by Norman Prady and Olivia Miller
Jordan is a kingdom near the Mediterranean Sea in the Southwest Asia area known as the Middle East or Near East. Its neighbors are Israel to the west, with which it shares the Dead Sea; Syria to the north; Iraq to the northeast; and Saudi Arabia to the east and south. Amman, the largest city, is the capital. Jordan is the site of the city of Petra, an archeological treasure that was the religious center for the nomadic Arab people called the Nabateans. Jordan's land area is about 35,000 square miles (almost 92,000 square kilometers).
Accurate demographic figures have been difficult to compile because of the substantial number of Jordanians living and working abroad and the continuous flow of West Bank Palestinians using Jordanian passports to travel back and forth between the East and West Banks of the Jordan River. Jordan's 1994 census estimated its population to be almost 4.3 million. Arabs represented 98 percent of the population, Circassians one percent, and Armenians one percent. Within the category of Arabs, a significant distinction exists between Palestinians—estimated at 55 to 60 percent of the population—and Transjordanians. A Palestinian is defined narrowly as a citizen of the British-mandated territory of Palestine, which existed from 1922 to 1948, and more broadly as a Muslim or Christian native or descendant of a native of the region between the Egyptian Sinai and Lebanon and west of the Jordan River-Dead Sea-Gulf of Aqaba line. A Transjordanian is a Muslim or Christian native of the region east of the Jordan River-Dead Sea-Gulf of Aqaba line and within the approximate boundaries of the contemporary state of Jordan. In addition to Circassians and Armenians, the small numbers of non-Arabs originating elsewhere include Shishans—also known as Chechens—and Kurds.
More than 90 percent of Jordanians are Sunni Muslims, and most of the rest are Christians of various denominations. There are a few Shia Muslims and even fewer adherents of other faiths. Arabic is the official language, and English is widely understood among the upper and middle classes. Almost all Jordanians speak a dialect of Arabic; increasing numbers speak or understand Modern Standard Arabic. Most people who have another native language, such as Circassians and Armenians, also speak Arabic.
The flag has three equal horizontal bands of black, white, and green with a red isosceles triangle based on the hoist side bearing a small white seven-pointed star. The seven points on the star represent the seven fundamental laws of the Koran. The King's website explains the flag's symbols as follows: "The flag symbolizes the Kingdom's roots in the Great Arab Revolt of 1916, as it is adapted from the revolt banner. The black, white and green bands represent the Arab Abbasid, Umayyad and Fatimid dynasties respectively, while the crimson triangle joining the bands represents the Hashemite dynasty. The seven-pointed Islamic star set in the center of the crimson triangle represents the unity of Arab peoples in Jordan."
As an independent nation, Jordan is relatively young. The land it occupies, however, has been inhabited for thousands of years. The archaeological record indicates that people who survived by hunting and gathering lived in the area during the Paleolithic and Mesolithic eras. They developed agriculture in the region in the Neolithic period, which began about 10,000 b.c. By 8000 b.c. these peoples were largely sedentary, settling in the region. The cities of Bayda and Jericho grew up during this time. After the Bronze Age, Amorites, Western Semites, Hyksos and Hittites successively invaded the area.
Since biblical times, the area came under the control of various political and military powers-Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Jews, Greeks, Nabateans, and Romans, to name a few—until 1516, when the Ottoman Turks incorporated the region into their empire. Shortly after the fall of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, the Allied Powers—the countries that won the war—made the area part of the British mandate of Palestine. Britain then established the Emirate of Transjordan in the portion of Palestine east of the Jordan River. In 1946 the country became independent of Britain. Three years later King Abdullah renamed it the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Hashemite is the name of the dynasty, or hereditary line, through which the country's rulers descend.
Jordan captured and occupied territory on the west bank of the Jordan River in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. It formally annexed the occupied area in 1950. It lost this land, however, in 1967, when Israel took control of East Jerusalem and the west bank following another war with Arab nations.
