After a relaxing stay in Aqaba, we crossed over into Israel through the Aqaba-Eilat border crossing. In order to get there from Aqaba, you need to take a cab to the border. Your cab driver will quote you 8-10 JD, but you can bargain for 4-5 (which we did – on that note, when you take a cab in Jordan, always haggle).
To cross the border, you have your cabbie drop you off at the crossing station. Then, you walk across the border. Instead of stamping your passport, Israel will give you a slip of paper that serves as a stamp – unfortunately, some other Middle Eastern countries will give you a hard time if they see an Israeli stamp on your passport. On the other side, the border patrol will call a cab for you (always ask an Israeli cabbie to turn on his meter – they are required by law to do so). The cab took us to the Eilat bus station (whereupon I consumed more ice cream sandwiches). Waiting in the bus station terminal indicated to us that Israel would be a more secular experience; people were more casually dressed, there were members of the Israeli military all over the place en route to their next destination, and kids were wearing superhero shirts (my favorite was a Spiderman knockoff called “Web Head”). The bus system in Israel is quite good – there are plenty of buses running, and they’ll take you pretty much everywhere around the country. (Check out Egged for reservations.) We got on the 444 bus to Jerusalem and settled in for the five-hour drive.
Jerusalem is a bustling city with a central bus station reminiscent of one you’d find in New York. After navigating ourselves to the proper bus, we crammed on with our backpacks and bags in the middle of rush hour traffic, much to the chagrin of our immediate neighbors. We found our way to our AirBNB, located in the heart of hip Jerusalem in the Nahalat Shiva neighborhood. We headed out to a local falafel joint, Hummus Ben Sira, which absolutely hit the spot. We washed down our delicious meal with some local beer – a treat for us, as Jordan was mostly dry. While Jordan was a wonderful and new experience – and one we were deeply grateful for – Jerusalem felt more like home to us. We felt like we fit right in, and there wasn’t much, culturally speaking, that we had to adjust to. It felt great.
As we found out later that evening, our AirBNB had its positives and its negatives. The good news was that we were located among a patchwork of quaint cobblestone streets lined with restaurants and activity. The bad news was that we were going to be staying directly above what had to be the loudest bar in Jerusalem. Oy vey.
More on that next time!