New Israeli government restrictions on tourists staying in the West Bank could stifle an influential non-profit that brings American Jewish leaders to stay with Palestinians in Bethlehem and elsewhere in the territories.
Encounter, whose participants have included senior Jewish communal executives and prominent rabbis, says a new Israel laws could strangle its ability to run its programs.
“Participants in our program are striving to better understand the complexity of the current situation, and to do so with integrity, they need access to a range of voices, which they won’t have if such a law is enacted,” said Yona Shem-Tov, the group’s executive director. “My hope is the Interior Ministry will seriously reconsider not only the implications of the optics of such a law, but also the very real cost it will exact on American Jewish leaders seeking to be of service to Israel and their constituents by better understanding the multifaceted nature of this conflict.”
Israeli officials said in April that tour groups would not be allowed to take tourists to stay overnight in Palestinian-controlled portions of the West Bank, Haaretz reported. Israel has since postponed the implementation of the directive, but Haaretz reported on Thursday that it would be re-issued in the coming days.
Encounter participants stay overnight in Palestinian homes, usually in Bethlehem.