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Strange thing, this peace in the Middle East

The Negev blooms, while the desert around Amman is a wasteland. Israel's economy thrives, while Jordan's crumbles. Does it have to be like this?
The Jordan Valley. (CC BY Trocaire, Flickr)
The Jordan Valley. (CC BY Trocaire, Flickr)

Sitting in Amman, Jordan, awaiting a flight to Tel Aviv – sipping a $7 (!) cup of coffee to share a comfortable couch with fellow travellers who look like Saudi sheikhs cutting an oil deal…

So this is peace. This is what the Middle East looks like without the tumult. Without the bone that is Israel, stuck in our neighbors’ throat. I can enjoy the Duty Free store in Arabic (husband beware 🙂 ) on my way home to what anyone around me right now would call a settlement, a peaceful flourishing Jewish community just south of Jerusalem.

And here’s what peace looks like from 30,000 feet:

Jordan agriculture

Actually, it’s hard to discern the Jordan rift valley, my landmark for viewing the division between Israel and Jordan – after peering out my window on both legs of the trip, somehow it escaped me and those around me. But what was unusually obvious to us all was the difference between the view over the two countries, in the two minutes it takes to traverse them – a blooming Negev vs the desert wasteland west of Amman.

I don’t blame the people. Industriousness and zeal to get ahead are inherent human traits. What we might admit, though, is the ability of leaders and countries to dampen these God-given qualities. Once we are honest about the reversal of priorities in this part of the world, our bravery might just lead to a breakthrough.

Sadly, people of the Middle East are taught to hate – to hate all that is Israel and the West. They are taught by governments and religious leaders alike, that it is more important to hurt your enemy than to promote your own wellness. The Jordan Times reported last week that the King has asked his cabinet to come up with a plan to revive Jordan’s failing economy and promote growth. Compared with Israel’s huge defense budget, Jordan does not bear that burden. And yet, the Hashemite kingdom has not found a way to channel its resources for its own prosperity.

Yes, you’ll hear that it is due to lack of water that the country cannot develop arid farmland. Tell that to the early, ideological settlers of the Land of Israel. Across the rift separating our countries, the Jews laid down pipelines and dreamt up new agricultural innovations to utilize the little water they had and make the desert bloom.

Dreams truly turning into a reality are still a very obvious difference between Israel and her neighbors, and there’s no way to deny that from 30,000 feet.

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About the Author
Ruth Lieberman is an Israeli-based political consultant and licensed tour guide, combining her love of Israel with political acumen to better Israel's standing both at home and in the eyes of the world. She has consulted for political leaders in Jerusalem and in Washington, from work on election campaigns to public advocacy and events. Her tours in Israel connect Biblical history to modern realities, to highlight Israel's achievements and promote its policies.
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