JORDAN

The Living Queen at the Dead Sea


By Jheri St. James




“In many ways, war is easier than peace. We are seeing that over and over, on all sides, in conflicts around the globe. It is easier to shout than to listen. It is easier to nurse old wounds than to have the courage to extend your hand to an ancient enemy. It is much easier to be sure you’re right, than to wonder where you might be wrong.”
(Queen Noor, 15 February 2003.)

Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan is an international humanitarian activist with an outspoken voice on issues of world peace and justice. She was born Lisa Najeeb to an Arab-American family distinguished for its public service After receiving her degree in Architecture and Urban Planning from Princeton University in 1974, Queen Noor has participated in many international urban planning and design projects worldwide. Since her marriage in 1978 to King Hussein, Queen Noor has founded and supported initiatives in Jordan to address specific national needs in the areas of education, sustainable development, women’s empowerment, human rights and cross-cultural understanding. She is also actively involved in myriad international and UN organizations that address challenges in these fields, as well as peace-building and conflict recovery. She has received many awards and honorary doctorates in international relations and humane letters. She published two books, Hussein of Jordan (2000) and Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life (2003) published in 15 languages. Queen Noor speaks Arabic, English and French and enjoys skiing, water skiing, sailing, horseback riding, reading, gardening and photography (from http://www.noor.gov.jo/personal_profile.htm)

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Jordan, officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is an Arab country in the Middle East in western Asia. It is bordered by Syria to the north, Iraq to the northeast, Saudi Arabia to the east and south, and Israel to the west. It shares with Israel the coastlines of the Dead Sea, and the Gulf of Aqaba with Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the UK received a mandate to govern much of the Middle East. Britain separated out a semi-autonomous region of Transjorden from Palestine in the early 1920’s and the area gained its independence in 1946; it adopted the name of Jordan in 1950. The capital of Jordan is Amman, where the Friday weekly call to prayer attracts the faithful to the Husseini mosque.

 

 

King Abdullah I ruled Jordan after independence from Britain. After the assassination of King Abdullah I in 1951, his son King Talal ruled briefly. King Talal’s major accomplishment was the creation of the Jordanian constitution. King Talal was removed from the throne in 1952, at which time his son, Hussein, was too young to rule, and hence a committee ruled over Jordan. After Hussein reached 18, he ruled Jordan as king from 1953 to 1999, surviving a number of challenges to his rule and serving as a symbol of unity and stability for both the Bedouin and Palestinian communities in Jordan. King Abdullah II succeeded his father Hussein following the latter’s death in 1999. Abdullah moved quickly to reaffirm Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel and its relations with the United States. While King Abdullah remains the ultimate authority in Jordan, the parliament plays an important role.

… as much as it dominates the headlines, it is important to remember that the Middle East is not the only place on earth threatened by war. As you sit here tonight, there are ongoing conflicts in Angola, the Balkans, Burundi, Colombia, Indonesia, Kashmir, the Philippines, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. In Angola alone, some estimates place the death toll at one and a half million people since the conflict began in 1975. In Zimbabwe, millions face starvation. Burundi has suffered the loss of over 200,000 people. Bear in mind, these are not just armies shooting at each other — these are neighbor against neighbor. Since 1989, 97 out of 103 armed conflicts were internal. 70 percent of all war casualties since World War II have been civilians, rising to more than 90 percent in the 1990s. But numbers can tell only a fraction of the tragedy. Each death results in broken families, wage earners lost, and children without parents -- let alone an education or even rudimentary health care.” (Ibid.)

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No description of Jordan would be complete without mention of two of its most important landmarks: The Dead Sea and Petra. The Dead Sea is the lowest spot on earth, 413 meters below sea level and 330m deep (1,083 feet), making it the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. It is also the world's saltiest body of water apart from Lake Asal in Djibouti. With 30 percent salinity, it is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. The Dead Sea is 67 km (42 miles) long and 18 km (11 miles) wide at its widest point. It lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, and its main tributary is the Jordan River.

This was the site for the Common Ground 191 soil collection, taken by Jock Whittlesey, of the U.S. Embassy in Jordan. A man of few words and loud-spoken actions, it is easy to read into his choice of locale many metaphors for life and death on our planet—the ultimate results of war, particularly next to the hot spot for war in our world today. Words are superfluous, other than a deep thank you.



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The other place of wonder in Jordan is Petra. Carved out of rock, Petra was designated a World Heritage Site in 1985 and goes beyond any definition of art, a massive sculptural achievement. There is no way to discern when the history of Petra began. Some portions seem to have been grave sites for kings. Two types of tombs are distinguished there, Nabataean and Greco-Roman. In October and November of 2006, 59,000 people visited this famous site.

“When he (King Hussein) left the hospital to help guide the Wye agreement — and, he fervently hoped, the peace process — out of stalemate, he said: ‘We quarrel, we agree; we are friendly, we are not friendly. But we have no right to dictate through irresponsible action or narrow-mindedness that future of our children and their children’s children. There has been enough destruction, enough death, enough waste. And it’s time that, together, we occupy a place beyond ourselves.”’(Ibid)


“War can seem right from a distance. But the viewpoint changes the closer you are to the conflict.” (Ibid)

The Temple of Artemis is another landmark in Jordan, home to the goddess of long ago. Perhaps the ships that once sailed the Dead Sea were named after queens. Noor is a current matriarch of this ancient land. But let us remember that Queen Mother Earth predates all of them, and it is her issue, soil, which we collect at Common Ground 191, and her ubiquitous presence that embraces all our lives. The word for peace in Jordan is Salam.

“... I've seen it around the world, in the poorest countries and in countries riven with conflict, ... It is women who are the key to breaking out of poverty, breaking out of stagnation. ... It's women who can contribute to achieving real security -- not bombs and bullets and repressive governments.”

“Over all the world men move unhoming, and eternally concerned;
a swarm of bees who have lost their queen.” Christopher Fry (1907--)



 


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