This section originates from information collected for the guidebook published in 2000.
We start with a listing of the main sources of general information about the area, particularly for the visitor, and then with a listing of sources which may have specialist and up-to-date information for the disabled visitor.
These days, one of the best ways of finding the right contacts who can help with information is to use the internet. While there is a great deal of junk and misinformation on the web, some of the best sites take trouble to keep their information up-to-date, and you can learn a great deal from them.
A guidebook is only a ‘snapshot’ which can give information which was available to us before publication. One of the advantages of web sites is that they can contain up-to-date information which was simply not available when we did our research. Equally, many websites are not properly maintained and contain old telephone numbers and other misleading information. The information on the web about access is generally of very poor quality, and we would recommend checking carefully if access details are important.
The most obvious information sources are the Israel Government Tourist Office (IGTO) which has branches in many countries, including Britain, Canada and the USA, and the PNA Ministry of Tourism. They will have good general information, but they are not knowledgeable about access issues. The Israel Hotel Association publishes a hotels list which includes a key with the information ‘DIS’ which means that there are facilities for disabled visitors. Unfortunately, no standards are applied, and different hoteliers use different criteria, so the listing includes a few that are really good, some that would be OK for some disabled visitors, and some that are pretty awful. The listing is therefore of limited value in relation to access, but the price and contact details are useful and accurate. The IGTO publishes A visitor’s companion which is a useful compendium of facts and advice.
The main IGTO offices in Britain and North America are at:
UK House, 180 Oxford Street, London W1N 9DJ email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel:020 7299-1111 Fax: 020 7299-1112.
800 Second Avenue, New York NY 10017 email: email@example.com Tel: (212) 499-5650 Fax: (212) 499-5655.
5 South Wabash Avenue, Chicago IL 60603-3073 email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel:(800) 782-4306/(312) 782-4306 Fax: (312) 782-1243.
6380 Wilshire Boulevard #1718, Los Angeles CA 90048 email: email@example.comTel: (213) 658-7462 Fax: (213) 658-6543.
180 Bloor Street West, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2V6 email: firstname.lastname@example.orgTel: (416) 964-3784 Fax: (416) 964-2420.
There are also offices in Australia, Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, Korea, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
The Palestinian National Authority
(PNA) Ministry of Tourism, POB 534, Manger Square, Bethlehem website:www.visit-palestine.com Tel: 02 274-1581 Fax: 02 274-3753. The Gaza office can be contacted on Tel: 07 282-9461 Fax: 02 282-4856, and the Jericho office on Tel/Fax:02 992-1229. There is a much more extensive site run by The Alternative Tourism Group (ATG) at website: www.patg.com which has numerous other links to Palestinian sites including www.palestine.net and to the Birzeit University website:www.birzeit.edu in Ramallah.
On the internet, there are websites at:
www.netvision.net.il/php/yosibeck the Center for Information on Israel. As one might expect, there’s not much access or disability information and what there is does not conform to any consistent standards. We did not get the impression that the site is kept regularly up-to-date;
www.iGuide.co.il is a Guide to the Israel Internet sponsored by the leading service provider in Israel, netvision. It includes a classified directory of sites and a complete listing of all domain names in the Israeli internet;
www.hebron.org.il represents the views of Jewish settlers in Kiryat Arba(Hebron’s suburb), and has links to other Jewish sites;
www.inisrael.com Interactive Israel, which includes information about travel agents; hotels and about the major towns and cities but, as with others, with little access information;
www.infotour.co.il Israel Tourism and Recreation the official Ministry of Tourism site which includes long listings of travel agents, car rental companies and up-to-the-minute news;
www.maven.co.il describes itself as Maven, the Jewish Portal. It includes a range of subjects, including travel and tourism, entertainment, and Judaism. It has pages on Jewish festivals;
www.virtualjerusalem.com Virtual Jerusalem is news-based, and includes a great deal of information of interest to the Jewish community and a page entitled ‘Ask the Rabbi’.
