Somebody recently asked me about my (unsuccessful) attempt at entering the West Bank (Palestine) from Jordan a few years back. The experience at the border checkpoint brought back some amusing memories. Here's what you should not do, which is what I did, to increase your chances of being allowed through:
- go with a couple of other young Asian-British-Muslim looking fellows (you know: beard, hair, brown etc);
- make full slow near-perfect Wudhu (ablution) putting your feet in the sink and the rest of it as your very own personalised Israeli security guard stands by watching in terror (wrong word?);
- pray a long peaceful prayer out in the open to the excitement of passing Palestinians. It doesn't help if the Palestinians start coming over to shake your hands and ask "Are you Daa'ees (missionaries)?";
- tell the interrogators you'll be staying more than a day. Certainly not 2 weeks! And definitely not for charity work with Birzeit University!! You're a tourist.
- etc. You get the picture.
But truth be told. There's not much you can do. It depends on how they feel on the day. Do expect a six hour wait and a series of repetitive checks. That is standard for young foreign Muslims/Socialists whether they intend to let you through or not. They do it so that you go back with bad experiences/stories as a hindrance for future visitors.
They'll ask you (in a strong American accent) questions like: "What's your papa's name?... And your grand papa?..." Try not to laugh. And when they take your shoes away for long periods, it's not because they have a fetish.
All said and done, as with any interview... be yourself, don't lie, cover and make stuff up and you should be fine (God-willing)... unless you're part of any political organisations!
Lastly, it's not over until you're standing in Al-Aqsa or back on the other side being comforted by the Jordanian border officials. After hours of miserable behaviour, if the Israeli officials suddenly have a change of mood (i.e. smiling, offering fruit and sandwiches) and say they'll let you through, know that you are dealing with a deceptive bunch. If they begin apologising for the trouble they've caused and saying that they've called in a taxi to make up for your lost time to take you to your destination, know that something is not right. Ask yourself, "Why is the driver Jordanian? Why are they handing him my passport? Why is his car faced towards Jordan? And why have so many Israeli border officials come out to stand by and excitedly wave me goodbye?"