From Iraq to Turkey via Israel

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A vagabond shalt thou be in the earth Genesis 4:12

 

By www.roytov.com

 
Geography beats politics; well, almost always. One could even say that money beats politics; but, these two are too linked for this statement to make much sense. Since the opening statement is almost always true, let’s begin with an odd geographical feature named the Beit Shean Valley.

The Jordan River runs from north to south amidst a valley which is deep below the sea level. The Jezreel Valley runs from west to east, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan Valley. The area where these valleys meet is misleadingly called Beit Shean Valley. Since the Jezreel Valley is higher than the Jordan one, they meet in a series of dramatic cliffs and several steps. The widest step forms the bulk of the Beit Shean Valley; the area next to the river is known as Zor. This is the site of what nowadays is called the Jordan River Border Crossing, and in the past the Sheikh Hussein Bridge. It is the main access point between Jordan and Israel.

Beit Shean Valley

The Jordan Valley from Monastery of Quarantana”
 
“There is not such a bridge!”
Few people alive remember the Sheikh Hussein Bridge. It was blown up by the Palmah First Battalion of the Haganah (the IDF predecessor) on June 16, 1946. This event was part of a massive terror operation known as The Night of the Bridges, during which nine bridges were destroyed. In two bridges the operation failed; three others were spared by the political level behind the operation. It is one of the few actions committed by the Jewish Resistance Movement (JRM, Tnuat HaMeri Haivri), an ad hoc alliance between the Hagana, Etzel and Lehi. This event combined with the attack on the King David Hotel led to the dismantlement of the JRM. After that, the road between Beit Shean and Irbid, a principal city and crossroads in Jordan, was cut until 1994, when the Peace Agreement between Jordan and Israel led to the construction of a new bridge.
A fact telling a lot about Israel is that the its side of the facility is administered by the Israel Airports Authority. The closest thing to an airplane passing through the area are massive amounts of birds during their seasonal migrations between Africa and Europe. Simply, this is the most proficient organization dealing with high security cross points.
Beit Shean Valley Map Northwards is the Jordan Valley, westwards is the Jezreel Valley Note the infamous fish pools mentioned in The Cross of Bethlehem

Strategic Cross
Judah Maccabee is said to have used the bridge in the 2nd Century BC. In 63BC, Roman Emperor Pompey used this bridge to reach Beit Shean; in 638AD the Muslims used it to conquer Holy Land. Simply, the cross offers a unique access to the coastal plains. Nowadays, it provides the Kingdom of Jordan with a valuable access to the Mediterranean Sea.
Jordan River Border Terminal Holy Water From the Jordan River
 

Despite their unwillingness to admit that, Israel and Jordan are extremely close (Jordan Announces Isratine ). The latest problem between the two is related to Israeli tourists, who were denied return to Israel on April 4, 2013. The Jordanian security officer assigned to them (Israelis can travel only in groups in Jordan, every group is assigned a policeman) had drowned in mysterious circumstances in a shallow waditoured by the group. Not even this could harm the romance between the regimes. On April 11, 2013, Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s largest paid newspaper, disclosed that the two countries are cooperating in the transfer of goods from Iraq to Turkey.



Jordan River Crossing
 

Israeli-Turkish Thaw
Following the American-forced Israeli apology to Turkey (Netanyahu’s Road to Damascus), Turkey found a solution to an urgent problem. The roads connecting it with Irak had become unsafe due to the conflict in Syria. The triple border among the countries is home to many Syrian refugees and the civil war had spilled over the border. Several truck robbery events convinced Turkey to search alternatives. Israel was happy to comply.

The logistic are simple enough to be handled by the Israel Airports Authority. Trucks arrive from Jordan and Iraq at the Jordan River Crossing, where their goods are passed onto Israeli trucks, which continue through the Jezreel Valley to the Haifa Port. From there, they continue oversea to Turkey. The route works in both directions. The transported goods are worth tens of millions of dollars per month.
The Israeli report ended acidly: “The goods and deliveries undergo a strict security check in order to prevent the option of taking advantage of the Israeli gesture, which does not involve a very high profit for Israel, in order to carry out terror attacks or transfer weapons.” Please allow me to return the gesture. Part of the problems along the Turkish-Iraqi border are due to the activity of Kurdish PKK fighters in the area. Israel has particularly close relations with the Kurds in Iraq (The Next Neighbor: Netanyahu and the PKK) to the extent that these days a group of Iraqi Kurds is being trained in Kibbutz Afikim on the use of a modern dairy facility. Did Israel ask its good friends to heat up their border with Turkey in order to get control on a main supply chain of Turkey?

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Roi Tov is a graduate—among others—of Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science. In addition to his memoir, Tov is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Molecular Physics and other scientific journals. He won various travel writing and photography awards. In his writings, he tries to reveal life in Israel as a Christian Israel Defense Force (IDF) officer—from human rights violations to the use of an extensive network of underground agents. He was recognized first as a refugee and subsequently as political prisoner of Bolivia.