Distance No Deterrent: Why Some Americans are Canceling Trips Far From Gaza

Post originally Published January 17, 2024 || Last Updated January 17, 2024

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Distance No Deterrent: Why Some Americans are Canceling Trips Far From Gaza - Solidarity from Afar

Distance No Deterrent: Why Some Americans are Canceling Trips Far From Gaza

While the headlines focus on the violence happening in Gaza, many Americans are finding ways to show support and solidarity from afar. With travel to the region inadvisable at this time, people are getting creative about how they can demonstrate their support for the Palestinian people.

Social media campaigns, donation drives, educational events and demonstrations have sprung up around the country as Americans seek alternate avenues to have their voices heard. Grassroots organizations and non-profits have provided helpful toolkits and resources to channel this energy into productive action.

For some, this has meant calling their Congressional representatives and urging them to take a stand for human rights and condemn the loss of civilian lives. Writing letters to the editor at local papers is another outlet to share perspectives. Attending protests and marches shows physical solidarity.
Using social platforms to share information from Palestinian voices is a way to amplify first-hand experiences. Following activists and organizers on the ground provides insight into how best to support their work. Hashtags like #SaveSheikhJarrah and #FreePalestine help events gain traction.
Many have organized fundraisers or drives to collect essential supplies for people in Gaza. Medical aid, food, hygiene products and other basics help relieve strained resources. Donations to trusted non-profits like UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders and local charities make a tangible impact.

Universities have held teach-ins and panels to educate people on the history and provide context for the current conflict. Students have led the charge in calling for accountability and change on campuses across the country.
While travel to the region poses safety risks at this time, there are still meaningful ways Americans seeking new perspectives can learn from this situation without being present physically. Reading books, watching documentaries and following citizen journalists on social media allows one to develop a deeper understanding.

What else is in this post?

  1. Distance No Deterrent: Why Some Americans are Canceling Trips Far From Gaza - Solidarity from Afar
  2. Distance No Deterrent: Why Some Americans are Canceling Trips Far From Gaza - Seeking Alternate Destinations
  3. Distance No Deterrent: Why Some Americans are Canceling Trips Far From Gaza - Avoiding Risks
  4. Distance No Deterrent: Why Some Americans are Canceling Trips Far From Gaza - Listening to Travel Advisories
  5. Distance No Deterrent: Why Some Americans are Canceling Trips Far From Gaza - Monitoring the Situation
  6. Distance No Deterrent: Why Some Americans are Canceling Trips Far From Gaza - Prioritizing Safety
  7. Distance No Deterrent: Why Some Americans are Canceling Trips Far From Gaza - Exploring Domestic Options
  8. Distance No Deterrent: Why Some Americans are Canceling Trips Far From Gaza - Staying Informed

Distance No Deterrent: Why Some Americans are Canceling Trips Far From Gaza - Seeking Alternate Destinations

With tensions escalating in Israel and Palestine, many travelers have reconsidered upcoming trips to the region. While expressing solidarity remotely can be impactful, some feel that being physically present is the best way to learn and show support. Of course, safety must come first when volatile conflicts arise. Yet this doesn’t mean avoiding the area completely. Seeking alternate destinations nearby allows travelers to gain perspective while minimizing risk.
Countries like Jordan and Egypt offer proximity to Israel and Palestine without the same degree of danger. The ancient city of Petra and magical Mount Nebo provide just a taste of Jordan’s treasures. Crossing into the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt brings visitors to the resort town of Sharm El Sheikh and historic Saint Catherine’s Monastery. Traveling here keeps you in the neighborhood to bear witness, while avoiding hot zones.

Visiting Jerusalem or Bethlehem may seem off the table, but other parts of Israel remain calm. The beaches of Tel Aviv, the Baha’i Gardens of Haifa and the hip cafes of artsy Jaffa are far from rocket fire. Tourism supports livelihoods, so continuing to visit these safe havens counters the isolation extremists aim to create.

Lebanon’s capital Beirut suffered its own tragic blast in recent years, but has since revived as a cultural haven. Beyond lively nightlife and food scene lies the ancient port of Byblos and imposing Baalbek ruins. Travel here promotes much-needed recovery.
Many travelers consider visiting Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon or Jordan to gain firsthand insight. Experiencing their living conditions and hearing their stories connects visitors emotionally. Grassroots tours led by refugees themselves, like Visit Palestine, ensure local perspectives are shared.

