Birthright Unplugged

These FAQs apply to our Unplugged trips. Please contact us with questions about our Re-Plugged trips.

Who goes on Birthright Unplugged trips?

Birthright Unplugged welcomes participants of all ages and backgrounds.  Appropriateness for admission is dependent upon the successful completion of an application and possibly an interview.

Past particpants have been ages 9-70. Some are school teachers, some are journalists, some are activists, some are rabbinical students, some are professors, some are community organizers, some are artists, and some are Jewish educators reconsidering Zionism.

What is expected of participants?

Birthright Unplugged is concerned about global power inequities and their role in historical and contemporary socio-political events and dynamics.  We expect our participants to be aware of and sensitive to how these dynamics play out, both in their own minds and in their interactions with people and situations, throughout the course of our trip.  We expect our participants to use the knowledge gained on the trip upon return to their communities, and we support them to do so.

After our trips, past participants have given talks about their experiences, volunteered with Palestinian organizations and Israeli initiatives in solidarity with Palestinian civil society, organized events and participated in actions in their home communities, written articles, created photography exhibits, raised funds from Jewish people to support Palestinian efforts, integrated new knowledge into Sunday school curricula at synagogues, invited speakers from our trips to give talks at a universities in Israel, done outreach and media interviews for Birthright Unplugged, committed to being present where tough questions about Israel/Palestine need to be asked and asking them, and continued to learn about the issues brought up during the trip.

We also expect our participants to read, sign, and follow the expectations outlined in our Participant Agreement. Those under 18 will be required to have a parent or guardian sign their agreement form.

As a Jewish person how will I be received by Palestinians?

Palestinians, in general, put a high value on welcoming strangers, and are extremely supportive of all people who are open to hearing about their situation.  This is no less true when internationals are Jewish.  Expect to be welcomed.

Be aware that it does take time for internationals to earn the real trust of our Palestinian hosts.  This is perhaps especially true for Jewish internationals, but we will be judged by our actions, not our ethnicity.

On the ground, it is important to remember that the State of Israel does everything in its power to conflate the concepts of "Jew" and "Israeli,” so you may well hear Palestinians talking about "the Jews" when they really mean "Israelis" or "the Israeli army" or "the Israeli government.”  It is useful to remember the context; talk about "the Jews" is not the indication of bigotry that it would be in the United States or Europe.

I'm gay, lesbian, transgendered, or bisexual. Are there issues I should be aware of?

Palestinian society is diverse in attitudes about gender and sexuality.  That said, we will be visiting some communities with fairly traditional norms and attitudes.  In those cases, many of us have chosen not to speak about our sexuality with our Palestinian hosts, even though we felt it was important to come out to our international comrades.  The decision about how or when you want to reveal information about yourself is a highly individual one; it's important to be clear with yourself about your reasons for sharing or withholding information, and how those reasons relate to your reasons for being in Palestine.

What’s the food like and is vegetarian and/or kosher food available?

Palestinians eat a lot of bread, hummus, cheese, rice, potatoes, vegetables, and meat (especially chicken).  Everything is cooked in lots of good, Palestinian olive oil.  Falafel is readily available at small restaurants and shops.  Families will often serve food they’ve made themselves, or that is at least locally made, especially bread and cheese. 

Palestinian hospitality is known worldwide, and for good reason.  Along with that, however, comes a responsibility to accept that hospitality.  It is not always polite to refuse food.  Having said that, most people we meet with are familiar with internationals and thus familiar with people who have different eating habits than their own.  If you are vegetarian or vegan, you should be fine. You will have to make a personal decision about how strict you wish to be in this context. If you are strictly kosher, and eating vegetarian would not accommodate your religious practices, you may have a hard time. The food we eat with our Palestinian hosts will not be certified Glatt kosher.

Finally, we can’t forget the coffee and tea!  You’ll be offered hot drinks almost everywhere you go.  The tea is usually flavored with mint or sage, and the coffee is strong, but both will be served to you in very small glasses.

Where do we meet the rest of the group for our orientation?

We will designate a meeting place in Jerusalem where the first day’s events will be held.  Prior to your participation on the trip, you will be given the telephone numbers of the organizers, directions, and any other assistance you may need.

return to questions

How will we get from place to place?

For the most part, we will be taking Palestinian transportation (shared taxis and public buses).  This is a simple measure that shows an appreciation for the people we are visiting, and that can help participants more fully understand what it means to live under occupation.  Traveling this way is also safer and much more affordable than traveling in a privately hired Israeli bus or van.

