TEL AVIV (Aug. 10)
Encountering only a few bureaucratic nightmares along the way, foreign tourists eager to take advantage of new arrangements for passage between Israel and Jordan began lining up to cross the border this week.
Even as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Crown Prince Hassan were cutting the tape for a new border crossing some two miles north of Eilat on Monday, tourists attempted to cross the Allenby Bridge separating Jordan and the West Bank further north.
And on Tuesday, about 100 other tourists started using the border crossing that had been opened with much fanfare the day before.
For now, only foreign nationals and Israelis with a second passport are allowed to cross between Israel and Jordan — a trip made possible under the terms of the July 25 Washington Declaration that officially ended the 46-year state of war between the two countries.
Jordanians and Israelis without a second nationality will have to wait for the signing of a final peace agreement before they can make the trip.
But for those who were able to make the crossing this week, it was not all smooth sailing, although the bureaucratic snafus they encountered were ironed out within a matter of hours.
The group at the Allenby Bridge, seeking to cross into Jordan with visas obtained in advance by a tourist office, was held up for nearly four hours.
The delay occurred because nobody had told them that they needed a special stamp by the Israeli Interior Ministry, which had apparently not yet caught up with the fact that Israel and Jordan were no longer locked in a formal state of war.
The problem was ironed out when an Interior Ministry official in Jerusalem was finally found who was ready to risk a breach of bureaucratic protocol and put the stamp into the tourists’ passports.
And the tourists who left via the new crossing point at the foot of the Dead Sea were surprised to find that Jordanian border officials were not prepared to recognize foreign passports issued by foreign consulates in Israel.
But there, too, broad-minded border officials were finally found to help speed the tourists on their way.