My pre-peace journeys to Jordan

When I got out of the army in 1992, most of my friends planned a trip to the far east. As an oleh hadash (new immigrant) with no family in Israel, I couldn’t afford a trip to Thailand. So I traveled to the “near east” – Jordan! I went on 3 trips that culminated in a travel guide to Jordan and Syria.

Kenny Sahr's Photo of Petra
Kenny Sahr’s Photo of Petra

I took the most out of the way route for the first trip. A friend and I flew to Cairo and then took a taxi to Nuweiba – a 14 hour drive! This gave us a “kosher” entrance into Egypt that didn’t hint at Israel. We took a morning boat to Aqaba, Jordan. From there, we shared a taxi with other tourists to Petra. The hostel in Petra played one movie 24/7 – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

A bus ride later and we were in Amman. It was fascinating to visit the military museum and see Hebrew items that the Jordanians captured. We took a taxi to Mount Nebo, where Moses looked into the Land of Israel. We could see the tower of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

After a few days in Amman, we crossed back home via the Allenby Bridge. Israelis still can’t cross in or out of Jordan via this route for a number of reasons. Jordanians don’t recognize this as an Israeli border, and I presume the Israeli side doesn’t want us to have to travel through the West Bank in order to get to Jordan. I’ll never forget crossing the Jordan River. So many songs and poems have been written about this famed river, yet it is as wide as a swimming pool.

An hour after crossing the Allenby Bridge, I was sitting at Apple Pizza in Zion Square. Surreal.

Kenny Sahr's Hamas Interview
Kenny Sahr’s Hamas Interview

Two months later, I was back at it again. Another Israeli newspaper sent me. This time, I flew from Israel to Istanbul and back over the Mediterranean to Amman. I stayed at the Ramallah Hotel in central Amman.

I was playing the role of an American college student. I went to The Jordan Star – a weekly English newspaper. They let me work as a freelancer. I was asked what I wanted to write an article on. “The Hamas,” I replied. Within a few minutes I was on the phone with Ibrahim Ghosheh (who was finally arrested in September 1997!), self-described “spokesman” of the Hamas.

The next day I interviewed Ghosheh, who tape recorded the interview. Nothing he said was different from what I expected. Ironically, the Hamas HQ in Amman is surrounded by four hospitals! Hitchcock would’ve loved this. The article was published in The Star, and a few weeks later in HaOlam HaZeh, an Israeli weekly.

Amman can be boring at night – there’s not much to do but watch TV and read. I remember watching Israeli TV and reading Netanyahu’s latest book, which I brought with me.

At one point, I decided to pay a visit to Jordan TV, uninvited of course. I recognized the broadcaster who does their Hebrew news every night and spoke Hebrew to him. He was shocked. I mean SHOCKED. This was 1994. Within 5 minutes I was escorted out. It was worth it! By my third trip to Jordan, I was already working on the travel guide, so I did research and prepared walking tours. This is the trip where I also traveled to Syria.

A few months after returning from my third Jordan trip, my book was released in Hebrew and I went on a short speaking tour. It was an incredible experience for a 23 year old. I still carry with me the lessons that I learned on these three journeys.

About the Author
Kenny Sahr is a startup marketing executive. His first startup, founded in 1996, was featured in Time Magazine and on 60 Minutes. Kenny moved to Israel from Miami, Florida. In his spare time, he is an avid music collector and traveler.
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