Palestine and Palestinians

by Sabri, Giroud

Publishing this Guidebook marks an important turning-point in presenting Palestine to visitors. Tourism to our country still relies mainly on Israeli guides and guidebooks. Besides distorting basic information about our history and culture, and introducing hostile views to our people, the domination that foreign tour operators have wielded over Palestinian tourism has meant that our own tour operators and vendors have seen little revenue from what is a major industry in the Palestinian economy. When foreign tourists, carefully shepherded by Israeli guides, venture into Palestinian areas – today limited to Bethlehem and Jerusalem — they zip in and out without spending a night in Palestinian accommodation, without eating a meal in a Palestinian restaurant and without patronizing Palestinian stores or cultural venues. Visitors receive a biased and superficial picture of the political situation, and seldom visit Palestinians or their many interesting sites. If they relate to Palestinians at all, most guidebooks accord them only a scant reference, an abbreviated chapter at the end. Worst of all, but most common, Palestine is presented as merely a part of Israel itself.
As this, one of the first Palestinian-oriented guidebooks, illustrates, Palestine possesses an ancient history, a rich society, exceptional tourist sites and a vital contemporary culture – all of which deserve to be promoted. This is a vital aim of the Alternative Tourism Group. Besides offering educational and tourist materials and programmes, the ATG strives to help develop the Palestinian tourism industry as a whole, notably by diffusing information on tours covering all aspects of Palestinian life. The idea of a tourist guidebook was born from the feeling that travelers to Palestine lacked essential information and a “Palestinian Voice”. Our objective is to produce a professional, comprehensive and attractive guide to Palestinian life and sites. The guidebook is based on the contemporary approach of cultural tourism, which shifts the emphasis from merely visiting sites with a purely historical and impersonal narrative to creating opportunities for establishing contact between visitors and the local population. Palestine’s history and its cultural patrimony go well beyond the religious sites (though an integral part of the visit, too). Cultural tourism facilitates meetings between individuals, specifically among visitors and their hosts, and it explores their hosts’ history, as well as their social, political, cultural and environmental realities