Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Citadel

My fellow blogger, J, has alerted us again to the development of the citadel for tourists. I find it a dilemma which isn’t new to tourism or to Jordan.

My husband had been involved in the International Hotel Association for the past 20 years and we faithfully went to their annual meetings. One debate that was ongoing among this group was the development of national sites, be they natural or man-made, as opposed to protecting them. Jordan is loaded in both natural wonders and historical places which are a part of its rich history. We could opt to close Petra to visitors in order to protect it. Then what? We could do the same for Jerash, Wadi Rum, and the ruins in Karak and Madaba. Then we lose a thriving tourism industry that gives jobs to people and hard currency to the country. Obviously protecting sites is not the absolute answer. Careless exploitation is not the answer either. Responsible development should take place and in most cases it is responsible or at least we hope so.

To be honest I haven’t followed the proposed plans for the Citadel, which by the way is one of my favorite places. I am not a museum enthusiast but I find the little museum there excellent. I have always found the openness and emptiness there soothing. At sunset the call to prayer reverberating up to the mountaintop from mosques all over Amman is a memorable experience. I do hope that whatever the plans are for the Citadel they are respectful of the site and its history both in architecture and function. Places that are too dangerous, unstable, or precious to develop should be cordoned off and forbidden to tourists. There should be no investment at a national site that reflect personal vested interest like the small Starbucks Coffee shop we saw inside the walls of the Forbidden City in China! Thanks J for the reminder. Maybe we can trigger some valuable discussion about the Citadel.


definition of cauldron - a situation of tension and stress

All hail the law that place thought and freedom of expression - one of the five pillars of democracy – inside a witch’s cauldron. Shudder the thought!

As Robert Burns said in his poem, "Here's a Health to them that's Awa'":

Here's a health to them that's awa;
Here's a health to Tammie, the Norlan' laddie,
That lives at the lug o' the law!

Here's freedom to them that would read,
Here's freedom to them that would write,

There's none ever fear'd that the truth should be heard,
But they whom the truth would indict.


Note: interesting debate on the above issue over at

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti

The pictures coming out of Haiti show what a disaster has befallen that poor country.

I am sure many Jordanian families are now extremely worried about the fate of their loved ones who are serving in the UN peacekeeping forces in Haiti. We all hope that they are safe and are managing to help all the victims of the earthquake. T

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The story of the scroll and the cobbler in Palestine

I am posting the following article to give insight into the subtext of life in Palestine, before it was so callously wiped off the map by Zionism and European subterfuge. We cling on to hope that one day soon we may all aspire to peace and security ... if we are allowed!

Growing up in Bethlehem with the Dead Sea Scrolls story
printed in the Jordan Times 7 January 2010

By Daoud Kuttab

The latest news about Jordan’s demands that Canada seize the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were on display in Toronto, brings back many childhood memories for me.

For perspective this is what has happened. Jordan has requested Canada to take custody of the scrolls, citing the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, to which both Jordan and Canada are signatories.

On display at the exhibition were artefacts taken from the Palestine Museum (also called the Rockefeller Museum) in East Jerusalem.

Last April, the Palestinian Authority tried to convince Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to refuse the exhibition. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad made the request during Harper’s visit to Ramallah.

Israel has rejected Jordan’s claims using some unusual language.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, made the preposterous claim that Jordan’s rule over fellow Arabs before 1967 was an “occupation” and stated that the “Kingdom relinquished all claims on the territories in the 1980s”,

Ironically the Jordanian-Israeli Peace Treaty clearly states the Kingdom’s role in as far as Jerusalem is concerned.

What really irked me was the lame excuse that the capture of antiques from a museum in an occupied area is legitimate, because “the scrolls have no connection to Jordan or the Jordanian people”.

Palmor argues for Israel’s right to these stolen artefacts on the basis that the “Dead Sea Scrolls are an intrinsic part of Jewish heritage and religion”.

I literally grew up with the details of the discovery and story of these scrolls that Israel is trying to claim Jordan and Palestine have no connection to. The house where I spent much of my childhood in Bethlehem in the 1960s was owned by the Kando family whose home was next door to ours. My dad would often tell us the story of the Dead Sea scrolls, beginning with how a shepherd named Mohammad Al Deeb’s herd of goats had run into one of the Jordan Valley caves in an area called Qumran. Deeb is said to have thrown a stone after the goat only to hear the sound of a ceramic pot breaking. When he entered he saw the leather scrolls and decided to take them to Bethlehem. Visiting a Christian Palestinian cobbler, Khalil Kando, Deeb asked to make him a sandal out of the leather parchments. But Kando saw the writing and knew that it was important so he offered the shepherd two leather sandals if he would tell him where he found the scrolls. Kando, who was a member of the Syrian Orthodox Church, sought the advice of his local bishop, who quickly realised the uniqueness and importance of the find, and is said to have sold it to the British Museum for half a million pounds.

In 1952, Kando, who had given up working as a cobbler and turned into an antique dealer, discovered numerous fragments and sold them to the Palestine Archaeological Museum and the École Biblique. It is these that were the focus of the Jordanian and Palestinian officials.

Fragments of every book of the Old Testament were found in several caves, not all of which are limited to the Jewish faith but are an integral part of Christianity. Islam also considers the Old Testament sacred.

Growing up in a home owned by the cobbler turned antique dealer Kando brought back memories of many of the details of this extraordinary discovery. Living near the Church of the Nativity for part of my childhood meant that we were close to the location and the circumstances of the birth of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago, which was prophesied by Prophet Isaiah in words that were etched in 10 BC.

Since I was a child, and until now, churches in Bethlehem and elsewhere often repeat the words written in Isaiah 7:14:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

No doubt these and other verses will be repeated these days as Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas today in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem.

The holy land is sacred to the three monotheistic religions. Claims of religious exclusivity and the use of this arrogance to justify the theft of land and the occupation of people have brought disastrous results. The sooner that we honour and recognise each other and our faith, the sooner we will be able to understand the soothing words of angels calling for Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all mankind.

7 January 2010