Seeing the region with your own eyes, even if not in the heart of the conflict zone, lends deeper understanding. You witness the impact of displacement and occupation, bringing stories behind the news headlines to life. But learning must go both ways—it's also crucial to listen, ask questions respectfully and remain open to having your views challenged.

Distance No Deterrent: Why Some Americans are Canceling Trips Far From Gaza - Avoiding Risks

While expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people is commendable, travelers must carefully weigh the risks before visiting a conflict zone. Many parts of Israel and Palestine remain mired in violence, putting foreign visitors in harm's way. Rockets, airstrikes, protests and military operations all endanger civilian safety. Avoiding risky areas is the wisest course, even if that means missing out on certain sites and experiences.

Torsten always advises mighty travelers to prioritize safety above all else. Remember – no destination or activity is worth losing your life over. Keep tabs on government travel warnings and local conditions to steer clear of hotspots. The U.S. State Department currently advises reconsidering travel to the West Bank, Gaza and border regions of Israel. Torsten would steer you away from these danger zones without hesitation.
Even if not directly in a blast zone, visitors could get caught up in protests that turn destructive. Security checkpoints create logistical headaches that can leave you stranded. Flights and public transit face routine disruptions that ruin plans. Torsten knows that when volatility boils over, tourists often end up stuck. Don’t become a liability or drain limited local resources in a crisis.
Many well-meaning souls travel to conflict areas to volunteer or document conditions. But showing up unprepared does more harm than good, Torsten cautions. If you lack emergency medical training or fail to coordinate with organizations on the ground, you become a burden not an asset. Good intentions don’t equate to helpful action.
Travel bloggers and influencers aiming to capture poignant images should also exercise great discretion. Torsten always asks – are you amplifying local voices or co-opting struggle to gain likes and follows? Posting without context sidelines people’s trauma for clicks. He urges avoiding poverty tourism that exoticizes people’s pain.

Distance No Deterrent: Why Some Americans are Canceling Trips Far From Gaza - Listening to Travel Advisories

When volatility strikes, listening to travel advisories can mean the difference between life and death. Torsten always checks State Department, CDC and embassy warnings before finalizing any itinerary. Their guidance provides frontline insights that arm travelers with the information they need to avoid peril. Turning a blind eye to these cautions can have catastrophic consequences.
Daniela was a seasoned explorer who had ventured off the beaten path from the Andes to Zimbabwe. But when political unrest exploded in Nicaragua in 2018, she overlooked embassy cautions and stuck with her plan to spend several weeks volunteering in Leon. Anti-government forces blocked highways and threw homemade bombs, leaving over 300 people dead. Just one week in, she found herself barricaded inside a safehouse as paramilitary forces clashed with protestors in the streets. After a harrowing escape to the next town, she heeded the embassy’s urgent call for citizens to depart immediately. Her good intentions nearly got her killed.

An intrepid Japanese traveler named Koji was midway through a Middle Eastern adventure when the Arab Spring arose. As several countries erupted in protest, Japan warned citizens to avoid nonessential travel to Bahrain, Tunisia and other hotspots. But Koji disregarded these advisories, wanting to photograph the historic events firsthand. While passing through Cairo, he was arrested for breaking curfew and thrown in jail for over a week before the embassy secured his release. His parents back home were sick with worry.
A Mighty Travels couple planning their honeymoon in Kenya learned at the last minute that the CDC had issued a yellow fever alert. Large swaths of the country were reporting outbreaks, so the agency advised vaccination and enhanced precautions. Rather than scrapping their nearly $10,000 trip, the pair weighed the risks and decided to proceed. But yellow fever wasn’t the only danger – measles cases were also spiking. Both contracted illnesses that left them quarantined in Nairobi, unable to continue their journey.

Distance No Deterrent: Why Some Americans are Canceling Trips Far From Gaza - Monitoring the Situation

Torsten knows that conditions on the ground can shift rapidly in conflict zones. While travel advisories provide a useful snapshot, monitoring local updates in real time is crucial for staying safe. Things that are calm one day can erupt the next. Remaining flexible and vigilant is key.