The Palestine Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (Passia), 18 Hatem Al-Ta’i Street, Wadi al-Joz, PO Box 19545, Jerusalem email:email@example.com Tel: 02 626-4426 Fax: 02 628-2819 maintains an independent financial and legal status, and is not affiliated to any government, political party or organisation. Its office is located just off Ibn Jubier in East Jerusalem. Passia encourages Palestinian-Palestinian, Palestinian-Israeli and Palestinian-International dialogue and discussion. It holds regular Interfaith Dialogue meetings, and seminars on International Affairs and Civil Society Empowerment. It produces a comprehensive and valuable directory of Palestinian organisations and contacts, ranging from NGOs, charitable organisations, hotels and car hire companies to a comprehensive listing of PNA government departments, and a critique of the policies being followed.
In addition, there are several reputable organisations with whom we have not been directly in contact, but who may be helpful with particular information. These include:
up-to-date information is to be found at website: www.btselem.org from an activeIsraeli human rights organisation B’Tselem;
Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre, Ghassan Khatib, 5 Nablus Road, Sheikh Jarrah, POB 25047, Shu’fat, Jerusalem website: www.jmcc.org email:firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 02 581-9777 Fax: 02 582-9534. This was started by a group of Palestinian journalists and researchers to provide information on events in Palestinian areas;
the National Parks Authority, 35 Jabotinski Street, POB 3577, Ramat Gan 52511email: email@example.com Tel: 03 576-6888 Fax: 03 613-2656 who administer more than forty parks and sites throughout Israel. At some of them, efforts have been made to improve access, and to provide facilities for disabled visitors;
website: www.igc.org/igc/issues/me is the site for the Peace Net Middle East.
Guidebooks are a really good source of information, and these are discussed under Maps and guides later in this chapter. Note that information relating to access is largely missing, although some include good plans of the various sites which will show how big the place is, and possibly where there are steps.
Information sources for disabled travellers
In the UK, various organisations can give advice about taking holidays, and these include:
Holiday Care, 2nd Floor, Imperial Buildings, Victoria Road, Horley, Surrey email:firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 01293-774535 Fax: 01293-784647. HC is the central source of travel and holiday information in the UK for disabled or disadvantaged people. It provides some brief information sheets about foreign countries. They publish an information sheet on getting support for travelling, and offer their own insurance policy for disabled travellers;
RADAR 12 City Forum, 250 City Road, London EC1V 8AF website: www.radar.org.ukemail: email@example.com Tel: 020 7 250-3222 Minicom: 020 7250-4119 Fax: 020 7250-0212. RADAR is the central coordinating body for all voluntary groups concerned with disabled people in the UK. It provides advice and information on a variety of subjects, including access, housing, benefits and holidays. It produces an extensive publications list. Because of lack of resources, RADAR is no longer publishing its various guides to travelling abroad, however, they have a number of useful booklets, including Holiday Fact Pack, published in 1999 with information both on insurance and on organisations involved in holiday opportunities for disabled people;
In the USA, there are many groups and organisations:
a site with quite an extensive listing, and with good links is Access-Ability website:www.access-ability.co.uk has some good contacts listings, for the UK, USA and Canada
note especially Access-Able Travel Source website: www.access-able.com which has gathered a huge amount of practical information and advice. It is run by Carol Randall who has extensive contacts, and keeps everything well up-to-date as far as is possible. Access-Able is incorporating Travelin’ Talk website: www.travelintalk.net into their site. Travelin’ Talk is a worldwide network (though mainly from the US) of people with disabilities who offer travel information and emergency assistance to one another;
Access for Disabled Americans, 436 14th Street #200, Oakland, CA, USA, website:www.maxpages.com/disabledaccess email: Psmither@aol.com Tel: (510) 419-0523Fax: (510) 419-0768 publish a regular newsletter and an Around the World Resource Guide;
Global Access website: www.geocities.com/Paris/1502 titled Disabled Travel Network, has an extensive listing of links, and provides a site where disabled travellers can share their experiences. They list our other guides, so they must be good;
IMAT (International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers) 417 Center Street, Lewiston, NY 14092, USA Tel: (716) 754-4883. IMAT tries to coordinate a group of doctors around the world to provide assistance to travellers who require medical attention while away from home. This could be of immense value to some people. They are a voluntary group and operate on the basis of donations only;
INDIE, the Integrated Network of Disability Information and Education website:www.indie.ca which also has extensive contacts and disability organisations listings;
Mobility International, PO Box 10767 Eugene, OR 97440, USA website:www.miusa.org email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: (514) 343-1284 Fax: (514) 343-6812. A non-profit organisation that promotes international educational exchange and travel. They maintain information sheets on many areas in the world and have some sixty regional offices in different places;
MossRehab ResourceNet website: www.mossresourcenet.org has some pages relating to accessible travel. The Moss Rehabilitation Hospital was for a long time one of the leading sources of information in the US for disabled travellers;
SATH (Society for the Advancement of Travel for the Handicapped), 347 Fifth Avenue, Suite 610, New York, NY 10016, USA website: www.sath.org email:email@example.com Tel: (212) 447-7284 Fax: (212) 725-8253. Organises an annual conference on disability travel in the US and abroad. Publishes access information through a quarterly magazine Open World, and on its website. Works with the American Society of Travel Agents and National Tour Association as well as serving on corporate advisory boards and federal regulatory committees.
