Whew, this summer flew by. Tomorrow I will be off to Israel and Palestine to top of my trip. Because my computer has been broken, I will not be able to upload all my pictures and videos until later, when I’m in America. But I think I’ve surprisingly learned a lot about the region and it’s culture, as well as its political history, through my short stay here and through the engaging learning I experienced in my classes.
Pretty much every Arab I’ve talked to refers to the Israeli blockade and control over the West Bank and such Palestinian territories as “the occupation” or “the occupied lands” so clearly they’re using politically charged vocabulary from the beginning. I’ve met a number of Palestinians here in Jordan and the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is very personal to them. One friend of mine doesn’t want to visit Palestine (he’s Palestinian) because he would have to go through the trouble of obtaining permission from the Israeli government, something he does not feel he ought to do to visit the homeland of his people. Many Arab friends of mine here would not even consider visiting Jerusalem at this point because of the Jewish expansion into eastern Jerusalem, where Arabs now live.
I find it interesting that Jordan is sort of becoming a melting pot of Arabs as one of the only stable countries in the region. Egyptians, Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians, and Tunisians come to Jordan as refugees due to the current conflicts in their countries. If handled correctly, this influx of workers could be a boon to the Jordanian economy, as many refugees may be pushed not because they can’t find work, but because they are educated and forced to flee due to violence, signaling that they would be economically useful. On the other hand, this could also exacerbate the Jordanian unemployment rate. I talked with someone who said that many people aren’t technically economically productive workers in the sense that their government jobs could easily be eliminated and the country would function normally. The government is a very large employer here so this clearly signals a problem. I suspect that the reason the government can afford to employ all these people who really don’t offer any economic utility because the government receives foreign aid from countries like the United States and Saudi Arabic. This aid has essentially created an economic bubble in which the Jordanian people, particularly those employed by the government whose jobs aren’t necessary, can enjoy the luxuries of the first-world without having a sustainably first-world economy. I’m afraid this bubble will burst, leaving many in Jordan unemployed. I also have hope though that, due to this economic aid from countries like the United States, the Jordanian workforce will become better educated and able to respond to the demands of a globalized economy, positioning Jordan for future economic stability. The educated youth are much more pro-Western and serve as the hope for the country so I hope they will also help lead the country economically into first-world status.