Tourists swap pool for security barrier

By Nathan Jeffay, August 11, 2011
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The Yachad tour group in Hebron

The Yachad tour group in Hebron

Brits holidaying in Israel are being urged to leave the hotel and take a dip into politics with a day trip to the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Yachad, the left-wing pro-Israel group, has started running excursions to these areas. For £45, British visitors to Israel are taken to Hebron - where 800 settlers live close to more than 150,000 Palestinians - and shown around by a guide and a Yachad representative.

They are then taken to East Jerusalem, where they walk along the security barrier and discuss, among other topics, challenges facing Palestinians who live there.

"There is a real interest among British Jews to understand what is going on there, and lots of people want to see more when they are in Israel than a nice café in Tel Aviv or a beach in Eilat," said Yachad's director Hannah Weisfeld. "Regardless of where you stand politically, it's important to see, and people don't have the opportunity, as they won't go there alone."

Ms Weisfeld said that the tours will help to strengthen support among British Jews for Yachad's ideal, namely a two-state solution.

The first trip of the summer, which took place last week, attracted eight participants and had a strong effect on Howard Taylor, a student from London. He said that the visit to Hebron "has changed my politics". He was concerned by limitations on the movement of a group of Palestinians around the settlers' enclave, and disturbed when some settlers pelted them with stones. Mr Taylor came away with a negative view of settlers, believing that diaspora Jewry should pressure Israel to no longer "fund and protect these people".

Brian Kaplan, a London doctor, reached a different conclusion. He was interested to see the attachment of settlers to the area and said that he was opposed to a "Jew-free Palestine". He argued that settlers should be able to stay there under Palestinian rule.

    Last updated: 1:03pm, August 11 2011