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Middle East

The Allenby Crossing Game

It often begi

Last modified: 24 Jul 2009 08:00

It often begins with a sense of anxiety… and then the first question comes to mind… how long will I have to wait at the Allenby Crossing between Jordan’s official border and the Occupied West Bank. Now you might think, you are crossing an international border, but technically you are not. You’re really crossing a very cumbersome and arduous checkpoint on one side controlled by Jordanians and the other by the Israeli military, even though you are not technically entering Israel proper (or Israel pre-1967 borders).

Now how long you wait depends on who you are and what identification you carry. So lets start with bottom of the pack. Palestinians. Yes, the people actually returning to what is widely considered their homeland and probably their future sovereign state. Well, you probably guessed it. They wait the longest. On a good day, it can be as long as 8 hours on a bad day it can be as long as 14 hours. Oh, I forgot to mention, the first and probably the longest part of the wait happens while they are sitting on a bus in scorching heat.

Unlike Palestinians, anyone else, carrying any other form of national identification, can actually pay for a V.I.P service, which means instead of an Israeli contracted security guard who aggressively commands the thousands of Palestinians queuing up with the same 5 words in Arabic repeated over and over, you are most likely greeted by an Israeli, often of Eastern European descent, with a nice smile and a cold refreshing bottle of water. In the V.I.P service you are whisked away from the Jordanian side of the border to the West Bank in a nice air conditioned mini-van.

And once you actually get to the crossing on the Israeli side… well thats where the real fun begins. In my case, I often go through layers of questioning by Israeli border police, unidentified security, and then what I like to think of as mall-security. Oakley sunglass, white polo-shirt, khaki pants donning guards… yes all heavily armed. It begins, with questions like why are you coming to Israel? Do you know any Palestinians? Who paid for you to come? How did you get this American passport? In my personal case there is always an added layer…why? well, my mother is Palestinian. So as soon as my name appears on the computer, the Israeli security guard reflexively asks me, “where is my Palestinian ID?”… she thinks I must of concealed my “Palestinianness” to use the VIP service…oh wait… she reads the rest of the file… she realizes I am not a Palestinian…now the real fun part. “You work for AL Jazeera?” I reply “yes”… then its anybody’s guessing game… I go back to the waiting room and anywhere from two hours to 5 hours later, I am given the ok to cross.

But if you think my experience is bad, it pales in comparison to what Palestinians go through. At Allenby, chaos is understatement. Palestinians are regularly harassed by the security guards who cant seem to communicate in normal level. It seems yelling is the only level of communication they have. Delays are common with many waiting hours on end. Confusion reigns as the process is not made clear or simple enough for the travelers. But most importantly, the people working on the crossing simply cant cope with the volume of Palestinians crossing.

If Israel is genuine about easing the daily struggle of Palestinians… the first place I would suggest they should improve in order to make an immediate impact is in the first steps Palestinians take returning back to their ‘homeland’.. the Allenby Crossing. Of course once inside the West Bank, the Allenby Crossing is replaced by hundreds of other checkpoints, roadblocks and obstacles Palestinians contend with just to get by in their daily lives.