Amman, Jordan to Tel Aviv, Israel (aka the IDF Shakedown Day)

07.05.2010

I got up early to get breakfast in the hostel.  It was included in the price and not really much to write home about.  A little NesCafe, some hard boiled eggs and pita with jam.  I found a taxi driver as I was walking towards the street.  I told him where I needed to go (the hostel had written it in Arabic for me) and respectfully asked him to turn on the meter.  THREE TIMES!!!  On the third time, he just tapped the meter to show me it wasn’t working (yeah, right) and then I just sat there with a pissed-off, angry American look that I am starting to perfect here in the Middle East.  It seems to be the only way anyone takes me seriously.  He tried to make some small talk with me and failed.  It went something like this: 

“Do you smoke?”
“No, that stuff will kill you!”

End of conversation until we arrived at the bus station.  He charged me 5JD, which is what it should have cost, I was just waiting for him to try and fleece me and then he was going to have a big problem on his hands.  I think he knew that and so he only charged me what was fair.

So, my understanding with the bus from Amman to Tel Aviv was that it took you the whole way. That’s how the guidebooks made it seem.  Well, that was wrong.  So, I was the only person on the bus from Amman to the Israel/Jordan border.  Great.  Nobody told me how the bus worked, so I got off when instructed and went inside to have the Jordanians check my bag, only I forgot my duffel bag on the bus, so they had to get the bus driver to come back and I retrieved my duffel bag.  They either thought I was incredibly stupid (raises hand) or hiding something.  There were not a lot of signs telling me what to do like there was at the southern crossing, so I don’t think it was entirely my fault.  I walked over to passport control and was questioned about what I did for a living, where I had been, etc.  They stamped my passport and told me to go wait for the bus to the Israeli border, so I went outside and found the place to wait. 

From the Jordanian border, you take another bus to the Israeli border.  At this point, there were five of us on the bus.  The bus went to a spot, stopped, then we waited for an Israeli border patrol person to slowly walk around the bus, then slowly walk back to her partner, then motion for the bus to come forward.  The bus pulled up and dropped us off at the Israeli border and passport control.  We all walked in and went through a metal detector and had our bags x-rayed.

This is where the fun began for me.  Since I had been in Israel before and then left to go to Jordan and then was leaving Israel tomorrow, I was very confused about how to answer the questions, so I got “selected” to have what I like to call the “IDF Security Shakedown”.  They took everything out of both of my bags and asked me a bunch of questions about if I had been given anything (I forgot about the envelope Rachel had written her address in Hebrew in!  Oops!) and what I had been up to in Jordan, etcetera, etcetera.  After I got all my stuff packed back in my backpack and duffel, I went through passport control and they wanted to know my father’s name.  I almost replied, “Dad”  since this was my initial response, but I remembered my dad’s name and told them.  Then they wanted to know his dad’s name.  It took me a few seconds longer than it should have since he’s been dead 20+ years!  I swear I am on some list I don’t know about.  Or do I really look that suspicious?

I finally made it through and as I was walking out the door to the waiting area, an Arab woman asked me if I was waiting for the Trust Bus (the company I took the bus with) and I said, “Yes” and she said they had been waiting for me and to follow them to the taxi.  So, we took a taxi the rest of the way into Tel Aviv.  It was the most bizarre way to get across the border, but it worked and only was about 35JD or $45USD.

I arrived at the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station and walked from there to the Florentine Hostel, my home for the night.  It was quite a walk but I didn’t have any shekels to take a cab, so I sucked it up and took my time.

I arrived at the hostel without getting lost, which is always a plus!  I checked in and was immediately made to feel at home.  I wish I had discovered this place before the end of my time in Israel because I would have stayed there longer!

I went out to find an ATM to get cash to pay for the hostel and an expenses for the next 12 or so hours.  I stopped at a gelato place on my way back.  I needed to get my lemon/mint gelato fix one more time before leaving Israel!  It was so good!  I seriously think the Israelis do gelato better than the Italians.  It is much fresher than anything I tried when I was in Italy.

I had forgotten to go to the post office when I was out trying to find money, so I went to go look for a post office.  The one I found was closed, so I will have to wait to send Rachel and Baruch my Lonely Planet Israel.  On my way back to the hostel, I came across a guy on a 1968 Vespa Sprint 150.  It was the epitome of a “rat bike” and I had a brief conversation with the guy riding it.  He had owned it for 20 years.  Of course, the one vintage Vespa I come across in Israel and I didn’t have my camera with me!  Oh well.  I stopped at a market on the way back to the hostel to get some snack foods, including this delicious concoction that Rachel’s boys turned me onto.  It’s a chocolate pudding with whipped cream on top that is to die for!

I went back to the hostel and hung out for the rest of the night.  Rafi, the owner, arranged for a cab to pick me up in the morning.  It just seemed easier, safer and quicker than dealing with public transportation at 4a.  I also had a nice Skype conversation with my sister and my mom, separately.  I wasn’t sure what my internet access was going to be for the next couple of days, so I thought it would be a good idea to talk one more time.  I finally went to bed around Midnight.....