Ramallah & Al-Bireh
Ramallah (the name means God’s Mountain) and Al-Bireh were once separate villages, but now make up one urban conglomerate, a mere 10km north of Jerusalem. Though Al-Bireh’s history can be traced back to the Canaanites, Ramallah was only settled in by Christians in the 1500s, and these days is a bustling, cosmopolitan city, with a thriving art scene and vibrant nightlife.
For Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, Hebron (Al-Khalil in Arabic) is considered the cradle of organised religion. For thousands of years the major holy site has been the Tomb of the Patriarchs – the collective tomb of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, along with their wives (except Rachel).
The Samaritans (members of an ancient religion closely related to Judaism) believe that Mt Gerizim, which overlooks Nablus from the south, was not only the first piece of land ever created, but is also the land out of which Adam was made, the only place spared in the great flood, the place Abraham went to sacrifice his son Isaac (Judaism holds that this event took place on Je.
Aida Refugee Camp
This camp is located in the shadow of Israel’s separation wall, near Rachel’s Tomb. A cornerstone of the community is the Al Rowwad Centre, which offers drama, music, computer and arts training, as well as arranging special classes and workshops for women, the blind and residents with disabilities. A taxi from the city centre should cost 20NIS.
The rugged, 18km-long ridge known as Mt Gilboa (highest point 536m), which runs along the southern edge of the Jezreel Valley, makes for a great nature getaway. After the winter rains (December to March or April), the area is carpeted with wildflowers, including the purple Gilboa iris (blooms in late February and early March).
When a small Christian village is known more for its beer than for its Bible stories, one might think the past is forgotten. But the townsfolk in Taybeh hold fast to their heritage, raising a glass to the place they believe Jesus stayed with his disciples in his final hours (John 11:54).