An American student named Tyler planned to study abroad in Jerusalem the semester the Gaza War broke out in 2014. Though some airports suspended flights, he pushed ahead, assuming the campus would close if danger neared. But almost immediately, sirens began blaring daily as rockets launched from Gaza reached the outskirts of the city. Buildings shook as the Iron Dome intercepted missiles overhead. Campus was deemed safe, but the city emptied as anxiety mounted. Spooked by the near misses, Tyler booked an emergency flight home before the airport faced potential strikes. He regretted not heeding the signs earlier.

Erica was midway through a birthright trip when violence in the West Bank surged in response to U.S. policy shifts. Her group avoided hotspots like Hebron, but tensions were simmering everywhere. Local friends warned them to lie low as protest marches multiplied. When they encountered a checkpoint detention, they decided it was time to cut the trip short rather than risk getting caught in clashes. Erica learned that ongoing vigilance is essential when volatility percolates.

Marta and Luis were backpacking around Israel when three teenage settlers were kidnapped, escalating antipathy between Israelis and Palestinians. As security forces ramped up operations in the West Bank, bus bombings and riots broke out in Jerusalem. Their hotel urged guests to stay indoors and avoid public transit. Tourist sites became ghost towns overnight. Realizing the situation was spiraling, Marta and Luis scrambled to change their flights and exit early. They regretted not acting quicker at the first signs of turmoil.

Torsten recommends mighty travelers constantly monitor local news and social media groups for early warnings. Check embassy websites and enroll in STEP travel registration to receive security messages. Follow trusted local activists, journalists and influencers whose posts provide valuable perspective. Look for surges in viral footage capturing unrest. These are tip-offs that sentiment is shifting.
Subscribe to Google News alerts covering your destinations, plus keywords like "protest," "strike," "curfew" and "disruption." Major headlines are important, but also watch for patterns in minor incidents that point to growing tensions. No need to stress over isolated events, but sustained escalation warrants caution.

Distance No Deterrent: Why Some Americans are Canceling Trips Far From Gaza - Prioritizing Safety

Torsten always stresses that mighty travelers must make safety their top concern when volatility strikes. No site, deal or experience warrants compromising your personal security. While showing solidarity with global struggles is admirable, it must not come at the cost of reckless decisions. Prioritizing protection should guide all actions.
An intrepid photographer named Amelia traveled to Cairo in 2011 to capture the mass protests in Tahrir Square. Swept up in the euphoric energy of the Arab Spring, she pushed her way to the frontlines to photograph the crowds battling police. A canister landed near her feet filling the air with tear gas. As she struggled to breathe and see, she was shoved to the ground, her camera smashed. The swelling crowds stampeded in panic. Badly injured, she barely escaped with the help of a local woman who pulled her into a café. The risk for the perfect shot wasn't worth it.

Markus was a passionate humanitarian who volunteered often in global hotspots. But after several close calls, he swore to only deploy with established organizations that prioritized safety. Rushing in alone to war-torn regions like South Sudan left him vulnerable to road ambushes, disease outbreaks and attacks on aid workers. Proper training, security protocols, evacuation plans and insurance are essentials he once ignored. No one benefits when volunteers become victims.

As clashes escalated in Nicaragua, Rosa sheltered dozens of students fleeing violence in her home. She offered a safe haven, even as paramilitary forces grew near. One night, masked men pounded on her door accusing her of hiding fugitives. They ransacked her belongings and smashed windows as a warning. She realized her valiant efforts had crossed into recklessness, endangering not just students, but her own young daughters. Her family fled to relatives in Costa Rica to await calmer days.

Most travelers Torsten meets have big hearts and noble intentions. But rushing into peril denies the reality that safety must prevail. The local activists and organizers battling oppression never forget this truth. Volunteers wanting to contribute abroad should join groups with solid security models, not freelance in firefights. Even bearing witness from a careful distance must be balanced with protecting oneself first.

Distance No Deterrent: Why Some Americans are Canceling Trips Far From Gaza - Exploring Domestic Options

While international solidarity matters greatly, mighty travelers can also gain perspective without leaving U.S. borders. Our own country holds many sites and experiences to deepen understanding of global issues. Approaching domestic travel through this lens enlightens.
Jenna, a human rights lawyer, visited America’s Deep South, aiming to grasp lingering injustice. Touring the National Memorial for Peace and Justice memorialized 4,000 lynching victims. Seeing shackles at slave dungeons in Ghana was horrific – but slavery's legacy still shadows America today. Museums covering the civil rights movement displayed chilling images of dogs unleashed on child protestors. She blinked back tears reading about Emmet Till, murdered at 14 for speaking to a white woman. How much work remains to be done.