How do checkpoints work and will we pass through them?

Roadblocks and checkpoints are facts of life in the Palestinian Territories.  Since 2000, the Israeli military has placed roadblocks on most Palestinian roads, meaning that travelers must change cars at various points on any given journey.  Because we will be traveling in Palestinian cars – with green and white license plates, as opposed to the yellow-plated Israeli cars – we will have to stop at checkpoints and show our passports.  We, like Palestinians, will go through most checkpoints on foot, getting another taxi on the other side of the checkpoint.  Soldiers will look at our IDs, they might ask us where we’re going, and then generally we’ll be allowed through.  Checkpoints and roadblocks can be frustrating and can make a journey take much longer than it should, but beyond that, you should have nothing to worry about.  We will stay together as a group when going through checkpoints and crossing roadblocks.

Where will we sleep?

We will stay in hotels/hostels and with families.  We want to provide participants with a variety of experiences, and give you the opportunity to form deeper relationships with Palestinian families by eating with them and sleeping in their homes than you would simply by meeting with them.

How will my trip contribution be used?

Birthright Unplugged uses Palestinian goods and services and boycotts Israeli goods and services whenever possible.
The Palestinian economy has been suffering for years due to an illegal Israeli military occupation.  Most recently, the US has led the world in cutting off all funding to the democratically elected Palestinian government and prohibiting banks from transfering money into Palestine. This collective punishment affects all Palestinian civilians and violates international law.  For this reason, Birthright Unplugged makes every effort to buy locally in the Palestinian communities that host us.

In addition, hundreds of Palestinian organizations have called for a civil campaign of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel similar to the movement that helped to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa.  Thousands of individuals and groups around the world, including in Israel, support this campaign and see it as a necessary step towards bringing a just peace to the region.  Birthright Unplugged supports this campaign and makes every effort not to consume Israeli products and services.

What are the safety issues?

Your trip leaders have traveled with over a dozen delegations throughout the West Bank. They are conscious of the risks and have designed Birthright Unplugged trips to be educational journeys making every effort to avoid violence.

The greatest risk of injury in the West Bank is for Palestinians and comes from aggression on the part of the Israeli army and settlers. Delegates should not expect to be targeted in any way - quite the opposite. Visitors to the Palestinian territories are quite distinguishable from the local population, which soldiers and settlers tend to be responsive to, and foreign passports offer a high level of mobility. In addition, Palestinians tend to be very protective of visitors and to treat them as honored guests. They are extremely attuned to negotiating risk levels for themselves and communicative within their communities about managing risk.

Throughout the trip, you can expect your trip leaders to be proactive and vigilant in keeping those they are traveling with safe. They have a wide network of contacts in and around the towns and villages we will be visiting and will be checking the situation in these areas regularly avoiding situations where the possibility of violence may be increased.

The terrain can be rough at times so protective footwear is essential.

Do I need a visa to get into Israel?

For citizens of many countries, including the US, Canada, and most of Europe, Israeli Border Control officers will issue you a visa at any of the borders they control. Generally, at Ben Gurion airport (Tel Aviv), they will stamp your passport with a visa that is good for ninety days. At the land borders, you will get a visa stamp for between fourteen days and ninety days. The length of these visas is at the discretion of Border Control officials.

Do I need a visa to get into Palestine?

No.  Israel controls all borders of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Authority does not have the authority to issue visas.  Special permission from the Israeli army is required to visit certain places, but we will not be visiting any areas that require this special permission. 

Under the Oslo accords, remnants of which are still found in Israeli law today, it is illegal for Israeli citizens to go into “Area A,” which consists mostly of large Palestinian cities.  There are no such restrictions for internationals.  We will be visiting Area A, so if you have Israeli citizenship, you should contact us and we will be happy to talk with you more about your options.  If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Will we go to the Gaza Strip?

All borders between Israel and the Gaza Strip are still heavily controlled by Israeli authorities, and they will not let internationals in without special permission.  We consistently try to gauge possibilities of bringing Birthright Unplugged groups to the area but currently this is not an option.  At this time, our entire trip takes place in the West Bank and Israel.

What should I tell Israeli airport authorities & leaders of my Israel program?

Nothing we do on our trip is illegal under Israeli law, but it is true that Israeli airport authorities can decide who to let in and keep out of the country without consideration of whether laws have been or will be broken.  Most people do get in, and particularly most Jews who are coming on an organized program or who are coming for the first time.  It is likely you will be asked nothing if you are participating in an organized program and then staying only a short time afterwards.  If you are asked, you will have to decide how much you wish to disclose.  We are happy to discuss this more with anyone who has concerns.