Jordan is a constitutional monarchy, meaning that its government consists of a hereditary king, plus a constitution guaranteeing citizens' rights. King Hussein took the throne in 1952 following the abdication of his ailing father. At that time Hussein was a teenager ruling a country where fewer than a third of the people were literate. Hussein made education a priority, and by the 1980s the literacy rate had doubled. Jordanians' standard of living also improved during this period, as the country received much aid from other Arab nations during the oil boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In 1970 and 1971, Hussein successfully fought a civil war against Palestinian rebels. In 1974, under pressure from other Arab leaders, he recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian peoples. Hussein worked hard to prevent Palestinian activity against his government. He brought many Palestinians into the government and into positions of power in the private sector. Jordan's policy toward other Arab nations generally has been moderate and flexible, with Arab unity as a priority. Jordan was, however, the most outspoken of the Arab states supporting Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980, partly out of a fear of the spread of Islamic fundamentalism from Iran. In 1988 Jordan abandoned its attempts to regain the West Bank from Israel.
Foreign aid declined in the 1980s, and Jordan's debts grew. In mid-1989 the Jordanian government began debt-rescheduling negotiations. The Persian Gulf crisis that began in August 1990 aggravated Jordan's already serious economic problems. The economy rebounded in 1992, largely due to the influx of capital repatriated by workers returning from the Gulf, but the recovery was uneven. In 1994 Hussein signed a peace treaty with Israel, the neighbor with which Jordan had fought three wars in 50 years. Still, debt, poverty, and unemployment remained ongoing challenges. Water shortages and disputes with Israel over water use became serious problems in the late 1990s. Hussein died February 7, 1999, following a seven-month battle with cancer. His oldest son, Abdullah, a 37-year-old career Army officer who was educated in the United States, succeeded him.
THE FIRST JORDANIANS IN AMERICA
It appears that the relatively small Jordanian immigration began shortly after World War II. Other Arab-Americans, notably those from Syria and Lebanon, have been coming to the United States since about 1850. West Bank Palestinians, as well as East Bank Jordanians, might travel to the United States with Jordanian passports, creating the indefinite category "Palestinian/Jordanian."
SIGNIFICANT IMMIGRATION WAVES
In the 1950s, 5,762 Jordanians immigrated to the Unites States. This number almost doubled in the 1960s, when 11,727 Jordanians immigrated. Then in the 1970s, 27,535 Jordanians arrived, reflecting an era of civil strife in Jordan. In the 1980s, immigration averaged around 2,500 a year. The total number of Jordanian immigrants from 1820 to 1984 was 56,720.
From World War II until the 1980s, the typical Jordanian immigrant was a married male between the ages of 20 and 39. His education level was higher than that of the average person on the East Bank. More than 30 percent of those working in the United States were university graduates, and 40 percent were in professional positions. Many immigrants stayed four and a half to eight years, then returned to Jordan. American salaries were higher than those in Jordan, and attracted immigrants. More than other Middle Eastern immigrants, Jordanians tended to take their families with them when working in the United States. Since the 1980s, many Jordanians have remained in the United States and have formed cohesive communities. The Jordanian American community in Washington, D.C., held a candlelight vigil after the death of King Hussein.
Acculturation and Assimilation
As comparative newcomers to the United States, few Jordanian Americans are at or beyond the third generation. As a result, they are much less Americanized, if at all, than groups with longer histories here. Guided by family and friends, these new Americans understandably find comfort in neighborhoods established by others from their home country. In such surroundings they continue their familiar practices in social activities, shopping, and religion. Continued use of their native language and dialect sustains homeland ties and delays acculturation. Language is a key factor in the acculturation process. Those who are fluent in English have greater communication and interaction with the larger community. Other factors that can accelerate acculturation include educational levels and how much contact with the larger community occurs on the job. Also, people from urban areas of Jordan adjust more quickly to America's cities than do some from rural areas. Children often adapt more easily to new surroundings and, as with other immigrant groups, tend to assimilate faster than their parents.
