Internationals: Want to volunteer in Palestine?
This website is primarily in support of Palestine Rescuers and as you can see there is a lot of work still to be done! So minimal time will be given to this section as you can find out a lot all by yourself
If you are interested in volunteering in Palestine, you will want to consider organisations you might wish to volunteer with, whether you want to go to the West Bank or to Gaza, and how to access Palestine, which as an occupied country does not control its own borders.
Accessing the West Bank and Gaza
PLEASE NOTE: The people moderating this website have no particular expertise in this area, only their own experiences as internationals. They are aware that, like the Egyptian political situation generally, the situation at the Rafah border is in flux and continues to be unpredictable. Anyone with recent experiences – your sharing of these anonymously on this page would be very helpful.
Palestinians: Your own personal contacts will have much better advice for you than we do, as your entry possibilities can be easier or, outrageously, far more difficult than ours, but your situation will certainly be different from our experiences.
Internationals: If you would like to go to Palestine, and you have a good chance of entering to the West Bank via the Israeli-controlled land or air borders (as a “tourist” or having co-ordinated with an NGO that has some leeway with Israel), we suggest you consider going this route first. Israel has a policy of denying entry to many known human rights workers and international volunteers, or other repeat visitors to Palestine.
Should you go to the West Bank or to Gaza?
West Bank: You may find it easier to access the West Bank, and new volunteers are always needed there due to old ones ending up blacklisted. Gaza under siege is difficult to enter and also to leave, and simply trying to do so may put you on Israel’s blacklist. Culturally speaking (not only the experience of another country’s culture, but also the oppressive “culture” of military occupation) most people find that the West Bank is an easier introduction to Palestine where you can learn the most constructive ways to communicate and act.
Gaza: If you have already been refused entry to Palestine by Israel, or understand the risk of future refusal yet feel your skills are needed specifically in Gaza, you can try volunteering via a Gaza-based NGO. They can try to facilitate your entry through Erez if you are not blacklisted by Israel, or else via the Egyptian-controlled Rafah border. This can be a difficult process for them as well as you, so it is reasonable to consider if you are bringing useful skills (medical, working with traumatised children, counselling, university/academic etc) that means the NGO’s work to get you in will be worthwhile. You can aim to find the organisation that you will be most useful to by some internet research and by contacting NGOs or solidarity groups based in your country that may be partners or supporters of Gaza organisations.
You can also consider contacting the Viva Palestina Convoy to see if they have any convoys scheduled as several of their convoys have succeeded in accessing Gaza in the past.
Free Gaza have made 5 successful sea crossings out of 10 attempts previously, being obstructed by Israel in all recent attempts. You are most likely to be accepted for Free Gaza if you have previous Palestine experience or other relevant skills or experience as places are in high demand.
The International Solidarity Movement has maintained a constant presence in Gaza after experienced ISM volunteers arrived by the first Free Gaza boats in 2009. As of November 2012 they are asking for new volunteers who need to meet appropriately stringent requirements.
Before you go
It’s a very good idea to find your local Palestine solidarity group and attend some of their meetings and events. You will learn more about the situation and get a lot of useful advice. You can also think about what you can give back to such groups before, during and after your trip, since they work hard to keep Palestine issues in the Western consciousness. Often they support specific projects or partner with specific organisations in Palestine and this can be part of your trip planning. Be realistic about your strong and weak points so you pick the right kind of volunteering.
It’s very worthwhile to consider: learning some Arabic, doing some first aid training, obtaining some press ID from your local community media or student paper, and creating an email list you will report home to.
Organisations that you may wish to look into:
…these are only a few, and their pages will also have links to other organisations and resources that can help you
When on their way to Palestine via Israel’s borders, some people choose to tell the border guards of their plans to visit Israel but not of their Palestine plans. But at least once a year, volunteers deliberately do the exact opposite!
The Welcome to Palestine project, endorsed by Archibishop Desmond TuTu, now happens annually; people from all over the world head to Palestine to volunteer for community support work. Of course this kind of volunteering happens via a whole range of organisations all through the year as well, but many visitors have to do this covertly, due to Israel’s attempts to stop such solidarity volunteers entering.
Under the Welcome to Palestine banner, participants choose to announce their intentions up front and simultaneously arrive to Israeli border control, to highlight and protest against Israel’s obstruction.
Upfront direct action is obviously great, but if you are thinking of volunteering via Welcome to Palestine, then carefully way up the pros – helping raise international awareness of the issue and still possibly getting in to your volunteering – with the cons – maybe ending up blacklisted and never seeing the West Bank until Occupation finally ends!
This year for example, 30 Welcome to Palestine UK volunteers were refused access to their plane by airline Jet2 at Manchester airport – Israel has a long arm! When this happened also in Paris, CGT’s Roissy-CDG union branch representing airport staff rejected “the complicity of the French authorities in this violation of the freedom to travel”.
Since this year’s Welcome to Palestine, elected representatives of many participants, particularly those imprisoned by Israel for wishing to visit Palestine, have been pressing their governments to condemn Israel’s actions and the complicity of airlines, and investigations have begun into the nature and source of Israel’s ‘McCarthyite’ lists sent to airlines.
Stories about Welcome to Palestine 2012:
If Israel Obstructs Your Entry to Palestine
You may wish to report your experience via the website Right to Enter: the Campaign for the Right to Enter the Occupied Palestinian Territory, who collect such details to fight Israel’s policy of obstruction.
PLEASE DO NOT POST A QUESTION BELOW WITHOUT FIRST READING THE OTHER ANSWERS, AS YOUR QUESTION MAY ALREADY BE COVERED! We will no longer approve comments that say “I wish to volunteer in Palestine, what should I do?” as we have answered that question as best we can in previous answers to comments, and in the content of the page above, including links to volunteering organisations which will also have links to others on their own pages. Good luck!