I arrived in Jordan hoping to find a "warm" peace between Jordan and Israel; what I found was at times as cold as the snow that blanketed Amman's many hills.
Many Israelis hold affection for the late King Hussein, and respect for the incumbent King Abdullah II. I can't say I found much similar sentiment from Jordanians toward Israel. While I encountered considerable warmth as an American, and acceptance as a Jew, the general sentiment toward Israel was antagonistic.
Jordanians I met on a minibus to Madaba said, "In America, there are good people and bad people, but in Israel, there are only bad people."
I scoffed at them, and asked how many Israelis they knew. Not a single one, they answered. I did find a few Jordanians who replied to me in Hebrew when I mentioned I was a Jew. A friend's father surprised his own son as he conversed with me in Hebrew, thanks to his days studying in Jerusalem. He said he held warm affection for Israel. The range of feelings I witnessed could hardly be classified as black and white.
If peace is the absence of war, the treaty between Israel and Jordan is holding firmly, and there remain substantial ties between the countries. "We have a peace treaty since 1994, 12 solid years of peace. It is stable and important for both peoples and both sides, and helps bring stability to the region," says Lironne Bar-Sadeh, the deputy head of mission at the Israeli Embassy in Amman.
Since the peace treaty was signed in October 1994, links have expanded on many levels. In areas such as agriculture, the environment and business, there have been solid developments and considerable cooperation. Between Israel and Jordan, there are 13 Qualified Industrial Zones that host more than 50 factories, allowing Jordan to export goods duty-free to the American market. These symbols of cooperation boost Jordanian trade and employment.
Israel and Jordan have many common interests, notably regarding water. They share resources at the Dead Sea, and cooperate on the Red-Dead plan in an effort to preserve this common treasure. And MASHAV - the Foreign Ministry's development arm, is bringing a group of Jordanians to Israel for a workshop on water conservation and desalination.
Meanwhile, there are creative ideas for increased cooperation such as a shared airport that would allow tourists to land in Aqaba and take a train to Eilat. Another proposal being discussed relates to the shmita year, in which the Land of Israel is supposed to lie fallow, to allow the import of produce from Jordan.
Around 20 Israeli NGOs work with their Jordanian counterparts on areas ranging from the environment, cultural and sport exchanges, medical projects and empowerment for women; at least a half-dozen of these NGOs are involved in intimate people-to-people exchanges.
While I was in Jordan, I visited with many campers from Seeds of Peace, which I worked for as a counselor last summer. The camp brings together teenagers from across the region, as well as from India and Pakistan. They learn that the other side is not the monster they've been brought up to believe.
These Jordanians spending time with their neighbors from the other side of the Jordan River, were a wellspring of hope. Their words and sentiments were proof of the power of dialogue and the hope of better relations between neighbors. As personal connections slowly increase between Israelis and Jordanians, as well as ties on governmental and nongovernmental levels, we can hope for a more robust peace to slowly build.
5 days ago