Sunday, December 23, 2007

Into Israel

Left Amman around 9am. Had some last minute decisions like, do we bring the guidebook to Israel? It's called Palestine, which is what most of the Middle East Countries call most of Israel. Ann couldn't find a book about Israel in Amman that didn't call it Palestine. But, we reasoned, if we brought a book called "Palestine", would they let us in? We had no idea, so we left it behind.

Getting from Jordan to Israel involved getting into a cab in front of our flat and telling the guy to take us to the King Hussein bridge, because we wanted to go to Jerusalem. He says 20 ($28) dinars and we are like, OK, good deal. So as he's driving we try to engage in the normal Amman taxi banter, but he doesn't really have any english. After about ten minutes, we notice that we are going the wrong way and start to try to ask questions. Eventually he pulls into some parking lot and says "shigrug salem, akasikia Hussein." Like, we're here. Ann and I groan and say, no , we want to go to the King Hussein bridge, and he asks a couple of people in the parking lot of this place, it looks like a community center or something, if they speak english and then eventually some guy pokes his head in, we tell him where we want to go, and the taxi driver takes off. About 3 dinars later he pulls into the bus stop, and there are a bunch of taxis. These guys speak english and they want to take us to the King Hussein bridge for 20 dinars. Meanwhile our cab driver wants 4 dinars for the wild ride over here. So far we are about 40 minutes on the road and about 5 minutes from our flat. We give the guy 3 dinars, and hop in the cab for Israel. After about 10 minutes in this cab, we pass right by our apartment. Big circle. Eventually we get down to sea level:

Finally get to the bridge, the cab drops us off, and we go through the whole ramshackle chaotic customs rigamarole. We miss the bus by about 30 seconds, while buying our exit stamps from the duty free shop. Guy says next bus in 30 minutes. Two hours later, we get on the bus to Israel. Now we cross the King Hussein bridge and then the Allenby bridge and we are in the West Bank. There is no line, just a crowd, to get our luggage thru the check point and we jostle up to the front and push it through and then go through an xray machine and then there is some air jet thing that not everyone goes through and then finally we get to wait in line for about 1 hour as the Israeli customs officials grill various people on their grandparents names and what they are doing in Israel. All kinds of people cutting in line all the time. Except the obvious tourists, like ourselves.

Ann has briefed me on what to say and what not to say. Like "Do you know any Palestinians?" Answer "No." "What, you live in Amman, which is 90% Palestinian, and you don't know any Palestinians?" "No." You know, obviously we do know some Palestinians, but the secret truth is that they are Jordanians, therefore this is not strictly a lie. Also, we wanted the stamp to go on a piece of paper, not our passport, otherwise Ann wouldn't be able to work in other Gulf States. Sometimes the Israelis will do this, but we had recently heard that they wouldn't. If they didn't, we'd just have to turn around and go back to Jordan. That was another thing Ann briefed me on. The main reason she couldn't get an Israeli stamp was for work, because she is technically overseeing the office in Syria. But we couldn't say Syria, because that would make the whole thing harder, we would have to say she had work in "some other Gulf States." I've noticed that dealing with borders is a lot like dealing with people who have borderline personality disorder. If you say the wrong thing, the reaction can be totally out of proportion. Not that I know anyone with borderline personality disorder (at least no one reading this).

Anyway we get up to the passport person (all of them are women) and first we ask if we avoid having our passport stamped. She says "No, it is impossible." So I say "Well, then we can't enter, can we have our passports back please?" She kind of waves at us and says "One moment, one moment.." Asks us why, makes a phone call and then says "Maybe we can do this for you." The one thing she got stuck on was my middle name, Kazis, which is very similar to a palestinian name. She asked me what it meant, and I didn't know but thought it might mean shoemaker (later I realized that was what the last name of the person I was named after meant, Kazis Krauchunas). Ann interjected "It's Lithuanian," and then the passport lady said "OK" and we got thru. We were in Israel. 50 kilometers from our apartment and it took about 6 hours. Not bad, really, considering the Israelites took 40 years and Moses never quite made it.

Right when you cross the border it looks pretty much like a desert without any scrub. You're still pretty far below sea level and a lot of it looks like the badlands. Around this part you sea some shacks made of plastic and corrugated metal with sheep pens. Like one every couple of miles or so along the road. Once I saw the sheep pens I could see that there was a little bit of green on some of the desert hills, just a very dim shading, like a green 5 oclock shadow. As you come up out of the valley, you see these walled developments, which look like big castles, situated in the upper reaches of the hills. The West Bank. Here are the text message Ann and I both got from Orange,Israel, when we entered Jerusalem:


1 comment:

dannyo said...

Zain Jordan provides mobile phone services. Nothing sinister ( But I hear ya, I woulda thought someone might be looking for recruits too.
Love the hand graffiti. We could use some of that over here. Missed you guys @ Christmas. I dutifully handed over the bags & notes to Andy & David, who paraded around the rest of the evening wearing his habib. Saw Jack & fam yesterday @ Dave's. Played the Wii tennis. Watched Jack play day 5 or 6 of his temp WoW game. Jane thanked me profusely for introducing him to it. Pretty sure they'll be buying it.
Love always,