Day 6: Goodbye Jordan, Hello Israel
Another 7 AM departure, and time to say goodbye to the amazing city of Petra -- and to Jordan. Traveling through the other side of the Al Sharah mountains, we passed through the tribal housing area, and then wound our way up and down the scenic mountains, complete with switchbacks and hairpin turns, following the scenic rock formations and flora and fauna.
Our first rest stop was looking across the Jordan River Valley, posing on a homemade swing. The very primitive facilities were across the street. (Speaking of which, there are mostly western toilets here, but most with no tp except your own which never goes into the toilet but into a side wastebasket. Hand drying, if there is enough water to wash is not unusual. Hotels are much better with good quality, and if you’re lucky, enough tp.
Along the King’s Highway, we passed camel caravans, trucks carrying fresh produce and saw small farms, settlements and the salt drying from the Dead Sea to make potash.
Patience was the word of the day. We arrived at the Jordanian/Israeli border at the King Hussein bridge at about 11:15. In some ways, it reminded me of being in China where there were some kind of formalities many times over,with each government official or entity having its moment in the sun. Passports were collected three times.
At 12:00 we said goodbye to Mohamed and our bus driver. You need a separate driver to drive across the bridge into Israel, passing through two checkpoints. Our driver finally arrived at about 12:45. The first checkpoint took another 40 minutes, then second one about ten. The King Hussein bridge finally becomes the Allenby bridge and at that point, we were officially in Israel! Mohamed had good connections because we somehow avoided the long security and luggage search in Israel. At about 1:45 we finally met our new guide, Ibrahim and started our two hour plus drive to Haifa.
60% of Israel is arid desert which leaves 40% as cultivated farmland and cities or small towns. The entire size of Israel is about the size of New Jersey. Leading industries of Israel include 1) military technology, 2)agricultural products 3) software 4)diamonds. It is interesting to note that tourism doesn't even rank in the top ten.
We passed beautiful green areas of palm date plantations (a huge crop here - and very delicious!), bananas, tomatoes and watermelons as well as some wheat fields and a coal-based electric power plant.
Ibrahim, a native Arab Christian Israeli, has an intense style, very direct and concise and is not afraid to tackle any subject. He has already shared with us his thoughts on the political situation and the current attacks from Gaza into Israel. The media, on all sides, has been hyping this, but the rockets have all been destroyed by Israeli forces and a cease fire was declared two days ago. But evidently it did scare away some tour groups who cancelled , so he thanked us for coming.
Our day ended with checking into our modern boutique hotel, the Schumacher, in an area known as the German colony in Haifa. We had a wonderful conversation with Ibrahim who joined us halfway through our dinner at a local restaurant.