A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Crossing Jordan

“Why have you come here?  You were turned away at the King Hussein Bridge Crossing, and now you are here.  Do you think we are stupid? We don’t know?”

It was hard to turn away from the scene unfolding in front of us.  The young Arab woman began to beg the Israeli security officer to reconsider — but the officer was having none of it.  She said: “You have been told you cannot enter Israel.  You must go back to Jordan.”

Over the previous ten months we had made dozens of border crossings. Every single one was routine.  More than once border officials barely looked at our passports.  Entering Israel, it seemed, was another matter.


Thirty-six hours earlier we had landed at Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport after an eight hour flight from Delhi. The quiet efficiency of Amman’s airport contrasted sharply with the chaos of Delhi.

After we had collected our luggage we made our way to the airport exit.  “Welcome to Jordan. Go in peace,” the security guard said as he waved us through with barely a second look.

We had flown to Jordan to travel Israel to visit friends.  Our OneWorld RTW tickets got us as close as Amman.  We planned to spend the night there, then travel overland to Israel.

The Jordanian-Israeli border opened to tourists in 1994.

I have to admit I had reservations about traveling to Israel, particularly after their election brought Benjamin Netanyahu back to power.  In the weeks after the Israeli election, Netanyahu did not sound like a man eager to restart the Middle East peace process.

As our cab left the Amman airport we saw a vivid reminder we were in another part of the world: A sign that said “Iraqi Border – 355 km.”  Somehow, I never imagined driving past a sign like that with my children in the car.

Once we settled in our hotel in Amman, we began to explore our options for getting to the Israeli border.  There are three border crossings open to tourists, and our friends wanted us to meet them at the Sheik Hussein Bridge (as opposed to the King Hussein Bridge).

There were several travel agencies near our hotel, so Dani and I went to inquire about a bus from Amman to Nazareth that we had read about.

We walked in the first travel agency we saw.  A young woman greeted us, and I asked her: “Do you know anything about a bus from Amman to Nazareth – I think it is run by Trust Transport?”

The woman looked confused, then concerned: “You want to travel to Israel?

She picked up her phone, then whispered into the receiver in Arabic.  She listened for a few minutes, then put down the phone.  She turned to us and said: “We cannot sell you a bus ticket to Israel.  If you would like to go to the bus company, I will write down the address in Arabic for you.”

We thanked her, took the address she had written down for us, and went back to our hotel to figure out our next move. It appeared that asking about travel to Israel made some Jordanians uncomfortable.

After further exploring our options, we booked a taxi to the border crossing.  Our driver spoke reasonable English, and he explained to us the complicated border crossing procedure.  “It could take about three hours,” he said.

Leaving Jordan was relatively simple.  Entering Israel was another matter.

Israeli soldiers screened every piece of luggage entering the country.  Carefully.  They questioned every person.  Not once, multiple times.  “Why are you coming to Israel?  What will you do? Where will you stay? When will you leave?”

At least four different security officials asked us the same questions as we made our way through the border control terminal.

By the time we had finally completed the process, only the Arab woman denied entry was left.

I heard the Israeli security officer say to her: “You know what you did.  Why you cannot enter.”

“But I was young, I didn’t know what I was doing…” the woman protested.  “Please, will you reconsider…  I have a child now…”

“You know what you did.  Now you must leave.”


1 Doug Spiro { 06.01.09 at 8:36 am }

I have been to Israel and had a similar experience. I had made the mistake of answering the question,”Did anyone give you anything to bring into Israel?” With a deer in the headlights look I said “Yes.” My boss had given me a letter to hand deliver just as I left for the airport. This was way before 9/11 and the notion of airport security was non-existent . I was pulled from the line and spent 3 hours trying to explain my answer. Once I did get in I found Israel to be a beautiful country with wonders around every corner. The people couldn’t have been nicer. Although watching a man struggle with a bag a groceries, a baby and a gun was eye opening to say the least.

2 nomadicmatt { 06.02.09 at 11:21 pm }

where are you all actually?

3 Patrice { 06.03.09 at 6:43 am }

I love your post even thought I am just new in here. Hope you always enjoy your travels. Great travel site.

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