Stuck in Amman with bags packed for a trip to Jerusalem

Zhu Shenshen
A Shanghai Daily reporter on his way to Jerusalem is stranded in Jordan. Chinese tourists in Israel are said to be safe, and many are taking alternative routes home.
Zhu Shenshen

On October 7 (local time), I prepared for my trip to Jerusalem by buying a cross-border bus ticket and packing my bags in Amman, Jordan.

It is just an hour's drive into Israel. But the unexpected attacks changed everything, leading to casualties and a steady stream of "breaking news" messages on my phone.

In the hotel lounge in Amman, my friends and I spent hours watching the news as the attacks escalated, the death toll rose, and the government declared "state of war." We understood that this could have an effect on our plans.

Stuck in Amman with bags packed for a trip to Jerusalem
Zhu Shenshen / SHINE

A TV news report claimed that the hostilities would spread to the West Bank.

When I called the Jerusalem hotel we'd booked, the front desk staff had no idea what was going on with the border crossing or anything else. "Only God knows (what will happen)," he said. But he said that we could cancel our non-refundable booking if we wanted.

Then we went to the office of JETT (Jordan Express Tourist Transportation Company), which runs the shuttles to the King Hussein Bridge (the middle border) with Israel.

I had reserved a seat on the bus online. I was informed that the border was "closed" and that I would get my money back in 21 days (thanks to the banking system in Jordan).

We were forced to face the unpleasant reality and decided to scrap our plans to visit Jerusalem. Instead, we planned to tour Amman and the surrounding areas before heading back to China.

Stuck in Amman with bags packed for a trip to Jerusalem
Zhu Shenshen / SHINE

People and vehicular traffic in downtown Amman

Throughout it all, I was in touch with a number of Chinese tourists, keeping them informed and assisting them where I could. They were stuck in Israel and were unable to complete their trips, especially on October 7, since that was the Jewish Sabbath.

On October 8 (local time), Mr Niu, a doctor from Anhui Province, discovered that his trip from Amman to Tel Aviv, Israel, had been canceled. He was forced to spend an extra night in Amman but intended to participate in an exchange program in an Israeli hospital.

He indicated that he would try crossing the land border to Israel the next day.

Yi, from Shanghai, was stuck in Jerusalem on October 7. She heard the air defense sirens and continued to stay in the hotel, as advised by the Chinese embassy. She was waiting for the land border to reopen so she could take a flight back to China from Amman.

She finally arrived in Hong Kong on October 8 night after changing flights, she posted on WeChat.

Stuck in Amman with bags packed for a trip to Jerusalem
Ti Gong

A map of the land border crossing between Israel and Jordan

A blogger on Xiaohongshu (Red) claimed she took the northern border to Israel after being denied entry through the middle border. She then spent US$250 on a taxi ride to Tel Aviv's airport to catch a flight back to China.

On October 8, Israel's Ministry of Tourism provided emergency information updates on its website, including the reopening of land borders (with different hours) and the Tel Aviv airport "working as usual." It made it easier for tourists to leave Israel.

Until October 9, Amman was still safe. And, as far as I know, most Chinese tourists were safe, despite being forced to cancel and change plans.

I booked new accommodations in Jordan in a hurry. I attempted to locate a flight back to China earlier but was unable to do so due to a lack of reasonable options. Then I called Agoda to cancel the hotels in Israel and contacted an insurance company to see if they could pay part of my losses.

Stuck in Amman with bags packed for a trip to Jerusalem
Zhu Shenshen / SHINE

A TV broadcast of the "war" in a sweet shop in Amman.

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