** Important **

For more information on passports, visas, travel insurance, and other general travel logistics, don’t forget to consult your handy dandy Welcome Package!

A NOTE FROM OUR REGIONAL DIRECTOR

Hello! You’re officially part of the OG Family. I’d like to personally welcome you to the Middle East!

We’re so excited that you have joined us, and we look forward to welcoming you in a few short months! Can you picture it? Sitting in the airport, waiting to get one flight closer to Israel and Palestine. When you arrive, you’ll be welcomed by your amazing program leaders, and boy will they be excited to see you.

Much of the uniqueness of this region comes from the land. You will have the opportunity to travel to and experience different terrains and landscapes. You could walk the ancient Via Dolorosa in the Old City, raft the Jordan river, hit the clubs in cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, and fall asleep on a tranquil section of the Mediterranean coastline, all in one day!

It will be easy, on this particular program, for some of your preconceived notions of the region and conflict to be enlighteningly challenged. You’ll engage in deep, thoughtful, and meaningful conversations with locals and will learn about their communities from them. These are storytellers, and if you are lucky, you might have the opportunity to fill your mind with their tales. The gears in your mind will turn as you find yourself left with more questions than answers. Despite these stories of triumph and heartbreak, you will witness unwavering hope. If the people of Israel and Palestine share one thing, it is an intensity and passion for life that defines the region, and brings us back year after year.

I want to be honest and say that this whirlwind of an adventure that you have chosen is going to be supremely awesome. But, I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention or acknowledge that it will be challenging, and there will be times when you are pushed out of your comfort zone. So, congrats on taking the first leap of faith, and starting this potentially life-changing experience! Throughout your entire program, I’d like to encourage you to keep moving forward. It won’t always be easy, but it will definitely be worthwhile.

On this OG program, you will (re)learn. Are you ready?

Warmest regards,
Samira Matan

Highlights

What’s in this Section?

* Click to jump to each section *

Your Itinerary
Find Your Way
A Critical Look

Your Itinerary

The trip of your life is about to begin and these are just a few of the amazing things you can expect!

*Click on each day to get the full details on the day’s excursions*

Jerusalem

Following airport pickups from Ben Gurion Airport in Tel-Aviv, we’ll go straight to Jerusalem for our in-country orientation. Our team will settle into our first of many homes by trying local cuisine, picking up the basics of Hebrew and Arabic, and seeing local historical sites such as the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Dome of the Rock. We’ll educate ourselves with a crash course on the history, politics, and implications of the conflict while meeting with local experts to orient ourselves to the politics and demographics of Jerusalem.

We will have front row seats to Jerusalem’s amazing display of contradictions: ancient and modern, religious and secular, division and unity. We’ll also have a chance to visit the modern cosmopolitan city of Ramallah, the intense and divided city of Hebron, and other nearby cities in the West Bank. Get ready to kick off our learning about what life, resistance, and resilience look like outside of Jerusalem. This first week is an intense, but integral start to our journey!

Seed Saving in Bethlehem

From Jerusalem, we’ll head to Bethlehem where we’ll meet with the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library (PHSL), our first project-based partnership. Here in Bethlehem, PHSL seeks to tackle the environmental neglect that has come with years of occupation. Through food forestry and collecting seeds that have been handed down by Palestinian farmers for generations, PHSL takes a unique approach to the idea of land reclamation. We’ll lend a hand in this amazing initiative by getting into the dirt, gardening, weeding, and planting.

Our team will have the chance to contribute to the preservation of Palestinian culture and invest in the future generation of Palestinians through a lens of environmentalism.

Tent of Nations

From Bethlehem, we’ll travel into Area C of the West Bank to work and play on the gorgeous Tent of Nations farm, an environmental and educational farm that is at risk of being demolished by the Israeli army. We’ll have an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the people remaining steadfast on their land, and get creative about it too! Between weeding, moving rocks, and shovelling gravel, our group will be chilling by campfires and eating phenomenal vegetarian food. We’ll do our whatever it takes to keep this structure alive!

