Knesset Rose GardenAlthough you’ll be surprised at the extent to which you can’t feel it, there is no denying that Israel sits in the centre of a geopolitically complex, and at times tense, region.  A visit to Israel can therefore be an opportunity to delve beyond the headlines and gain deeper context and understanding for the reasons behind these conflicts, the different and competing narratives, and how they impact day-to-day life.Although all our Israel tours are likely to touch on these issues, it is possible to go even deeper with our specialist geopolitical tours.  At Pomegranate Travel we believe strongly in allowing our guests to form their own opinions about the local politics, and our expert Israel tour guides make sure to do their best to present a balanced perspective.  However, we also encourage our visitors to meet the locals to learn about their experiences here in the region, and we will facilitate meetings with people from across the political, religious and ethnic spectrums.So where should you visit for a geo-political tour?  Here are some of the best places to visit in Israel to consider for this topic:Jerusalem and the West BankFrom 1948 until 1967, Jordan occupied the area known as the West Bank and East Jerusalem (including the Old City), leaving the holy city split in two with Israeli control in the West.  The two countries were separated by a ceasefire line known as ‘the green line’.  After a difficult regional war in 1967 (known as ‘The Six Day War’), Israel conquered this territory from Jordan, annexing Jerusalem and offering all residents of East Jerusalem Israeli citizenship (although many continue to refuse its uptake on ideological grounds).The West Bank, also known by its biblical name Judea and Samaria, remains under Israeli military control.  Jordan relinquished any claim to the territory after its peace deal with Israel in 1994, with the view that most if not all of it might become part of a future Palestinian state.  Today the West Bank is split between areas controlled or partially controlled by the Palestinian Authority, and areas still administered by the Israeli Defence Forces.   Jews who have moved to areas over the ‘green line’ (also in East Jerusalem) are often referred to as ‘settlers’, and there is significant debate about the legitimacy of their presence in these areas.Your guide will be able to explain in detail about the current status of the negotiations between the Israel and the Palestinians, what the sticking points are and how they may be resolved.  You may want to visit Jewish settlements and Palestinian controlled towns such as Ramallah, where we will be happy to facilitate meetings with local people, leading experts and NGOs partnering for peace.  Also a source of controversy is the separation barrier (also known as ‘the fence’, or ‘the wall’) that surrounds much of the West Bank, and you will be able to see it from different vantage points and understand the different perspectives around its construction.The Gaza StripFrom 1948-1967, Egypt occupied the area known as the Gaza Strip, but in 1967 it was also conquered by Israel.  It remained under Israeli military control until 2005, when Israel ‘disengaged’, removing all Israeli presence from Gaza and forcibly removing the Jews who had settled there.Since then, it has been under the theoretical control of the Palestinian Authority, but a 2007 violent coup led by the fundamentalist Muslim organisation Hamas has left the Strip under the control of a group defined by many as a terrorist organisation.  Since 2005, Hamas has been firing occasional rockets into Israel, and on three occasions a high levels of concentrated fire have led the Israeli Defence Forces to launch military operations in the Strip.The communities that live along the Gaza border suffer from both rocket fire and the threat of subterranean tunnels dug by Hamas, and as part of your guided tour it is possible to visit one of the communities and learn about their lives and their relationship with Gaza.  You will also go to a viewpoint to look over the Gaza Strip, and understand the challenges faced by the Palestinians who live there, and the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.The Golan HeightsFrom 1948 until 1967, Syria used its vantage point in the Golan Heights to occasionally fire at Israeli communities living in the valley below.   As a part of the regional ‘Six Day War’ in 1967, Israel conquered part of the Golan Heights in order to protect these communities and later annexed the area, offering Israeli citizenship to the Druze population that it had inherited from Syria.A guided tour into the Golan Heights will give you greater context as to its strategic importance, and also an opportunity to understand more about how Israel’s northern border was formed when the Western powers divided up the Middle East after the First World War.The current conflict in Syria is now right on Israel’s border in the Golan, raising significant security, strategic and humanitarian questions for Israel.  UN soldiers and Israeli soldiers are both based in the area and both are normally happy to discuss their postings.  You can also hear about or visit Israeli field hospitals which tend to injured Syrian soldiers, and it is possible to eat lunch with a local Druze family split between the Israel-Syria border and hear first hand stories about what family in Syria is experiencing.

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