Friday, June 29, 2007

“Render Unto Caesar . . .”

June 29, 2007

Today being Friday and the Moslem Holy Day, I was surprised to find this little independent shop open. Since a friend had told me about it, I stopped to check it out. There were two other customers there and two young male clerks. Hardly five minutes after I entered one of the clerks began lowering the shutters on the front of the shop. I thought they were preparing to close for lunch and didn’t want any more customers to enter which sometimes happens. Always the customers are encouraged to stay and continue their shopping. This was not the case today. The clerk told the three of us to leave so that they could go to pray! This has never happened to me before in all the years I have lived here. My first thought was, why did you open your shop on a Friday if you were so keen to attend noon prayers? All due respect to the religious practices of others, there is a time and a place for everything. If I was sitting in the dentist chair in the middle of a dental procedure and the dentist left me to pray, I would certainly question his professional behavior and his priorities. Then I would find another dentist!


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Securing the Streets

Yesterday King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia arrived in Amman to visit King Abdullah of Jordan. The amount of effort needed to make this visit a safe one would be huge. Securing the streets of Amman alone was a major job and I didn’t envy the hundreds of soldiers and policemen who were in the hot sun for hours. I also didn’t envy the vast number of people who were stuck in hopeless traffic tangles in the heat either. I didn’t see any of the camels and sheep being slaughtered when the official motorcade passed by, although I know of one foreign visitor who made it a point to witness this Arab tradition of welcome for an honored guest. For me, the most unusual sight was the number of people who were walking. I have never seen so many pedestrians walking in the Shmeisani area before. The heat, normally a deterrent, was tolerated because people had no choice.

Yesterday reminded me of two other events that required immense security arrangements in Amman. One was the PNC (Palestinian National Council) meeting in November 1984 and the other was the Arab Summit in November 1987. Yasser Arafat stayed over a week chairing this historic conference of the PNC, and the Arab Summit was attended by 22 Heads of State from the Arab World. Security was such that people who lived in the Shmeisani area had special IDs and passes for their cars or they could not move from their homes. These security measures lasted for days – very long, quiet days they were as well. I didn’t see people walking and only an occasional car would go by. If I remember correctly, even the birds were silent.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Paint Balls in Gilead

I think children have always loved to play war games. I’m sure I spent more hours playing them with my brothers than I spent in Sunday school. Both the games and the Sunday School lessons are vague memories now, but once in a while something will happen that will trigger a recall. This happened last Saturday when I attended my grandson’s birthday party in Jal’ad at the Paint Ball place.

I have been to Jal’ad several times and knew that this area is known as “the land of Gilead.” Historically this large mountainous area in the northwestern part of Jordan was fought over, lived in, and ruled by different ancient tribes. The detailed references to it in the Bible are in the books of Genesis, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The name ‘Gilead’ I remember from my Sunday school days; I must confess that the other details are courtesy of google.

As for the Paint Ball place – this is a wonderful 10 dunums of land arranged for war games. My grandson and his 11 guests suited up and donned face protectors. Armed with large rifles containing pellets of paint balls they divided into two teams to run around and shoot each other. They were timed, supervised, and had amazing fun. I know they will relive the details for a long time. An ancient game played in an ancient land with modern equipment that was imported, improvised, and managed by an innovative entrepreneur.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

I wish George W and Tony Blair had been with me this morning

I wish George W and Tony Blair had been with me this morning.

Up at the Jordan Red Crescent Hospital there is a programme run by the JRC and MSF (medicin sans frontieres) to treat injured Iraqis. I have been up there before but today was just more emotional and heartbreaking. To see this little 5 year old girl with burns over her body and her arm in bandages with the sweetest little smile on her face was truly humbling and hurtful. She was just one of many others who have appalling injuries due to this disgusting war that has been waged by the US and UK.

I took Cole Miller up there to meet Dr Mohammed Al Hadid the President of the JRC. Cole has his own organisation ( which helps bring Iraqi children, who have been injured by American munitions, to the USA for medical treatment. Not only does he get sponsorship to treat these young victims but he involves communities in the US to get to know these children so they understand what is going on in Iraq. He truly is an inspiration. T

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Who Polices the Police?

