A tearful border crossing

My oldest daughter, Suzanne, turns forty this year and she has just lived out a dream she has had for most of her life.

SuzieYasmin2When Suzanne was 5, our family lived with my in-laws, her grandparents, in Amman Jordan. My husband, Saleh, worked on a UN project there for a while and it was a rather stable time in the Middle East. Our youngest daughter, Sanna, was born while we were there.

At her grandparents’ house, Suzanne became great mates with one particular cousin, Yasmin, whose mother was also a foreigner. The girls communicated in a strange mixture of Arabic, English and Turkish.

Back to Australia and 20 years went by during which Suzanne vividly remembered her days in Amman and her friendship with Yasmin in particular. Letters between Saleh and his family often exchanged photos of the girls growing up on opposite sides of the world.

When Suzanne married, the couple started to plan a visit to Jordan but hopes were dashed when Saleh told them that his parents were very upset that Suzanne had not married a Muslim. It was OK for their son to marry someone, i.e. me, outside the faith, but not for a girl!

SannaJordan2Over the last 15 years many things changed as both girls were busy having their own families. Although born in Jordan, Sanna was too young to remember it, so Saleh took her with him on a most successful family visit. 9/11 happened while they were there. Not long after that both of Saleh’s parent died. Then more recently, Saleh also passed away after a slow decline with Alzheimer’s.

I work as an academic and last year I had a paper accepted for a prestigious conference in Israel. I told Suzanne that I would take the opportunity to pop across the border and visit the family in Jordan whom I had not seen for years.

Suzanne immediately declared that she wanted to come with me. The younger generation in Jordan are now more open and Suzanne had begun to connect up with some of them on Facebook.

Then she also wanted to bring her oldest boy (8), incidentally named Jordan. Next it was suggested that the second boy, Cooper (7), come as well. So, there we were at Sydney airport, the four of us saying goodbye to the youngest boy, Hunter, who was only 3 and who stayed home with his Dad.

2099Arriving in Tel Aviv early in the morning we dumped our bags at the conference hotel. Our first wish was to catch a train to Haifa where Saleh was born and we had an exciting day walking around the ruins at Acre where we spoke to some friendly Palestinian families who still live there. Then after the conference we caught a taxi to the Jordan River and crossed the border at the Allenby Bridge. The Jordanian immigration officials were greatly amused by my red-headed grandson named Jordan and helped us contact Yasmin who gave us directions to her place.

2621When the girls met it was as though they had never been apart. The boys quickly broke the ice with the rest of the family and, although few speak English, we all got along just fine. Saleh’s youngest brother, Noor, had often walked Suzanne to school when she was 5 and he became our designated driver. We visited the families of all 8 of Saleh’s brothers and sisters. We also had wonderful outings to Petra and the Dead Sea with many of them. Suzanne made a list of all 50 odd of her cousins there and the large hoard of their children.

DSCF2270All too soon, Noor had to drive us back down to the Jordan-Israel border for our return flight back from Tel Aviv. It was an emotional goodbye having had only 10 days to catch up for 35 years. However plans are now being made to return once Hunter is old enough and we can save up enough for the flights. Meanwhile, we all keep in touch on Facebook.

All too soon, Noor had to drive us back down to the Jordan-Israel border for our return flight back from Tel Aviv. It was an emotional goodbye having had only 10 days to catch up for 35 years. However plans are now being made to return once Hunter is old enough and we can save up enough for the flights. Meanwhile, we all keep in touch on Facebook.

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