TRADITIONS, CUSTOMS, AND BELIEFS
While Jordan is modern and Western-oriented, Islamic ideals and beliefs provide the conservative foundation of the country's customs, laws and practices. The workweek for Jordanian government offices and most businesses is Saturday through Thursday. Along with religion, hospitality is an important value of Jordanians. A small gift is acceptable in return for hospitality.
Many elements of Jordanian American life provide cultural continuity. Among these are events offering music and dancing, which are typically provided by a larger Arab group. The events range from live stage presentations to shows on radio or cable television in many major metropolitan areas of the United States. Additionally, some cable networks show Arabic movies. This ongoing exposure to traditional entertainment is especially comforting to new immigrants and reassuring even to longer-term residents.
Like many other Arab peoples, Jordanians use proverbs in place of slang. Here are some common proverbs: When elephants begin to dance, smaller creatures should stay away; Do not cut down the tree that gives you shade; The dogs may bark but the caravan moves on; Eat whatever you like, but dress as others do; The hand of God is with the group; He that plants thorns must never expect to gather roses; I am a prince and you are a prince, who will lead the donkeys; If begging should unfortunately be thy lot, knock at the large gates only; If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten; Judge a man by the reputation of his enemies; A kind word can attract even the snake from his nest; Knowledge acquired as a child is more lasting than an engraving on stone; The man who can't dance says the band can't play; Older than you by a day, wiser than you by a year; Silence is the door of consent; Trust in God, but tie your camel; The wound of words is worse than the wound of swords; All sunshine makes the desert; The ass went seeking for horns and lost his ears; Beware of one who flatters unduly for he will also censure unjustly; Dawn does not come twice to awaken a man; Death is a black camel that lies down at every door; Sooner or later you must ride the camel.
Jordanian food is popular in the United States, and many cities boast Jordanian restaurants such as the Petra House in Portland, Oregon. Jordanian food is based on traditional Bedouin cooking. A good example is mensef, feast for special occasions that has altered little over the years. Usually, a whole sheep is roasted. Large chunks of the roasted meat are served with rice on a huge platter. A yogurt-based sauce, chopped parsley, and fried nuts are the dish's toppings. One generally eats mensef with the hand. The guests of honor at the feast are presented with the softly cooked eyes of the sheep, which is a delicacy.
In Jordanian meals, the main course usually starts with several varieties of mazza, or hors d'oeuvres, such as humus, fuul, kube, and tabouleh. Felafel consists of deep-fried chickpea balls. Shwarma is spit-cooked sliced lamb. Fuul is a paste of fava beans, garlic, and lemon. Lentils, adas in Arabic, are a common ingredient in Jordanian dishes, and there are many recipes for Shorabat 'adas, lentil soup. Magloube is a meat, fish, or vegetable stew served with rice. For example, one Magloube recipe calls for alternating layers of chicken, fried aubergines, and rice. Magloube is often served with a lettuce and tomato salad and some plain yogurt. Salads are an important side dish. Jordanian foods are seasoned with spices typical of the Mediterranean, including cumin, garlic, lemons, coriander, and especially saffron. Arabic unleavened bread, or khobz, is eaten with almost everything. A meal finishes with dessert or fresh fruits, and Arabic coffee without which no meeting, whether formal or informal, is complete. Arabic coffee will normally be served continuously during social occasions. To signal that no more is wanted, one slightly tilts the cup when handing it back; otherwise it will be refilled.
There are several other typical Jordanian recipes. Musakhan is a chicken dish, cooked with onions, olive oil, and pine seeds and baked in the oven on a thick loaf of Arabic bread. Mahshi Waraq 'inab is made of grape leaves stuffed with rice, minced meat, and spices. Also popular is the famous Middle Eastern shish kebab, consisting of chunks of lamb or marinated chicken speared on a wooden stick and cooked over a charcoal fire with tomatoes and onions. The local drink is known as arak, an anise-flavored beverage that is served mixed with ice and water. Traditionally, lunch is Jordanians' main meal. They usually have a light breakfast and supper. Most Jordanians do not eat pork, which is forbidden to Muslims.
