Tuesday, November 29, 2005


I left the West Bank for Jordan this weekend in order to renew my Israeli visa. The trip from Ramallah across the Allenby Bridge (in Jordan it is called the King Hussein Bridge) took four and a half hours on two taxis, one bus and a private car. (I made the return trip in five hours on two shared taxis and two buses.) The route from Ramallah used to pass more directly through Jersusalem; now, because Palestinian vehicles -- and most Palestinians -- are barred from enterring Jersualem, the route winds along narrow lanes of crumbling pavement through a dozen West Bank villages before dropping into the folds of the desert mountains that rise above the Jordan River. I was all the happier to trade the traffic of Jerusalem for bumpy roads and spectacular scenery.

I stayed two nights in Amman with my friend, Jon. We drove past the three hotels that were bombed earlier this month; all have been repaired and are reopened. But, while traces of the bombings have been neatly erased, life in Amman is changed.

At every restaurant, bar and hotel we visited, we were greeted outside by a guard or two or three, who checked us with a hand-held wand of the sort that is ubiquitous at airport security checks in the United States. Big hotels have installed walk-through metal detectors far from the actual entrances. On Saturday, we drove to the eastern desert to visit Byzantine and Ummayid ruins, and we were questioned twice at police road blocks. We may have been stopped because we were driving a rental car, but other cars were stopped as well.

All of this is new, Jon told me, since the bombings. To me, the heightened security made Jordan feel like Israel.


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