The Palestinian city of Ramallah, just north of Jerusalem, is opening its arms to tourists, marking itself as a hip, energetic destination with accommodations and attractions matching anything Israel can offer — and for about half the price. But so far, the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy hasn’t quite worked.
“It’s special. There are no other places like Ramallah in Palestine,” he said, pointing specifically to the city’s many museums, religious diversity and celebrations, and the fact that a tourist can “have a good time” in a club or bar.
The city was founded in the 16th century by Christians from Jordan, and remained a majority-Christian city up until the Six Day War in 1967. Today, there are no exact statistics as to how many Christians live in Ramallah, but the city is growing fast.
The municipality doesn’t have official figures for how many tourists have visited in recent years. Its only metric is the number of travelers who stop at the two tourist centers — according to employees who work there, about 40-60 people a day.
For Israelis, Ramallah isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind when thinking of tourist destinations. During the First Intifada of the late 1980s and early ’90s, and the Second Intifada of the early 2000s — which saw Israel targeted by a strategic onslaught of Palestinian suicide bombers — the city was a hub of anti-Israel activity, and scenes of clashes between Israeli soldiers and protesters in the streets dominated news networks.
Israeli’s avoid Ramallah out of fear and tourists because of negative propaganda against Palestinians.
Read more from Times of Israel