I want to know who one complains to when one sees a policeman either breaking a law, or behaving in an unprofessional manner? Although I am quite used to having cars drive toward me the wrong way on a one way street, I was startled to have a motorcycle policeman do it to me the other day. Had he had his siren on I might have understood it, but it wasn’t on and he didn’t appear to be chasing anyone, he was just taking a shortcut!

And at the crossroads of the Haya Center in Shemisani I watched a policeman directing traffic with one hand while smoking a cigarette with the other! Aren’t there regulations concerning smoking while on duty….especially while directing traffic?

If the Police aren’t setting examples in their behavior to the public, then who is? Or are there a set of laws that apply to them and another set for us??

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Development and Impoverished Souls

In the last few years Jordan has really ascended the ladder of development. Every day we see new roads being built, bridges, gated communities, hotels, malls etc. and, if real estate development were the main index, we would surely be near the top rung. But sadly, this development seems to have brought with it a creeping descent into materialism, particularly here in Amman. There seems to be such a drive to become rich, to have bigger homes, better cars, fancier clothes, bigger weddings and more expensive jewelry. Everywhere one goes in Amman life seems to be about having or making money and I wonder what it is all in aid of? Does it really make for happier people and better citizens? Or does this drive for wealth make people forget their faith, their respect for authority, their families, and just plain decency?
Fortunately I have the chance to drive out of Amman fairly frequently and visit with some bedouin friends. Yesterday was one of those days. Recently this group of women were telling me how difficult their lives had become due to the rise in prices of ordinary food stuffs and high taxes. (One jokingly complained that she even had to pay a tax on her litdtle mobile phone prompting the woman next to her to add, "The next thing I suppose will be the government taxing us for having babies!!") But it is these women and their families that are the backbone of Jordanian society. And inspite of their complaints about the cost of living, they are the ones who are so fiercely proud of their country and their heritage. They are the ones who are the most generous, the most hospitable and the most loyal. And they are the ones that 'development' is supposed to be helping although they are often the last to benefit. Many continue to live in difficult conditions without adequate water and electricity, without good schools and hospitals, and without the means to buy enough food and medicines for their families. That old phrase, 'the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer' seems to be true.' Yet these bedouin friends are so rich in character and they are such a pleasure to be with for they have not impoverished their souls by losing their pride, honor, and dignity to the God of money................z

"Why Palestine Matters"

Apologies for pasting the following article in its entirety .. but until the Jordan Times newspaper sorts out the ridiculous state of affairs of its on-line web site that does not allow for on line archives .... you will have to bear with me ... J

