Here is a link to a book review I wrote for The Jordan Times. The book, Live from Jordan: Letters home from my journey through the Middle East, was written by Benjamin Orbach who was based in Jordan for almost a year. As a Jordanian and fan of travel writing, I enjoyed this book and recommend it. Here is my conclusion:
It is no secret that Orbach’s book is intended primarily for Western readers. It is written with the aim of giving the Western audience a glimpse of life in the Middle East. The Western reader is given a fairly accurate accounting of life in modern Amman and some neighbouring Arab cities. To Jordanians, though, the book offers a chance to reflect back on pre- and post-Iraq invasion sentiments, and is a dissection of the lifestyle of modern Amman with all its complexities and the social and economic disparities of its residents. While the Western reader will have a great deal of material to digest, for Jordanians, the book primarily serves as an avenue for contemplation and critical self-examination.
Read the whole review here.
So a Jewish journalist, in the Middle East, lied about his religion. I wonder if the Daniel Pearl incident in Pakistan also had anything to do with it. His result wasn’t so pleasant, yet he remained true to what he was, regardless of his affiliation. Probably in an even more harsh environment. Is this what most journalists do to get information these days? I hope not, and as for poor Benjamin, I hope he man’s up and grows a pair and stops hiding who he is, and realizes that to tap sources of information from people, honesty is what they want, or else you will always fall short. You weren’t even in Tehran, Baghdad, or Damascus.
Natasha, thanks for the thoughtful review.
Reflecting on the experience, lying about my identity â€“ particularly my religion in Jordan â€“ was my biggest regret about my whole experience. So why did I do it? Well, I felt like I couldnâ€™t be straight with most of the people I met for both security and professional reasons. In Jordan especially, because of the absence of Jewish history (compared to Egypt, Syria, and Morocco), I found that the everyday people I met made little distinction between Jews as members of a faith and the Israeli army. Given the tense situation with Iraq and the ongoing intifada, I didnâ€™t think it was safe to be completely honest. I was never worried about the people who I knew, but the people who I didnâ€™t know. People talk, and my presence in Jordan at that time was very strange. My concerns deepened with the deterioration of the political situation and the assassination of Laurence Foley. On the professional front, I went to Jordan to learn about daily life and peopleâ€™s viewpoints on political issues, not to be the center of a traveling Talmudic road show, debating details of doctrine. That really isnâ€™t my thing and it would have been disappointing to me if my conversations were dominated by religious discussion.
I actually wrote a blog on the subject of identity and the feeling of being â€œthe other.â€ If youâ€™re interested, here is the link: http://benjaminorbach.blogspot.com/2007_06_01_archive.html
author of Live from Jordan
what a funny concept. a road-trip blog turned into a book.
An excellent review. I’ll be sure to pick up the book if I ever run across it.
It’s quite a shame that Orbach had to hide his identity in Jordan.
Now this is not good for tourism to Jordan:Tuesday Sep 18, 2007 17:01:A suspect, Hader Shakir, a member of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan planned to perpetrate a large-scale shooting attack against Israeli tourist buses in Jordan.The Radisson Hotel in Amman was mentioned as a likely target.