The epitome of absurdity

I promised I would post about my activities in Palestine and I do keep my promise. I apologize for not doing it more often but the job I am having right now makes me feel more like a zombie after ten hours of work and definitely unable to produce something even halfway reasonable. The weekends are just fine though …

It was in 2003. Spring 2003 that is. I was on my way to one of the countless checkpoint-checks I did … this time to the checkpoint at the entrance to Jericho which is located north of the Dead Sea. It is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world who’s remains date back to 9,000 BC! The city is with roughly 1,000 feel below sea level the lowest on this planet.

Checkpoint checks are efficient and important … the people crossing are proven to be less harassed once the soldiers knew they were watched and report of their their conduct would be passed on.

The way from Jerusalem down to Jericho is incredible – not only because of the incline and the beduins! The rough landscape, the view of the Mountains of Moab in Jordan just beyond the Dead Sea is breathtaking. I love Jericho and her people very much but this is not why I write this post … it is about the epitome of absurdity Fadi, the priest, was exposed to at Jericho checkpoint!

I met Fadi right after I had arrived. He was visibly distressed and stood there, not knowing where to turn to. I opened the window of my car and asked him if I could be of any help. The story I heard made me shake my head in disbelief …

Back then Fadi lived in Amman/Jordan. He had been invited by the Vatican to attend a three-day seminar in Jerusalem and had, in order to be on the safe side, as well received a passport issued by the Vatican!

He told me that in order to reach the Allenby-Bridge which is located some 15 car-minutes east of Jericho and for Palestinians/Arabs the ONLY connection to Jordan, he would need to enter Jericho for to take the bus which takes the people to the bridge. On approaching the checkpoint though, he was denied entry. He didn’t know what to do.

I assured him I’d help him in every possible way in order to get back to his home. In order to avoid Jericho alltogether, I suggested I would take him straight to Allenby-bridge and so he entered the car and we drove off. We arrived after some 15 minutes without any problem and he thanked me from all his heart.

Having had the weird feeling that might not be the end of it, I waited a bit distant while watching him … and saw him, after a short time, returning almost in tears. The soldiers would not allow him to cross the bridge … guess why? Because he did not come the official way – by bus from inside Jericho which, in return, he was not allowed to enter in order to take the bus!

I could hardly believe what I had just heard – that was nothing but harassment in a miserably cheap way! Just to make life difficult for people – nobody was interested in the passport of the Vatican!

I took him back to the checkpoint. The poor guy was a nervous wreck. It was in the meantime late in the afternoon and he had no place to stay overnight should he not succeed to cross …

Having been an activist, I had the telephone number of the local district coordination office (which I am not sure does exist anymore …) and called them up. As Hebrew-speaker I was able to explain the totally absurd situation and angrily ask why they would harass this man in such a despicable manner. I was told to wait at the checkpoint … I’d be contacted.

About twenty minutes later my cellphone rang and Fadi got permission to enter … even succeeded to find a bus which took him to the bridge in order to get back home still on the same day.

The wonderful e-mail he wrote me the next day is still in my memory. May GOD bless you dear friend!!

Fadi left Jordan some months after that incident and is today, to the best of my knowledge, priest at St. Andrews in Ramallah.

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