Breaking Bread with Roots

A centre in the West Bank run by Israeli and Palestinian counterparts, Roots’ goal is to bring the two often divided peoples together. Their farm, where we will be both living and working, is the hub of their outreach program in the West Bank, which includes monthly meetings between Israeli and Palestinian families, a women’s group, a summer camp, language learning, and cultural exchanges. In past years, we’ve worked with locals to plant trees, dig a cistern, and even build a playground in preparation for Roots’ inaugural summer camp. Get ready for home cooked meals, philosophical conversations that go late into the night, and maybe even sleeping under the stars!

Throughout our program, we will explore cities in both Israel and Palestine. In Israel, we will bike along the boardwalk in the liberal, metropolitan city of Tel Aviv, experience the communal lifestyle of the Israeli kibbutz, and hike in the lush mountains of the north. Moving through these very different communities, we will have the opportunity to speak with locals and get a diverse perspective on the region’s tense political situation.

Independent Travel Time (ITT)

A staple of all Operation Groundswell programs is Independent Travel Time (ITT). You can travel independently if you desire but we encourage everyone to travel in pairs or small groups. The wonders of Petra? The enchanting Jordanian desert of Wadi Rum? Hiking the Israel Trail? The mysticism of Zfat or surfing in Haifa? ITT is the ideal time for you to learn more about your specific interests by volunteering, traveling, or just relaxing!

**Please note that you are not under the auspices of the organized program during ITT. Team members will be given the emergency contact number of program leaders during ITT for any advice.

Disorientation – Tel Aviv

Our group will reconvene for a program debrief known as ‘disorientation’ prior to flying home. This will likely take place beachside in Tel Aviv where we will tell stories of ITT, reflect on the program, what we learned and our accomplishments, how we can stay in touch, and what future projects we can collaborate on. There are always a few surprises and a few tears before everyone heads off to the airport for our goodbyes!

Find Your Way

In the age of Google, we decided that an interactive map is the only way to roll. Feel free to play around with it, make it your browser’s homepage, and share it with your friends and family. Soon enough we’ll be on the ground doing that route for real.

A Critical Look

Control over Palestine has changed hands many times over the centuries, with both Jews and Palestinians claiming true ownership. With Anti-Semitism on the rise in Europe in the 1930s, many Jews made their way east to Palestine, fueling Arab-Jewish tensions. After WWII the UN voted for the Partition Plan, dividing the area into separate Arab and Jewish states. The plan was accepted by the Zionists and rejected by Palestinians and surrounding Arab countries, thrusting the region into war.

The following decades saw a string of conflicts, many of which continue to some degree today. Currently, Palestinians live under occupation by the Israeli military. Freedom of movement is restricted, violence is inflicted upon a civilian population, and human rights are constantly violated. Many people in the West Bank live in refugee camps; either driven from their homes or descendants of those who were forced from their original homes during war. The conditions in the camps are cramped, dirty, and oftentimes heartbreaking.

This program will explore the many lived experiences of this land throughout the centuries, asking “what is home?”, engaging multiple narratives of displacement, and learning about the diverse alternative approaches to peace and reconciliation being employed from within the region.

A Crash Course on the Middle East

What’s in this Section?

* Click to jump to each section *

Palestine Profile
Israel Profile
Staying Healthy on the Ground

Palestine Profile

Palestine. The West Bank and Gaza. The Occupied Territories. Judea and Samaria. The future Palestinian state has a long list of names, each reflecting a certain legal, political, or religious ideology.

Theoretically, Palestine is a democracy though democratic elections in 2006 saw Fatah oust Hamas from the West Bank and Hamas oust Fatah from Gaza. In 2014, the two declared a unified government, but it has yet to pan out in practice. In the summer of 2014, the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens set in motion a series of events that culminated in the 50-day war, deemed “Operation Protective Edge” by Israel.  The operation was highly destructive especially in Gaza, resulting in high casualties, many of which were civilians.

The Gaza Strip continues to struggle to rebuild and recover, as tensions in the West Bank and Jerusalem have seen a recent spike due to fears that Israel will change the “status quo” at the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount.

