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A Jordanian passport and an Israeli stamp

It's not smart to have an Israeli stamp on your passport if you plan to travel in the Arab World. This is common knowledge. Syria will definitely not let you in, Lebanon will give you a hard time, but with Egypt and Jordan it's supposedly kosher, given the 'peace' agreement.

In October 2009, I was part of a dance performance that went to perform in Ramallah. The Palestinian Authority got us the visas. I tried to get a temporary passport for the trip, but Jordan had changed its laws and no longer issued them. I was advised to simply ask the Israeli passport control to stamp a piece of paper instead of the passport. This is common practice, or rather, it is a common request, but whether the soldier at the boarder will grant it is up in the air. My luck: the passport was stamped.

I suppose I could have gotten a new one afterwards, but my passport was new, and I was too lazy and stingy to pay 57$ to get a new one. Besides, my stamp said "Palestinian Authority Only." I figured that if I explained this to any boarder police, they will surely understand.


In September 2010, I went to Lebanon. The soldier at the airport did not at first notice the stamp. He placed the Lebanese entry stamp on a blank page, then leafed through my passport. Suddenly, he froze. I knew the cause. He quickly rushed out of his cubicle, asking me to 'wait here'. He came back with his superior. The latter asked me about my trip, what I was doing there and who I was with. He asked me what I was doing in Lebanon. I don't think it helped that I did not know the address where I'd be staying in Beirut, and I only knew the first name of the person picking me up. The officer asked me to escort him to the office. He flirted with me all the way there, which made me think "it can't be that bad!". In the office, the desk police filled out a piece of pink paper and stamped it for me. They made sure to remove all evidence of their stamp on my passport by stamping "Cancelled. Cancelled. Cancelled" all over it in red ink. After this small adventure, I was set free.


In October of 2010, I went to Southern Sinai. It was no problem at the airport or by the Sea, the passport control did not seem to notice the forbidden stamp. However, on my last day in a Bedouin camp-somewhere before Taba, the secret service came to check on who was staying there. I was sitting outside my bungalow with two Jordanians, a Italian, and an Israeli. Those of us with a Jordanian passport were asked to go speak with the two Egyptian officials, I'm not sure if they were police, army, secret intelligence, or what. One could argue that they asked for the Jordanians because we were all females, whereas the other two were males, but I doubt it. One of the officers seemed docile, but the other once was clearly a tyrant. As soon as I sat down, he shot me with his eyes and proceeded to ask about my trip to Egypt. He only asked a couple of questions. Too impatient to wait any longer, he angrily opened up the page with the Israeli stamp, pointed his fingers and asked: "أيه ده!".

Replay: I started to explain ... I don't think he could read English, so "Palestinian Authority Only" meant nothing. He saw Hebrew letters, and that was that. The fact that my father is originally Palestinian made things worse, "But he's Jordanian now" I protested "Can't go back!". The docile partner officer started asking me idiotic questions: why my passport was for 5 years and not 2, like all other Palestinians. So, I had to give him a lesson in political history, explaining the difference between 1948 Palestinians and the 67 ones. The tyrant jumped in, "how much money do you have?" It took me a minute to answer ... do I tell him the truth? But what it he wants me to bribe him? Should I say I have less so as not to feed his greed? What if he's asking because he suspects I'm planning to get smuggled into Palestine with the Bedouins? Then what should I say .... more money or less, which is better? I started stalling .... "I have about 250 egyptian, some Jordanian ... and...."
"Do you have money to pay these people for your stay" he snapped, pointing to the Bedouins who ran the camp.
"What do you think, I'm not going to pay them!?" I snapped back. I gathered my strength and said "من الآخر ... يعني بلا مؤاخزة، إنت عاوز أيه؟" This seemed to work. He threw my passport at me and said "Go." I went back to my bungalow shaking and laughing. "It's your country's fault" I told my Israeli friend. "It's my country" he replied.

Back in Jordan, I told this story to my Palestinian cousin who was visiting from the West Bank. He told me that as a Palestinian male under 40, he's not the most fortunate of travelers. "I was once stopped for 8 hours at the Egyptian boarder," he said "awaiting a permission to pass." Apparently - out of principle, the Egyptians refuse to ask their Arab brothers for visas "ازاي، معئول نطلب فيزا من اخوانا العرب", but if you're Palestinian, you just require "special arrangements - تنسيق", that's all. Common procedure.

The situation is boggling .... it seems that in the Arab world, the people getting screwed up the most are the Arabs, and particularly the Palestinians. I guess it's not enough being humiliated while traveling abroad ... but maybe our brothers are just doing us a favor, helping us develop tougher skin. It makes you wonder ... As for me, I'm still contemplating: Do I get myself a new passport or do I ride this one out? Should I just avoid traveling to Arab countries? Do I put a Jordanian visa on my "other" passport and travel as an American, or do I simply check out?



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