Dec 27 2004

“It hurts when you don’t have money”

Published by at 3:26 am under Blogs

I start this day with a previously arranged meeting with the former Jordanian foreign minister Marwan Muasher who is now deputy prime minister and minister for administrative affairs. He welcomes me in his huge office in the prime ministry and I can’t help but ask him if in fact he agrees with the description that his ministry is a super ministry as the head of the EU in Jordan describes it.

We begin our discussions with that mornings news and I comment that the Prime Minister shouldn’t have made the statement he made the day before in parliament which today made the front page headlines. “I would ally myself with the devil if it will help my country” he is quoted as saying in defense of a recent economic agreement with the Israelis.

We move our discussions to the reason for the request of the meeting. “Is the media reform real or a mirage,” I ask sarcastically, and I explain to him the disappointment I was having with believing that media reform is real when a license for a local radio station, that I applied for has not been approved even though others have received a license. I also tell him about my failure to get a license for a magazine that deals with the social life of local Christian Arabs in Jordan and Palestine. He is sure that the delay is from some small bureaucrat and he promises to take this issue up directly with the head of the mukhabarat (general security services).

I ask him if the head of the intelligence Saaed Kher is being groomed as the next prime minister especially since his photo appeared in the local papers the previous day. I don’t know, but I am hearing this more and more, he says.

We  shake hands on his promise to get back to me within a few days, I head to the bridge back to Palestine.

Today my son, Bishara is supposed to be back. He just completed a long . long walk that began on December 23 in the Jordanian  archeological city of Jarash and ended in Bethlehem on Christmas. The idea was an abbreviation of a 2000 journey that tried to retrace the footsteps of the Magi.  On the 24th he had walked a total of 30 kilometers from the Nabi Musa area to the Mar Saba Monastery.

For the past two days Bishara and I have argued. I wanted him to return to Amman on Sunday he wanted to stay one more day and come early on Monday. Well it took him an entire day just to make the normally 90 minute journeys from Jerusalem to Amman. He began Monday early, but it took him a long time at first to get to the Allenby Bridge. At the bridge he was delayed for two hours while he waited in the Israeli terminal with nothing to do.

The Jordanians were no less cooperating. By the time he got to the Jordanian side, the Jordanians refused him entry for no clear reason. They claimed that the reason they returned him was the fact that he didn’t have a permit which meant that if they would allow him to cross they would somehow be contributing to the emptiness of Palestinian of Palestinians. The fact that he had a valid reentry permit on his US passport failed to sway them as they have been drilled only to recognize the tasreeh (permit) and nothing else.

By the time Bishara got back to the Israeli side there were no buses. He was also out of money. He called me up at work with the last five shekels to his names (the kiosk at the bridge charged that much for a one minute local call). I tried to get him to cross again and to buy the stupid permit that the Jordanians want (which costs with the exit tax an exobirant 280 shekels -$70), but by this time around 2:30 there were no more buses. I called the Israeli bridge manager Gidi, and his assistant, but they both could not do anything. Even though the bridge is open till 4 pm, they are unable to find a way for him to cross. The only option is the VIP service, which is a further $80.

I call Bishara again on the cell phone of one of the taxi drivers at the bridge. I  instruct him to take the shared taxi to Jerusalem and have the taxi stop by a mutual friend so that they can pay for it.

At 4:30 I finish work and rush to Jerusalem. On the way, my cell phone has an SMS message from my wife, Salam, where is Bishara? I quickly realize that I had not told her what had happened. I reply quickly that he is with me and will be coming soon.

I drive to Jerusalem, Bishara comes along, we buy a sandwich and drive the long way all the way up to Beit Shaan (Bisan) where the northern bridge between Jordan and Israel is. This bridge which is open till 10 allows people, like Bishara with a US passport to cross, and the Jordanians happily give you a visa for 10JD. The trip gives me a chance to spend a few hours alone with my son.  Recalling how he felt when he returned and the Israelis refused to reimburse him the 130 shekels exit tax, Bishara says to me “It hurts when you don’t have money.” He tells me among other things that his walk to Bethlehem and his meetings with the 10 other foreigners also walking has taught him something important. I learned not to be prejudice, he tells me. I am not sure regarding what he is talking, but I assume it is about Israelis, because I have been worried about how hateful he had been lately about Jews and Israelis.

I arrive at about 7pm. Give Bishara plenty of money and let him go. Half an hour later, I call the bus driver, Nael (whose number I have from previous trips.) He confirms that Bishara made it ok. By 8:30 I am back in Jerusalem for a short visit to my brother in law Labib where I find out that the Palestinian Bible Society (which he heads) was robbed, computers, digital camera, dvd and petty cash was stolen. Apparently a sense of lawlessness is spreading in Beit Hanina. Two other robberies took place the week before.

At 10pm I am at my Jerusalem apartment and at 10:20pm almost 14 hours after he left our Jerusalem house, Bishara arrives home in Amman, tired, but still had to spend a few hours studying for an exam the next day.

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