Short Trips Around Small Countries: Jordan III Crossing the Adam Bridge

On my second trip to Jordan in 1995, instead of meeting the rest of the group in Jerusalem, I arranged to meet them at the crossing point into Jordan, that was to be an unusual place.  Most people cross into Jordan at the Allenby Bridge near Jericho.  But, this time we were crossing at the Adam Bridge, in the center of the country that was a military base and was reserved for military and diplomatic missions.  I was visiting my in-laws in Netanya on the coast, so it made no sense to me to go all the way to Jerusalem in order to go back to the center again.  On the map it looked like a straight run from Netanya to the Adam Bridge.  This may have been a mistake.

In Netanya I looked for a taxi that could take me to the Adam (also known as the Damia) Bridge.  But, I discovered that no-one wanted to go. First, they never went there because no-one crossed there and second it was dangerous, going most of the way through the West Bank, that was part of the Palestine Authority.  Eventually I found a taxi company that arranged with an Arab taxi service to pick me up and take me there, for a fee (that was refundable).  I was told to be there at 2 pm.

The taxi headed inland and passed through the new Israeli city of Ariel (now with some 30,000 inhabitants) and then descended slowly through winding roads with Arab villages on both side and past the Israeli settlement of  Ma’ale Efraim (Heights of Efraim, this was the region of the biblical tribe Efraim) through Masua (Torch) to the isolated Bridge.  When we got there it was a closed military base, and before I could ask him to wait the taxi driver made a quick U-turn and was away.

Before me was a large locked gate, with a sentry post up the hill.  An IDF guard sauntered down the road to me and asked in Hebrew “what do you want?”  I told him in Hebrish that I was supposed to meet some people there, he said “no people here” and was about  to turn around and leave me.  I said with as much authority as I could muster “I want to see your commanding officer.”  He looked at me as if I were crazy, then tramped back up the road.  I waited in the heat.

Eventually a smart young officer came down the road and asked me in perfect English, “what’s the problem?”  I explained the situation to him.  He said, “we don’t have any information about a group passing thru the bridge today.”  I showed him my official US passport and various papers proving my story, and told him the name of the Israeli diplomat who would be accompanying the group and asked him to contact him.  He seemed amenable to do this, so he opened the gate and said follow me, and we trudged up the hill.  At the top was a large hut.  There he put me in an air conditioned room (like a prisoner), gave me water, and said wait, I’ll try to contact him.

Some time later he returned and said we contacted his office in the Foreign Ministry (FM) but they said he’s busy today.  I told him, of course he’s busy, he’s coming here with a group of Americans and Israelis to go to Jordan.  He was skeptical.  I showed him the letter from the official telling me where to meet them.  He said he would try to confirm my story.  Some time later he returned and said “yes,” his office in the FM had confirmed that he was taking a group including Americans to Jordan thru the Bridge, but he had received no prior notice of this.  I said well that’s not my fault that’s just incompetence.  So then he asked me about myself and his attitude warmed, he offered me tea and cake and a female soldier served me.

Then the officer came back and said the office in the FM had managed to contact him en route, he was picking people up in Tel Aviv (so why couldn’t he have picked me up there?), and they would be delayed. Meanwhile he had the FM inform the IDF that sent orders to the officer to allow us through the Bridge.  Now he became friendly and offered to show me around, and we sat and chatted and waited until the group arrived in a mini-van, only a few hours late.

Then I joined them and we followed a military jeep towards the Bridge, thru machine gun emplacements, and across the rickety bridge itself and up the other sided past Jordanian Army emplacements, and finally we were waved down by an officer. The Jordanian Officer was very friendly, he spoke English and looked just like Clark Gable, I wondered if anyone had ever told him that.  We exited the van and climbed into a military vehicle and then we were driven in a small military convoy to Amman.