How was our trip here, you might ask? Oh my. I felt like I had been beaten up and left for dead by the time we got through the border crossing. The Jordan side was quick and simple. We got through all the checkpoints, no problem. It wasn’t busy, the guards were nice, and we just drove right through. The Israel side, however, has issues. I had heard that it was tough and frustrating. I had heard that they often made you take all your luggage out of your car and separated you from each other, but I had NO IDEA what we were getting ourselves into. I really wish someone would have sat me down and explained what was going to happen at the border so I could have been more prepared. I would have done things MUCH differently.
Let me expound a little. Since we’re going to be here for 5 weeks, and we have 4 kids and we Homeschool, it’s important to have, well, a pretty decent amount of stuff. We have to have our books and some project stuff for school—even though I DID keep it to a bare minimum. It’s important to have the printer and laptops, and since we knew they were only giving us a welcome kit for one (they were VERY adamant about that—not a lot of friendly customer service at the consulate here…) we knew we’d need blankets, pillows, some kitchen supplies (a big cooking pot, plates, bowls, silverware, and my crockpot since I KNOW that most days we’ll be gone all afternoon). Now, those of you whom have crossed over the King Hussein/Allenby bridge border crossing into Israel are probably cringing at my list. Along with those things, of course, we have all the clothes. Plus, we let the kids pack their own bags full of their favorite things so that they would have some of the comforts of home since we’d be away for a fairly substantial length of time.
We packed everything in the car and it was a little tight, but it fit perfectly, and we were off. We dropped of The Birds (still no names) to some friends, and we drove to the border. Well, we didn’t exactly drive to the border. Devin, for some reason, didn’t know that the border had 2 names but it was the same thing. He just tried to find the border on the GPS, and it took us to the baptism site by the Dead Sea. Doh. In my defense, I did say “Look, there’s the King Hussein Bridge, isn’t that where we’re going?” and he said, “No, it’s the Allenby Bridge.” For future reference—it’s the same thing. So, we had to make a U-turn and get to the road, but we made it. As I said before, the Jordan side was easy. Then came the fun part. We get to the first Israeli checkpoint and the guy comes out and takes our passports and car info and tells us to wait. So, we wait. Wait #1. About ½ hour later, he tells us that the wife and kids are going to be taken by taxi to the terminal (‘terminal’ is a word that instills fear and loathing in my heart—just thought I’d mention that), along with all our bags. Devin would stay with the car while it was being inspected. Ok, I sort of expected this, so it wasn’t too big of a deal. However, as we unpacked the car and tossed everything into the back of the ‘taxi’ (a big van), the driver was laughing, telling us that he’d worked there for 7 years and had NEVER seen anyone with so much luggage come over the border. That should have sent up some warning flags right there.
Well, we stuffed that van full, then the kids and I were off to the terminal while Devin got to sit back and wait. The driver stopped and we started to unload onto this island between a car dropoff and bus dropoff area. Some of the security guys came over to help, and I’m sure they were making all sorts of comments to each other. Grateful I don’t speak Arabic well, not Hebrew. After we pulled all our junk out of the van, the guys started to leave and come back with giant black trash bags. I imagined it was because it’s easier to put all your stuff on a cart if it’s bagged than in a blob of a pile. So naïve. After most of our stuff was bagged, they started hauling away the carts bogged down with our stuff (think the ‘smart carts’ that you use at airports). We had like 5 of them. I wanted to take a picture, but the guys standing around with machine guns may not have liked that, so I didn’t. He he he. So, I’m standing off to the side of this big wad of people walking through the terminal, the guys took our passports to put the baggage stickers on them and I’m still not realizing what’s going on. Eventually, as I’m standing there and the kids are asking me what’s going on (don’t ask me that again—I just don’t know!!!!), I look over and it dawns on me that they’re taking the luggage—ALL the luggage—and running it through the belts like when you drop off your checked bags at the airport. Everything we brought with us is going to go through the machines and I have to go through passport control (lots of times) before I can get to the bags.
This was not what I had anticipated. I think I expected to be dropped off, then stand and wait for Devin to come so we could load the car back up. I had no idea that I was going to have to be the one putting all our stuff through the belts while trying to keep the kids from running people over with their suitcases or being run over by busses. We stood and waited for about 45 minutes (after the 45 minutes of ‘packing’ our things up to ready them for processing), so I looked over our ‘necessities’ and wondered if I’d ever see any of it again! Ha! Most of our stuff was packed in pathetic excuses for trashbags that I knew would rip apart first chance. I felt very lost, confused, and completely out of control of this situation. All I could do was hug my kids as they wandered past and tell them that I had no idea how long this was going to take, nor what was going to happen…just pray!
The guys finally brought our passports back and started to put the big long white stickers (just like baggage claim!) on ALL of our stuff (they said we had 40 pieces! Take that! We win!) and they turned me around and told me to go to the first passport control. Then, they said that was it. No, it wasn’t. I went to the first passport control (some very nice people let me go to the front of the line), then we walked through another big room where we had to go through security (just like the airport—except they didn’t make us take off our shoes. I don’t think I would have anyway, that floor was NASTY!!!) and another passport control. Here, we had to take a bathroom break. That always makes me nervous when I’m by myself, as we have to separate and all the little boys are by themselves. I’m grateful Josh is getting older and more responsible. He was a great help to me!