Why Palestine Matters By Roger H. Lieberman

In driving around central New Jersey of late, I have observed a great many signs on schools and houses of worship proclaiming the urgency of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. This is perfectly right and natural. The deteriorating situation in that beleaguered region of western Sudan certainly deserves concern and assistance from people worldwide.
What is troubling, however, is how little concern seems evident, at similar venues, for a political and humanitarian crisis far older and far more attributable to US foreign policy — indeed made possible by American taxpayers. Where, among the schools, churches, synagogues and libraries of suburbia, are the expressions of grief and outrage over the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land?
Fifty-nine years after Israel was established by force on 78 per cent of Mandate Palestine, and 40 years after its armies occupied the remaining 22 per cent in the Six-Day War, the majority of Americans outside progressive and intellectual circles seem divided between those who are disturbingly apathetic about the conflict and those who blindly adhere to the Israeli narrative.
As long as this status quo persists, hopes for a just peace in the Holy Land will elude fulfilment.
What accounts for this baffling indifference or antipathy to basic Palestinian rights? Why, in God’s name, should the right of human beings to live in freedom and dignity in their native land be seen by any serious person as “controversial”? And why does the preponderance of US politicians, irrespective of their views on other matters, invariably adhere to the Zionist Party line when it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict?
The usual explanation for this sad state of affairs is the inordinate influence of the pro-Israel lobby on American politics and media, and the fear of running afoul of its banal taboos. But this does not account for why such propaganda has consistently found so receptive an audience, and why such taboos are taken so seriously by so many people.
Verily, America’s abject failure to support the fulfilment of Palestinian aspirations for freedom derives from the curious fact that Israel’s ideological milieu found early on a receptive audience, for rather different reasons, at both ends of the American political mainstream. As a result, many ordinary Americans, both Christian and Jewish, have grown up and lived much of their lives believing that Israel somehow embodies the values, liberal or conservative, they admire in the United States. But this is a fabrication, and recognising that Israel’s behaviour conforms to no healthy manifestation of American ideals is essential for the constructive reformation of US Middle East policy.
Liberals have consistently maintained their support for Israel on the premise that it is a “democracy”, in contrast to the supposedly intractable “dictatorial” nature of “Arab regimes”. While seemingly accurate in describing the status quo inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders, this conception ignores the ugly reality that Israeli “democracy” has, from day one, been subordinated to religious and ethnic chauvinism. Israel, according to long-standing Zionist precepts, can only function democratically by maintaining an overwhelming Jewish majority in the country.
From this policy stemmed the mass-expulsion of Palestinian Muslims and Christians in 1948, and the denial of the right of return and restitution to them and their descendants ever since. It further entailed the imposition of martial law over the remaining “Israeli Arabs” until 1966, and their marginalisation as second-class citizens to the present day. Finally, it inspired the aggressive confiscation of erstwhile Palestinian lands by the Israeli state, and an all-consuming quest for Jewish immigrants from every conceivable source — lately going so far as to include obscure tribes from the Himalayas and South America who only recently adopted the Jewish faith. Such policies bear scant resemblance to the ideals of America’s Founding Fathers, but do recall the Old World tyrannies they so despised — as well as totalitarian states of more recent times.
American rightists, for their part, have tended to extol Israel as a model of “pioneer” achievement and as a vanguard of “Western civilisation” battling “barbarism” and “backwardness”. This boilerplate rhetoric derives largely from fundamentalist Protestant dogma about “manifest destiny” that figured prominently in American culture during the settlement of the western frontier in the 19th Century. It attempts to cast Palestinians in a role equivalent to the Native American tribes who were “swept aside” to “make way” for “progress” in the days of the Gold Rush, the Cattle Boom and the Trans-Continental Railroad.
Although no one should trivialise the wrongs done to Native Americans during the westwards expansion of the United States, only a rudimentary knowledge of Palestinian life in the centuries prior to the advent of Zionism is necessary to understand that such comparisons are ludicrous in the extreme. While few indigenous peoples north of Mexico had advanced beyond a Neolithic, or even Mesolithic, cultural stage by the time Europeans arrived, Palestinians had maintained for centuries a sophisticated economy and culture based on agriculture and vibrant mercantile traditions. Palestine remained throughout the Mediaeval and Ottoman periods a crossroads of Asia, Europe and Africa, supporting important religious and scholarly institutions of Muslim, Christian and Jewish affiliation.
Far from being an “empty land” awaiting settlers to “make the desert bloom”, pre-Zionist Palestine was a land full of its own possibilities, blessed by enterprising people with high hopes for the future. Indeed, no one in recent times has done quite so effective a job in making the Holy Land barren and deprived of a promising future as the Israeli occupation forces with their bewildering, Kafkaesque matrix of closures, walls and checkpoints.
Having dispelled the twin illusions that have persistently stymied American understanding of the Israel-Palestine conflict, it becomes much easier to conceive of a time — very soon, God willing — when a broad, emphatic consensus will exist in America that upholds the equality of Palestinians and Israeli Jews in all matters of civil, economic and national rights.
One can perceive without difficulty the many benefits, both international and domestic, that will result from such a fundamental paradigm shift. First, and most obviously, it will turn back the tide of extremism and communal fragmentation that is engulfing the Middle East from Baghdad to Beirut and Gaza. Supporting Israel’s occupation and subjugation of Palestine has put America on a disastrous collision course with near-universal sentiment in the region, fuelling ever widening wars that jeopardise American lives and foretell a dark future of mutual fear and loathing for all concerned. Ending that occupation promptly and without equivocation, in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative, is the indispensable first step to restoring sanity in the Middle East and America’s role there.
For Americans at home, there are further gains to be realised. Grassroots support for justice and reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis will provide a powerful moral force in American life based on dialogue and cooperation between Christians, Jews and Muslims. Such a development is essential to counter the divisive influence of rightwing ideologues who denigrate Islam and relentlessly push for racial profiling and other assaults on civil liberties.
As in many societies throughout history, the decline of rituals and family values in contemporary America has created a vacuum which irresponsible bigots and militarists have exploited as a path to personal aggrandisement. The only antidote for this dire problem is an authentic sense of American morality rooted in the quest for peace and understanding. There is no better place to begin this all-out effort than the struggle for justice in Palestine — the land that gave rise to the ethical traditions which unite Islam and the West. When the words “End the Israeli occupation” hang in front of schools and houses of worship in every middle-class American town, when teachers, ministers and rabbis feel free to speak with passion about Palestinian rights, America will begin the rediscovery of its soul, and its moral bequest from civilisations past.

