diary of a bridge

i had this idea this morning to chronicle minute-by-minute what happens when i go through the fiasco that is the palestinian-jordanian border, which is, of course, illegally controlled solely by israelis. my plan didn’t work as i had expected, however, because for the first time i did not have to go through the hell that is having every little piece of your luggage searched: every little paper, book, bra normally gets looked at and swabbed with some cloth that goes into a machine; normally every little drop of liquid (shampoo, lotion, etc.) gets sampled and tested. but somehow i escaped that today for the first time. but because i cataloged the series of events i thought i’d type them up here for posterity:

9:50 am i leave raghdan service station in amman and head to the king hussein bridge in jordan. i share the service with a lovely older couple from khalil who just spent a month touring the u.s. we are serenaded by the beautiful voice of abdel halim-hafiz on the radio.

10:43 arrive at the king hussein bridge. lug my suitcases through the security check (x-ray machine for me & luggage just like at u.s. airports), get my departure tax paid, passport stamped.

11:10 finish the jordanian customs process and enjoy a cup of arabic coffee and the sun while waiting for the bus to arrive.

11:36 cross the bridge and the two checkpoints (one jordanian, one israeli). the jordanians come on the bus to check to see that your passports are in order. the israelis make you get off the bus and wait around (and you have to leave your purses on the bus).

11:50 arrive at the israeli terminal.

12:02 finish waiting in line to check my suitcases with the luggage people to x-ray them (you can’t get them again until you’re done with the “security” screening process), finish going through the israeli x-ray machines with your “carry ons” and your body, and then for the finishing touch the firing jets machine (where you must stand still in a booth and puffs of air are blown alongside your body from head to toe).

12:36 finish waiting in line at the visa window, hand in my passport, answer inane questions about where i’m going and why i’m going to “israel” and the lady soldier keeps my passport and asks me to sit down.

12:54 i’m called over by shin bet for the beginning of the extra screening process. i am asked to do the body check in a little room with a curtain. i argue with them because i don’t want the curtain shut, because i think people should see what they do, and because they wouldn’t let me bring my purse inside with me and i wanted to keep my eye on it. eventually they call over some higher authority who says that the curtain has to be all the way open not just a bit so i can see if i must watch my bag. the entire time the israeli security people are telling me that they’ll watch it–as if i would trust them for a minute…

1:50 i’m told that all of a sudden the terminal is non-smoking and all of us trying to pass the time by smoking are made to put our cigarettes out (we’ve all been smoking for hours in the same spot by now). a shin bet security person comes over to an american couple sitting a few seats down from me (i noticed then when i first arrived in the morning). the shin bet lady tells them (in public) that they are denied entry because the israeli they say they are going to see in tel aviv has a problem with the ministry of the interior.

2:00 i’m called over by the israeli woman soldier in the visa booth. and at this point i know something is up. normally this is when the shin bet person makes me get my suitcase and they begin the tedious task of examining every object with a fine tooth comb. but this time she stamps my passport and gives me a 3 month visa. mish ma’oul! al hamdulilah!

2:03 as i pass through the area to get my suitcases i’m questioned one last time about who i’m going to see in “israel” (look at a map lately?) and why i was in jordan and what i was doing there. (note to self: i must learn the fine art of palestinian patience).

2:10 still fearing there’s been some mistake i grab my bags and hop in a service to al quds.

2:30 make a pact with a rafiq on the service who’s also headed to ramallah to get out early on the highway so his sister can pick us up and take us directly there.

3:30 arrive in ramallah!


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