Traveling is all fun and games until a young man wearing a hot pink polo, ray bans, and a pair of Hollister flip flops comes up to you with an AK-47 and asks you to follow him into a lonely room in the corner of the border patrol station. Yep, that happened, sketchy right?
Whelp here’s how it all went down. I was in Jordan sightseeing and visiting some friends when we decided to take a one night trip to Jerusalem. It was only a 30 minute drive from the city of Amman so we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to see Jerusalem, the Holy land.
We took a taxi to the border where we would be asked to present our passport and go through security, you know, the usual. When we presented our documents something captured the attention of border patrol. At that time a young fashionable man with an assault rifle ask us to follow him into a waiting area where we can be seen. I was extremely confused as to what in the hell was going on. I felt mentally paralyzed because I could not fathom why he would want me to follow him to an isolated room.
It was my first trip to the Middle East and as if my friends and family in the United States scaring me half to death with rumors about how dangerous it was to travel alone wasn’t enough to make me panic, I then had to answer to a man with a gun in an interrogation room. Why did this happen? Well, I was with my two Jordanian American friends and although they used their American passports, their Arab last names sparked border patrols’ attention. If you are familiar with the Israeli Palestinian conflict, you probably know that it is not easy for Arabs to freely travel to Israel without having a hard time.
After being pulled into the interrogation room they asked me questions repetitively like, “Why are you here?!” and “Who do you know in Israel!?” Then came the questions regarding my two friends with Arab last names, “Do they have Palestinian friends or family here?! Who do you know?!” they shouted. “No one,” I said, “We don’t know anyone, we are just visiting for one night as tourists to see Jerusalem.”
“Why do you want to see Jerusalem??!!!” they asked, “why?!” Shocked and terrified I softly responded, “Because of the history, I have wanted to go since I was I was young.” They laughed and said, “I don’t believe you.”
Um, okay… well this is awkward. Like, how do you respond to that? Okay just kidding, I hate Jerusalem, it has no history and I am going there for no reason. Is that better? I obviously didn’t say that because I was scared shitless, but I sure was thinking it!
30 minutes of interrogation later, a “friendly” dull faced border patrol lady called back my Jordanian lads one by one for questioning. One or two hours later, after speaking with them, I was called back to the interrogation room for a second round.
This time was far more intense because apparently, after analyzing our stories, they didn’t match up. I forgot that I told my friends about a guy named Roy who was recommended to me by a friend to show us the city. I didn’t know Roy or anything about him, I just had him on my Facebook in case we wanted a tour guide. So all the while, I am telling the angry patrol officers that I don’t know anyone in the country and in the meantime my friends were telling them that I knew someone in Tel Aviv named Roy.
Wow, things just kept getting worse. All I was trying to do was figure out how to get myself out of this mess without them thinking I was lying so I could leave. At that point I just thought, whelp, this is it, it’s about to go down. There about to start ripping off my fingernails and cutting off my toes all because I forgot to tell them about Roy. Okay, I clearly watch too many crime movies, but seriously, I didn’t know what to think.
After about 4 hours, yes 4 dreadful hours, I finally built up the courage to tell them off, “Enough! I don’t want to be here anymore, I rather stay in Jordan anyway! Can I go now?”
“Good, go back to Jordan, we don’t want you here anyway,” they said. Pheeeewwwww, I can finally leave! “Fine,” I responded, “So can I go now?”
They sent me into the waiting room and thirty minutes later looked my way and flashed a brief smile. I had one of those moments when I started to look around to see if they were smiling at someone else behind me, like who me?
Confusingly, after I snapped they decided to set us free in Israel with a not-so great start. Maybe they felt bad, maybe they were messing with us all along, I don’t know but we finally made it out of that god forsaken interrogation room and that was all that mattered. Even though the start of my Israel journey was a bit rocky, my friends and I really enjoyed Jerusalem. We never met up with Roy, nor did I ever message him on Facebook to show us around the city. This was a travel nightmare that I would never forget.