Volunteer in Israel and the West Bank


The Real Deal: Ten nights' accommodations, two meals daily, ground transportation, and program activities, for $1,700 per person—including taxes.

When: Nov. 6-16, 2008.

The fine print: Transportation by bus and van, the services of a trip leader and a tour guide, program activities, reading materials, and all taxes. Based on double occupancy. The trip operator will try to accommodate single travelers, but a fee might apply. Applications, including passport information, trip interests, and language abilities, and a $200 deposit are due at time of booking. U.S. citizens must have a valid passport and a visa to travel to Israel; visas can be obtained upon arrival for no fee. Does not include airfare, airport transfers, or tips. Read before you book any Real Deal.

Book by: Oct. 6, 2008. Note that a $50 late application fee applies after Sept. 6.

Contact: Global Exchange, 415/255-7296, .

Why it's a deal: Global Exchange offers unique experiences that would be very hard for you to coordinate on your own. For instance, on this trip you will help farmers harvest olives using fair trade practices. You'll also get an authentic experience by staying with a host family—all for about $189 a night, including ground transportation, two meals daily, and the help of a trip leader.

Trip details: Let's start by admitting that while we do feature volunteer experiences every so often, the is not your typical Real Deal. Global Exchange has a socially conscious, politically aware approach. Groups tend to average 15 to 20 people, who run the gamut from youths to college and grad students to retirees.

The program will concentrate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It begins and ends in Jerusalem, Israel, but participants will spend most of their time in the Palestinian towns of Jenin and Sabistya You'll harvest olives alongside local fair-trade farmers, learn about fair-trade cooperatives and human-rights issues, and stay in the modest homes of host families. You can expect these families to speak enough English for basic communication; Arabic is their native language. For your safety, Global Exchange uses tour guides and drivers who have experience in the area and are in close contact with community members.

The itinerary was still being finalized as of press time, but we're outlining some highlights below. If this trip isn't your idea of a vacation, you might still want to browse Global Exchange's list of , as they cover a range of issues, destinations, and travel styles.

While in Jenin and Sabistya, expect to split each day between work harvesting olives on a farm and taking excursions. One excursion will take you to the refugee camps in the West Bank, where you'll meet with leaders of such projects as , a youth program that hosts workshops in theater skills, from circus and musical arts to stage acting. Another will bring you to the 400-mile-long wall constructed by Israelis to separate themselves from the West Bank area.

On a lighter note, you'll be in the area in time to celebrate the olive harvest festival, held annually in early November. It's an opportunity to interact with local community members and enjoy Palestinian music, dance, and storytelling.

About a third of the trip—at the beginning and the end—will be spent in Israel. You'll stay in a guest house in Jerusalem and take a side trip to the . While in Jerusalem, you'll meet with Palestinian and Israeli media, youth, human rights, and relief organizations and learn about fair trade practices and products.

November is the beginning of the winter and rainy season in Jerusalem; temperatures will be between 41 and 54 degrees Fahrenheit.

You're free to extend the trip by arriving early or departing late, though you'll have to make those plans independently. For more information on what to do and what to expect, visit , Palestine's , and the .

Getting there: The itinerary begins and ends in Jerusalem; however, the city has no international airport. So, you'll want to book a flight into Tel Aviv and then take a shared van for the hour and a half drive for about $15-$20 per person, according to Global Exchange. A recent Kayak search yielded these round-trip fares to Tel Aviv: $1,122 from New York City (Czech Airlines), $1,148 from Chicago (Iberia), $1,242 from Atlanta (Air France), $1,325 from Dallas (Iberia), $1,352 from Seattle (Air France), $1,370 from L.A. (Air France).