Changing kids' lives from the seat of a bike
The Founders of TWV
Jordan & Israel
April 1999, Jordan
To pass the border from Jordan to Israel we had to put our bikes in a bus to travel through a 3mi/5km military zone - a no-mans-land with military gun posts and land mines. On the short trip the bus stopped at least ten times, each time the controller walked down the aisle and took this paper, or gave us that paper or marked the other paper. Camouflage clothed men sporting machine guns and sunglasses stood at each guard gate. I kept my eyes peeled for the Jordan River, but it eluded me. Perhaps it doesn't even flow at this .crossing,. its waters diverted to the agricultural green strips lining it. The fields rest in contrast to the dry, sun parched hills that lie above the irrigated valley. On the Israeli side several officials checked us, all of our gear was x-ray scanned, and then we were given special permission to ride on the security road to the main highway. We were told, .do not stop, do not leave the road, go directly to the check point gate.. That stretch of road was the Israeli no-mans-land, scattered with land mines and gun posts. So much for the Middle East Peace Process, I thought.
April 1999, Israel
There is a checkpoint when passing from the east side of Jerusalem to the west side. Once inside the western side, the buildings, roads and infrastructure are dramatically improved. There are no open sewers or dead animals rotting near the markets, but there is an extreme military and police presence. Soldiers, policemen and plain-clothed people carried handguns and machine guns. We saw more guns in Jerusalem than anywhere else we had traveled. It did not give us a feeling of security. This region of the world has religious significance to many people - Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Politics, foreign policy, war and religion weighed heavy on my thoughts as I tried to make sense of what we saw. Later in our travels we met an Israeli who spelled the situation out to us with this phrase, "Israel is a country where history and religion take precedence over reason."
It was a long downhill ride from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. Access to the Israeli side of the Sea was very controlled. At one point we stopped to have a snack and an armed military vehicle with 10 soldiers pointing guns at us told us we had to move on. The fence around the coastline for the first 25mi/40km had warning signs with skull and cross bone symbols. Our first opportunity to get to the shoreline would have cost us US$10 each and we would have had to leave one hour before sunset for security reasons. Not a good plan for camping. Twelve miles/20km further down the road there was another beach access point. It was a bathing, spa resort where we paid US$3 each to swim in the Dead Sea, bathe in mud and shower off. The manager of the resort let us camp on a triangular patch of green grass in the parking lot for the night. Sprinklers woke us at 6:30 the next morning showering our tent every five seconds - a silly sight we must have been, taking down our tent in the only spot of .shower. for hundreds of miles!