Introduction


This section originates from information collected for the guidebook published in 2000.


Access in Israel and the Palestinian Authority is a guide for people who have problems getting around. It provides detailed information about travel, accommodation, and tourist attractions for those with mobility problems. Users may include people who use a wheelchair, elderly persons, those who use a stick or crutches, and possibly those with young children. They may be local residents, people visiting relatives, of course, pilgrims and tourists.

The preparation, research, fundraising and organisation necessary to collect the information was carried out by the members of PHSP (Pauline Hephaistos Survey Projects), working in partnership with both Israeli and Palestinian organisations. The information is firmly based on the experiences of disabled people, and virtually every entry has been wheeled into or walked into, and measured, by our survey teams. Most of the information gathering was carried out during 1998 and 1999.

Since publication in the middle of 2000, the security situation has deteriorated suddenly, because of the second Palestinian intifada and frustration at the slow pace of the ‘peace process’. This meant that some places to which many visitors would have wanted to go, like Bethlehem, became off-limits. Hopefully, as time goes by, this will change, and a just accommodation between the peoples who live in the area will be reached. In the meantime, if you are wanting to visit either Israel or the Palestinian Authority areas, we would suggest that you check carefully on the current position, and if possible consult local people. There are many suggested contacts for being able to do this in the guide, and e-mail provides a quick and inexpensive method of getting advice and information.

We have tried to be objective by describing what the barriers are in various places, where they are, and how (if possible) to get around them. This approach allows you to make up your own mind as to whether or not a visit is practicable, or on how much help you might need. We have included many places where a real effort has been made to overcome barriers. Do bear in mind, however, that inclusion in the guide doesn’t imply accessibility, and what we’re doing is to describe the places listed.

In the published material we have included General Information, together with accessibility information about key places. There is an extensive listing of Useful Organisations and Contact Points, particularly for disabled visitors. There is advice on Travelling and getting around, and in particular on Adapted transport. There is detailed information on accessible Accommodation, followed by some excerpts from the guidebook, illustrating the kind of information we have collected. For details of how to get hold of the book, go to Access in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The book covers a wide area, and includes many more sights and places of interest. It consists of 280 pages. An outline of the contents is included under Access in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We believe that a book is in some ways a more user-friendly presentation of information than web-pages, and the printed guide contains considerably more information than we can include here.

A note of caution and of acknowledgement:

In writing anything about the Holy Land, one is in danger of treading on someone’s toes. Our particular guide has no political, racial or religious axe to grind, and we have tried to be as even-handed as possible. Calling our guide Access in Israel and the Palestinian Authority doesn’t imply any recognition of territorial rights which are the subject of discussion, negotiation or controversy. The outcome of the Oslo Peace process, and the negotiations between the Israeli government and Palestinian representatives will affect a number of issues, some of which will affect the visitor. Similarly, the outcome of discussions between the Israeli and Syrian governments may affect access to areas in the Golan Heights in the future.

We are indebted to the Israeli Government Tourist Office and the PNA Tourism Ministry for advice, and the Awqaf administration for giving permission for wheelchair access into the mosques on Haram al-Sharif.

Our viewpoint as a group of British, mainly Christian, visitors is bound to be biased (perhaps unknowingly), and we apologise if we have failed to give sufficient weight to Jewish of Muslim interests and viewpoints in our survey.

We hope that the Guide will not only be useful as a ‘guidebook’ both for those who live locally and for visitors, but that it will provoke action to improve access for disabled people.