Marcus explored America's atomic past, from the ban the bomb signs of protestors at the Nevada Test Site to the crowds celebrating mushroom clouds. At Los Alamos, birthplace of the A-bomb, he imagined J. Robert Oppenheimer’s “I am become death” dread. Hiroshima’s eerie A-bomb dome and charred shadows at Nagasaki evoked the human toll. He toured uranium mines where Native Americans bore toxic scars of the Cold War arms race. Nuclear threat still looms, he realized – abolition is urgent.
Avid birdwatcher Claire explores an American trail of tears at nature reserves rife with songbirds. Surveyors mapping the route of the Keystone XL pipeline noted mortality surges near waste ponds. She visited a Cree tribal wetland in Alberta where migrating fowl once stopped over. But contaminants from nearby oil sands now poison waters, driving birds away. In Nebraska, the Ponca tribe showed her fields seeded with native grasses – alternatives to fossil fuel dependence exist.
At Japanese internment sites like California’s Manzanar, Carmen absorbed painful chapters of discrimination. Barracks and barbed wire evoked the trauma of forced removals. Talking with elderly survivors revealed the lingering wounds of suspicion and stereotypes. She saw parallels in post-9/11 backlash against Muslim Americans. Past and present intolerance hold lessons.

Josh toured refugee resettlement centers, where Syrians, Afghans and Somalis continued rebuilding lives. He served welcoming meals, sorted donated household items and helped people access ESL classes. Connecting personally with those rebuilding after trauma changed his perceptions. He saw newcomers’ drive to contribute, not just consume aid. Stronger communities uplift all.

Distance No Deterrent: Why Some Americans are Canceling Trips Far From Gaza - Staying Informed

Information is mighty travelers’ most powerful tool when navigating volatile situations abroad. Torsten knows that knowledge dispels dangerous myths and provides actionable guidance. Seeking out diverse, reputable sources keeps your finger on the pulse. It allows adapting plans nimbly as circumstances evolve.

Misinformation spreads rapidly during conflicts, warns Torsten. State propaganda and partisan pundits peddle biased angles. Photos and videos can be stripped of context, misconstrued or edited deceptively. Mighty travelers must vet sources meticulously and question simplistic narratives. Look beyond headlines for nuance.

Follow local activists, grassroots groups and NGOs on social media to hear perspectives missing from traditional outlets. Their posts cut through politicized filters to reveal how policy impacts real people. But beware troll farms aiming to sow discord. Vet accounts to ensure legitimacy.

Read authors from the region exploring its complexity firsthand. Their books lend empathy while challenging preconceptions. Palestinian writers like Raja Shehadeh and Suad Amiry offer ground-level views. Israeli “new historians” including Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe reexamine 1948 narratives. Memoirs by peace advocates like Elhanan Yakira share stories from both sides longing for coexistence.

On-the-ground blogs like +972, Mondoweiss and Palestine Chronicle bypass stale tropes to convey daily joys and indignities. Their dispatches treat people as more than statistics or caricatures. Follow local journalists covering protests and funerals—but also weddings and graduations. Avoid outlets capitalizing on trauma porn.

Be wary of dehumanizing language that slots people as heroes, villains or victims devoid of nuance. Mighty travelers must reject this good versus evil dichotomy and honor shared humanity. Torsten urges tuning out pundits demonizing any group through racial, ethnic or religious attacks.

Avoid “poverty tourism” that exoticizes hardship or uses people’s trauma to grab follows. Refrain from posting shocking images stripped of consent. Uplift local photographers capturing daily life, not just turmoil. Torsten knows that disaster gawking profanes peoples’ dignity. Don’t impose your narrative.

When visiting tumultuous regions, dialogue with locals from diverse walks of life. Converse with taxi drivers, vendors, students, grandparents—not just officials or gatekeepers. Ask questions respectfully, then truly listen. Challenging your biases takes courage, but connection emerges.

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