The writer is a graduate of Rutgers University. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Hope ...

There is a street in downtown Amman where you can find international airline companies and travel agencies ....
... on the opposite side of the road, you can find this lone travel agency .... a symbol of hope for Palestine if ever there was one ... J

Oh for Christ's Sake ....

The arrogance of western hegemony is at it again under the guise of professed expertise in international security….that's the reason we are in this mess in the first place. Just read the recent article by Joris Voorhoeve on the Middle East's five crises in the Jordan Times … every other word makes me sick to my stomach … that self righteous 'holier than thou' white man's logic that got us into this mess many centuries ago … and now they think they can impose what was obviously the deception all along – divide and rule…. and more violence for ever and ever, amen.

He talks about the UN, the Security Council the EU and the Arab League … as bastions of all that is pure and holy and right … forgetting all along that these tools of the political trade lost their moral compass long ago. The founders of the UN post WWII must be turning in their graves to see their courageous and human stand against evil and power politics being ravaged by precisely those who do what they do in the Middle East, through lies, distortion, corruption, and self serving rhetoric …. Rhetoric and apologists for the State of Israel it seems, is all they are capable of these days, they can't even enforce the dozens of UN Security Council Resolutions outstanding against Israel that would have brought peace decades ago.

The saddest part of all is that the communities of the Middle East fall for it every time; we are all guilty for the mess in the Middle East that has been building up to this for the last century. Why do we continually confess to being in despair … it should not have been a surprise. We fall victim to the lies, corruption, violence time and time again, pawns in the hands of a perpetual power game, where peculiar notions of honour have twisted the Arab moral compass at every turn …pitting Muslim against Muslim, Arab against Arab.

And then we have Zionism just down the road, a fascist political doctrine that feeds on racism and violence (note what is threatening to happen to Iran and Syria from the Zionist (or Neocon) camp from Israel to US) … We don't need the likes of Voorhoeve to dictate what needs to be done in our own newspapers at this time … space and respect should be given to our own and action taken based on 'indigenous thought'.

The question is … can the courage be found to unshackle Arab cultural and political identity from layers of censorship so that it may take its rightful place within the league of nations and do a bit of dictating of its own? J

Friday, June 15, 2007

cheating landlords

I have a Filipina girl come once a week to help me with my housework. She lives downtown and shares a small room with her cousin. I was shocked (don't know why!!) to find that they pay JD80 per month for this small room with no bathroom or kitchen facilities, but even worse is that they pay a minimum of JD 10 per month for electricity and all they have are some lights and a small tv in their room. As for water they pay JD 3 a week as the building has been cut off from mains water because the landlord has not paid his bills. My water bill for 3 months is about JD 5. If they complain the landlord just says go and find somewhere else. With rents going up it is impossible for them to find different accommodation and they are far too scared to complain to the authorities. Are there are any laws regulating the renting of rooms/apartments/houses and what the landlord should provide? T

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Macabre Lullaby

Yesterday I visited my niece’s photo gallery on a Picasa website and looked at recent family pictures. Daily I am able to chat with my daughters and see them on my web camera. I stand in awe at the instant communication available through my computer as Jordan moves down the communications highway. I waited at least eight years to have a telephone when I came to Jordan in 1959 and relied on air-letters, pre-stamped 35 fils, to keep in touch with my family. I wrote in a cramped style without margins in order to maximize space on those sheets of paper and mailed them knowing I would wait two weeks, if I was lucky, for an answer. Magnificent and unbelievable changes continue to take place!

