It was awkwardly silent in the small bus. Some of us were just staring endlessly at the view outside while some busy with their phones and a few others took the opportunity to take a post-breakfast nap. It was only a 90-minute bus ride from our hotel in Amman to Allenby Crossing Bridge, one of the few border gates that connect Israel and Jordan, but it definitely felt longer.
The anxiousness of trying to imagine how the border crossing is like, no thanks to various stories being passed through word of mouth back in Malaysia on how complicated the border crossing to Israel can be. Israel/Palestine was my country #30 in my list of visited countries so I had my fair share of immigration experience but still I was nervous.
Clearing immigration at the Jordan’s side of the border also known as the King Hussein Bridge was rather straight forward. A bit of waiting for our passports to be stamped while our luggages were scanned before the bus made its way to the bridge. This is where the real thrill starts.
Before reaching the Israeli Terminal, we had to go through quite a wait at the various checkpoints. This is where you start to see the vast contrast of security forces between the 2 border gates. Security officers that are pleasant looking, attractive physiques, fancy ray-bans and well-equipped with modern & heavy firearms. Wearing bullet-proof vests and blue jeans, these officers can easily pass as heroes for Hawaii Five 0 or any police TV series.
We were lucky alhamdulillah, except for the long wait due to traffic, everything else went smoothly. So lucky that we even got ushered to the VIP terminal instead of the normal terminal which means that the lines were shorter. Screening and questions were still the same regardless of terminal though but not much difference from other immigrations in the world. Just one handy tip, travel only with a hand-carry luggage to smoothen the transfer process.
Welcome to Israel.
Malaysia’s passport is not valid in Israel but it is still being used as a travel document along with the immigration cards.
Our guide, Mr Mahmood welcomed us at the border before we made our way to the first stop – a city in the Palestinian Territories – Jericho. Jericho is believed to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world so I was quite excited to be there.
Except that the fact that we did not get to really visit what Jericho has to offer besides a “touristy restaurant”. Oh well, when it comes to a short-duration group tour, you win some you lose some. At least it motivates me to return here once again to explore further.
Around 11km from Jericho is the Maqam of Nabi Musa A.S.
The exact place where Nabi Musa A.S. is buried remains unknown but according to this website, tradition holds that Salahuddin Ayyubi once had a dream where he was shown this spot which is where the mosque was built.
Based on this website, https://www.islamiclandmarks.com/palestine-other/maqam-of-musa-as,
After the 2 quick stops, it was then time for the journey we have been waiting for. The journey to the Old City of Jerusalem where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located.
It was another moment of silent when Mahmood asked us to look to the left side of the bus where a glimpse of the Al-Aqsa mosque can be seen. Alhamdulillah for this opportunity to witness first-hand the third holiest site in Islam.
I will write more about Al-Aqsa mosque in my next post but let me fast-forward a bit to a few days later to the time when we visited Mt of Olives simply because it makes good sense in terms of storytelling.
The view of Al-Aqsa from far.
Such a beautiful view that is still fresh in my mind.
Around the same area of Mount of Olives is the Maqam and Mosque of Salman Farisi, one of the most famous of the Companions of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. It is believed that at this site, he once stayed. It is refreshing to recap the history associated with Salman Al Farisi which also dubbed as a great example of a seeker of truth. More can be read here:
Still within the same area is the Maqam for Rabaah El Adawieh / Rabiatul Adawiyah, another well-known individual in Islamic history. A well-known sufi in “tasawuf” world, lived in ‘zuhud’ life and spent her life to worship Allah. Once again we were reminded that this Maqam is not a grave.
In my next post, I shall be sharing the wonderful experience of walking the beautiful lanes of Old Jerusalem and witnessing up-close the Al-Aqsa Mosque.