oung Palestinian travel bloggers Malak Hasan and Bisan Alhajhasan arrive at the Convent of the Hortus Conclusus in Artas village near Bethlehem in the West Bank
Young Palestinian travel bloggers Malak Hasan and Bisan Alhajhasan arrive at the Convent of the Hortus Conclusus in Artas village near Bethlehem in the West Bank
Photo: Reuters
Young Palestinian travel bloggers Malak Hasan and Bisan Alhajhasan arrive at the Convent of the Hortus Conclusus in Artas village near Bethlehem in the West Bank

In West Bank, Palestinian bloggers see local tourism as defiance

Instagram blog 'Ahlan Falasteen' offers travel destinations, advice to Palestinians who feel they cannot travel to certain contested West Bank locations due to presence of settlers or Israeli soldiers

Reuters |
Published: 09.17.20 , 18:13
Two Palestinian travel bloggers are promoting local Palestinian tourism in the West Bank as an act of defiance against Israel.
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  • The West Bank is scattered with sites holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews, and its mountainous landscape offers breathtaking views from the hills of Hebron and Nablus down to the hypersaline Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth.
    oung Palestinian travel bloggers Malak Hasan and Bisan Alhajhasan arrive at the Convent of the Hortus Conclusus in Artas village near Bethlehem in the West Bankoung Palestinian travel bloggers Malak Hasan and Bisan Alhajhasan arrive at the Convent of the Hortus Conclusus in Artas village near Bethlehem in the West Bank
    Young Palestinian travel bloggers Malak Hasan and Bisan Alhajhasan arrive at the Convent of the Hortus Conclusus in Artas village near Bethlehem in the West Bank
    (Photo: Reuters)
    But after its capture by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War, the West Bank has also been home to IDF bases and checkpoints that restrict Palestinian movement, as well as nearly 430,000 Israeli settlers who live among 3 million Palestinians.
    Israel cites security concerns for the checkpoints located in such a volatile area.
    Hoping to allay the fears of Palestinians who avoid visiting remote sites, Malak Hasan and Bisan Alhajhasan founded "Ahlan Falasteen" - meaning "Hello Palestine" - a blog and Instagram page offering travel destinations and advice.
    oung Palestinian travel bloggers Malak Hasan and Bisan Alhajhasan sit at the remains of an archeological site in the village of Aboud near Ramallah oung Palestinian travel bloggers Malak Hasan and Bisan Alhajhasan sit at the remains of an archeological site in the village of Aboud near Ramallah
    Young Palestinian travel bloggers Malak Hasan and Bisan Alhajhasan sit at the remains of an archeological site in the village of Aboud near Ramallah
    (Photo: Reuters)
    "The idea of two young female Palestinians who visit places that people feel are too far, or that might be closed, or are scared because of settlers or Israeli soldiers, we go there to show them that we should not abandon those places," said Alhajhasan, 32.
    "This is part of our struggle as Palestinians," Alhajhasan said, taking Instagram videos at a 19th-century monastery in Artas village, south of Bethlehem.
    Driving to Artas from the Palestinian hub city of Ramallah involves crossing at least one Israeli checkpoint and bypassing several others, an approximately 50-km (30-mile) route that without restrictions would be around half the distance.
    oung Palestinian travel bloggers Malak Hasan and Bisan Alhajhasan sit at the remains of an archeological site in the village of Aboud near Ramallah oung Palestinian travel bloggers Malak Hasan and Bisan Alhajhasan sit at the remains of an archeological site in the village of Aboud near Ramallah
    Young Palestinian travel bloggers Malak Hasan and Bisan Alhajhasan sit at the remains of an archeological site in the village of Aboud near Ramallah
    (Photo: Reuters)
    The bloggers' Instagram page features dozens of sites including several hillside springs popular with Palestinians and Israelis alike.
    They have gained more than 5,600 followers since launching the app in May. They say it aims in part to show Palestinians new local destinations while international travel is restricted.
    "We hear from shop owners that lots of people are visiting them after hearing about us," said Hasan, 31. "We feel like we filled a gap."
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