But some things in our region have not changed; they are worse. The plight of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and on their own soil in occupied Gaza and the West Bank is deplorable. I refer to an article from The Guardian, June 12, 2007 titled: Inside Lebanon’s largest Palestinian camp: ‘Escape is impossible,’ for vivid descriptions of hopelessness. Three generations of Palestinians have had their lives twisted and thwarted, breeding desperation and violence which we are now witnessing in Lebanon. Certainly the Lebanese policy regarding refugees has been to isolate them so that they may not enter mainstream life within the country. Their reasons are political, with ethnic and religious power playing a major role. Add to this the simple fact that Lebanon didn’t create the problem so why should they address it? Are they thinking that those who made the mess will fix it?

In the meantime, I am lulled into complacency and silence by my computers, gizmos, and gadgets while several million human beings are being denied their rights, and the freedom to pursue their lives as they wish. This isn’t happening half way around the world, it is right here in the countries next-door to Jordan. Lebanon must accept the fact that the powers that created this mess are not going to make it better. The USA and Europe are shirking responsibility at every turn and will continue to exploit the peoples and resources of the Middle East as long as they can get away with it. Maybe it is time for Lebanon to take the lead and solve its own internal dilemma with the Palestinians. Maybe it’s time for the countries of the Middle East to accept responsibility for the problems within their borders and do something about them. I think 60 years is long enough to get the message.


doing a u turn in Mecca Street & trash cans

Driving home the other evening I saw this wonderful sight doing a u-turn at the bottom of Mecca Street.

Has anyone noticed the sudden appearance of green trash cans round the city? Just amazes me that they could be so inappropriately sited in the middle of the roads! Do we have to get out of our cars, brave the hazards of crossing and then throw our rubbish away and then get back. And how on earth are they going to collect the rubbish from these bins???? Someone must have bought a job lot from somewhere and managed to get the Municipality to buy them. Surely we should be persuading people to take their trash home with them, not create places that will become rubbish dumps in their own right. T

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Weddings in Jordan

Who chooses what kind of wedding? Is it the bride and groom or the various parents? Or does society dictate? Whatever the income of the family do they go mad on what is spent?

Sitting at the hairdresser I picked up a magazine which I would normally not bother with (Living Well - Weddings). I know this magazine is directed at a certain type of reader - the rich! But it did leave me with a nasty taste in my mouth at the overt consumerism. I felt quite sick at the advertisements for diamonds, designer wedding dresses, honeymoons in exotic resorts etc etc. The whole magazine screamed greed to me. This is for a few hours which should be special but not focus on what is spent.

How many of you have spent hours bored to tears at yet another wedding where you cannot hear a thing except the pulsating music? I wish that a bit more emphasis was put on the marriage not the wedding but then, of course, that would not put money in the pockets of the jewellers, florists, clothes shops, hotels, hairdressers, DJs, photographers and so on. Not forgetting, of course, the magazines! T

Friday, June 08, 2007

Hurricanes and Paris Hilton

Yesterday when I phoned my Aunt in America to tell her about my daughter's horrific experience surviving the hurricane in Muscat, I was once again reminded that unless the news is about oil shipping, or Paris Hilton, the American public are ignorant about what is happening in the rest of the world. Dear Aunt Dolores hadn't even heard about the hurricane, much less that Talla and family were stranded in the upstairs of their home while their downstairs filled with water. I had a cell telephone conversation with my terrified 11 year old granddaughter that broke my heart but which I had to respond to in a forceful and direct way assuring her that she and her family would be okay, that they would be rescued and she needed to be brave. All of this while I had no assurance that they would be safe, that they wouldn't be forced onto the roof of their house, the last place to go. Thankfully instead of the water rising, it receded and friends were able to get to them yesterday morning and get them out.

Of course, while dealing with a crisis the only focus is on the safety of the loved ones, in this is only after they are safe that one can begin to assess the loss of the precious items gathered lovingly during a marriage. Gone are the photo albums, the home videos of growing children, the journals that Larry began for each of his girls, writing in them at times on a daily basis, telling them what had happened that day, pasting in pictures and putting down the funny things that they had said and done, making a record for them to read in future years. Gone is the piano, the cars, the recipes....some from my mother that Talla had rescued when I was about to toss them out, the girls school work pasted on the refrigerator and walls of the kitchen. Too many things to list...but then again, just "things."

