Unaccompanied Israeli tourists banned from Jordan

New unofficial regulations apparently apply only to Jewish, not Arab, visitors

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

The Allenby Bridge border crossing between Jordan and Israel (Shay Levy/Flash90)
The Allenby Bridge border crossing between Jordan and Israel (Shay Levy/Flash90)

Jordan is denying entry visas to Jewish Israeli tourists traveling alone who have not organized a Jordanian guide in advance of their trip, The Times of Israel has learned.

Avinoam Edry, a 25-year-old student at Shalem College in Jerusalem, arrived on Tuesday at the Jordan River Border Terminal, also known as the Sheikh Hussein Bridge, with the intention of touring Jordan for five days.

Edry came on a tour bus from Nazareth carrying mostly Israeli Arabs en route to Amman, but after having his passport stamped at the Israeli side of the bridge and paying the Israeli exit fee, he was told by the Jordanian tourism police at the border that he would not be allowed to enter the Hashemite Kingdom.

“They asked me and an older Jewish couple whether we had hotel bookings or a tour guide. They said we could only enter as part of a group accompanied by a Jordanian policeman,” Edry told The Times of Israel.

Israeli student Avinoam Edry (photo credit: courtesy/Avinoam Edry)
Israeli student Avinoam Edry (photo credit: courtesy/Avinoam Edry)

Edry showed the policeman his hostel booking, but was nevertheless promptly sent back to the Israeli side of the border after his passport was photocopied. The Arab Israelis on the bus were allowed to enter, even though they were not traveling as a group. The entire incident took about half an hour, he said.

“We were treated well, just not let in,” he said.

An Israeli official at the Jordan River Border Terminal said that cases like Edry’s “happen all the time” and cannot be predicted in advance. But an official at the southern Yitzhak Rabin Border Terminal near Eilat said that about a year ago Jordan introduced a new regulation banning Israeli backpackers traveling alone.

“There has to be a guide on the Jordanian side,” the official said.

Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said his ministry was unaware of any changes in Jordan’s entry regulations regarding Israelis.

An official at the Jordanian embassy in Tel Aviv, speaking on condition of anonymity, also denied knowledge of any new regulations and advised Edry to inquire with the embassy.

Diplomatic relations between Israel and Jordan, forged in 1994, have experienced a recent downturn following the shooting of a Jordanian judge at the Allenby border crossing last month. Earlier this week, the Jordanian government summoned Israeli ambassador to Amman Daniel Nevo to protest alleged police violence toward Palestinian worshipers on the Temple Mount.

Edry, who plans to focus on Middle East history and Arabic in his academic studies, was disappointed he could not visit Jordan for the first time.

“It was really strange for me. I couldn’t really argue; either they let you in or they don’t,” he said.

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