Sunday, October 5, 2008

Amman 7/18/08

This may be my last post before going to Jordan on Sunday. I am hopeful, that everything will be just fine, but I must admit that I was quite shaken when one of our professors delivered some shocking news. Last night in Amman, Jordan, there was a shooting. Now I have been here long enough to see that nearly everyone carries guns and there have already been at least two terrorist incidents in Jerusalem where I live within the last few weeks. But this was different. I am usually not too afraid of attacks because, although the vast majority of my classmates are Americans, we are typically labelled by locals as students and as young Mormons. We walk by shopkeepers and they can recognize us from 20 feet out and shout out "BYU! BYU!" and "Hey, Mormons- I give you good deal!" (I still haven't quite figured out how we are so recognizeable! I suppose that a bunch of white kids who know there way around the Old City like locals, and are obviously not just backpacking through, may be a bit of a giveaway.) At any rate, I am clearly neither a Jew nor a Muslim and I am usually not treated as an American around here too much. As such, I have little fear of being targeted in Jerusalem. However, those who were shot last night in Amman have been identified, as of now, as tourists getting on a charter bus after a concert. This sounds identical to a large portion of my travels- romping around on busses with my classmates and going to cultural events and historical sites. And I am scheduled to be doing just that in Amman in just a few days. Those tourists could have very easily been me and the other students here at the Center. In Jordan, I will not be known as a student from the Jerusalem Center for Near-Eastern Studies. I will simply be a Western tourist travelling by bus in the eyes of the Jordanians. My heart beats quicker thinking about my friends and professors being attacked as we travelled, just trying to learn about our world. We are still planning to go in a day or so, and I am trusting our security officials to have everything checked out for our safety. I have faith that, if we are wise, we will be protected.

Like in Egypt, we will be traveling with an armed guard on our bus. When we crossed the Israel/Egypt border, we had to wait for nearly an hour even after passport control in order to get security clearance to leave the border. Then our busses were loaded with armed guards and a police car was sent ahead of us to lead the way and get us through the checkpoints that were placed every few miles on the road through the Sinai. It is definitely a different world. They combat the fear of terrorism in they only way they know how, fighting fire with fire and hoping to use their own sort of terror against their enemies by being ready to strike back at anyone who would come against them. It is sometimes frightening, to know that you are in a place where the necessity of being constantly armed is completely accepted, but I am adapting and I am learning that they are people too, with far different problems them me, that are being dealt with as best as they know how.

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