Palestinian National Authority — Overview
The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) is the governing body that stands as the internal administration for many regions of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It was first established in 1994 following the Oslo Peace Accord, but hasn’t enjoyed stable governance since. The region has been significantly hampered by violent conflicts between Israeli forces and Palestinian insurgents, especially during the Intifada uprisings of the 1990s and 2000s. Unfortunately, since 2004, the region has also fallen into civil war, as the Fatah and Hamas parties turned on each other following Yasser Arafat’s death. However, despite the violence that frequents the PNA, tourists still flock to the heart of the Holy Land.
The PNA is home to some of the most renowned religious sites in the world. With a history that stretches back to before biblical times, the Holy Land lures thousands of visitors annually. The PNA is home to ancient cities like Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jericho, and East Jerusalem, all of which boast famous religious and historical attractions, such as the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Qumaran Caves near Jericho. The roads around the PNA aren’t always in the best condition, but tour vans and car rental can be used to reach the sites just outside the major cities. There are literally hundreds of significant sites found across the PNA, many of which still radiate stunning beauty, despite their weathered appearances.
Accommodation is available across the PNA. The major cities of the region, including Jericho, Bethlehem, and Ramallah, are where tourists will find the more up-scale hotels. There are several internationally-known chains located in the main conurbations, and tourists visiting on a budget will also find plenty of inexpensive options, including hostels and guesthouses. Tourist villages are also designed to accommodate visitors, boasting cheap rates and decent facilities. Middle Eastern cuisine is the staple diet in the PNA. Dishes with hummus and olives are popular, along with simple meat dishes. However, American or Western cuisine can also be found in cities like Bethlehem and Ramallah. The local brew is known as Taybeh, the only beer brewed in the PNA.
There are no international airports within the PNA. There was an airport serving the Gaza Strip, but this was destroyed by Israeli forces during the Intifadas. Nowadays, most tourists heading into the PNA fly into Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport, then transfer by taxi, car rental, or bus to Jerusalem. Passing into PNA’s East Jerusalem is relatively easy. The entire trip from the airport to East Jerusalem usually takes less than an hour. Tourists with Palestinian ID cards have to pass through Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport (in Jordan), then cross the Allenby Bridge into PNA land.
Getting around the PNA is best achieved by car hire or tour vans. However, buses do travel from Jerusalem to other major cities and towns, including Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jericho. The highways aren’t always paved, so motorists need to be careful when driving. Of course, there are checkpoints located throughout the PNA. Some are troublesome, and can create unpredictable waiting times. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that tourists will run into trouble while traveling around the region.
- Explore the area around Jericho on camel back
- Visit the oldest church in the world, the Church of the Nativity
- Climb the Herodion to see Herod’s Palace
- Partake in one of the archeological digs outside Jericho
- Hike the stunning region of the Artas Valley