No doubt my family will be able to pick up their lives and begin again. They have good jobs, wonderful friends, great family support and resources that they will be able to draw on. My heart goes out to those in Oman like them, who have lost everything, but don't have the strong support system that my children do. I know that to many people the fact that Paris Hilton got out of jail yesterday is their most important news item, or that the oil shipments coming from the Arabian Sea weren't too interrupted due to this annoying hurricane, and therefore their gasoline prices won't be raised too much in their local station. All I can say to them is “wake up Americans (and others), there is a whole world out there...with people who have lives very much like yours...if you would just dig a little a bit more...demand more comprehensive news coverage, you might just be able to touch and understand the humanity of the world around you….and make this earth a better place."

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Who Owns the Streets?

I would like to know who owns the streets in Amman? I took these photos as an example of what you see all over the city. On this particular street there are signs on both sides of the road designating parking for either the Peking Restaurant or the Alqasr Hotel. “Parking attendants” are lounging around either insisting that they park your car for you, or telling you that you can’t park there unless you are going to their premise.

Can anyone tell me if this is legal and if so, who gives establishments the right to block the street to only their customers? When parking is at a premium all over the city, I think that this taking public access for personal usage is unacceptable.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Bad, Badder, Baddest!!

These days going out of the house and driving anywhere is beginning to be a little like living in Baghdad. You always wonder if your going to make it home again. Apart from the crazy graduating kids who careen around at all hours of the night, or those that are weaving about on the road while they discuss the color and cost of the shoes they bought on their mobile, one has to deal with the taxis that either snake in and out of traffic in a race to deliver their passengers or stop dead in front of you without a signal in order to pick up a passenger. But at least one can take them to court if there is an accident.

Worse are the lorries. They are traveling at breakneck speeds in order to deliver as many loads of sand as possible in 24 hours. God forbid you come to a red light with one of them behind you because you will surely end up in the sandbox yourself....for good. Court there won't help much.

But worst are the palace drivers.......This is the second time I write about them on this blog but they really do need a refresher course in driving etiquette. They seem to specialize in squeezing you off the bridge or road no matter how narrow, suddenly darting in front of you with inches to spare, or flying past with arms flailing and occasionally a hit on your car with their batons if you don't move fast enough. The problem here is, if you even so much as show your anger they threaten you with court and I'm sure there's no way you can win!................z

Beware Mad Max is on the loose ...

According to the Jordan Times, 4 June 2007

"Last month, the Jordan Tourism Board launched a promotional campaign throughout the Gulf region. The campaign, which will run until July 1, is targeting potential visitors through advertising in various media outlets. An extra 700,000 vehicles are expected to enter the country this summer, more than doubling the amount of traffic on the Kingdom’s roads. In order to deal with the influx, much of which comes from an upsurge in Gulf tourism, the Traffic Department is implementing a number of measures, which include beefing up the number of police officers on patrol and using helicopters to coordinate the flow of traffic in the capital. Traffic Department Director Colonel Hamdan Sarhan told The Jordan Times on Sunday, the department also intends to clamp down on violators of traffic regulations in a bid to reduce accidents. “The traffic law prohibits such practices as smoking, drinking and using cellphones while driving, he said, adding that an advertising campaign will be run to remind people of the danger of such actions. Traffic accidents are now the second leading cause of death in Jordan, with one person killed every 10 hours and five children dying each week, according to recent government figures. Some 98,049 road accidents were recorded last year resulting in 885 deaths, leaving Jordan second only to Egypt in the Arab world for the number of accidents. The violation of traffic regulations, unqualified drivers, narrow roads,sharp turns,inadequate sidewalks and poor planning are the main reasons behind road accidents."

So this is the reason for all this 'Dubaying' of Jordan - tourism - for which Jordanians have the honour of dying for the cause at a rate of 1 every ten hours. I suppose we should be happy that the Treasury is happy.

And meanwhile back in Amman we await their arrival with baited breath and make plans to leave it all to them in the summer for the following reason … the arrival of reckless Saudi men (and Saudi women who just love the chance to drive 'blind' in someone else's country, complete with the niqab but minus a license!).

