Things have calmed down slightly in terms of this border crossing. Yes the massive separation walls are as blatant as a Jewish penis at an orgy, but crossing the border doesn’t have the same stigma attached to it as it once did. The crossing from Jerusalem into Bethlehem is actually rather straight forward these days. I was totally prepared for a 2kilometre walk after the passport check as was listed in the Lonely Planet for Israel, but alas it was wrong. There was NO 2 kilometre walk, nor even a passport check the day we did it! Here’s my backpacking overview of how to get from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.
Getting to Bethlehem in Palestine from Jerusalem
Getting to Bethlehem is ridiculously easy from Jerusalem. Head on a local bus which costs 7.30 Shekels. The buses are very regular (day time only) and leave from a small bus depot not too far from Jaffa Gate, in fact the spot is called Damascus Gate. The buses are Palestinian, so you will find mostly muslims on board, writing is also in Arabic.
It’s a hilly road out of the Israeli capital city of Jerusalem. The bus was full and looking around, there were more Muslims than Jews, naturally. There were just three backpackers – myself and my girlfriend Panny plus Alina from Italy who was staying at the Abraham Hostel with us and wanted to come along.
The Journey to Palestine/West Bank
Israeli Jews are not allowed into Bethlehem, or the West Bank, and so the bus will stop before you reach Bethlehem, so that the Israeli Jews can get out before they reach the border. AT first we expected a security check, a passport check etc. But nothing happened. We got to a concrete wall and the Jewish passengers got out, in what appeared to be a junction in the middle of nowhere, but outside Palestine.
These days, the border crossing is very straight forward, though also extremely sad. In fact it’s just like a normal bus journey across any border, without the passport check and form filling. You know you are crossing some kind of border because of the walls and the Jews getting off. There is also a long dark tunnel on route.
What is the Separation Wall?
In June 2002, Israel started building an “Apartheid Wall” between the Palestinian areas and the Israeli areas, all over the West Bank. We saw parts of the wall in quite a few parts of the West bank, as we also visited Ramallah, Jericho and Hebron. Not only is this wall an eye sore, it’s against human rights and it breaches many of the conditions outlined by the UN. I don’t like it at all. But it’s there, you’ll see it and you’ll be aware that the Palestinians are hemmed in with little freedom.
Take your passport with you, just in case, as you may be checked. We weren’t though, which was a major surprise. That will teach me for relying on the Lonely Planet too much!
Arrival in Beit Jala, The West Bank, Palestine
Suddenly, less than an hour later, we arrive in the town of Beit Jala and before we know it, the bus stops. We hop out and a local dude tells us “Welcome to the West Bank”. Arrival by bus into Bethlehem was my first time to visit Palestine. It was that simple, I was actually in a bit of shock, the most complicated part of the entire journey was paying the driver 7.30 shekels for the ticket to Palestine (and that was easy)!
The fact that it was just as easy as “getting on a local bus for 45 minutes” (can’t remember the exact time but it was less than an hour) means it almost didn’t merit a position in my World Borders Series but somehow I felt the need to include it, as other travellers might not be aware of how easy it is to get from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and in doing so cross into the West Bank, Palestine. I’m here to help and provide a good travel site to help you all so I hope this clears things up.
We actually crossed the border between Israel and Palestine a few times, not just backpacking on our own, but with Abraham Tours as well, I might cover some of the other border crossings too, some did include passport checks on the way back into Israel. In the meantime, check out some of my posts on backpacking through the West Bank:
– Taybeh Beer Festival, Ramallah, Palestine
– Top 10 Sights in Bethlehem
– Top 5 Sights in Ramallah
– Top 10 Sights in Jericho (the world’s lowest and oldest city)
– Drinking Beer in Bethlehem
– Backpacking in Hebron H1 Part – Palestine
– Backpacking in Hebron
– Stars and Bucks Coffee in Bethlehem, Palestine
– Visiting Yasser Arafat’s Tomb
I took 2 videos from our bus journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, West Bank, Palestine: