about the Jordan-Israel border crossing…
trip: Amman to Jerusalem
how: by bus and taxi
miles total: 4752
Well, we met a nice couple staying at the Farah hotel in Amman with us and found ourselves with more or less the same itinerary from Jordan to Israel and then back to Jordan and onto Egypt. So naturally we thought of traveling together for a bit especially in Israel where G and I were planning on renting a car.
Adam, Diana, G and I set off around 8 am for the border crossing. We got dropped off at the bus station and were hustled (like usual) on to a bus to the border. The Jordanian border was relatively simple. We got off paid the five dinar exit fee and got back on the bus to the Israeli border. The nerves were coming… the clammy hands…. sweaty arm pits. I don’t know why I was like this, but I heard and read many things about this border crossing and although not many people get turned away, I thought there was always a chance. If this should happen, I don’t know what I would do… I suppose just cry.
We reached the border along with another 600+ people hoping to get through the border that day. The border is like no other border I have seen, with many heavily armed soldiers, not a year older than myself. The Israeli government spends about 15 billion dollars on their defense force annually. Also, it is mandatory for everyone to preform military service, women two years and men three years. I didn’t have too much time to think about this right now and the four of us just tried to follow what everyone else were doing; give the bags to one desk, get a ticket for your bags then lined up for passport check. We all went together.
The female soldier at the counter was no more than 23 years old. She looked at us and asked us the basic questions. We answered. Then we requested that the stamp be put on a separate sheet of paper (we were told this was possible and then we wouldn’t have the Israeli stamp in our passport which would prevent us from travelling to many Arab countries). Her smile quickly disappeared and she asked even more questions. We answered. One Stamp. Two Stamp. Hesitation. Three Stamp. Hesitation. Please wait in the waiting area. No fourth stamp. G had a suspicious passport. In reality, we both did. We were warned that we take a big risk entering into Israel with a Syrian stamp in our passport, but we took the risk. I guess now we would see what happened.
D, A, and I passed through the first control and got our eyes scanned and picture and fingerprints taken. Then I agreed to meet A and D in Jerusalem tomorrow morning for breakfast and they went on there way while I went back to wait with G in the waiting area. There were many people waiting… mainly Palestinians trying to get in, back to their homes and back to their families. The girls behind the counter calling the names of the people in the waiting area were giggling at the sound of their pronunciation when they said the Arabic names. I was embarrassed for them and could not see the reason for their lack of respect.
We sat there for some time and listened to the border control calling these names… During this time we met some other travelers, one guy had walked from Belgium to here. He had no money with him and was travelling with just a sleeping bag, walking stick, and a small backpack. He was 22. He was waiting in this area because he had told the border control he was headed for Gaza. Never a smart move.
One hour passed. Then two, three, four, five. I was scared. I didn’t know what to do or what to think. We met another great guy, a Brit. He was doing more or less the same trip we were doing and he was waiting because his father’s grandfather is Pakistani and in return he has a Pakistani last name. We spoke with him for a while and exchanged some travel stories. He had been waiting since 7am. It was now 4 pm. He had been in for 3 interrogations, none of which were delightful meetings. Coming up to 5pm, two men approached him and said that he would be escorted our of Israel back to the Jordan border. That was it. His time in Israel was finished. Tears came to his eyes and we barely had a chance to say good-bye.
My nerves were out of control and Gui was worried sick. All I could do was pray. And I did. G went for an interrogation and came back with no answers. It was about 6:30 and a man came to G and asked where he was from. G said Brazil. The guy looked at him and said one moment. Then 5 minutes later he came out with G’s passport. You can pass through here (directing us through the border control). Why we waited for 7 hours, we may never know. Why we went through the torture of sitting there asking ourselves if we would actually be able to go, we may never know. Why things must be this way, we will never know.
However, what I did know is that this was the start to a whole different experience than the past 17 days. We went through the border and found our bags after 7 hours of not knowing where they were and hopped on a bus to Jerusalem. We were couchsurfing and couldn’t get to their house soon enough. Unfortunately, we got lost and did not arrive until about 11 pm. Forty-four miles took 15 hours. But we are here. This is what matters.