I was in a cab, on the way to the Jordanian city of Aqaba, and was talking with the garrulous driver when he asked me where I was from. I sat there for a second and thought about the truth. What was the truth?
I could have told him that I was from the U.S. That was true.
I could have told him that I was an Indiana boy from the northern suburbs of Indianapolis. That was even more true.
But, I decided to tell him what was the MOST true. I looked at him and said, “I’m from Israel.”
That didn’t surprise him, but he certainly surprised me by asking why more Israelis weren’t coming to Jordan.
I sat for a second, grasping for words, but I yet again I settled for the truth. “They’re afraid,” I said.
Again, the driver remained unsurprised. He wasn’t a stupid man.
Yet he was also incredulous. He pointed out how friendly and safe Jordan is – how they have welcomed Israelis and hoped to see more of them. He went on to ask me to tell other Israelis that they should come for a visit.
I promised that I would, and have been trying to make good on that promise ever since.
I have spent a fair amount of time in Jordan on both business and pleasure and have found the Jordanians to be like anyone else. They are good. They are bad. They are beautiful. They are ugly. They are smart, and sometimes stupid. In short, they are everything that you and I are.
It seems to me that I have met most of them, and I have enjoyed doing that – even the time when one overzealous guard waved a gun in my face.
What makes Jordan different from its neighbors is that she has struggled to become modern. Against overwhelming odds, Jordanians have sought to bring prosperity and peace to their people. They have sought peace with their enemies and have established common cause with their Western neighbor, Israel – who has been a better friend than anyone else in the Middle East.
Are there enemies of Israel who live in Jordan? Of course.
Are there enemies of Israel who are members of the Jordanian government? Probably.
Surely you don’t expect Jordanians to be Zionists?
What they have been, and are, is that one exception that I talked about yesterday, a country willing to forgive.
Because of that, they are what Israel needs most in this region: a good neighbor.