Hi! Welcome to this week’s blog about my border crossing experience. I would like to preface this post by saying experiences will vary when attempting to cross the Jordanian-Israeli/Palestinian border. I’ve heard horror stories from students as well as some from others that said they were able to pass with relative ease. I think it also depends on the time of year you are intending to cross and which access point you are wanting to get through. All of this took place in March of this year during the holiday of Purim. I didn’t take any pictures while going through the process, so I will insert some from my time on the opposite side of the Jordan River.
We started by taking an Uber from Al-Jubeiha (where we live) to the King Hussein Bridge border crossing. This took us approximately an hour with traffic from Amman. The rolling hills were breathtaking but the uncertainty around going through a border for the first time was omnipresent in my thoughts. Truth be told, I was incredibly nervous. This wasn’t something I had ever done before and I was pretty skeptical on how everything would come together.
We finally arrived to the border crossing and my anxiety only heightened. The station was at the edge of this tiny town and looked quite rundown. Once the guards realized we had no idea what we were doing and that we were American, they were very accommodating. We had previously decided that we would only speak English when trying to cross and that we would put away all phones and devices before entering the station. I truly don’t know if this aided the process, but I guess in the moment it felt like it would help us get across more smoothly.
Communication was definitely a big source of my anxiety when crossing. Once they had taken our passports and we had paid the 10JD exit fee, we were made to sit on a bench as dozens of others weaved their way through the station with ease. After a considerable amount of time had passed with no further instruction (2 hours), we were finally ushered onto a bus. This is no doubt the most vulnerable I have ever felt in my entire life: on a bus at the border of a country without a passport. They did a really terrible job of communicating that they would be holding our passports for that long and to that extent. I can’t even begin to explain how it felt to be a sitting duck on this bus without proper identification. After we paid another 7JD for the bus ride over no man’s land, a guard walked up and down the isle matching people to their passports.
By this time, night had begun to fall and we were still sitting on this bus without any instruction. Finally, after what felt like forever, we started to move across the border. The road was guarded heavily with plenty of fencing and barbed wire lining both sides. There was yet another checkpoint in the middle that required us to show identification. The road was probably a mile-long total but boy did it feel never-ending! By the time we made it to the Israeli/Palestinian side, it was plenty dark outside. It was actually a little ominous to me, but that could’ve just been the exhaustion. Getting through security was no problem and soon we were on our own to go where we wanted. Also, it should be noted that our passports were never stamped with visas. The only visible trace that I crossed over comes from the fact that Jordan stamped my passport on the way back. The Israelis gave us a temporary visa card instead of a stamp.
Over the course of about 3.5 days we were able to cover some major ground including: Tel-Aviv, Haifa, Nazareth, Sea of Galilee, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem. After a trip I will never forget, it was time to cross back into Jordan. This was made a little more difficult because we had to go through a separate crossing. This time we traveled from Jerusalem to the crossing near Irbid, Jordan. Once we got to this station it was much nicer. They even had a massive duty-free shop on the inside. We paid a hefty 107 nil exit tax and were on the Jordanian side once more. The taxi from the Irbid crossing took a few hours to complete and cost 50JD. Coming back through was much easier and way less nerve racking. Would I repeat this process over if I ever wanted to go back? Maybe not. I think I would much prefer to fly into Tel-Aviv than to deal with the possibility of being questioned for hours on end at the border or the uneasiness of not having access to my passport at all times. Stay tuned for next week’s blog on Aqaba!