Sometimes allegedly educated people can be kind of dumb.
It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
My dad wasn’t as poetic as Mr.Twain. He just said “shut up and act like you’ve done this before”. Sometimes I take that advice a little far. When we crossed into Israel, we agreed to stay out of the Palestinian Territories. Remember? We thought there was no chance we would make it to Gaza, so no problem. We were headed to Jerusalem!
After the security check points we caught a cab and the driver took us to the start of the Via Dolorosa.
We saw some sights I never dreamed I’d be visiting.
After visiting the Dome of the Rock, we took a cab to the top of the Mount of Olives to visit the site where Jesus rose into Heaven. On the way down we flagged a second driver to take us to the Garden of Gethsemane.
The cab driver happened to have is wife with him and when Bella described going to Bethlehem, he offered to hook us up. He waited patiently for us to decide we wanted him to take us.
As we drove, he describe his limitations. He said he couldn’t take us directly there because he wasn’t authorized to drive to the Church of the Nativity. But he had a plan. He took us to a religious gift shop and said “you’re not obligated to buy anything, just look around. When you’re ready, a private car will take you to the Church.”
The woman running the gift shop asked if we wanted anything to drink. Bella answered “Do you have any beer?” Next thing you know, we had a bottle of beer and a bag full of rosaries and crosses and a ride to the church.
On the way out I asked why they were flying the Jordanian flag. The driver answered “That’s the Palestinian flag. Welcome to Palestina!” And… I didn’t get it.
So that driver took us back to our cab driver. His next stop was the border.
Our plan was to get the city we saw on the map closest to the border. That was Jericho. To get there we had to pass through Jerusalem. As we crossed the border, the cabbie told us we may need our passports, but we didn’t. He felt it was because his wife was in the front seat wearing her hijab. Same story as we drove through what we though was another checkpoint on the way to Jericho.
Our hookup drove us to Jericho, arranged for a friend of his who owned a restaurant to remain open for us to dine. Then another driver friend of his took us to a store where we bought a six pack of beer before taking us to a hotel. It was New Year’s Eve, after all, so we planned to celebrate in style.
The next morning, before dawn, we listened to the advice of the hotel desk clerk and headed downtown for coffee and a cab. That’s when our plan fell apart.
After a great coffee with the locals and nice talk with a shop keeper who lived in Texas for a while, we tried to hail a cab who would take us to the Allenby Bridge. “You can’t get there from here.” Our hearts sank. The “Texan” described our situation. Cab drivers in the Palestinian Territory have a different color license plate than those from Israel. “You mean Palestine isn’t Israel?” It finally dawned on us what all the little comments we heard really meant. The bottom line was the guys we were talking to couldn’t actually get us out of the city. And to make matters worse, the bridge was only open for a few hours every day and our window would close pretty quickly. Our flight home was in jeopardy.
We had a couple options, but the best one seemed to be paying a local cab to take us near the bridge and then hailing an Israeli cab to take us the rest of the way. As we pooled our remaining Jordanian Dinars and Israeli Shekels while discussing it with a group of cab drivers, one of them took the money from my hands. Bella casually took it back and handed it to me. She’s so calm, cool, and collected.
Our chosen driver, not the aggressive one who took the money out of my hands, took us to within sight of the security check point. He spun the car around and yelled “get out! I can’t be here!” He told us to find a cab headed to the border and sped off.
We waited an hour, watching cab after cab with the appropriate plates drive right on by, leaving us standing on side of the road. Eventually one stopped and we ended up paying almost exactly the same amount we paid to get out of Jericho for him to let us ride with him through security and up to the border crossing station, exactly where he was headed anyway. What an easy gig, huh?
We paid nearly four times the fare from Jerusalem to the Allenby Bridge because we looked at a map and didn’t interpret the lines.
Fortunately we were able make it back to Jordan and make our flight. That’s a story for another time. We should have spent the night in Jerusalem, but it this story is probably worth it.