March 1, 2009
We had such a nice relaxed time in Israel — it was hard to let go. But adventure beckoned, so we stuck to our schedule and headed to Jordan on March 1st. We got a ride to the northern border (Jordan River crossing) from Shahaf’s parents.
Adi, Shahaf, and Suzy at the Israel-Jordan border:
Playing Ping-Pong in No Man’s Land
People warned us that it might take a long time (“5 hours”) to cross the border. We didn’t really believe it, but that’s exactly what happened.
At first it was fairly smooth. We paid the $20 exit fee on the Israeli side and got our Israeli passports stamped – all that took about 10-15 minutes, not too bad.
We were getting ready to walk across the river to the Jordanian side, but a guard told us to wait at a bus station. A bus? What for? He didn’t tell us, so we could only imagine that the actual border is a pretty large piece of land, not suitable for a walk. But that wasn’t the case. When our bus finally showed up (20 minutes later?) it was only a 100-meter drive across a tiny bridge. We later learned that it’s part of the Israeli-Jordanian agreement to only allow people to cross the border by bus. I’m not sure if that’s a security measure or a way to create a few more jobs. Oh, BTW, you need to pay about $2 each to board the bus!
Anyhow, things really got complicated on the Jordanian side. The issue is that, by law, all Israeli citizens must use their Israeli passports when entering and exiting Israel, so that’s what we did. But, upon entering Jordan, we were hoping to switch up and start using our US passports instead. Why? Because later on our trip we had plans to visit Dubai and Malaysia, and those countries don’t like to see anything Israeli – passports, stamps, etc. But on the Jordanian side, the immigration official refused to let us switch up. From his perspective we had to stick with the Israeli passport because that’s the one with the exit-from-Israel stamp.
What to do? This border official had us follow him to the back office where he explained the predicament to a higher-up official, who in turn explained the situation to another higher-up official. What they decided was that we would have to go back to the Israeli side and ask them to give us another exit stamp on a stub attached to the US passport. Of course, to get back to the Israeli side we had to take a bus, which meant that once again we had to wait about 20 minutes and pay $2 each.
On the Israeli side we passed security. The guards decided that we looked suspicious so they pulled our bags aside and did a bomb test; another 15 minutes gone. When we finally spoke to the immigration officials there was confusion all around. They thought that we wanted an entry-to-Israel stamp on a separate stub attached to the US passport, something they absolutely refused to do (which kind of makes sense from a security perspective – if you have an entry stamp on a piece of paper, you can give it to somebody else). They grew irritated, saying that Pnina and I are Israeli citizens so they can only give us the stamp on our Israeli passport; which made Pnina likewise irritated and caused her to actually ask “what if we give up our Israeli citizenship?” Anyhow, eventually the confusion was cleared up and the officials agreed to give us the additional exit stamp on a separate stub.
Another 20 minute wait, another $2 each, another bus ride, and this time we managed to enter Jordan using our US passports.
Long story short: we arrived at the border around 10 AM and we finally made it across by 3 PM = 5 hours exactly. Pain in the ass. Having two passports sounds like a nice thing, but sometimes it really isn’t.