We arrived late last night into Madaba and awoke really early this morning to ensure we were at the King Hussein Bridge for when it opened at 8am. We really need not have bothered as we went through all the passport control, etc etc and were shown onto a bus where we then sat for well over an hour. By the time we reached the Allenby side there was a huge queue with Palestinian families all wanting to go back home for Eid. There were also hoards of tour buses full of foreign tourists. So we joined the snaking queue for about 3/4 of an hour until we reached the first place where you hand over your passports and are questioned. My ‘border patrol’ girl looked bored and slowly looked through each and every one of my foreign visas. (Egypt Morocco, Jordan, Dubai, Turkey…oh and last year’s Israeli one!) I was asked no questions in fact she didn’t utter a word to me, however my travelling companion Jo was asked what her Surname was what her mother’s maiden name was and where she was from.
Anyway, we had the stickers placed on the back of our passports and we were ushered into the next round of queuing. We were here for about 20 minutes before reaching the x-ray machines. In front of us was an elderly lady in a wheelchair, she was made to get up and walk through the machine. She buzzed and had to go back through with a discussion of what might have made her beep. Needless to say, her ethnicity would have singled her out!
Eventually, after stripping myself of jewellery, I was allowed into Passport control…it is here they interrogate you, and that they did. Where we were going? what we were doing? did we know anyone etc etc?? After I pulled out every pit of printed paper I had and the border guy had said, “Enough, I believe you” we were allowed in after solemly declaring “No, we know no-one over here, and No, we are not going to the West Bank” (I am sure crossing your fingers behind your back lets one off when lying)
Anyway, we got through and straight onto the bus bound for Jerusalem. A lady climbed onboard who had been on the crossing with us. She sat at the side of me and said “Is it worth it is it all worth it?” I replied at how pathetic at all was. She explained that as a Palestinian, every step was a nervous one where they just waited for a hand on a shoulder, or a question, or a shake of the head. She now lived in the US, but came home every year for Eid. Her parents are buried in a cemetery that was opposite her house, now they have to travel miles around to skirt the wall to visit. However, this lady lives in hope and she says that she has seen a real difference in integration between the Jews and Muslims. She fully believes that the wall will fall within her lifetime. One can hope eh?
Today we have been in Jerusalem, where in the old town, Jews and Muslims do mingle and mix and being here, one really does get a sense of hope that they can live together in harmony.
Jerusalem certainly knew we had arrived today. I had an argument with a bus driver before we had even stepped foot into Jerusalem, and Jo demolished a market stall as we tried to manoeuvre ourselves and cases along narrow passageways in the old town, trying to squeeze past hoards of tour groups blocking the way. Jo tried to unsuccessfully and managed to knock a glass chess set onto the stone floor. Oops….needless to say the owner was not happy. We now have to walk the long way around to avoid that area.
First port of call was the Wailing Wall….I never got to put a prayer in the wall last year, so that is what I did. Today’s experience was nicer than last years, that may have been because it wasn’t so packed full. Then we tried to get into the Temple mount and again we were refused entry as we were non Muslims and as it was Ramadan….we walked back through the Western Wall complex to see if we could get in that way, but nope, closed until Sunday. This is obviously not meant to be as we couldn’t get in last year either!
Then, talk about small world, as we were going through Damascus gate we bumped into Ameen, our friend Charlie’s son. He was with us in the village last year and had lost his dad…..there ensued a 3 hour search through Jerusalem to find his dad, who was last seen at Al Aqsa Mosque. Being as we, non muslim’s were not allowed in, and he, being a child, not allowed in, caused a bit of a problem and eventually we handed him over to the police in the Temple mount area for them to search for his dad. This put paid to our plans for the rest of the day (one was meeting an Israeli soldier who wanted to tell us about his thoughts on the occupation). Eventually, we made it to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, just as the sun was setting. I found this such a bizarre place with a mishmash of different Christian religions all vying for a place in the alleged place of the crucifixion of Christ. Personally I preferred the courtyard to the church than the church itself.
So there ends a long, hot and sweaty day, taking in all three religions to do with this historical city. Tomorrow we plan the mount of Olives, Mount Zion and the Rockefeller Museum.
Jordan the country we left only just over a 12 hours since, already seemed a lifetime ago. Tonight, I know we will both sleep well as my poor little legs are already tired out (and even more so, now we have to make a huge detour to avoid the chess seller’s stall)
Night all. Shalom, Maa salaama.