As late as the 1980s, the style of any Middle Eastern costume conveyed the wearer's ethnic and regional identity as well as the identity of its maker. Men traditionally wore an ankle-length, cool, loose-fitting garment with a high neck and long sleeves called the kandoura or dishdash. The headdress was a taqia or qahfa, a skullcap covered by a long cloth, usually white, called agutra, and was secured by a wool rope, known asal iqal or al ghizam. The headdress was wound around the crown, to protect the head and neck from the blistering sun. The bisht, a sleeveless flowing black or beige cloak trimmed with gold, whose material depended on the social status of the wearer, was the outfit for ceremonial occasions. Many people throughout the Arabian peninsula still wear traditional dress, with minor variations, because it is suitable for the desert climate.
Bedouin men typically carried weaponry of some kind. The khanjar, a curving double-edged blade, six to eight inches long, with hilt of local horn overlaid with sliver, was once necessary for defense and has since become a status symbol. The khanjar' s curving wooden scabbard has more extensive decoration, the upper part usually with engraved silver, the lower section consisting of strips of leather overlaid with silver and decorated with silver rings and wire, often in a geometric pattern, and capped with a silver tip. Scabbards also were decorated with gold. A single-edged tapering blade dagger with straight carved wood scabbard, silver overlaid at both ends, was another popular weapon, as was the yirz, an axe combining a three-foot shaft with a four-inch steel head. The saif, a double-edged sword, and the scimitar-like qattara are usually only seen in museums or in ceremonial dances. Silver and copper were used to decorate containers for gunpowder and long-barreled pistols. Bedouin men also carried less deadly items such as beautifully decorated silver purses, pipes, toothpicks, ear-cleaning spoons, and tweezers, all hanging from silver chains. Modern rifles and cartridge belts slung around the waist were eventually added to the customary dress of the Bedouin.
Women dressed in accordance to their lifestyle and to Islamic ordinances. As with men, traditional dress among women is still very popular. Bedouin women, for practical and monetary reasons, have chosen wool and cotton for their garments, whereas urban women favor silks, brocades, satins and chiffons. Women's clothing often bears intricate decoration. The burqa, a veil of coarse, black silk with a central stiffened rib resting on the nose leaving only the eyes clearly visible, is still worn in the street, particularly by older women. An all-enveloping black abaya is made from lightweight cloth embroidered with tapestried threads. The kandoura, a loose, full-sleeved dress reaching to midcalf, exquisitely embellished on cuffs and collar, is usually of colorful material, with its quality and design varying with the economic status of the wearer. Older Bedu, or Bedouin women of the village, and sometimes the younger ones too, still make and wear the traditional dress, a long black thobe, with hems, yokes and sleeves decorated with tiny embroidered stitches that form intricate and colorful patterns. Women make the most of their eyes and hands, as these are often the only visible parts of their bodies. They accentuate their eyes with kohl, while they apply henna to make detailed designs on palms of their hands and sometimes the soles of their feet.
Many tribal women still carry their savings around their necks, wrists, or ankles in their jewelry. These pieces have at various times included intricately designed necklaces formed from beads and coins; elaborate forehead decorations of coins and chains; earrings of ornate loops or dangling shapes, including inverted pyramids with embossed geometric designs; heavy bossed bracelets covering much of the lower arm; elaborate hinged anklets; rings for fingers, toes, and noses, sometimes inset with bone or horn and studded with stone, glass, or coral. Many fine examples of silver Bedouin jewelry can still be found in markets and museums.
DANCES AND SONGS
Bedouin musical traditions are important in Jordan. Jordanian music encompasses both vocal and instrumental performances. Groups of men sing trance-like chants to accompany belly dances. Arabian flute music is also popular. "Lamma Bada Yatathanna" is a classical Arabic song played on the oud (Arabic lute).