Despite the good intentions to educate our illustrious visitors on a better way to drive around the country, these brethren seem to think they live in a perpetual state of the 'need for speed' (along with quite a few young Jordanian shebab too) as they arrogantly push the Jordanian motorist off the road (and the odd pedestrian who dares to venture out for a walk along the road side).

The worst road of all has to be the airport road – our gateway into Amman.

And meanwhile, our beloved traffic police just cannot keep up as the worst offenders drive off into the sunset with that 'mad max' look in his eye. Have you ever seen anyone stopped for reckless endangerment, inside overtaking, or worse still inside overtaking on the hard shoulder, missing municipal workers by centimeters as they clear away the rubbish that gets thrown out of car windows on a daily basis? (Witnessed that one yesterday on the way home from Madaba – Saudi again!)

Glad to hear our beleaguered traffic police force is receiving an infusion of money and support - but will it be enough to reduce traffic congestion or road accidents, just in the summer? We need it all year round! And here's another suggestion to save some money,sell off those gas guzzling American police cars...for scrap metal...and make better use of motorbikes - just like good old Mad Max - and then we too may live to enjoy our summer in peace. J

Sunday, June 03, 2007

renewing my driving licence!

I hate going up to the driver and vehicle licensing department in Marka but gritted my teeth this morning and made my way up there. Impossible to park in the car park especially with the way people just park in such a haphazard fashion - the blood pressure goes up before even starting! With a bit of wasta and being the widow of a shaheed I managed to get in the main entrance and park. A very nice lieutenant colonel then lent me a sergeant to take me through all the procedures.

When renewing your licence you should appear in person for a sight test by the doctor. Now I wonder how many members of the Royal Family, the Government, senior officers etc etc etc actually go up there? None, is my reckoning. It does seem a bit ridiculous doing the sight test as I reckon most Jordanian drivers can see but do they look is a different story.

I am supposing there is a rationale for the whole scenario but it really is a nightmare and the only consolation is that everyone is so nice and helpful. T

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Forty Years Ago

Forty years ago I was oblivious to the seriousness of the situation in the Middle East. Although I lived in Jerusalem then and knew that tensions were building up between Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and Israel, I was too busy with my small children and my life to be overly concerned. There were no newspapers in English and TV was a thing of the future. Jordan Radio aired 15 minutes of news in English daily, and although my husband had access to many Arabic stations, the news was long on passionate rhetoric and short on truth. But then, who in the Arab world could have predicted the pre-emptive strikes that Israel unleashed on Egypt, Syria, and Jordan on June 5, 1967?

The 5th was a Monday, and my little girls had school that day. I didn’t send them because they were sleepy after our weekend in Amman and a family visit. They were first and third graders and could afford to miss one day. Had they gone to their school near Damascus Gate, they would have been trapped there for days. I hate to think how terrifying that would have been for them and horrible for us. Even though they were at home with us during the war and had some semblance of security, they were emotionally traumatized.

We all survived and managed to go on with our lives under the subsequent Israeli occupation. We lived in fear and uncertainty every day. Our freedom of movement was restricted and we were subjected to selective scrutiny if we did leave East Jerusalem or the West Bank. With each passing year the grip of the occupation tightened and our hope that it would end diminished. After 15 years we returned to Amman to rebuild our lives.

Forty years have passed. Hundreds of thousands of children in Palestine have been and are still being traumatized by the occupation. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian homes have been bulldozed, thousands of businesses have been crushed, and land confiscation continues unabated – in fact one third of all Palestinian villages no longer exist. I have to face the fact the United Nations resolutions affecting Palestine won’t be applied, and that the Geneva conventions are only a token. International agreements do not seem to be binding on powerful countries. My disillusionment breeds cynicism and hopelessness.

Israel is less stable and secure within her borders and in the Middle East than it was 40 years ago. The Arab world has been wrenched into modern times in a most bloody fashion. All people in the Middle East deserve peace and the right to raise their families with hope for a better future. I cannot live without hope. It is time for bold men and women to make peace.


The despair of an American soldier

Check out Allen L. Roland's radio weblog - in search of truth: J