Getting the right information is a question of who within the group you contact has the practical knowledge that you are after.
In the Holy Land
The main organisations with whom we have had contact are:
Ezer Mizion, 25 Yermlahu Street, Jerusalem email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 02 500-2111 Fax: 02 537-4881 runs a number of programmes for children with cancer, and provide other support services for people with disabilities when possible. They provided us with transport to get from the airport to our hotel in Tel Aviv when Yad Sarah (see below) were unable to help. It’s probably best to talk to Yad Sarah first, but there are some requests that Ezer Mizion may be able to help with.
MILBAT, The Israel Centre for Technology and Accessibility, Tel Hashomer, Ramat Gan, 52621 Tel: 03 530-3739 Fax: 03 535-7812. This organisation is the centre for information for disabled people about equipment. It was set up to provide much needed support to Israeli veterans injured in the various wars. When we visited in 1998 it seemed clear that they were underresourced, and that they were trying to cope with a massive workload with only a tiny number of staff. They are, however, both friendly and, wherever possible, helpful. They issue some information leaflets for disabled visitors about accessible accommodation and adapted transport, but some of the information was unspecific and much of what we saw was out-of-date.
MILBAT have close contact with a wide range of reputable suppliers and can give advice concerning equipment repairs, transportation and medical assistance. This service is available in principle to Israelis and Palestinians as well as tourists. They also offer information on recreational activities for disabled people such as Jeep tours, water skiing, kayaking and horse riding etc. The have a lot of equipment on site but an appointment is essential.
Umbrella Organisation of Associations for Disabled People in Israel (UOAD), 68 Eben-Gvirol Street, POB 16636, Tel Aviv 61166 email: email@example.com Tel: 03 695-4208 Fax: 03 695-4207. UOAD operate an extensive programme to promote an increase in the employment prospects for disabled people. This is done through information and counselling centres, and by informing employers about people’s abilities and encouraging an increase in the opportunities available. It is also promoting the provision of more accessible transport. Advice and help is available to visitors wherever possible, but as with other Israeli organisations operating in the field of disability, UOAD is grossly overstretched in undertaking the work it does.
Yad Sarah, Kiryat Weinberg, 124 Herzl Boulevard, Jerusalem website:www.yadsarah.org.il email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 02 644-4426 Fax: 02 644-4423. Yad Sarah is a unique, community-based non-profit, non-discriminatory organization whose 6,000 volunteers and the small number of professional staff provide, via 85 centres located throughout Israel, free homecare, support services to residents in need of temporary or permanent assistance. Details of the branches are given on their website.
Visitors can borrow equipment that they may need from Yad Sarah against a refundable deposit, exactly as Israelis do. You can borrow anything from a walking stick to a hospital bed and from a breast pump to an oxygen concentrator. You must bear in mind, of course, that such negotiations take time, and the offer of a loan is conditional on the availability of the equipment you want. In the Jerusalem area, they can help to equip your hotel room to make your stay more comfortable, for example by raising the bed or providing a commode. This would be subject to the policy of the hotel, and Yad Sarah request a month’s notice of people’s requirements.
Visitors in wheelchairs can use Yad Sarah special transportation vans for a fee in the same way as Israelis, and this can include travel to and from the airport. Such transport can certainly be helpful, but it would probably be difficult (if not impossible) to plan a touring holiday using it. Because of the nature of the organisation, there are many calls on its resources, and providing transport for visitors will not be its main priority.