Jordanian Americans celebrate Jordanian Independence Day on May 25, Labor Day on May 1, Army Day on June 10, the accession of the king, and the king's birthday.
Jordanian-Americans' attitudes about health care show the influence of the culture's profound sense of family bonds. An elderly parent, for example, who is not able to live on his or her own, in a nearby private home, would become part of another family member's household. A retirement center or nursing home would not be an option. This attitude that family members should take care of one another extends to all relatives as well as the larger kinship group, which might include persons not directly related but considered family.
In February of 1999, the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics, in collaboration with two Jordanian hospitals, identified a new form of nerve and muscle-wasting hereditary disease that strikes a particular tribal population of Jordanians. The researchers also isolated the gene on chromosome nine that causes the crippling motor neuropathy, which is unique to people of the ancient Roman-Greek Jordanian city of Jerash and is transmitted by intermarriage among them. It is a recessive disorder, meaning both parents can carry the gene and not pass it to their children, although the risk is greater in this case than if only one parent is a carrier. The disease's victims are strictly Arab Jordanians, all from the Jerash area, and include no Palestinians. The disease causes selective weakness and wasting of the nerves controlling the muscles of the hands and feet, while not necessarily affecting the arms and legs.
Arabic is the official language of Jordan, but the number of languages listed for Jordan is eight, including Adyghe, Armenian, Chechen, Arabic, and four Arabic dialects. Levantine Bedawi Arabic dialect was the language of Jordan before the arrival of Palestinian refugees in the wake of the wars with Israel. It remains the language of the army and many TV programs for Bedouin people or to promote Bedouin culture. Most Jordanians speak an Arabic dialect common to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and parts of Iraq. Arabic is a Semitic language related to Aramaic, Hebrew, various Ethiopic languages, and others. The language exists in three forms: the classical Arabic of the Koran, the literary language developed from the classical and known as Modern Standard Arabic, and the local form of the spoken language. Standard Arabic is used for education, official purposes, and communication among Arabic-speaking countries. Arabic is rich in synonyms, rhythmic, highly expressive and poetic, and can have a strong emotional effect on its speakers and listeners. As the language of the Koran, believed by Muslims to be the literal word of God, it has been the vehicle for recounting of the historic glories of Islamic civilization. Arabic speakers are more emotionally attached to their language than are most peoples to their native tongues. Poetic eloquence has been one of the most admired cultural attainments and signs of cultivation in the Arab world.
Many Jordanians speak English, so Jordan's radio and television stations offer some English programming. There is a daily English newspaper in Amman as well a weekly newspaper that offers a French section. Additionally, some Jordanians who have business or cultural connections with France and Germany speak French and German; Jordan television offers some daily programming in French. Jordanian Americans have access to national newspapers published in Arabic. There is sometimes a local Arabic newspaper in a community with a large Arab population, such as metropolitan Detroit.
GREETINGS AND POPULAR EXPRESSIONS
In Arabic the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is called Urdoun. Ahlan Wa Sahlan means "welcome,"and Marhab means "hello." Mat el malak, ash el malak means "The king is dead; long live the king." This expression was heard frequently after the death of Hussein and the swearing in of King Abdullah, to signify both grief and optimism. The expression inshallah, "God willing," often accompanies statements of intention, and the term bismallah, "in the name of God," accompanies the performance of most important actions.
Family and Community Dynamics
Jordanians' upbringing emphasizes generosity, warmth, openness and friendliness. The ideals of tribal unity and respect for the family form the core of Jordanian society. The father is the head of the Jordanian family and has authority over all members. These statements are equally true of Jordanian American families.
As of 1998 Jordan had the second-highest literacy rate, 85 percent, in the Arab world. Nearly 68 percent of the adult population is literate, and nearly 100 percent of 10-to-15 age group is literate. The first nine years of education are compulsory and free; the next three are also free. In 1987 more than 900,000 students were enrolled in 3,366 schools with approximately 39,600 teachers. Also in 1987, about 69,000 students were enrolled in higher education. Nearly half of these were women.
