Thursday, May 13, 2010

Amman to Nablus via the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge Border Crossing

Amman is only about 200k from Nablus, but, due to the numerous checkpoints and security features installed by Israel, it me took over 9 hours to get here. I catalogued my border crossing, entering Israel from Jordan via the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge border crossing:

- Drive 100K from Amman to Jordan-Israel border (1 hour)
- Taxi drop off on Jordan side of the border
- Walk about 2K (with luggage) to bus depot
- Give luggage to Jordanian official to be X-rayed; retrieve luggage
- Give passport to Israeli official
- Pay 5JD ($7.50); get on bus
- Get passport with Jordanian exit stamp
- Depart on bus; drive about 5K through the Jordan Valley, passing through several military checkpoints (30 minutes)
- Get off bus at Allenby Bridge Crossing; walk past fierce-looking man dressed in jeans and T-shirt, carrying large semi-automatic weapon
- Give luggage and passport to Israeli official
- Wait in line to get passport back
- Wait in line to get passport checked
- Wait in line to get personal belongings X-rayed
- Walk through metal detector
- Wait in line for passport control; answer questions; forfeit passport
- Fill out personal information form; wait in passenger waiting area (2 hours)
- Meet with Israeli official; answer more questions (15 minutes)
- Wait in passenger waiting area (1 hour)
- Meet with Israeli military officer; answer more questions (15 minutes)
- Wait in passenger waiting area (1 hour)
- Get called by Israeli official to retrieve passport; exit passenger waiting area
- Give passport to Israeli official; get another sticker on passport
- Retrieve luggage
- Exit Allenby Bridge Crossing Point

I took a bus from the border to Jericho (the world's oldest continuously inhabited city, settled 10,000 years ago) and then took a shared taxi through Ramallah and onwards to Nablus. The driver, (a surly young man who got into a fight with an elderly passenger and then a Palestinian Authority official), took a circuitous route to avoid the military checkpoints, so the journey took twice as long. But the drive was fascinating. Rising from Jericho into the hills, I could see one of the West Bank's largest and most contentious Israeli settlements, Ma'ale Adumim, which sprawls atop the hills slipping eastwards down from Jerusalem. It achieved official Israeli city status in 1991, and is home to over 30,000 settlers who live there illegally (according to international bodies) on Palestinian land. Palestinians claim that Israel's plan for Ma'ale Adumim's continual expansion is to ensure an 'outer ring' of Israeli settlements that will have the effect of isolating East Jerusalem from Jericho, and eventually the north West Bank form the south, cutting the entire West Bank in half.

On the short drive to Nablus, I didn't expect to see so many settlements, and I tried to write down as many names as I could (while losing a battle of window roll-up/roll-down with my driver): Rimmonim, Ma'ele Efrayim, Qusra, Migdallim, and Gav Hahar. They rose up like green oases - with maroon-tiled houses in the middle - amidst the hilly desert landscape. There are 187,000 Israeli settlers currently living in more than 100 settlements in the West Bank, with around another 177,000 in Palestinian East Jerusalem. One of the issues that I would like to explore more is the issue of settler violence, as there have been reports of settlers attacking Palestinian children on their way to school and destroying families livelihoods (e.g., farms and olive groves), which obviously has short- and long-term impacts on children and families. In fact, last week, Israeli settlers were accused of burning down a mosque in Luban al Sharqiya, near Nablus.

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