Adventures at home, abroad, and online

Tag: Israel Page 3 of 5

Crossing the King Hussein Bridge

Snack shack

I went all the way from Amman to the Israeli border this morning, my taxi driver going like a maniac (even more so than normal), only to find out that the border is closed at 11 on Shabbat. I did think of this and looked it up in my book beforehand, but the information was old and things seem to change unexpectedly in this part of the world. So, the border was closed, and there is apparently nowhere to stay in the vicinity. Back in another taxi, paying the exorbitant fee again, and back to Amman. I go back to the same hotel, which was quite serviceable last night, but they are full. They offer me a tent on the roof, which has the advantage of being both cheap and airy. I slept with the window open last night, so it shouldn’t be a significant difference. Anyways, I’ll get to Jared tomorrow, and have another good story about borders and bureaucracy to tell. Now I need to figure out what to do for a day; I’m sort of ruined and mosqued out. Maybe there’s a theater in town showing The Dark Knight…

Day 19/20 – Home Again

I finally arrived home exhausted after 24 hours of straight travel. From Jerusalem I took a bus to Tel Aviv, where I went through the security gauntlet again. I was inspected on the bus as I approached the airport, and then again in line, where my interrogator was delirious with fatigue at the end of her all night shift. I now sympathize.


The Bosporus

I ran into Rich and Scott in the airport, and chatted with them on the plane. They didn’t make it all the way up Kilimanjaro, as Rich got pulmonary edema and heard his lungs crack when they began to fill with liquid. So they went back down and went on a safari instead. He seemed alright a few days later, but was still shaken from his brief visit to a Tanzanian hospital. In the air, we flew almost directly over Istanbul That visit will have to wait for another trip.

On landing at JFK, I got a bus to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and then the Greyhound to Boston. This was almost more arduous than the flight itself. Why New York, with their comprehensive subway system, doesn’t have a decent transit link between their airports and the downtown is beyond me. Yes, there is the AirTrain, but it doesn’t go anywhere near where I needed to get.

I staggered out of the T and stumbled home, where I greeted Mike with my shaggy beard and personal aroma. He welcomed me with open arms, a sign of our true love. Now just to recover from my jetlag, exhaustion and shilshul, before I start work on Monday. It was an incredible trip, and a fitting break between my old life and my new. Next year in Ulaan Bataar!

Day 17 – Jerusalem

Today we wandered around the Old City. It’s divided into quarters on the map, but there is no physical distinction on the ground. The feel just changes suddenly as one crosses a particular street; the signs change from Hebrew to Arabic, and the peyes are replaced by veils. It’s an almost jostling change in culture, and reaffirms the difficulty of drawing boundaries on such an ethnically and historically dense space.



At a photography store, we wandered in and marveled at the prints. Varouj, the elderly proprietor, introduced himself, and we spent an hour with him discussing the history of his life and this place. He had been in the same store since 1963, and had taken a famous picture of King Hussein of Jordan. Because he is Armenian, he had an entirely different set of racial prejudices (“I’m not Arab, I like people”), but a fascinating context to share.


Wailing Wall

We went to the Western Wall at night, both to see it again without our tour and to try and get into the Dome of the Rock. The site was full of worshipers, so we didn’t enter the wall proper, but stayed at a respectful distance and took photographs. So much for sacred space. The gender division of the wall is quite shocking, and I joked with Kali that God doesn’t exist on “her side” of the 80/20 split. She was not amused. We eventually found the gate to the Temple Mount, but found it closed to non-Muslims. The Arab guard was not nearly as friendly as the Israelis had been, and he was intent on his task of separating the believers from the tourists.

Day 16 – Jerusalem


Jerusalem Sunrise

It took all day to get back to Jerusalem. First a taxi across the Sinai to Taba, although this was arranged by our hotel, so it was the same price and we didn’t have to haggle endlessly. It took slightly longer, because the driver obeyed the speed limit (if there is one), but the margin of safety was welcome. Then a plane from Eilat to Tel Aviv, and a bus from there to Jerusalem. A long day, and now we are in the Citadel Hostel in the Old City. It comes highly reccomended by the guidebook, but the tomblike rooms seem to crumble before our eyes. The view from the roof is spectacular, and the internet and coffee are free. These are the things that truly matter.

Day 10/11 – Eilat

Today was the end of the group part of the journey, and the mood was somber. We did one last Kumbaya group meeting, and then went to Independence Hall for a final dose of propaganda. Then to the airport, where we were finally set free. We flew to Eilat, which was expensive but so much better than yet another long bus ride.


Really big Jordanian flag

Eilat is approximately 47C, which feels like being inside an oven. The town, which my mother described as quaint 30 years ago, is now a resort and strip mall, devoid of any real character. We might as well have been in Miami. However, the mall is air-conditioned and serves good shwarma. We went out to buy beer, but got fooled by Nesher Malty, which is non-alcoholic and tastes like motor oil. Despite the badass eagle label, it appears to just be for small men and pregnant women.

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