Jordanian American families place a premium on education. Parents are very active in their children's schools, regardless of their own levels of education. They value education because it improves children's future prospects and brings honor to the family. Jordanian Americans have a higher rate of college graduation than other Arab groups, partly because so many Jordanians come to the United States specifically for education and then stay here.
THE ROLE OF WOMEN
In Jordan, as in many other Arab nations, there is an ongoing campaign for women's equal rights. Since the 1960s, increasing numbers of women have entered the work force. As women's education levels rose, they generally delay marriage. They also tend to have fewer children, partly because of the economic strain of supporting a large family. Still, marriage and childbearing confer status on women.
In a 1988 study of women and work in Jordan, journalist Nadia Hijab argued that cultural attitudes were not the major constraint on women's employment; rather, need and opportunity were more significant factors. Most employed women were single. In the mid-1980s, when unemployment surged, Jordan's leaders pressured women to return to their homes. Publicly and privately, Jordanians hotly debated the issue. Letters to the editors of daily newspapers argued for and against women's working. Hijab observed that by 1985 there was "almost an official policy" to encourage married women to stay at home. That year Prime Minister Zaid ar Rifai bluntly suggested in 1985 that working women who paid half or more of their salary to foreign maids who sent the currency abroad should stop working.
In the 1990s women organized to influence Jordanian society. The Jordan National Committee for Women was established as a policy forum in March of 1992. The committee worked to increase Jordanian women's awareness of the National Strategy, ratified in 1993, that aims to improve women's status, involve them in national development and economic activities, promote their legal status, and increase their participation in decision-making. In the late 1990s, the United Nations Development Fund for Women collaborated with the Jordan National Committee for Women in a meeting in Amman to discuss how to eliminate violence against women in Muslim society. Jordanian women led women's movements in Arab countries, and in 1998 Jordanian women gathered outside the U.S. embassy protesting against U.S. missile strikes against Sudan and Afghanistan. Princess Basma attended workshops on prioritizing women's research. In 1999 Queen Noor spoke out against "crimes of honor," specifically the murder of a woman by her husband whom she had allegedly dishonored by immodest or otherwise unacceptable behavior. Legal reform for women's rights appeared to be imminent in Jordan in 1999.
COURTSHIP AND WEDDINGS
Jordanian Americans want their children to marry within the culture or, at least, within the larger Arab-American community. Sometimes a Jordanian American man will travel to Jordan to find a woman he considers a suitable wife. On the other hand, marriage to a non-Jordanian is tolerable, and husband and wife are welcomed into each other's families.
According to Jordanian tradition, brought to the United States, the bride, groom, and both families plan weddings, and the groom and his family pay for them. Marriage is for life in the Jordanian American culture. If a couple has marital problems, parents and relatives from both families will intervene. Their focus will be on preserving the marriage. If there are children, the culture dictates that the couple resolve past their own problems for the children's sake. Divorce is uncommon.
In Jordan, arranged marriage was once the norm, but this changed toward the end of the twentieth century. Social interaction between single men and women, once rare, has increased. Jordanian society has become more accustomed to the idea of romantic love.
Jordanian Americans have modified their homeland custom of quick burial to conform to fairly common U.S. practices. They generally use the facilities and services of a funeral director instead of having a home-based rite. Jordanian American Christians might display the body for several days while family and friends visit and offer their sympathies. Jordanian American Muslims, however, do not display the body. Well-wishers usually send food to the home of the deceased person's immediate family each day before the burial. Following the burial, family and friends will gather for a meal and to share memories. Visiting might continue for some days after.
INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER ETHNIC GROUPS
Jordanian Americans tend to be identified with and identify themselves with the larger Arab community. Along with language, they share culture and Middle Eastern history. Jordanian Americans sometimes conflict politically with Israeli organizations in the United States as well as with the pro-Israel policies of the U. S. government.
