Dec 21 2006

All because the stupid Israeli computer

Published by at 4:44 pm under Blogs

 By Daoud Kuttab
I am sitting in a bus shelter on a dark highway. Cars are going by but no one is stopping. The clock on the computer reads 6:19 it is pitch black outside, the only light is coming from my lap top whose battery is signaling that it full. I have thirty minutes to kill until my ride arrives. Where am, what am I doing, why I am here?

Today is Thursday the 20th of December, I arrived at tel aviv airport this morning from Copenhagen at a little after midnight. By 2:30 am I was home in Jerusalem knocking on the door for what seemed like 20 minute because my brother Jonathan had latched the door from inside.

After getting a few hours of sleep I went to Ramallah where the staff at our tv station were preparing a wrap breakfast of sorts. We, in reality mostly them, had just finished filming the studio scenes of the third season of the Palestinian Sesame street. Two of our American Arab colleagues from Sesame Workshop in New York, Naila Farouki and Nada Elattar were in Ramallah to celebrate this occasion. The breakfast turned out to be a brunch and instead of humus our staff decided to take us to the fancy Darna restaurant for some salads and mujanat (small meat and cheese stuffed breaded items coming hot out of the oven. After some words of thanks and good byes we all went back to the station to pack and go to Amman. I had promised my wife to be home around 4ish but already I knew I was going to be late, I didn’t realize though how late. I had no idea that a stupid out of order computer would get me into this ordeal.

Our taxi got us into the Allenby Bridge at about 2:30 and the Israeli security person at the entrance wanted to know if I had a Jerusalem ID card, I explained to him that I had a US passport and he said that the computer for the Jerusalem tasreeh(permit) was not working. I thought this might cause me a problem but didn’t think much of turning back, in retrospect I should have. To be sure that there would be no problem I made a call to the Jordanian director of the King Hussein Bridge. Although Mazen  beek Maani (every senior officer is called this or that beek which is an Ottoman title) was new, we had met a month earlier when I had exactly the same problem. At that time the Israeli ministry of interior was on strike and I had an important meeting that evening with the spokesman of the government (it turned out to be a meeting also with the King who surprised us by coming to that dinner).

So I called Mazen Beek and told him that the Israeli computers were not working and that I am coming again this time using my US passport. He was brief, saying that he is not at the bridge and that his officers will handle this. I understood his answer to be positive, so I proceeded. It took us an hour to get out of the Israeli side because our was the last bus.

When we got to the Jordanian side, my passport was taken and I was told to wait. I knew there was trouble so I tried to called Mazen Beek but he didn’t answer despite my repeated attempts. I then decided to call the former bridge director, Majed Beek Musmar. He sounded very sick but promised me that he will call the duty officer at the bridge. Twenty minutes later, and no change in site, I called again and he assured me that he has called and that it will be ok. It wasn’t. I tried to make a final call to the duty officer, I explained to him the problem that it was the fault of the stupid Israeli computer but he wouldn’t budge. This a red line he insisted. We don’t want to have Palestinians loose their rights, he tried to argue with me. I know about my rights and I have residency stamp on my US passport that will not expire until 2008. He insisted that without a permit from the Israelis I couldn’t get in. I told him I did a month ago but he wasn’t moved saying that I had to go back. Why am I being punished for the mistake of the Israelis, I asked.  I told him that I will still get into Jordan that night but that I will have to go through the Sheikh Hussein bridge and that it will cost me over 100 dollars. But he didn’t change his mind. These are my instructions, he insisted and that was that.

I did go back to the Israeli side and by five thirty I was done, but there were only two taxis outside. The driver said he would give me ride for 450 shekels, about 110 dollars. Why so expensive I asked, he said that he has to pay the concession fee. So I decided that I will pay 50 shekels that will get me on the main highway #90. I figured I could easily find a taxi or a bus and would get back to Jordan quickly. This was another mistake. No taxis, buses or any other vehicle would stop. By 6 I gave up and called my brother Jonathan in Jerusalem. Every Thursday he and I would be going on this road about this time, except today. His wife had gone to the US and he had decided to stay in Jerusalem. He did get me a taxi and he used this occasion to send me some medicine he wanted me to give to his daughter Yasmine who is flying to the US for use by his son Saji. By 6:37 the taxi Jonathan had sent from Jerusalem arrived and I was on my way home. My estimate is that I will be in my Amman home about 11pm, nearly five hours later than expected, all because of the stupid computer at the Israeli interior office on the Allenby Bridge as well as the inflexible Jordanian officials.

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