Editors Note: This post was written by a Palestinian who has bravely shared this story to tell the world about the struggles the Palestinian people go through crossing the border into their own country. However, due to the social unrest between Israel and Palestine and the detainment of relatives who have spoken out against this treatment, the writer asked to remain anonymous so that future trips to Palestine would not be jeopardized.
Every year without fail, the hassle of my trip to Palestine begins before I even come close to Palestine. To familiarize the unfamiliar, as a US citizen with a Palestinian ID, I am only allowed to enter the West Bank, where the majority of my family lives, through Jordan using my Palestinian documents. When I say documents, I mean documents with a capital S. My US passport is supposedly packed away the minute I leave America and I pull out four documents (yes, I said four) that I need to cross a few miles. The process can take anywhere from a couple of hours to all day long. I count 12 hours as my longest trip from Amman to my home in Palestine, but some people may spend longer depending on the time of year and the surrounding political situation. Basically, you can fly halfway across the world in this time, when a typical drive should only take an hour and a half tops.
My journey begins from the airport in Amman to Allenby/King Hussein bridge (following a 14 hour flight or so from the US). This generally takes about an hour, but with the way people drive in Jordan, you may make it there in less time – no promises on whether you are alive or not. The Jordanian end generally moves quickly, unless it is a busy time of year, in which case you can expect to spend several hours sitting on top of people in an overcrowded room waiting for your name to get called.
Palestinians have their own entrance and lines throughout the whole process of course – we’re special like that. If you have $150 to spare, you can always take the “VIP” entrance to somewhat surpass the Jordanian part of the process across the bridge. There are no “very important people” on the Israeli side though, so the hassle you avoid is very short-lived. If you don’t have the means or you choose to join the rest of the world, you get on a bus to cross the bridge and can also expect to be sitting there for several hours with little air conditioning and a LOT of angry people. Taking pictures is the very last thing on my mind at this point, so I’ve resorted to google for a picture of a typical day on the bridge.
Once allowed off the bus, key word being allowed, you are instructed to go through a metal barrier built on the sidewalk (think of cattle people), so that the extremely happy people sitting at the window (if you ever get there among the thousands of people pushing and shoving) can take your bag and make sure that your picture still matches the document you have. If you are going there in the summer, this will be an especially fun part of your trip in the heat. Expect to need a shower before, during and after. Once you get indoors, you stand in another long “line” to get the usual x-ray screening and what comes after if, god forbid, you ring. I usually plan my outfit well in advance for this endeavor to make sure there is no way in hell that machine makes a sound. You can anticipate being scolded at by someone at some point throughout this process. It’s normal and not normal at the same time.
After that, you join more endless lines to actually be allowed entry into Palestine by the Israelis (irony much?) My conversation with the officer usually goes something like this:
Them: “Your last stamp on your Jordanian passport shows you leaving Jordan last year but nothing else until your return today – where were you?”
Them: “Give me your US passport” – for the record: I have never been anywhere in the world (and I’ve done my share of traveling) where I’ve been asked for a passport other than the one I am traveling with. After going back and forth a few times, I give them my passport, which they stamp, indicating the number on my Palestinian ID. I ask for a separate paper to be stamped every time, since I visit many Arab countries and a stamp in Hebrew can cause issues. Needless to say, I have never been accommodated. According to them, I can’t be a Palestinian and American at the same time – in other words, If I want to visit Palestine as a Palestinian, there’s not a chance I’m visiting Israel as an American (or a Palestinian for that matter, but I assume most people sense that).
Art on the Israeli Separation Barrier by worldwide activists
Following this, you go through another line where they decide if your bag needs further checking. If this happens to you, you’re basically taken to a room where they rummage through the whole bag, question you if need be and then tell you to get packing. If you don’t go through this, you are led to a hallway where all the bags in the world are laid out on the floor and on top of each other – enjoy finding yours.
You then get on another bus that takes you to Jericho, where you go through Palestinian officers – pretty much present as another formality. This process is usually quick before you can head on to your next city. If you’re lucky enough, your final destination is Jericho. If not, you have a few more hours on the road ahead of you. Expect checkpoints. These are not as terrible as they used to be, but you may spend some time there if the army stationed feels like making your life more miserable. You may hear people say something like “6 hours – not too bad!” as you leave. It’s funny and sad how these things become the status quo, despite how insane they are. I’ve found that most Palestinians use humor as a way of dealing with our cause.
Somehow, I manage to push this whole memory and process to the back of my mind when I hit the road on the way to whatever city I am headed to, knowing I’m going to have a blast. My homeland is beautiful.
If you ever get the chance to visit, hopefully not experience what a Palestinian does to get home and can pretend there isn’t a terrible reality going on around you, I recommend the following:
- Tour the historical sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem
- Experience the city center and nightlife in Ramallah
- Eat amazing food and dessert in Nablus
- And see the beautiful scenery in Jenin.
I do this every time I go home, with the exception of Jerusalem – because as we’ve already established, I’m not allowed in. You can also experience the olive-harvest season starting in October where you can join locals in picking and pressing some of the best olives in the world.
- Make sure you also stop by the infamous Israeli separation barrier and see some of the settlements with settler-only roads – you will get to see some blatant violations of international law! It’s not all pretty and I recommend you at least be aware of certain aspects of the situation on the ground.
Unfortunately, my trip back to Jordan is just as hectic, but this time, I don’t have as much to look forward to, I have a long flight ahead of me, I forget the fun I had and the horrible memory sticks until next time.
-Signed a Proud Palestinian