The religious affiliations of Jordanian Americans contrast sharply with those of homeland Jordanians. Jordan's government states that the country is 96 percent Muslim and four percent Christian. The Jordanian American community is almost the opposite, with the majority Christian and eight percent Muslim. The largest group of Jordanian American Christians belongs to the Eastern Orthodox Church, the next largest to the Roman Catholic Church, and the remainder to Protestant and evangelical churches. Jordanian American Christians and Muslims often share their church buildings and mosques with compatible congregations from other Arab groups, with the institutions bolstering identity and cultural continuity.
Jordan's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but the official religion is Sunni Islam, and the government supports Sunni institutions. Sunni is the larger branch of Islam, with Shia being the smaller. The 1952 constitution stipulates that the king and his successors must be Muslims and sons of Muslim parents.
Muslims and Christians in Jordan have not had major conflicts. Even the interest of some Jordanians in Islamic fundamentalism during the late 1970s and the 1980s did not produce significant tensions. The largest of the Christian sects in Jordan, as among Jordanian Americans, is Eastern Orthodox.
Employment and Economic Traditions
Jordanian Americans have careers in education, business, engineering, and science. Women formed a little over 12 percent of the labor force in Jordan in the late twentieth century; the male-female breakdown in the Jordanian American work force is similar. Many Jordanians come to the United States to pursue advanced degrees in medicine and engineering. Most of the Jordanian students in Western Europe and the United States receive financing from their families, but some obtain assistance from the government of Jordan. Students from Western European and American schools tend to gain the more desirable and prestigious positions on their return home. The perceived higher quality of education in the West helps make these graduates more competitive in the job market.
Politics and Government
Jordanians began arriving in the United States at a time—the latter half of the twentieth century— when their new country was rethinking its own structure. Civil rights laws have helped immigrants feel they do not have to totally submerge their ethnic identity to fully participate in American society. As a result, Jordanian Americans and members of other groups have felt increasingly secure in taking part in local and national political activity, both inside and outside their own groups' interests. They have welcomed interactions with their mother country as well. Jordan's deputy prime minister opened a Detroit trade show in 1997 and urged the United States to take a more active role in the peace process in the Middle East.
RELATIONS WITH JORDAN
Jordan established diplomatic ties to the United States in 1949. The United States began providing limited military aid to Jordan in 1950, then became its principal source of assistance in 1957, after the British discontinued financing. The United States supported Hussein against the Palestinian insurgents in the 1970-71 civil war but did not intervene directly. There were some conflicts between Jordan and the United States over Jordan's weapons requests during the 1980s. The two countries remained on largely cordial terms, however, with the United States providing specialized training for Jordan's military, and senior officers from each country visiting the other in exchange programs. The United States considered Hussein one of the most moderate Middle Eastern leaders and often relied on him to assist in peace negotiations in the region. Shortly before his death, he was instrumental in developing a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
In 1997 Jordan had a $400 million trade deficit with the United States and was eager to attract American tourists. About 80,000 Americans visited Jordan in 1998, according to the St. Petersburg Times. In May of 1999, the U.S. State Department announced it would grant two scholarships yearly to Jordanian students pursuing studies in fields relevant to the Middle East peace process. The department's U.S. Information Agency will award two highly qualified Jordanian students money for advanced studies from the King Hussein Memorial Fulbright Scholarship Program.
Individual and Group Contributions
Diana Abu-Jaber, a second-generation Jordanian-American, received her doctorate in English literature from the State University of New York. She has taught literature and creative writing at the University of Michigan, the University of Oregon, and the University of California, Los Angeles. Her first novel, Arabian Jazz, won the Oregon Book Award and was a finalist for the national PEN/Hemingway award. For her second novel, Memories of Birth, she won a National Endowment for the Arts grant for the manuscript. In 1998 she returned from Amman, where she was on a Fulbright research grant award, conducting interviews with Jordanian and Palestinian women about their lives to develop background for her next novel. In 1999 Abu-Jaber was writer in residence at Portland State University.
