agree would form part of a Palestinian entity if a "2 State Agreement" were ever to be achieved
Then there is the Gaza Strip within which Israel neither plays nor wishes to play any part in governing at all and is regarded as being outwith the "West Bank"
And finally there are "West Bank" areas which have been developed as "Israeli Settlements"- I presume that all of these are within Area C (or E Jerusalem/Hebron) where Israel has full control over Planning/zoning arrangments?

So where are
a. The existing insribed WHS. Bethlehem is presumably located in Area A but what about Battir -is a part of that within an Israeli Settlement area?? Is the inscribed area of Hebron totally outwith any of the 3 areas or split across the excluded Area AND area C?
b. The T List sites? There seems to be a mixture - Jericho is Area A as would the Hisham Palace be if it were ever added to Palestine's T List (and as is Nablus?). But there are other sites in Area C which are currently fully administered by the Israeli Parks Authority - e.g Qumran, Sebastia and the Baptism site. Presumably there might be other sites which are in Area C but not run by Israel as "Parks" - I am not sure for instance about the many "Throne Villages"? Then there are sites inside the Gaza Strip - Anthedon Harbour and the Gaza Wetlands. Are there any sites in Area B?

So what is it about the Inscriptions within "Palestine" which concerns Israel?
a. The fact that, irrespective of the Area the site is situated in, it is being nominated at all by a State which is not fully recognised and is largely being done for political reasons and to publicly "target" Israel
b. The fact that the "system" is being "bucked" by use of the "Emergency procedure" (and the regular voting against ICOMOS recommendations) which is itself another way of "targeting" Israel
c. The fact that some of the sites e.g Hebron are not even under Palestine legal control!
d. Is it the "Area" within which the site might be situated? ie. A site in Area A would be "ok" but not one in Area B or C? Bearing in mind also that some sites in Areas B and C are actually run by the Israeli Parks Authority!
e. Would Israel object for instance to the nomination of the Gaza sites? (unlikely of course since Hamas has taken over part of Anthedon Harbour and bulldozed the remains!!)

Author Assif
#25 | Posted: 25 Jul 2017 17:21 | Edited by: Assif 
Well, Solivagant, as usual you pose interesting, yet complex, questions.
I would start with the political details and continue with WHS matters tomorrow.

The area claimed by Palestine (Gaza Stripe, Western Bank and East Jerusalem) is comprised of 5 different legal zones.

1) East Jerusalem: Israel unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem, something no other state has recognised. Hence, Israeli law applies. One major exception is that non-Jews, Palestinians as well as other minorities (Domari gypsies, Arameans, Armenians, African Muslims) are considered permanent residents, but are not automatically entitled to Israeli citizenship. This is different from the no- Jews of the pre-1967 borders, who are automatically entitled to an Israeli citizenship. The only area NOT administered by Israel is the top of the Temple Mount (the Herodian Plaza) which is administered by the Waqf. No Palestinian TWHS are located within East Jerusalem, although Palestine could propose such sites in the future.

2) Western Bank, zone C: Zone C comprises the majority of the territory of the Western Bank and clearly divides it into two sections, north and south of Jerusalem. All Jewish settlements and outposts are located in zone C. All Jewish settlements and outposts are not recognised internationally and are considered illegal, not in line with the Geneva Martial Law. Israel, however, does not accept its definition as an occupying force, claiming that due to the fact there has never been a Palestinian state, the national status of this territory is yet to be determined. Therefore, according to Israel, its settlements should be deemed legal. Israel, however, distinguishes the settlements, which are an official governmental initiative, and the outposts, which are initiated by individuals or NGOs and are illegal according to Israeli law, though tolerated. In zone C there are 300,000 Jewish settlers and 300,000 Palestinians. Israeli law does not apply in general, but the Israeli military law, as the area is controlled by the Israeli army. Nonetheless, Jewish settlers enjoy the same rights as any Israeli citizens. This is not true of the Palestinians living in this zone who can only claim their inferior rights in front of an Israeli military court of law. This leads to Israel being criticised for committing apartheid. The Israeli government does not allow any development of the area to the benefit of its Palestinian inhabitants, but extensively uses the area to the benefit of its Jewish settlers (both legal and illegal according to Israeli law).

3) Western Bank, zones A and B: These areas are geographically confined to the Palestinian cities and their suburbs. No Israelis are allowed to enter and there are no settlements (or outposts).

