Volunteer - Culture

Cultural Do's and Don'ts

By Mary Fairfield

Palestine is part of a traditional Middle East culture with deeply engrained patterns of socially acceptable behaviour for both Christians and Muslims.  In parts of Israel, behaviour and dress is as western as you might see at home, but Palestine is a deeply conservative society (as indeed is much of Jerusalem.)  In general, tourists are tolerated as a weird species, but since you are intending to live here, you may need to make some adjustments to your wardrobe and your behaviour.  The Bible College expects you to behave in a way that is consistent with Christian morality and maturity and honouring to Jesus. 

Lads

Shorts are not commonly worn. 

Couples, whether married or not, do not express affection in public.  Holding hands in the street is not appropriate. 

Girls

COVER UP.  The way you dress will dictate how you will be treated.  Islam requires Muslim women to dress modestly.  Our interpretation of modest may not include wearing a hijaab (head scarf), but it certainly does rule out low cut tops, short skirts and shorts, etc.

As regards to general behaviour, there are lots of don'ts here. Here are a few starters.

  • Don't go into the back room of a shop out of public view. 
  • Don't get into conversations with young men and boys. 
  • Don’t EVER go to a man's house on your own, no matter how well you know him, or how pure your intentions are.  Your reputation will be gone and you will also put the reputation of the Bible College on the line.  The college may well ask you to leave at once – it is that serious. 
  • Don't invite men back to the guesthouse if you are staying here.  Visitors are not allowed here.
  • Don’t put yourself into a situation that might get out of hand.

By the same token, it is not suitable for a girl to rent a flat on her own.  Far, far better to find another girl to share with. 

On a more positive note, here are some do's:

  • DO keep in a group.
  • DO have a chaperone with you.
  • DO be sure someone knows where you are.
  • DO have a number you can call if it gets late

Traveling

When traveling, never accept tours or other offers from random individuals.  There will always be unwelcome strings attached.  Use reputable companies - the guesthouse can help you.  Pickpockets are numerous, fast and efficient, especially in Jerusalem, and often pose as wide-eyed, innocent-looking children.  Keep your bag diagonally across your shoulder or use a belt-bag.  Avoid empty streets. (ie normal precautions for anywhere)

Overall, Palestine is a marvelous place to live with warm, friendly, hospitable people.  Use your common sense and you will have a great time.