I’ve moved to Philadelphia. Or at least that’s what the Ancient Greeks used to call it.
Today it’s called Amman, Jordan.
Yes, that Jordan: where John the Baptist baptized Jesus of Nazareth, where the Israelites crossed into the Promised Land, where Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt.
Where there’s some of the most scenic hiking, biking, and diving in the world, not to mention archeological exploring. If you secretly wanted to be Indiana Jones or Lawrence of Arabia, Jordan is the country for you.
Although border configurations in this part of the Middle East have changed several times in the past several decades, the Land of Milk & Honey (or Canaan) was originally Jordanian territory. Nowadays, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan exists east of the Jordan River, in one of the world’s toughest neighborhoods, bordering Israel/West Bank, Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.
That means I’m stuck out in part of the desert where God’s Chosen People wandered for 40 years.
Believe me, you have to put a LOT of effort into wandering for 40 years in deserts this small, even with a million or two travelers on foot. It’s like saying it took you 40 years to get from Rome to Florence.
Or Seattle to Portland.
So, you have to wonder why the Israelites wanted so badly not to arrive in the Promised Land in a timely fashion that they did pretty much everything possible to avoid it!
Even after 4 decades of meandering and backtracking and stalling, they finally arrived on Mount Nebo, where God had told Moses he could view the Promised Land from afar, but would not be allowed to enter. (Read why in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, Book of Numbers, Chapter 20.)
I’ll write a post from Mount Nebo later. And from the Dead Sea. And from Petra, the ancient pink city in the south of Jordan, which isn’t lost at all, contrary to what Indiana Jones keeps telling people.
The Middle East is the happening region on the planet right now and the Arab Spring is changing the political, social, and economic landscape of the 21st century.
Jordan, a constitutional monarchy, is calm and it’s no mistake that’s where people in the region run to when there’s trouble. Consequently, of Jordan’s 6 million population, 2 million are Palestinians, who can have Jordanian citizenship if they choose. In fact, Jordan’s Queen Rania comes from a Palestinian family.
There are also 500,000 Iraqi refugees, self-professed short-timers awaiting stability back home, whose arrival jacked up all the real estate prices in Amman, as I discovered when I started looking for an apartment.
Then, King Abdullah recently stated in the press that Jordan is hosting 80,000 Syrian refugees so far.
Do the math and imagine for a moment what it would be like if your country, percentage-wise, hosted that many guests at once, predominantly at your expense.
Yes, you: the unemployed or underemployed taxpayer.
(Read one of the few books about the Middle East peace process that you don’t have to be a foreign policy expert to relate to, an autobiography of sorts written by a reigning monarch who’s only 50 years old (unlike many of those ancient guys in the region we have no clue about, and vice-versa): King Abdullah II of Jordan’s Our Last Best Chance: The Pursuit of Peace in a Time of Peril.)