My Israeli & Jordanian Quagmire.

A Wall Too Far?

Flanking the Dead Sea it’s hard not to consider the history of those lands just a stone’s throw from Jordan. I wouldn’t have much time to spend in Israel, so I had to make what time I had count. The wine regions of the north, the resorts of the west and the bustle of Tel Aviv would have to wait. Jerusalem, the world’s holiest city, would be my target. Of course there are complications.

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Getting into Israel usually requires a valid passport which the local authorities will gladly review and stamp. Problem is, Syria won’t let anyone with an Israel stamp in their passport cross into their country. And while some Israeli border agents are sensitive to this issue and might stamp a paper inserted into the passport, even this concept presents problems for would be overland travelers heading into Syria after an Israeli excursion. For exiting Jordan at either of the two major border crossings along the Dead Sea means a Jordan exit stamp in your passport. So even though you might not have an Israeli stamp, Syrian officials will look at Egypt and Jordanian stamps in an effort to see if either of those countries were exited through Israeli borders. And Jordan officials are certainly less sensitive to the diplomatic problems between Israel and Syria and the challenges these issues mean for travelers.

A second passport might help, but getting Jordanian officials to provide an exit stamp in a passport that shows no entrance stamp will likely result in a dicey and difficult conversation. So even if I could explain the concept of two passports and the need for avoiding any hint of my visit to Israel, I would have another challenge: the motorcycle and the Carnet de Passage.

Like a passport, my carnet is legal-sized book of papers that provide detail as to the ownership of my motorcycle and the countries it has entered and exited. I deposited quite a significant sum of cash with the Canadian Automobile Association, who is responsible for management and issuance of such Carnets in North America, so that if the bike failed to leave a given country the customs of that country would be able to collect taxes/duty on the bike. Some countries don’t require them while using it in others simplifies the border crossing and temporary importation of vehicles. The Syrian government requires a carnet. So does Israel.

Things would be easier if I were traveling south into Africa as Syria can be visited prior to Israel. But there are fewer options. I could avoid Syria altogether — a notion that many of my readers might advise, but doing so means missing out on visiting the oldest continuously inhabitated cities in the world and more. Stubborn as I may sound, I wanted to visit Israel. Plus, with the violence currently wreaing havoc in Lebonon, I have less interest in traveling through that country at this time.

So if I show up at the Syrian border with a Carnet stamped at either Jordan/Israel border crossing would mean there’s no way I’ll be permitted to enter Syria with or without Doc.

You might say I was in a bit of a quagmire.

Old Jerusalem Sits Behind A Massive & Ancient Wall

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But gazing from the old walled city to Sharon’s Wall dividing Israeli communities from Palestinians West Bank, one can’t help wonder if this is a good idea. Personally I find the old wall much more aesthetically pleasing.

But I discovered one other possibility. I could possibly cross into Israel from Jordan over the King Hussein Bridge. This would mean convincing Jordan officials to bypass stamping my passport using my promise of an “official” exit from Jordan through Syria. Then I would need to convince the Israeli’s, too. This border crossing is closed to private and commercial vehicles. Anyone looking to enter through the border must do so in a government sponsored bus.

So I found a local Jordanian who lived a block from the immigration and customs office who would watch and let me park Doc next to his home while I traipsed in Jerusalem on a bus. Success.

I received more hassle and interrogation from the Israelis than the Jordanians, but at least they didn’t hole me up in a small windowless office while paging through my passport a dozen times and repeating the same six questions for two hours like they did the Belgium guy who shared my taxi ride into Jerusalem.

In Israel and once again I’m faced with another language I know so little.

Shalom.

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A nice Israeli treat as I begin my discovery of Old Town Jerusalem.

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