Lily Bandak is a renowned photographer who founded an organization to help disabled workers in Arab nations. Born in Amman, Jordan, Bandak went to grade school in Bethlehem on the West Bank. She has lived in the United States since 1960, residing in Newark, Delaware. She studied at the Académie De La Grande Chaumiér in Paris, the Philadelphia College of Art, the University of Delaware, and the Antonelli College of Photography.
Her work with major public figures in the Middle East has included assignments as the personal photographer of Mrs. Anwar Sadat and King Hussein and Queen Noor. She also has photographed Yasser Arafat. In 1978 the government of Egypt invited her to document the people and monuments of that country. These photographs were exhibited in Egypt, in Washington, D.C., and across the United States, and were later compiled into a book, Images of Egypt. She has also exhibited at the World Trade Center in New York City. She was the first photographer to have work accepted into the permanent collection of the White House during the Carter administration.
In 1984 Bandak was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She designed a camera mount to be attached to her wheelchair that makes it possible for her to return to work. In 1994 she set up the Bandak Foundation, which encourages people with disabilities to enter the work force and participate fully in society.
There are no publications in the United States for Jordanian Americans. The Jordan Times is an English-language independent political newspaper, published daily except Friday in Jordan by the Jordan Press Foundation. Jordan Today is a monthly English-language magazine on tourism, culture, and entertainment, published by InfoMedia International in Amman. An online weekly newspaper in English can be found at http://star.arabia.com.
Organizations and Associations
American Arab Anti Discrimination Committee.
Nonsectarian, nonpartisan organization committed to defending the rights of people of Arab descent and promoting their rich cultural heritage. The largest Arab-American grassroots organization in the United States, founded in 1980 by former Senator James Abourezk, with chapters nationwide.
Address: 4201 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20008.
Telephone: (202) 244-2990.
Bandak Arab African Foundation.
Nonprofit organization that urges Middle Eastern governments, particularly Jordan, to help people with disabilities in the work force.
Address: 345 New London Road, Newark, Delaware 19711.
Telephone: (302) 737-4055.
Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Address: 3504 International Drive, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008.
Telephone: (202) 966-2664.
Palestine Children's Relief Fund.
Nonprofit, nonpolitical relief fund to provide humanitarian assistance to children suffering from crisis in the Middle East.
Contact: Steve Sosebee, Director.
Address: P.O. Box 1926 Kent, Ohio 44240.
Telephone: (330) 678-2645.
Palestinian Heritage Foundation.
A nonprofit cultural and educational organization aimed at promoting awareness and understanding of Arab and specifically Palestinian culture and traditions.
Address: P.O. Box 1018, West Caldwell, New Jersey 07006.
E-mail: [email protected]
Sisterhood Is Global Institute.
Established in 1984, the Sisterhood is Global Institute seeks to deepen the understanding of women's human rights at the local, national, regional and global levels, and to strengthen the capacity of women to exercise their rights. With members in 70 countries, it currently maintains a network of over 1,300 individuals and organizations. It has a regional office in Jordan that was inaugurated by Princess Basma Bint Talal.
Address: 4343 Montgomery Avenue, Suite 201, Bethesda, Maryland 20814.
Telephone: (301) 657-4355.
E-mail: [email protected]
United Palestinian Appeal.
Nonprofit, nonpolitical, tax-exempt American charity based in Washington, D.C., established in 1978, dedicated to alleviating the suffering of Palestinians, particularly those living in the Occupied Territories.
Address: 2100 M Street N.W., #409, Washington, D.C. 20037.
Telephone: (202) 659-5007.
Sources for Additional Study
Hijab, Nadia. Womanpower: The Arab Debate on Women at Work. Cambridge Middle East Library Series. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
Hitti, Philip K. History of the Arabs from the Earliest Time to the Present. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1956.
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