4) Gaza Stripe: Although it has been conceded to the Palestinian authority and then seized by Hamas after the unilateral disengagement of the Israeli settlements there, Israel still keeps some aspects of sovereignty. Most notably, it controls the air and the sea surrounding it, supplies water and electricity and administers the civil register.

What the Palestinians think:

PLO, Fatah or Palestinian authority - claims the Gaza Stripe, the entire Western Bank and East Jerusalem as its territory. Recognises Israel in its pre- 1967 borders.
Hamas - does not recognise Israel, claims the entire Holy Land. Some of its officials are ready to accept a two state solution as a long term ceasefire.

What the Israelis think:

Most political parties, including current PM Netanyahu - ready to acknowledge the need of a two state solution, but are not ready to implement it soon. Prefer to maintain the status quo.
Extreme right wing, including major politicians of the governing party (Likkud) - overtly against the two state solution. All of zone C, including the Jewish settlements and outposts should be unilaterally annexed. Local Palestinians should be granted permanent residence akin to that of the non- Jews in East Jerusalem.
Very little left wing - in favour of a two state solution on the basis of the pre-1967 border.

Why is Israel angry at the Unesco decision to grant Hebron a WHS status?

Israeli media repeatedly accused Unesco of denying the Jewish heritage of Hebron, which is a blatant lie. The decision explicitly recognises Hebron's connection to Judaism. This criticism was intended to provoke. The true reason for Israel getting annoyed is the following. When Unesco grants Hebron a WHS with Palestine as the nominating state it recognises it as a part of the future Palestinian state. Israel is not ready to recognise any area of the West Bank as a part of the future Palestinian state before bilateral negotiations (which never materialise). Moreover, Hebron is settled by a group of fanatic right-winged Jews. They would have to be evacuated in case Hebron is ceded to Palestine, something no Israeli government is ready to accept.

Author Assif
#26 | Posted: 27 Jul 2017 17:14 | Edited by: Assif 
Now to the Palestinian sites:

Battir: Mostly (or entirely) C. The reason for the emergency inscription was the construction of the Separation Barrier by Israel, hence C.
Bethlehem: A
Hebron/Al-Khalil Old Town: Hebron is divided between A and C. Parts of both areas are inscribed.
Ancient Jericho: A
Anthedon Harbour: Gaza Stripe
Baptism Site "Eshria'a" (Al-Maghtas): C
El-Bariyah: wilderness with monasteries: C
Mount Gerizim and the Samaritans: A
Old Town of Nablus and its environs: I don't know how far the "environs" go, but mostly (or entirely) A.
QUMRAN: Caves and Monastery of the Dead Sea Scrolls: C
Sebastia: C
Tell Umm Amer: Gaza Stripe
Throne Villages: B and C
Umm Al-Rihan forest: Mostly (or entirely) C. Even if it encompasses some B, this assignment has been rendered meaningless by the construction of the Separation Wall, separating Umm Al-Rihan from the rest of Palestine.
Wadi Gaza Coastal Wetlands: Gaza Stripe
Wadi Natuf and Shuqba Cave: C

Author Assif
#27 | Posted: 27 Jul 2017 17:25 
Now, Solivagant, I will try to answer all your questions.

what about Battir -is a part of that within an Israeli Settlement area??

No, however, typically to Area C Israel feels free to use the area for its needs.

Is the inscribed area of Hebron totally outwith any of the 3 areas or split across the excluded Area AND area C?

The inscribed area is divided between Areas A and C.

Presumably there might be other sites which are in Area C but not run by Israel as "Parks"

Certainly. See above.

Are there any sites in Area B?

None I am sure of. The reason is that the Area B is extremely fragmented.

So what is it about the Inscriptions within "Palestine" which concerns Israel?

The areas do not truly play a role. Neither does the question of current jurisdiction or the use of emergency nominations. See my interpretation above.

Would Israel object for instance to the nomination of the Gaza sites?

I think this would be tolerated better since Israel has already given up its territorial aspirations in the Gaza Stripe.

Author Solivagant
#28 | Posted: 28 Jul 2017 03:41 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Thank you for all your research, editorial and typing (!) effort on this Assif

So we have a situation whereby existing and potential future Palestinian inscriptions/nominations cover geographical areas where the PNA has NO control whatsoever over the preservation or otherwise of the site - i.e Area C sites.

