TEL AVIV (Nov. 12)
The mysterious ruins of Petra have once again lured Israeli youths to make the dangerous trip to Jordan. A Jewish youth and his Arab buddy, missing for a week, were handed over to Israeli authorities Tuesday by Jordanian military police at the Allen-by Bridge after their adventure.
Eran Koran, 19, of Tiberias and Ali Mubarak Taher, 21, from the Arab town of Kfar Kanna in Galilee, were disheveled and tearful over the trouble they had caused.
Both were reported missing Nov. 4, and there was immediate speculation that they had headed for Petra.
Koran, who is due to begin is military service, was described by friends as “adventurous” and by former teachers as “problematic.” He worked at a Tiberias pub, where he met Taher and persuaded the young Israeli Arab to accompany him to Petra to act as spokesman if they encountered hostile Bedouins.
Known as the “rose-red city, half as old as time,” Petra was hewn by the Nabateans from the distinctive scarlet rocks of the Moabite Mountains overlooking the Jordan Valley. It has been a magnet for adventurers for centuries, more than a few of them Israelis during the last four decades.
But it is illegal to visit Petra without a permit from the Jordanian government. And a visit can be dangerous. Outlaw Bedouin bands have been known to murder tourists for their possessions.
For many years, a popular song about the ancient ruins and the adventures of a trip there was banned from Israel Radio, in an effort to reduce the numbers of those illegally attempting the perilous trip.
Last year, a similar incident took place when two Israeli youths, Orthodox Jews who were also missing for a week, turned up in the hands of Jordanian authorities after having visited the fabled ruins. Their adventure had been so publicized that Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti had interceded in their behalf.