Still, there is also a lot of variety to be found in the West Bank from the labyrinthine alleys of Nablus’ Old City to the bars of Ramallah, from the churches of Bethlehem to tragedy that is Hebron. There is much to see, and the locals are eager to show you. The one constant in the West Bank is the hospitality. If you are invited to have tea with an old shopkeeper or to share a meal in a refugee’s home, say yes!

Quick Facts

Population:  2.6 million in West Bank, 1.7 million in Gaza
Capital City: Jerusalem, Ramallah (de-facto administrative capital)
Major Languages: Arabic
Major Religions: Islam and Christianity (mostly in the Ramallah and
Bethlehem areas)
Monetary Unit: New Israeli Shekel (ILS)
Time Zone: UTC +2:00

Israel Profile

Israel is a Jewish and democratic state founded in 1948, though many would argue that its history began decades before when the first waves of “aliyah” made their way from Europe to British-controlled Palestine.

Beyond the conflict, there are many sources of beauty, innovation, and inspiration in Israel. One can drive from the sunny beaches of Tel Aviv to the mountains of the Golan and back down to the sacred wonders of Jerusalem, all in a day’s work.

Israel is a country of contrasts. Being at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and Asia, these cultural influences have left its mark on the country. Tiny Arab villages dot the hilly landscape in the north, Beduouin tents brave the dust and sandy desert in the south, while modern, beachy Tel Aviv and intense Jerusalem lay opposite of each other in the centre.

Israeli society is a tapestry of East and West, religious and secular, modern and traditional. It is at the forefront of medicine and technology, and also home to some of the most sacred sites in the world. Israelis are generally tough, direct, but sweet and sincere people. They will (possibly in the same day) hand you their baby while they pay for their groceries, cut in front of you in line for the bus, and invite you to Shabbat dinner. Say yes!

Quick Facts

Population:  7.6 million
Capital City: Jerusalem
Major Languages: Hebrew, Arabic, English
Major Religions: Judaism, Islam, and small Christian, Druze, and Ba’hai minorities
Monetary Unit: New Israeli Shekel (ILS)
Time Zone: UTC +2:00

Staying Healthy in the Middle East

Israel has state of the art medical facilities, top-quality resources, and is considered one of the world’s healthiest countries. Typical health problems in the region are similar to those in North America, and often only routine vaccinations are recommended (though you should talk to your travel doctor about what’s right for you!) Water-borne and mosquito-borne illnesses are very low risk in the region, though the hot and arid climate puts travelers at risk of dehydration.  With a hat, some sunscreen, and a refillable water bottle, you’ll be good to go.

As a well-established and experienced international travel operator, Operation Groundswell takes active precautions to help keep you safe and secure while overseas on your program. We take travel safety very seriously. To learn more about our Risk Management System, click here.

You should also be sure to refer to our Welcome Package for essential information on vaccinations, travel medical insurance, and our medical history form. Click here to read through it!

** Important **

You should also be sure to refer to our Welcome Package for essential information on vaccinations, travel medical insurance, and our medical history form. Click here to read through it!

Getting In & Out of the Middle East

What’s in this Section?

* Click to jump to each section *

Flight Information
Visa Details
Where Will We Be Sleeping?
Independent Travel Time

When it comes to sleeping, eating, and getting around, we take our cues from locals to see what life is really like in the Middle East! For more information on passports, visas, travel insurance, and other general travel logistics, don’t forget to consult your handy dandy Welcome Package!

** Important **

For more information on passports, visas, travel insurance, and other general travel logistics, don’t forget to consult your handy dandy Welcome Package!

Flight Information

Once we confirm program enrolment numbers, we’ll e-mail you with the go ahead to book those flights (if we haven’t already!) We’ve provided a bit of information on booking flights below so that you can start checking things out, but don’t book anything until you get the go ahead.

Arrivals & Departures
When it’s time to book those flights, be sure to choose one that arrives into Tel Aviv, Israel, Ben Gurion Airport on July 14 anytime between 8:00 am and 10:00 pm. You will depart from Tel Aviv, Israel, Ben Gurion Airport on Aug 17 anytime between 8:00 am and 10:00 pm.

