Kristin R. Jackson
The Seattle Times
May 21, 2011 - 12:00am

RAMALLAH ISN'T your typical tourist spot. The Palestinian town of 25,000 lies within the Israeli-held West Bank, an epicenter of volatile Mideast politics that has endured centuries of occupiers and uprisings.

Yet Ramallah has peacefully flourished in the past few years, growing into the de facto political and cultural capital of the mostly Muslim West Bank.

While impoverished Palestinian refugee camps, an Israeli security fence and roadblocks still pockmark the West Bank, Ramallah boasts a recently opened trendy shopping mall; new luxury hotel; bustling market and nightspots; even a "Stars and Bucks" cafe, a backhanded tribute to the American coffee giant. Mosques and churches dot the town (some Palestinians are Christian). And Ramallah is the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of West Bank life.

Palestinians who fled during recent decades of Palestinian-Israeli violence are returning to Ramallah, investing with their eyes on the prize. If a Palestinian nation is formally created, Ramallah, just 10 miles from Jerusalem, could boom.

For now, though, Israeli policies and security restrictions make visiting the West Bank complicated. A guided tour is the easiest way for most visitors to go. Some Israeli companies offer day tours. Or the Alternative Tourism Group, a Palestinian organization, takes visitors to Ramallah and beyond, with political and interfaith meetings between Muslims, Christians and Jews in this tangled crossroads of ancient cultures.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017