There is so much history, great people, beautiful nature and a lot to explore in Palestine, but sadly there are still many people afraid to go there by themselves. It is true not everything there has been a happy history, but it is a wonderful place to visit.
All the misinformation circulating by word of mouth and on the internet contribute to keeping many people from putting a foot in these cities. Some claim that there are all kinds of interests in keeping visitors away or in just bringing them for a quick tour and taking them back to the other side of the horrible wall to eat, shop and sleep. I am not a political analyst, but seeing many things by myself it is not hard to believe there are murky intentions coming from many involved in the tourism industry who keep spreading misinformation about Palestine.
The fact is that against many advices, and not paying attention to everything we read in the internet, we decided to visit Bethlehem and Jericho by ourselves, sleeping, eating and shopping there, and we do not regret the decision, we certainly enjoyed every minute of it.
We rented a car in Tel Aviv, and yes we went -once again- against the advice of the rental car company, they do not forbid you to taking the car into Palestine, but they tell you very clearly that insurance will not cover you there and if something happens, you are responsible for any damages to the car. Well for those who do not want to take the risk, the solution is simple one can take a cab or a bus from East Jerusalem.
Our first destination was Bethlehem, we crossed the check point without any problems, as a matter of fact we went in and out at several opportunities and no one told us anything. We stayed at the Intercontinental, a very good property, just on the other side of the wall in Bethlehem, everybody was amazingly friendly and attentive, we parked our rental there in a very safe and free parking lot. To sleep in Bethlehem is far cheaper than to sleep in Jerusalem, one gets a lot of more for the money and it is easy to see how something so simple like staying there has a direct positive impact in the lives of many.
We visited wonderful places, historical churches, the old town, we ate in delicious restaurants, we did not have any problem at all, even police were attentive and always greeting us, Taxis are very cheap and easy to find. One can use credit cards or cash (Israeli or USD) without a problem. We felt very safe while in Bethlehem, we spent three days there and it was wonderful. The only sad part was to see so many groups, coming, visiting the churches and leaving as soon as possible, not buying anything because they have been told it is dangerous, and many other sorts of things.
From there we went to Jericho. Intercontinental hotels has another great property there at the entrance of the city. We enjoyed delicious food and the excellent facilities of this hotel for a fraction of what we would have paid in other places. Jericho is the most ancient city in the world. Once again we did not have problems driving there by ourselves, locals were friendly and very appreciative of the fact we were there by ourselves and they did not have to pay commissions to drivers, tour guides and even to the so called spiritual directors. The Sycamore tree, the ancient ruins, the impressive monastery of the temptation are just some of the fantastic attractions to name some, very close by one can get to the Jordan River, the Dead Sea and religious places as the Inn of the Good Samaritan and the Monastery of Saint George.
People believe sometimes too much in all kinds of propaganda, and they do not understand there are many motivations behind that. We are glad we went beyond that and we discovered a beautiful destination, with high standards of tourism infrastructure at a very affordable price. There are a lot of people in need it is true, and one will faced the same challenges and dangers that it is possible to find in other big cities. I never have encountered any problem in Palestine, but I have been robbed in New York City and Rome. So common sense and prudence is what is what should accompany a visit to any place. The truth is that Palestine is a destination in the raw, tourists may have to guide themselves to it for now. We hope many more visitors will have to courage to discover it by themselves.