I recently came back from the West Bank and the only way to survive the journey is to have a lot of patience, humor and the ability to disconnect. This journey starts with getting an exit permit that allows you to both leave and return. Loose this document and it would be a mess! The next step is to get a taxi to Jericho and the bus station there where we all depart from. Once you get there it is a multi-step process that is an exercise in humiliation, patience, power and strife from various different powers that be and want to be.
Getting to Jericho your first stop is the “istira7a”, the rest stop. There you pay to get in, pay for a bus, pay for your bag to get shipped and get on a bus to go to the next stop. This is where you last see your bag until you have checked out of the country.
The next stop is the “ma3bar”, the crossing point. We stay on the bus throughout this stop. A PNA representative comes onto the bus and collects our IDs and passport and takes them away for a bit. Once he takes them away they go into a room where there are two or three men logging down the info in these big books manually. No one is allowed off the bus or on it. Another person comes on to the bus and sells the municipal tax that you can’t leave the country without paying. After we buy our tax and get our IDs back we are bussed to a checkpoint. At the checkpoint we take everything with us and pass through a metal detector that is manned by and Israeli soldier. Sometimes we are made to show IDs and permits other times we are just asked to board the bus. At this point we actually disembark from one bus on one side and get on another bus on the other side of the metal detector/ check point.
Our next stop is the Bridge, and what is interesting for me here is that looking at the signs on that side they all read the King Hussein Bridge (Allenby bridge) and not vice versa! Fascinating! Anyways, the bus gets stopped at the gate and is checked. We don’t leave until we get to the building we are supposed to enter. There we go through two metal detectors that are very sensitive so you have to take anything and everything that might ring off. Your bags also go through a machine too. After which you get to passport control and stand in line waiting to get stamped. Once stamped you go through a gate which you can’t pass without your municipal tax slip, its bar coded, logged and put into a computer, just like everything else. Another gate pass ensures you went through passport control and that is it for this stop.
We all board another bus to head to another bus station situated in no-man’s-land. This is where we meet our bags. Usually people rush to get a ticket and get their bags and it’s a mad dash to get a seat until … oops there are no bags. If we are “lucky” the bags would have already arrived and been waiting for us on the sidewalk. If not we sit, and sit, and sit, and sit until the next truckload comes in with the bags. This could take up to two or three hours. Once we are on the bus we cross the bridge to the Jordanian side.
On the Jordanian side an immigration officer checks our IDs before we leave the bus and then we walk into a building were we get a number and wait our turn. Once stamped we pick up our bags, go through customs, get a cab and in 45 minutes you can be home.
This may seem like an ordeal to some and such a long tiresome process. All I can say is I have been crossing this bridge for 30 years now, and this is the easy way of doing it. There is no shouting, active intimidation, strip searches, long long long waits and such. I wonder if we will ever see the day when these futile steps will ever be abolished.