We suggest checking Kayak, Orbitz, Cheapoair, Google Flights, and other flight sites to get the cheapest rate.

** Important **

If you want to arrive in the country early or leave for home later, this is your call and you can book flights that meet your needs. However, if you arrive before the program begins, you will not be under the auspices of Operation Groundswell. We cannot guarantee that anyone will meet you at the airport or arrange your accommodations. You will be entirely responsible for yourself until the first day of the program.

You will receive an email (if you haven’t already) with a link to fill out your flight information. You can fill this out once you’ve booked your flight closer to the program date. This information is crucial for us to arrange your airport pick-ups and drop-offs so be sure to fill it out once it’s time!

Visa Details

Travelers from Western countries do not need to apply for visas in advance. Upon arrival at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, Western travelers are typically issued free tourist visas (usually valid for 90 days).

**Note: OG cannot guarantee entry to any participants, as there are many factors beyond our control. If denied entry to the country, we cannot refund your program fee.

Remember, you are personally responsible for obtaining a visa and confirming your visa requirements. Resources such as www.visahq.com may be helpful, but it is always best to consult your destination’s embassy directly.

While your program fee does not cover visa costs, we are here to answer any questions you might have if a pre-trip application is necessary. If there are any special documents required to receive a visa for your destination, let us know! While we can’t guarantee your approval, we will help out in any way we can. The sooner you let us know what you need from us, the sooner we can get back to you.

Where Will We Be Sleeping?

As the bible of backpacking goes, we’ll be sleeping in every kind of place imaginable! At times we’ll be based in a Jerusalem apartment or hostel, which will either have shared rooms or larger open areas where we’ll sleep on mattresses. When traveling in the West Bank and other areas of Israel, we’ll be staying in hostels, tents, community centres, and camping outside. Some accommodations will include a kitchen where we will be doing our own cooking, other places we’ll have food prepared for us. Either way, cleaning up comes along with that so be prepared for some chores and whistle while you work!

Independent Travel Time

After spending your first couple of weeks on program learning the lay of the land, getting comfortable, and acquiring all the tools to become an ethical traveller, you’ll be off to start your Independent Travel Time, or ITT!

This is your opportunity to put your new skills to use, get out there on your own (or with a couple of friends) and show your program leaders that you can do it without them by your side! (But don’t worry, they’re only ever a phone call away!)

While some participants choose to make plans ahead of time, it can sometimes be hard to know exactly what you’ll want to do over ITT until you’ve spent a bit of time in country, and have made connections with your fellow participants.

Our advice? Fly by the seat of your backpacker pants! Rest assured that once you arrive, your program leaders will be ready to talk through the many amazing options the region has to offer, which ones are farther away than you’d think, and help you make a plan. After spending a few weeks in the region, not only will you have a better idea of what you really want to do with this time, but you’ll be able to score the sweet in-person deals that you can’t get when booking online. Double win!

If, however, you would feel more comfortable making plans in advance, we suggest finding a refundable choice so that you can maintain your flexibility!

Packing List

What’s in this Section?

* Click to jump to each section *

Backpack & Daypack
Important Documents
Essentials
General Clothing
Personal Hygiene & Toiletries
Optional Items

Remember, the rule of thumb is always to pack as lightly as possible! So pack your bag and then remove half of it. You won’t need most of it…we promise!

Backpack & Daypack

Because we’re not wheelie-baggers, we’re backpackers! We recommend going to an outdoor adventure store and getting a pack fitted to you.

  • Most people should only need a 45-65L pack. Try a bunch on and compare prices to find one that is right. You could also borrow from a friend!
  • It’s also essential that you bring a smaller daypack for short trips and daily use.

Important Documents

  • Passport (valid beyond 6 months from the start date of the program)
  • Extra passport photos (if you have them)
  • Copies of passport/tickets/credit cards (you want extras in case you lose a document)
  • Customer service numbers for credit cards/insurance
  • Proof of vaccinations
  • Student card/ ISIC card (even if they are expired and only if you have ’em)

Essentials

  • Sleeping bag
  • 1 bath towel (quick-dry adventure towels are the lightest)
  • Flashlight (headlamps are popular and recommended)
  • Min. 1L reusable water bottle
  • Medication/EpiPen if you need it

 

Shoes

If you buy new shoes, be sure to break them in before the program.

