It was a very short ride on the King Hussein Bridge from Jordan to Jerusalem, but the stress of dealing with the border crossings added a few thousand miles to the approximately 20 miles that separate the two countries. My classmates at the permaculture course, Fiona, James, and Claire joined me on this adventure.
The Jordanian officials putting the exit stamp on our passports were a tad more sleazy than any others I encountered in the country. In fact, most of them were very professional in Amman, but at the border, there was something weird the way they looked at us. One of them even asked Fiona where she was going to, and that, perhaps, he would see her in Jerusalem. Arabs are known to have a weakness for blonds.
Then there was the entrance into Israel, and the endless wait while people got drilled on their purpose of visit, where they had been, what was their line of work, if they knew someone in the country, what they wanted to see in Jerusalem, what other places they planned to visit, etc. I was behind James and saw him at the window talking to an officer for a long time, giving accounts of his travels, his work, and pulling out documents from a folder with detail travel information. Then he was made to wait... Maybe it was his beard, or the Syrian stamp on his passport, but his partner Claire, also went to Syria and didn't have as much trouble, and both are from the UK, so, it is anybody's guess. A Brazilian/Palestine man I met on the bus seemed to be having trouble also, as he was still at the window talking to an officer after 40 minutes, and then was asked to wait.
I was expecting a long interview, but only had to answer a couple of questions. I didn't even have the time to ask the officer to stamp a separate piece of paper instead of my passport. Now my planned visit to Syria and Lebanon may be derailed.
The feeling in Israel is very different from Jordan. There is a nervousness in the air. The groups of men and women mostly in their 20s everywhere in town, wearing military uniform and displaying a machine gun across their bodies did not help me to relax.