The people there are both friendly and helpful. In 1999 the key person was Joram Seela. We asked for transport from the airport to our Tel Aviv hotel during our visit in April 1999. As we were arriving on Friday evening, during Shabbat, Yad Sarah were unable to help, but they put us in touch with Ezir Mizion who were, and we were driven in some style into the centre of Tel Aviv at about 160 km/h !
Specialist tour operators
In 1999 there were just a few companies in Israel and the Palestinian Territories who specialise in organising visits by disabled people. We have met or spoken to all the major players in the companies mentioned here, but we have not used their services specifically, so we have no way of comparing what they offer in terms of value for money. Commonsense says that individually tailored tour visits using accessible transport are likely to be more expensive than a standard package. On the other hand you get the experience of people who know what they are doing and who are likely to be both friendly and helpful. This saves money, and you will almost certainly not encounter any real disasters en route. The two greatest problems in Israel are finding accessible accommodation at a reasonable price (and in the right place !) and finding accessible transport. These are the two aspects that a local operator who knows what they are doing can sort out for you. They will also have practical knowledge about the needs of disabled travellers.
Magister Tours 18 Hagalim Boulevard, Herzlia 46725 email: email@example.comTel: 09 951-3001 Fax: 09 951-3002. A recently established division of Magister Tours specialises in tours for disabled visitors. It is run by Zvika Gur who is himself a wheelchair user. They offer a range of options in terms of touring, with accessible lodging and transport with lift access. They will customise tour itineraries to meet individual needs, and can organise the framework for historical and religious tours, spa treatments and visits to practically any of the places described in this guide. They can organise a car with hand controls, holidays near beaches and swimming pools, challenging sports and activities and visits to the shops, as well as all the sights, shrines and places of historical interest.
Shartours email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 09 862-1343 Fax: 09 862-3082. The company claims to be experienced in the business of organising tours which meet the needs of disabled travellers. However, we had considerable problems in getting any response out of them when they were asked for slightly more detail. It took several phone calls and faxes just to elicit a bland reply which simply said something like “We can do it”. We have still not managed to get an address for where they operate from, or to see a brochure. They may be OK, but they sure were difficult to get information from, and when we did, it was vague !
Tourism for People with Special Needs email: email@example.com Tel: 06 628-8059Fax: 06 628-9247 is working in conjunction with Keli Tours, 19 Hacharoshet Street, Keidar-Centre, Ra’anana 43656 email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 09 740-9490 Fax:09 740-9408. The manager is Eli Meiri. They can offer a wide variety if tours, including destinations in Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan and Egypt. They say that they can provide accessible lodging, and transport with a lift and wheelchair clamps. They organise historical and religious sightseeing tours, spa visits for medical treatment, and even visits to centres that manufacture equipment for people with disabilities. Special and appropriate tours can be arranged for people with visual and/or hearing impairment.
In the UK there is:
Especially Made Tours, c/o Janet Stafford, Torch Trust for the Blind, Torch House, Hallaton LE16 8UJ website: www.especiallymadetours.co.uk who offer occasional tours for people with various special needs. They have a lot of experience in organising such visits and have done their homework in terms of making sure that the facilities are practical. Their visits are also very reasonably priced.
In the USA there are:
Accessible Journeys, 35 West Sellers Avenue, Ridley Park, PA 19078, USA email:email@example.com Toll free: 1 800 TINGLES Tel: (610) 521-0339 Fax: (610) 521-6959 have extensive experience in organising travel for people with special needs, and have previously organised visits to Israel.
Travel Aides International, 14885 Snowberry Circus, Magalla, CA 95954, USA email:firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: Travel Aides International is a business to both assist and travel with people with disabilities. They operate a travel agency, one of whose destinations is the Holy Land, and can provide medically qualified companions.
For those interested in tours which centre on Palestinian areas, there is:
The Alternative Tourism Group PO Box 173 Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem website:www.patg.org email: email@example.com Tel: 02 277-2151 Fax: 02 277-2211 offer a range of possible tours and visits, particularly for those who want to be with Palestinians. They can organise a stay in a family home with guest rooms. We were taken to two such homes which had, basically flat access. Neither was purpose-built for a chair user, and in both the bathroom was rather cramped with D65, but for an able chair user this would be a fascinating way to spend some time. They have less direct experience of disability than some of the other operators listed here.