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Israel & the Palestinian Territories

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Israel & the Palestinian Territories

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Israel & the Palestinian Territories
By Michael Kohn, Roxane Assaf, Miriam Raphael, Amelia Thomas, Matt Beynon Rees, and Alon Tal
Lonely Planet Publications (2007)
ISBN: 978-1-86450-277-0

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - February 13, 2009

Israel & the Palestinian Territories is a unique travel guide from the folks at Lonely Planet. Unlike most travel guides that simply lists places to stay and where to eat, this guide also provides detailed historical, environmental, political, and cultural overviews of Israel and specific regions of the country. In addition to these informational overviews, this guide also covers the basic travel guide fare such as where to stay and eat, and what to see and do while you are in country. You'll also find information on internet cafes, libraries, laundry facilities, bookstores, and other locations often overlooked in other guidebooks. Numerous sample itineraries and maps are also included. In addition, the text is enhanced by the inclusion of some breathtaking color photographs of the region.

Throughout the Israel & the Palestinian Territories travel guide, the names of cities are presented English, Hebrew, and Arabic, which is a big help when trying to read street signs! As well, the entry for each venue mentioned in the book includes a wealth of information including operating hours, phone number, an overview of what each venue offers, and a general idea of the costs associated with using or visiting the various venues. Directions to the various venues are on the sketchy side, or totally lacking for some entries, so be sure to call in advance for directions or visit the sites' websites if you are unsure of the venue's location.

The basic travel information in this book is organized by region or major cities, with sections devoted to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa & the North Coast, The Galilee, the Upper Galilee & the Golan, West Bank, the Dead Sea, the Negev, the Gaza Strip, Petra (Jordan), and the Sinai (Egypt). Also included in a handy 'directory' with additional information such as the address of Israeli embassies around the world, visa information, list of holidays, a brief glossary of terms, and other useful information.

The Lonely Planet Israel & the Palestinian Territories is not as comprehensive as some other travel guides, in part I feel because so much of this guide is taken up with political commentaries and revisionist, pro-Palestinian slanted historical overviews, that there is simply not enough room to provide a greater range of venues. However, you'll find that this guide provides a sufficient selection of venues, accommodations, and eateries to fill the needs of most travelers.

Six different writers contributed to this guidebook. One of the main drawbacks to this guide is, in my opinion, that many of the commentaries in the guidebook are biased against Israel and that many important Jewish, religious sites, were not included or they were given short shrift. For example I could find nothing on Joseph's Tomb and in the section on Jerusalem, while the authors have included separate entries on at least twenty-three Christian churches/monasteries, they only mentioned five synagogues, four of which where combined into one entry. While this bias is unfortunate, and the one-sided political commentaries are inappropriate for a travel guide, I did not come across anything so egregious that I would totally pan the book - but it is something that you should be aware of. For those interested in touring Gaza or the West Bank, this guidebook offers the most information, in English, of any other guidebook I've seen. However, from my experience, they paint a rosier picture of what life is like in Gaza and the West Bank than it really is, and travelers may find that these areas are not as safe to travel in as the authors indicate in the book.

Despite these drawbacks, the Lonely Planet Israel & the Palestinian Territories guidebook will prove useful in planning your next trip to Israel, or for some restful armchair traveling. This guidebook provides some information not available in other guidebooks and it can be profitably used in conjunction with one or more other guides when pre-planning your trip.

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