I have looked up the Operational guidelines and these are (perhaps wisely) largely silent on the issue of State Party de jure and de facto boundaries. The only mention is that "A Tentative List is an inventory of those properties situated on its territory which each State Party considers suitable for nomination to the World Heritage List.".

But inscription DOES bring responsibilities regarding preservation of the site - which, in the case of Area B/C properties Palestine is unable to provide -I suppose that, as a signatory to the Convention Israel is expected to pick up such responsibilities - in the same way as presumably Russia is responsible for the Chersonese site it has taken over from Ukraine. But I wonder how UNESCO/The WHC would react if Ukraine were to propose nomination of Bakhchysarai on the Crimea! Interesting also that the reason why Israel wasn't able to gain inscription of the Triple Arch Gate of Dan was the "unclear" boundary issue for the buffer zone.

I note that, of the 3 properties inscribed by Palestine to date, only Bethlehem received a visit from the ICOMOS evaluators (Israel then must have decided not to make things difficult for ICOMOS!) - and then only the main Church - presumably because of "time constraints". Battir appears to have been evaluated purely from documentation and contact with experts - but I can't discover if ICOMOS ever tried to visit. We know of course that Israel prevented an ICOMOS visit to Hebron. I presume that Israel is in the position of being able to "prevent" AB visits to sites in all the Areas if it wishes to since the only entry to them is through Israel?

I note also that all 3 inscribed properties were presented by Palestine as being the first of serial sites - so UNESCO/Israel is potentially faced with an "Annual" item on the WHC agenda either of new nominations from Palestine - possibly as you have shown sites in area C and under full control of Israel and even being a part of Israel's National Parks AND/OR with a series of extensions to the existing inscribed sites. It will be interesting to see how a differently populated "Committee" might react to such an "annual" ploy. A notable aspect of the Hebron vote was the fact that a lot of non Arab members didn't feel able to support Israel - will this continue in the face of an "annual" charade by which Palestine nominates a site or an extension which ICOMOS isn't able to visit AND rejects or wants to defer anyway? This then followed by a "secret ballot" which results in the inscription of a site whose OUV isn't proven/accepted and the nominating state isn't in a position to manage. To accept this year after year would be to degrade the entire WHS scheme and reduce it to a political pawn. Surely many countries would oppose this - Palestine has made its point but if continuing to do so potentially weakens the entire system should it be allowed to continue?

Author Assif
#29 | Posted: 28 Jul 2017 12:12 
Interesting also that the reason why Israel wasn't able to gain inscription of the Triple Arch Gate of Dan was the "unclear" boundary issue for the buffer zone.

The problem here was the proximity of the Golan Heights which were unilaterally annexed by Israel, an annexation no state recognises.

I presume that Israel is in the position of being able to "prevent" AB visits to sites in all the Areas if it wishes to since the only entry to them is through Israel?


the nominating state isn't in a position to manage.

Through these nominations Palestine is trying to make a statement these sites are in danger because it is not granted the authority to manage the sites. I would say this is exactly the point.

Author Solivagant
#30 | Posted: 5 Jan 2019 12:42 | Edited by: Solivagant 
I have recently come across a number of articles/Web sites raising the "possibility" of the Refugee "camp"/town of Dheisheh (nr Bethlehem) being suitable for nomination as UNESCO "World Heritage". They all cover the same subject and are from the same "Palestinian stable"! e.g
a. This article of Nov 2018 -
b. This web page by an organisation titled "DAAR" ("Decolonising Architecture Art Residency") on the subject of "Refugee Heritage" and "The Architecture of Exile", The tabs on the RHS include "Justification" which is a "draft" justification for nomination of Dheisheh using the "terminology" of UNESCO nominations - Criteria, Comparative analysis etc etc -

What I can't work out is whether this is
a. Just a bit of "kite flying" by an organisation whose "sympathies" are obvious (and I don't specifically criticize them for that)
b. A way of raising "genuine" issues about what constitutes "Heritage" and the way it has been interpreted by (hitherto, Western dominated) UNESCO
c. The early salvoes for a real attempt in the coming years to get a Palestinian refugee camp inscribed as part of what could be construed as being a political statement as much as it could be a genuine attempt to bring about a change in the definition/perception of "Heritage"!!

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