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Home / Travel / In occupied West Bank, Palestinian bloggers see local tourism as defiance

In occupied West Bank, Palestinian bloggers see local tourism as defiance

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.

travel Updated: Sep 17, 2020, 21:44 IST
Reuters | Posted by: Alfea Jamal
Reuters | Posted by: Alfea Jamal
Artas, 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 Israeli-occupied West Bank September 9, 2020.
Young Palestinian travel bloggers Malak Hasan and Bisan Alhajhasan arrive at the Convent of the Hortus Conclusus in Artas village near Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank September 9, 2020. (REUTERS)
Two Palestinian travel bloggers are promoting local Palestinian tourism in the West Bank as an act of defiance against Israeli occupation. 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. But after its capture by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, the West Bank has also been home to Israeli military bases and checkpoints that restrict Palestinian movement, as well nearly 430,000 Israeli settlers who live among 3 million Palestinians.  Israel cites security concerns for the checkpoints in a volatile area it calls by its biblical name, Judea and Samaria. 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. “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. 
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‏English follows: منذ ما يزيد على مائة عام، يتوسط "دير الجنة المغلقة" مساحة خضراء في بلدة أرطاس جنوبي مدينة بيت لحم، يطل من خلالها بتصاميمه المعمارية التي تتميز بكثرة أقواسها العتيقة، إذ يعتقد بأن القرية تحتل المرتبة الثانية في الأقدمية في العالم بعد مدينة أريحا. • وتقع تحت مباني الدير "عين الجنة المغلقة"، ينبع منها الماء الصافي، وينهمر لري عشرات الدونمات في محيط الدير، وبستان الجنة المغلقة والحدائق المليئة بالخضار والفواكه. • المكان جميل جدا وساحر وبتقدروا تزوروه أي يوم بين الساعة ٧ الصبح والساعة ٥ العصر. بننصحكم تزوروه أكيد! • For over a 100 years, the village of Artas to the south of Bethlehem has been a home to the Convent of Enclosed Garden, with its unique architecture and old arcs. The village is believed to be the second oldest inhabited location after Jericho. • Just below the Convent, the visitor will see a natural spring watering tens of dunums surrounding the Convent, including the garden and the lush gardens. • This place is magical and you can enjoy its beauty when going to Artas anytime between 7am and 5pm. We highly recommend it! #bethlehem #palestine🇵🇸 #jerusalem #artas #فلسطين #بيت_لحم #ارطاس #القدس

A post shared by Travel & Inspire | أهلا فلسطين (@ahlanpalestine) on

ALSO SEE| PHOTOS: Palestinian, female travel bloggers are promoting local Palestinian tourism

“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. 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.”

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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