War Over the Airwaves in Eilat

by Brian on December 16, 2010

in A Parent in Israel,Jewish Holidays and Culture,Politics,Travel

Resting at the top of the mountain

In 1947, the U.N. partition plan designated the sleepy port of Eilat as the southernmost tip of the new Jewish state. It wasn’t until the final days of the War of Independence, however, when Israel took control of the town in an operation that surprised the small platoon of Jordanian troops stationed in mud huts in what was then called Umm Rashrash.

The Jordanians surrendered without a fight and, today, the Red Sea border town is a major international tourist destination, favored by Europeans escaping the cold winters of the continent.

The war for Eilat is not quite over, though. It’s now being fought in the airwaves for control of our cell phones.

We were on a week’s vacation in Eilat last week and went for a hike in an area called Amram’s Pillars, west of Highway 90, the main artery connecting the far north and southern poles of the country. We chose a barren trail that climbed steeply up Mount Amram for a stunning view of the entire Eilat area, before plunging down into the mysterious red limestone rock formations where the ancient Egyptians once mined copper some 3,000 years ago.

As we trekked up and down the hills, our cell phones all began to ring at once. Who wanted us so badly when we were communing with the infinite desert?

It was Jordan calling. Or more accurately, our Israeli cell phone provider Orange was warning us that we were no longer connected to Israel’s mobile network and that any call we made would be routed through Amman at a hefty premium.

A few seconds later, it was Orange again, welcoming us back to Israel. And then it was Jordan calling. And Israel. The virtual tussle for atmospheric supremacy went on for much of the day, each time resulting in a barrage of SMS’s.

The funny thing was, despite our cell phones’ warnings to the contrary, we had no usable reception. When our group got separated at one point, not even our friendly neighbor King Abdullah could intervene to get our phones to connect.

Two days later, we set out for another tiyul, this one along the Egyptian border, through the Red Canyon and up an equally spectacular lunar landscape. This time, though, there was no aerial tug of war.

Egypt, having received the Sinai back twice – after the 1956 and Yom Kippur wars – had apparently conceded the airwaves to Israel.

Our tiyul to Amram’s Pillars was Aviv’s ninth “bar mitzvah tiyul.” You can read his description about the trip and see lots of great pictures here on his bar mitzvah blog.

UPDATE: Aviv’s tenth bar mitzvah hike blog post is now live. Read it here.

This post appeared earlier this week on the Israelity blog.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Rahel January 12, 2011 at 11:56 am

The same thing happened to me when I was near the Dead Sea. “Welcome to Jordan!” said the text message on my cellphone. And I thought: I don’t remember crossing the border….

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