Israel to Jordan and Back.
Dead Sea Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
September 17th, 2007 – by: Vagabondatheart
Landing smack in the beginning of Rosh Hashanah and finding the means to Eliat and towards Petra took some effort. Then, I will be waiting for the end of Yom Kippur when the transportation to the airport resumes, and catch a flight to Bangkok and hoping not to get caught in any transportation halting holidays again.
Tel Aviv feels much like Huntington Beach in California except on this day, it's filled with mostly elderly Russian tourists and old men in their Speedos with the belly sticking out to the neighboring country; big country this isn’t.
Tel Aviv and Eliat is the sin city of Israel and stark contrast to the sight of Orthodox Jews, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, etc. that is common in Jerusalem.
Security issues? It's the only nation where your backpack is checked and patted down prior to entering a restaurant on midday. More amusing is a soldier's M-16 30 round magazine cartridge rubbing against your side in a packed train from the airport or seeing a sight of an army soldier in uniform with his rifle kissing his girlfriend. Quite a Kodak moment I was unprepared for, but remember seeing similar moment caught in a National Geographic magazine some decades ago.
When was the last time you checked in your luggage and your M-16 at the check in counter at the air port? It's common prior to visiting your family in Eliat for many soldiers leaving for Rosh Hashanah. They place the rifles in an orange bag and collected at the end of the flight.
Apparently a teacher on a leave of absence traveling for a year and having visited to Egypt and the UAE also is suspicious enough for the air port security to invite me into their private room to thoroughly check my bag and ask the same boring questions repeatedly and also provide me with an assigned seat with an obvious Israeli air marshal sitting in front of me facing me. Is that really an iPod you're listening to?
"You were in the Marines?" was an eventual reply from the security gal and she finally relaxed a bit and said thank you and it wasn't the first time an Israeli said, ".
Israelis clap their hands when the plane lands safely; need I explain further?
Crossing into Jordan felt like a page out of a movie script. After getting my exit from Israel taken care of, "please no stamp", walking the length of the football field neutral territory while a khaki dressed Israeli soldier and his M4 carbine (a shortened barreled M-16) with scope disappear behind a concrete reinforcement and the working end of the rifle pointing towards the Jordanian side.
Contrary to the stoic and serious Israeli side, the Jordanian border guards are almost comical and quite friendly and relaxed! Masa akyr...good afternoon, and one of the soldiers respond with a smile and asks if I speak Arabic. it literally feels like a weight of tension is lifted walking on the Jordanian border.
During the two-hour taxi ride through the desert of Jordan to Petra, I can only think of two things...beautiful and why anyone lives here is beyond me!
During the gas stop, I purchased 3 cokes and water for my friend Sasa, the taxi driver, and myself but he gratefully declined as he was observing Ramadan.
I witnessed the most reddish hued sunset in my life on a cliff overlooking Petra and finally witnessed the elusive green flash before checking into the hotel. The Swiss operated “Movinpick” hotel is quite the bargain hotel and only 100 meters from the entrance to Petra!
Entering Petra is magical! The narrow pathways like the narrows of Utah and eventually opening up to "The Treasury" made even more immortal by "Raiders of the Lost Ark: the Last Crusade.
Our Uber-guide Sufian with a slight refined British accent provided an excellent tour and furthermore invited newly found American friends, Anne and Richard (a couple living and working in Kuwait), Sasa, and myself to a traditional Jordanian feast in his house that evening after an unforgettable tour!
What a treat for a common tourists and an honor sitting among strangers became friends sharing a meal. Sufian, the guide, was an equally excellent host and the serving of coffee signaling the end of the night and time for our departure was first missed until another guide explained to us, only after the coffee was followed up by glasses of water (apparently not common). So next time I serve coffee at my house, I want you to leave afterwards! I like that.
North to Mt Nebu where Moses saw the promised land and dipping my feet in the River Jordan at the Christ's Baptismal site and I can only think about a small platoon of flies circling around me and *gack* that was an unintended appetizer!
But floating on the high salinity water of the Dead Sea, I felt holy. Perhaps it was also the highly intoxicating calm of the bromine in the water taking me to a sublime place.
You're initially in doubt, in spite of your background in physics of density, until you experience it for yourself, levitated and laughing until you taste a bit of the water making you pout and have few drops splash into your eyes making you cry all the way to the nearest shower and shoving an 8 yr old child, I think, and rinsing and drinking your way back to the proper pH level! It's all worth it though, but not getting stare of the death by a Russian mommy...the Russians are everywhere and quite embraced capitalism with enthusiasm. And splurging for the best Marriott and service on the planet while capturing a perfect sunset over the Dead Sea...it's heaven at the lowest part on planet Earth at about 397 meters or about 1200 ft below the sea level.
Crossing back into Israel via King Hussein bridge at the North (and you can thank William Clinton for brokering the opening of 3 border crossings between the Israelis and the Jordanians) is easy until you get to the Israeli side. You'll get more questions and a lengthy wait for the luggage check.
Arriving in Jerusalem, you're grateful for the 3000 ft elevation giving some reprieve from the stifling heat.
Best food has to be at Pinati's near the old city. It's friendly owner asking us to return next day, which we obliged and didn't need arm twisting. It's crowded and when seated, the utensil and the side dishes literally fly to your table with my fork doing a cliffhanger imitation and you're wondering...ok... But the food...wow!
Next day, the owner spots me and tells the friendly door security to let me and Sasa in (others waiting), and when he doesn't reply, the owner comes across to slap the security he obviously knows well and yells in Hebrew. I catch "Korea-America" and we walk in to sit at our seat laughing while the security is rubbing his arm in pain but smiling.
Jerusalem. Walking in and seeing a wave of Jewish faithful praying at the Western Wall, men on one side and women on the other, I walked in and picked up my white cardboard kippa and made my way to the smoothed surfaced of "the wailing wall." "Ich bib ein Jewish."
Three monotheistic faiths coexist here and the obvious angst of the Muslims here compared to those met in Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, UAE is more obvious. I think Jerusalem is best left to be interpreted by those who are more faithful than the agnostic me. Historically I found it fascinating, but can't escape the constant tension that surrounds Israel.
Having said such, finding myself on the beach again and ready to take my final dip then get my lunch after the security check.
I feel important to state how the western media vilifies the large group of Arab and Muslim culture for the act of few radical splinter sect. I find the Muslims quite peaceful and friendly contrary to what I've grown up with especially by the media. It’s been my experience that those outside the States do a much better job separating politics from its people.
Poverty and desperation will always have you shelling out more Israeli Shekels or Jordanian Dinar to an opportunistic taxi driver. I find the hyper-security state the Israelis must live by a reality yet sad and hope the US never reaches parity with our security issues. It just makes you think and redefines everything.
While trying to stay nonpolitical, it's difficult to stay quiet to those admonishing the US and yet too happily will criticize my own for the trillions barrowed from China to finance the war in the Gulf. I can’t express enough my disdain for extremities in all forms and religion.
Two best comments from a Jordanian tour guide and an Israeli soldier in the Old City:
Jordanian guide, "I have faith in Americans."
Israeli soldier, "I respect all people and disagree with my government sometimes. I just want peace.".
It just makes you swell up inside.
For those who may say I've turned "turncoat", the best way I can sum up this email is by quoting a former US CIA chief, "...when I get my new information, I change my position. What do you do?"
Shalom and ma'a salaama. See you in Thailand!
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!