  • 1 pair of sturdy hiking boots/trail shoes (for work and trekking around)
  • 1 pair of water proof shoes, sandals, or flip flops
  • 1 pair of comfortable casual/dress shoe

General Clothing

  • 5-7 pairs of underwear
  • 4-5 pairs of socks
  • 2-3 pairs of shorts (please try to keep them knee length, short shorts don’t go over too well in some areas and we want to be culturally sensitive)
  • 4-5 t-shirts/tank-tops (revealing clothing isn’t your best bet, but we also know that it gets damn hot during the day. Just try to keep a balance.)
  • 1 pair of comfortable pants or shorts for hiking, treks, or other physical activity
  • pair of jeans or khakis and a nice shirt/polo for when we meet community leaders/important folk
  • 1-2 longer sleeve shirts as it can get cold at night and it’s good to layer
  • 1 sweater – a good quality fleece is great because it is warm but light.
  • One waterproof jacket (a shell that you can layer a sweater underneath is probably the best!)
  • A hat to protect you from the sun
  • A bathing suit (modesty is your friend)
  • 1 lightweight scarf/shawl to cover your shoulders in a pinch, and provide warmth on those rare chilly nights.
  • If you’re interested, long skirts and dresses could become your best friend in the heat, and they can easily be dressed up or down for a trip to the beach or the Western Wall.

** Important **

Israel is notoriously casual. No need to dress to impress here. The weather will be generally hot to very hot, so light and breezy clothes are your friends. Shorts and tank tops are fine to wear around the house, but you need to pack more conservative items for when we visit religious areas and for when we are in the Palestinian Territories (this means covering knees and shoulders.) Our volunteer work will most likely be hot and dirty. Pack sturdy (conservative) clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting dirt, paint, or baby slobber on. Packing one lightweight sweater is also a good idea as it can get chilly, especially in higher elevations like Hebron and Nablus. We will have laundry available, so no need to bring the whole closet!

Personal Hygiene & Toiletries

  • Regular hygiene items like soap, shampoo, deodorant, shaving cream, etc. (These are all readily available in smaller quantities and at a cheaper price if you would rather buy them down there.)
  • Vitamins, painkillers, cold medicines, etc.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • 1 extra pair of prescription glasses or contacts/contact solution (if required)
  • Tampons and pads (it is always a good idea to bring more than enough tampons as they can be hard to find in more rural areas)
  • Bug spray and after bite
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Immodium/Pepto Bismol (you will want this!)
  • One round of prescription medicine (i.e. diarrhea meds – ask your doctor)
  • If you have asthma and you need a puffer, bring it even if you rarely use it. Same goes for allergies and EpiPens
  • Any prescriptions that you need (refrigeration may not always be possible, so check in with your program leaders)

** Important **

All program leaders are equipped with first aid kits, so though it is useful to have basics like Advil or Tylenol, you don’t need to pack a pharmacy. There will be a medical form sent out closer to the program start date so you can outline any specific mental or physical health issues we should be aware of before the program. This completed medical history form signed by a physician is mandatory for participation in all OG programs. Click here to learn more. 

Optional Items

    • Journal & Pen
    • iPod/MP3 player if you have one
    • Camera
    • Ear plugs/eye mask if you’re a light sleeper
    • A pocket knife (if you’ve got one – but don’t pack this in your carry-on luggage!)

No need for a computer, iPhone, iPad, or anything similar as we will have access to a computer when we have access to the internet!

Money Matters

It’s easy to get around relatively inexpensively on an OG program. What you spend is really up to you! The program fee covers the costs of accommodations, three meals a day, transport, and excursions. It does NOT cover any personal expenses such as souvenirs or laundry. For these cases, you will want to bring some spending money.

We recommend that you bring $200 USD, which you can conveniently change into regional currency at an in-country currency exchange. While one of the easiest options tends to be withdrawing local currently from an ATM using your debit card, it’s always good to have some exchangeable cash on hand in case of emergencies.