At this point, we wandered into yet another room that said passport control. Good grief!! How many passport controls are there? (I think the total came to 4…just inside this one building…altogether, though, I believe there were 10 or 11 from the first Jordanian checkpoint to the last Israeli checkpoint. Good gravy.) I wasn’t sure which one to go to, since most everything was written in Hebrew and Arabic. While I can sort of make out Arabic script, I still don’t know what it actually means. Finally, someone waved me over and we stood in another control line. The lady was quite nice, actually, which was a breath of fresh air. She actually smiled at the kids and didn’t glare at Andrew when he held up his dinosaur pillowpet and roared at her. He he. She gave us our passport stamps (well, sort of. We got DIP id papers in our passports instead of stamps because we’re going to be here for so long and on specific orders.) and we were ushered through another line. We got into another room, and it was full of people sitting on chairs. Were we supposed to sit on chairs, too? We wandered around the back for a bit, then finally decided to just push our way through to the front and ask someone. We found another passport checkpoint and I asked her if this was where we were to find our luggage. She said, “Give me your passports.” There was no friendly smile on that face. Ok, then. However, it WAS where our luggage was, so we were ok. Some signs in English might be nice there. I saw more than one foreign lady in tears here at this point. Seriously. I’m SOOOO glad that I had anticipated the worst—even though it was MUCH worse than even I had anticipated—still, I was ready for bad things to happen, so I didn’t break down and cry or feel despair. I’m grateful for that. I was able to stay strong and keep track of the kids—and they were serious troopers. They stayed by me almost the whole time, and I only had 2 break downs! Hooray! Success!
Anyway, we got to the luggage area, and that place was a free-for-all. Oh my. One of the security guys attached himself to us and helped us SO much. We had to wander up and down all the belts looking for stuff. We found the big bags fairly quickly, then we had to find all the trashbags full of stuff…then there was all the random stuff that fell out of the trash bags: books, laundry soap, barbies, pillows, blankets, plates… The best was the laundry soap (yes, I brought laundry soap—and in my defense, I’m glad I did because we have some serious laundry issues today, and everything’s closed because it’s Passover here) because someone somewhere decided to open it, and not quite close it…and there was laundry soap ALL over the floor! You could see people slipping all the time. Doh. We had quite a few issues with liquids. Much of our cleaners and things that we brought were left half open and pouring out by the time we found them. Our veggie wash is totally empty, and we had just refilled it before we left. Ah, well. Spoils of war, I guess.
Finding all the bags was a real feat, let me tell you! The big kids were very helpful, finding bags and dragging them over. Andrew just followed me around, and Peter tried to follow me around, but he got pushed around a lot (there were a LOT of people there, and most of them were NOT nice—lots of ladies kept pushing my kids over. I was NOT pleased! My mother bear instincts kept trying to take over and I wanted to push them back and ask them how they liked it, but I didn’t…) so he was in tears. I ended up carrying him around with me while I searched through the bags—climbing over bags and bars and platforms to get everything that was ours. I’m glad I’m in pretty good shape! Ha! FINALLY, Devin walked in (the back way), but he had to go back through all the passport controls and get his passport ‘stamped’. We finally found everything, and stood off to the side waiting for Devin to return so we could get out. Once we left the building, we had to push our carts all through this mass of people—especially these ladies who had these giant containers of water just hanging out all over the place at random. I couldn’t see where I was going, so I was just going through to follow Devin and avoid hitting people, when I rammed into a pile of water containers. The lady glared at me, so I yelled back at her telling her that Hello! I can’t see! Get your water out of my way! I don’t think she understood me, but she huffily moved her water out of my way. Whatever. Stupid water jugs. Josh tried to avoid all the water jugs, too, and ended up toppling his whole cart over into a ditch. Everyone stood around and watched him struggle. All these men standing around just watching. I ran over and helped him pick stuff up—so all these men stood around watching a woman and a child work to pick up a whole bunch of heavy bags. These are real men, let me tell you. Grr. Who does that??
We finally packed everything in the car, and drove away feeling like we’d honestly just survived a war. We were all exhausted. All told, we spent over 3 hours at the crossing. Oh my. We were able to find our house quickly and easily. I saw the Dome of the Rock as we drove over a hill. So cool! We got here and unpacked and realized that we’re missing a few things. So, we have to go back to that terminal and see if it’s still there. I sure hope so. One of the bags is Josh’s—full of his fun things like books and stuff.
So, that’s our story. I wish I would have known all of this beforehand. I would have packed differently. Very differently. But, at least now I’m more prepared for future crossings. The first time is always the worst, right? Maybe not. Regardless, I’m just happy to be here and plan to make the most of our stay!
Oh, and by the way, Happy Easter from Jerusalem! J