Worst Trip Ever?

I’m proud of @jonbrenn_cpt … Thank God Israel chose a CPT member with resources and determination to deny entry to #prayers

Tweet by Eric Wolf

Three weeks ago I left my house traveling to Hebron. Oh, the best laid plans of mice and men. I dropped my passport in the car and missed my flight waiting to retrieve it. Three days later I arrived in Amman, Jordan and tried to cross the border. I was denied entry twice. I then had to wait 3 weeks to get a new passport in order to try again.

The last three weeks have been frustrating, aggravating, and extremely encouraging. I went to bed every night more and more thankful. I have been so blessed with a community of friends and family that are overwhelmingly supportive.

At the very basic level my family in Jordan graciously housed and fed me, suggested ways I could spend my time, drove me around, translated for me, and given me good advice on how to move forward. In the states you all prayed for me, sent me encouraging emails, contacted elected officials, spread my story over social media, and so much more.

Thanks to all the support, here’s what’s happened because Israel denied to let me into Hebron:

-I have given 4 interviews and been able to use my situation to highlight the situation in Hebron.

-There have been 6 news stories written about my situation, but also highlighting the work of CPT and the plight of Palestinians in Hebron.

-The 4 news stories that appeared online were shared on social media over 1000 times.

-My blog has had the 3 busiest weeks ever. (averaging over 300 hits per week)

-My twitter following has doubled.

-The story drew the attention of Human Rights Watch in Israel and Palestine.

-Bottom Line: A lot more people know about the situation in Palestine now.

As I traveled to the bridge for the third time I thought of how beautiful a story I have been able to live these last few weeks. What happened is pacifist resistance at its best. We created a positive outcome from a seemingly entirely negative situation. Either Israel lets me in and I’m able to work with Palestinians in their struggle for equality, or Israel keeps me out and I am able to share the Palestinians’ story even more, helping them in their struggle for equality. (Many Palestinian friends have told me that they see sharing the stories as the most helpful part of our work.)

Entering the border I was nervous and hoping that I would get in, but I also realized that if I didn’t it wasn’t a hopeless situation. It’s not a situation because of all of you. Thank you for that.

So I went in line with my perfectly clean brand spanking new passport that didn’t even have my middle name in it…

and I was flagged immediately for more questioning. I knew if they did any background checks and found out about my previous two attempts I would be denied again. This was a bad start, and it only got worse.


Why the chocolate!?!

This time was by far my worst experience at the border. Not only was I questioned multiple times, as always, but they spent an hour moving my bags back and fourth through their machines, only to then take them out and search through them by hand. (This whole time I really had to go to the bathroom, but they insisted that they finish the two hour long search before I could go). They unfolded all my clothes, undid every buckle of my bag, even ones that I’m pretty sure aren’t supposed to be undone. They even went so far as to tear open the chocolate bars I had bought as gifts, and break them apart into little pieces. Oh, and they strip searched me. That was a first.

After all this they sat me back down for more questioning. When their research showed my two ‘Entery [sic] Denied’ stamps one interrogator called me a liar and said there was no way I was getting in. (I had been given no questions about being denied entry, but I hadn’t been forthright with that information for obvious reasons) They left and I assumed they would be back with my passport and a shiny red stamp shortly.

Five hours later I asked someone, “What time does the border close?” They said 9:00pm. At 10:15 pm the interrogator came back to ask me for more information (my phone number and my friends’ phone numbers). By this point there was noone in the building besides the interegator, a couple of office staff and me. Knowing I wasn’t getting in and not wanting to be spied on any more, I refused to give any more information. They said either I could comply and keep getting questioned all night, or I could just turn around and go back. I wish I would have known that their strategy was to let me rot until I chose to go back on my own, because I would have done so much sooner. The good news is that since I ‘volunteered’ to go back I wasn’t officially denied entry and don’t have that misspelled stamp on my new passport.

I had left for the border on the noon bus. I arrived back at the house, after an expensive cab ride, at around midnight. I was discouraged, to say the least.

But it’s not over. I truly believe that, and I believe it because of you. In my first blog post I stated,

This is the purpose of my blog. Not to merely tell you about a travel experience, or share cool stories, but it is an attempt to create a fellowship. I hope it becomes a blog in which the reader does not passively spectate, but which demands the readers participation.

The Fellowship is even more important now. Let us continue to show the authorities that they are fighting a losing battle. I will be returning to the States tomorrow. I hope to use this situation as a catalyst to tell people about the realities in Palestine. I need your help. Find people for me to tell. If you are a student see if you can get me a speaking engagement in your school. If you are in a social club, see if they would invite me to speak. If you are part of a church, see if you can hold an event which I can speak at. If you have some other creative way for me to tell this story lets make this happen. I have been cut off from doing half of my job, but I intend, with your help, to do the other half three times as well.