Money Tips

  • Leave any traveler’s checks and Canadian money at home. They are problematic to cash or exchange.
  • Visa is the most widely accepted credit card. Do your best to have a chip card that is pin enabled to have it work in ATMs. Make sure that the PLUS sign is on the back of your card so that it works in international ATM locations.
  • Debit is also an effective option. ATM/ABMs are widespread and can dispense up to $200 USD equivalent. There is a transaction charge of approx. $2.50-$5.00 USD, but they are the most convenient and safest option. It is advisable to communicate with your bank before departure to determine their level of accessibility.
  • Call your bank and inform them of your travel plans so they don’t place a hold on your account when they see money being withdrawn in a foreign country (you do NOT want this to happen!)
  • Money in large amounts, Interac/credit cards, etc. should NOT be carried in any one location and we recommend using money belts/discreet wallets.

Partners

What’s in this Section?

* Click to jump to each section *

Our Approach
Palestine Heirloom Seed Library
Tent Of Nations
Roots Farms

Our Approach

At Operation Groundswell, we forge partnerships with local NGOs and charities to work with them on community-requested projects. This means that the communities we work with decide what kind of partnership they are looking for, how we as volunteers can be best put to use, and how our community contribution can most effectively help them achieve their goals. It also means we don’t always know in advance what will be needed in our partner communities or how we can best serve. Seasonal weather patterns, a changing political climate, and organizational needs may change so get ready to adapt like a true backpacktivist!

Though we spend solid days on the ground getting our hands dirty and volunteering, a larger chunk of our time is spent learning from our partners to better understand the underlying issues and challenges that they face. We’re not going to “save the Middle East” in our short time together, but we will be making deep connections with and learning immensely from the real change makers on the ground!

Palestine Heirloom Seed Library

The Palestine Heirloom Seed Library initiative was started by Vivien Sansour to tackle the obstacles faced by Palestinian farmers since the occupation. Knowing the seed not only represents a connection to the land, to history, to the future, and to identity, the seed is what sustains life in the West Bank – and inasmuch is a form of resistance. Cornered between large agro-business, climate change, limited funding, and Israeli occupation, Palestinian farming practices are under threat. The PHSL works to bring certain heirloom crops back from extinction, but also to preserve the knowledge and oral histories that go along with those crops as well. Learn more.

Tent Of Nations

Tent of Nations is an organization that aims to bring people together across difference by building bridges between people, and land. Located just outside of Bethlehem near a town called Battir, the ToN farm serves as a meeting grounds, and educational space to build understanding across people from many different countries, cultures, languages, and perspectives. In their fight to keep their land, ToN employs many strategies: working the soil, hosting long term international volunteers, building structures, and engaging legal methods, as well. As a decidedly non-violent movement, Tent of Nations believes that the answer is neither to perpetuate hate, nor to back down – but to reconnect to the land, and each other. Learn more.

Roots Farms

Roots aims to create a space for Israelis and Palestinians to partner, and work towards a paradigm shift by sharing stories, developing a mutual understanding in solidarity with one another, and building a literal model of coexistence. Located on a piece of land in the West Bank that is essentially surrounded by Israeli settlements, Roots promotes relationship building across languages, cultures, and religions in hopes of using empathy as a tool to challenge hostile climates. They host workshops, women’s groups, leadership seminars, dinners, and also have a small farm that generates a little income and is used to supply some food to needy families in the area.


OG has been working with Roots since their founding in 2014, and we’re excited to participate in another year of support, story-telling, learning, and allyship, Oh, and the most delicious cucumbers, ever! Learn more.

Living in the Language

We might struggle and look silly searching for words in a new language, but the very attempt connects them to locals on a different level. Trust us on this one.

Arabic for Dummies

Hello
Salam

How are you?
Ki fek?

Please
Min fudlik

Thank you
Shukran

You’re welcome
Afwan

Yes/No
Aiwa (or na/am)/La

Stop or enough
Khalas

How much is?
B’addeesh…

Hebrew for Dummies

Hello
Shalom

What’s up?
Ma Koreh

Please
Bevakasha

Thank you
Toda

Good, ok
Beseder

Yes/No
Ken/Lo

Stop or enough
Dai

How much (does this cost)?
Kama ze ole?