Similarly, you will have to make a personal decision about how much to tell the leaders of your Israel program.  If you are studying in Israel, you should look at the guidelines of your program regarding travel in the West Bank, and decide what to do.  The leaders of Birthright Unplugged have hosted students from various schools in our rented home in a Palestinian village, and have picked olives with students who come for day trips into the West Bank, so a slightly longer West Bank visit should not be a problem.  If you are coming on a shorter trip, such as birthright israel, that trip will be over by the time you join us, so any question of whether you are “allowed” to go into the West Bank during that trip should be null and void.  At the same time, we know that certain Israel programs try to filter out people who might be visiting the Palestinian Territories or spending time with Palestinians, even after their trip is over.  Again, the decision of how much to tell your program leaders is a personal one, and we are more than willing to have in depth discussions with you about your own case. 

Do cell phones work in the Palestinian Territories and do I need one?

Both of your trip leaders will have cell phones with them at all times.  Most of our time will be spent as a group, so you do not necessarily need a cell phone.  If you anticipate wanting to make and receive phone calls during the 6 days of our trip, however, you should have a phone.  Public pay phones are not readily available.

There is excellent cell phone coverage in most of the places we will be traveling to.  If you have a tri-band phone from the States and it is unlocked, you can substitute a local SIM card and buy phone cards in order to put minutes on it.  Once you land the phone should work. 

Renting or buying a cell phone there is also an option, and phone cards are sold in most shops and groceries in Palestine and Israel.  There are three major networks: Cellcom, Orange and Jawwal. We recommend Jawwal, the only Palestinian-owned company of the three. It works best in the West Bank, though it does not work well in Jerusalem or inside Israel.

Will I have access to the internet?

Some of the time.  Our schedule will be busy, but we will allow times for breaks, and you will be able to use some of these breaks for internet.  All cities and many villages have internet cafes.

Can I buy batteries, film and other electronic equipment there?

Try to bring what you need from home.  Everything is available in Jerusalem, so if you do find you need to get mini-disks, batteries, floppies or other equipment, you will be able to find it, but it can be expensive and will take valuable time away from the trip.

What shouldn’t I bring?

Too much stuff – it's a short trip and traveling light helps your mobility.

What should I bring?

Note: This is not a complete packing list, only suggestions. Please keep in mind summer can be hot, between 75 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit and winter can be cold and rainy, usually between 30 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.


  • Good walking shoes, boots or sneakers.
  • Full-length pants for men and women.  No shorts, and no skirts of any length (short skirts are inappropriate and long skirts might make you look like an Israeli settler).
  • Elbow-length & long sleeved shirts.  No very short sleeves.
  • Waterproof jacket and warm clothes in winter (central heating is rare in the West Bank, so while the weather outside might not be as cold as winters where you're used to, the temperature inside will almost certainly be much colder).
  • Light colors, breathable fabrics for summer.
  • We also advise against olive colored or military styles of clothing, so as not to be mistaken for an Israeli soldier.

Electronics (all optional):

  • Laptops are not necessary.  There are plenty of internet cafes in the occupied territories.
  • Still and/or video cameras.
  • Mobile phone & charger.
  • Spare film, batteries, memory cards and an adaptor.


  • A bit of spending money. ATMs and travelers' checks changers can be scarce.
  • Your passport on your person at all times and an accessible copy elsewhere.
  • A medium sized backpack and a daypack or similar is best.
  • A water bottle.  Water is sold in most shops and tap water is drinkable in most places.
  • Basic 1st aid kit (sunscreen, insect repellent, bandaids and any medications you take).
  • A compact sleeping bag and umbrella in winter.
  • Your favorite mosquito repellent in summer.
  • Pen and paper.
  • Arabic phrasebook (we will lend you one during the trip).
  • Optional toys & gifts for your hosts (art supplies, balloons, stickers for kids and sweets for families).
Does Birthright Unplugged advocate a particular political solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict?

Birthright Unplugged does not advocate a particular political solution and has no party affiliations.

We feel that the terms for a just and therefore peaceful solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict must come from Palestinians and Israelis themselves in accordance with international law. As Americans, we feel an imperative to learn all we can, to offer a nuanced understanding of the issues, especially with regards to their human impact, and to support the inclusion of Palestinian voices in any conversation about their lives and futures.