Working in the West Bank
Working for UNRWA in the West Bank is challenging and rewarding. Jerusalem is a family-friendly duty station.
The West Bank main field office is located in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem. UNRWA installations and offices are spread all over the West Bank, near Palestinian camps, villages and towns.
Location and geography
The West Bank is located west of Jordan River and the Dead Sea on some 5,650 square kilometres (130 km long and 40-65 km in width). It is bordered by Jordan and Israel. It is divided into 11 governorates that vary in area between the largest, Hebron (997 square km), and the smallest, Nablus (166 square km).
The West Bank has a Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and short, wet, cool winters; temperature and rainfall vary depending on altitude and location.
The total Palestinian population in the West Bank, according to the 2007 census, was 2.3 million, with an annual growth rate of approximately 3 per cent.
In the West Bank, over 98 per cent of the Palestinian population is Muslim Sunni, and 1.37 per cent is Christian (of various denominations).
The official language of the West Bank is Arabic. The Palestinian dialect is common to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and parts of Iraq. In Jerusalem both English and Hebrew are also common.
The Israeli shekel (NIS) is the currency of the West Bank.
The time zone is GMT +2 hours.
The health care sector is divided into public health services and private ones. The public health sector is accessible to all. Better health services can be found in private clinics and hospitals which are spread out mainly in larger cities. Sophisticated medical care, including for children, is available throughout Jerusalem.
Education in the West Bank is provided by the public sector, the private sector, and UNRWA. Primary and secondary education is available for the children of international staff members, especially in Jerusalem, which includes several schools such as the Anglican International School of Jerusalem and the Lycée Français de Jerusalem.
International staff normally live in Jerusalem, a family duty station, and rent furnished or unfurnished apartments found using agents or by word-of-mouth through colleagues.
Public transportation is very common in the West Bank. Local residents use either buses, taxis, or their private cars when commuting to the various locations in the West Bank, which are generally easily accessible.
In addition, employees in Jerusalem and its vicinity usually use their own cars for transportation. Internationals who want to arrive or leave the country can either enter through Queen Alia International Airport in Amman and cross King Hussein/Allenby Bridge, or Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.
Communication services are provided in the West Bank by several telecommunication companies that offer landlines, cellular and internet. Internet is becoming increasingly accessible, particularly in the main cities, with sufficient bandwidth to support Skype and other communication programs. An increasing number of cafes, restaurants and hotels have wireless internet connections.
The dialing code +970 is used in the West Bank and +972 is used in East Jerusalem and Israel.
Living in the West Bank
Generally speaking for international staff, living in the West Bank is a remarkable experience with many highlights including the kindness and generosity of the people and the incredible array of sites to explore that are of historical and religious significance. There are however challenging realities connected to the political context which make for a tense environment, with tensions escalating at certain times of year or at political junctures. It is a generally safe environment for international staff and there are security measures in place to ensure the safety and security of all staff. This duty station is otherwise known for its accessibility to modern facilities including shopping centres, gyms, and swimming pools in Jerusalem and Ramallah. There are also many coffee shops and bars that provide special menus in a fabulous atmosphere.
The West Bank has a wealth of historical sites dating from different periods – and ruling empires – of its history. The Old City of Jerusalem and its walls have been declared a UNESCO world heritage site. Jerusalem is home to several sites of key religious importance: The Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall.