While many travelers may be intimidated by the Middle East and its reputation as a hotspot of political violence, millions of tourists safely visit Palestine every year. The incidence of violence is generally localized to predictable areas and usually does not target foreigners. Though pickpocketing and other petty crime can be an issue in some big cities and major tourist areas, rates of major crimes like murder and kidnapping are extremely low throughout the region and similar to those of most western European countries. However, sexual harassment against women is prevalent in much of the Middle East; we do not recommend that women hike or travel alone. Additionally, familiarity with certain cultural considerations can assist travelers in minimizing some of the risks associated with traveling in the region.
Be in touch with Masar Ibrahim al-Khalil and local tour providers for further information regarding the situation on the ground in specific areas and current issues that might affect your trip. In areas where hiking is not very common, one way to decrease risk is to hike with a local guide. Local guides can help explain to those living in the communities along the path why you are walking through their region, helping to dispel any suspicions that you may have ulterior motives. Hiring a local guide also contributes to the local economy and provides a job that utilizes local knowledge and expertise.
ENVIRONMENTAL SAFETY WHEN HIKING
As with any hike, there are certain safety considerations walkers should keep in mind when preparing to travel by foot on Masar Ibrahim al-Khalil.
Water is the most important resource to consider when hiking; even mild dehydration poses health and comfort risks. Carefully plan the amount of water you will carry, be aware of refill places, and be conscientious about drinking water and replacing electrolytes continuously as you walk. Drinking before you get thirsty is recommended to stay hydrated.
We recommend carrying a minimum of three liters of water on a cool-weather hike and a minimum of one liter per hour of walking on a hot-weather hike.
Tap water in most areas of the Masar Ibrahim is generally treated and should be safe to drink; but boiled or bottled water is a less risky option. Whenever possible, we encourage you to use durable, refillable water bottles to avoid the environmental impact of one-use bottles.
Some sections of Masar Ibrahim al-Khalil pass through exposed, shadeless landscapes where the sun can be extremely intense even outside the summer months. It is very important for hikers to take sun protection seriously, especially in the warmer months. Be prepared with a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen (minimum 30 SPF), lip balm with SPF, sunglasses, long pants/trousers, and a long-sleeved shirt (see our suggested packing list). In hot weather, begin your walking day early, avoid walking during the hottest parts of the day, and take many breaks in the shade.
Rain, Flash Floods and other adverse weather
The rainy season lasts for three to four months per year; the rest of the year is quite predictably dry. For walking during the rainy season, pack a waterproof, breathable jacket and a waterproof pack cover, and carry any valuables in ziplock bags or waterproof stuff sacks. A poncho can also be useful as an all-in-one rain protection piece. The biggest risk in rainy and cool weather is hypothermia. Make sure you always have a spare set of dry clothing (including socks) to change into in case you get soaked in a downpour. Dress in removable layers to avoid becoming too warm; remember that sweat can make you just as wet and cold as being soaked by rain.
Flash floods are a real danger in some areas during the rainy season; any plans to hike in low areas or deep wadis (gorges) should be checked with local partners or authorities.
Always check local weather conditions before setting out on a section of the path. Look at temperatures, predicted precipitation, and any other environmental factors that could affect your trip (high winds, sandstorms, flash floods, etc.).
While wild animals pose very little risk to hikers on Masar Ibrahim al-Khalil, it is best to know how to deal with animals you could encounter. A few poisonous snake species do live in the region; but sightings are rare, and contact/bites are almost unheard of. Wearing long pants and thick shoes can protect against snake bites. Mosquitoes, bees, and other stinging insects can also be found in many regions along the trail. If you have extreme allergic reactions to any stings, carry appropriate medication (such as antihistamines and epinephrine). Jackals and wild boar are sometimes seen along the path; stay together in a group if you encounter these animals.
Domestic animals make up the vast majority of animal bites and attacks around the world. Dogs are occasionally present along various sections of the path, often outside of a home or accompanying a shepherd. Generally, dogs will bark to defend their territory; this can be intimidating, but it is often best ignored. Dogs usually do not venture far outside the territory they are trained to guard. Often, the simple act of stooping down and picking up a stone to carry while you walk can signal to the dogs that you are capable of defending yourself, keeping them at a safe distance. If a dog approaches aggressively, do not make eye contact, turn your back, or run away; rather, shout for help from local people.
Responding to Emergencies
Even with the best of preparations, emergency situations can still occur on the trail. As you plan your hike, pay attention to roads and access points that could be used for emergency evacuation routes. In any emergency, try to stay calm and remember to look out for your own safety even as you try to help others. For the case of emergencies, we recommend carrying a cell phone with roaming coverage or a local SIM card.
Be sure to add local emergency numbers to the phone:
Israel/Palestinian Territories: 101
Medical care is available in the bigger cities along the trail or nearby. For severe injuries, consider transferring to a hospital in the nearest large city for the most up-to-date and professional medical care. We also advise purchasing trip insurance that would cover evacuation to your home country in case of medical emergency.