Cultural Do’s and Don’ts

Be a cultural chameleon and do what you can to show as much courtesy and interest in the local culture as possible. Do as the locals do and try to follow these basic rules while in the Middle East! Being aware and sensitive to your surroundings is crucial to being a backpacktivist!

Do’s

  • Dress Conservatively: There are a wide range of cultural norms and views in Israel and the Palestinian Territories that we need to be aware of and be willing to adapt to. Many Israeli and Palestinian adherents to Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are quite conservative.
  • Keep an open mind: We need to be open to new thoughts and ideas, ready to learn with open ears and open minds. We’ll need to step outside of our comfort zone, eat something we’re not used to, wear something we don’t want to, make a fool of ourselves to fit in and dance a traditional Palestinian or Israeli dance. In Israel, ultra-orthodox communities, conservatives, and liberals and seculars all exist within close proximity. You’ll be expected to dress modestly in some areas, then you’ll walk 2 minutes to the beach and see a lot of immodest dress…. It’ll be fun!
  • Ask questions before making statements: Israel and Palestine are politically volatile areas and people are, understandably, sensitive on both sides. Be respectful of all the people we meet along the way.

Don’ts

  • Do not smoke in public places in the West Bank, especially for you ladies! This will more than likely invite unwanted attention and perhaps a stern rebuke from a total stranger.
  • Many Muslim women will not shake hands with a male non-relative. As a male, when meeting Muslim women in the West Bank, the rule of thumb is to let them act first. You may find a handshake waiting for you, but oftentimes you won’t. Letting them make the first move will avoid an embarrassing situation for the both of you.
  • Don’t put all your money and credit/debit cards in one place. Have a few locations only you know about.
  • Don’t leave your bag or purse unattended, especially in markets and on buses. It’s smart to wrap the straps around your legs if you plan on snoozing.
  • Don’t make snap judgments. Ask questions before you make statements, listen and respect others’ opinions.

Resources

What’s in this Section?

* Click to jump to each section *

Books
Films
Music

This section is meant to provide further information on the region that simply can’t be covered in this program package. These are extra resources that’ll help you learn more about the places that you will be travelling to and the relevant issues in these places. This will help paint a cultural picture even before your plane takes off!

Books

    • The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan
    • Jerusalem: A Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    • Palestinian Walks by Raja Shehadeh
    • How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden
    • A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz Dining With Al-Qaeda by Hugh Pope

Films

  • Israel vs. Israel (2011)
  • Paradise Now (2005)
  • The Lemon Tree (2009)

Music

  • Dam Rap: Arab-Israeli rappers from Lod
  • Moshe Ben Ari: Israeli musician, lyricist, and composer
  • Machina: Popular rock band
  • Karolina: Israeli singer/songwriter
  • The Idan Raichel Project: Popular singer known for incorporating multi-ethnic talents

Get in Touch

So you wanna get in touch with us but don’t know who to reach out to? All of our staff are ready to help you in your journey in any way we can!

Get in Touch with Us

Our main phone line is 1-888-422-0164. Our office hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

In case of emergency while you’re on program, please ask your family or next of kin to call OG’s main line at 1-888-422-0164 and follow the prompt. On-call coordinators are available 24 hours a day for emergencies related to current programs or participants.

To reach us via email for all matters, contact mail@operationgroundswell.com.

If you have any financial inquiries, contact our financial support team at financialsupport@operationgroundswell.com.

As you prepare for your journey, OG will periodically contact you with important information about logistics, payments, safety, and more. Please check your spam folder regularly! Consider adding mail@operationgroundswell.com and hq@operationgroundswell.com to your contacts or approved sender list to make sure that our emails are delivered.

For more information on passports, visas, travel insurance, and other general travel logistics, don’t forget to consult your handy dandy Welcome Package!

Final Checklist

You’ve just begun the most epic adventure of your life (so far!) and we’ll be here for you every step of the way. Just use this handy dandy checklist to see if you’ve got everything you need before you hop on that plane.