Before leaving to the Middle East, I wasn’t completely unprepared. I knew all about the conflicts of the region, the history, the Israeli-Palestinian question, the economy, the Arab springs etc.. Besides, I had already been to Lebanon the previous year and I had studied a bit of Arabic at the Arab Cultural Centre of Brussels. Nevertheless, what this trip revealed to me sort of broke the images I set off with, giving me more insights on the sad truths that gather in the area. Obviously my judgement relies on a very short visit to the area and the opinions I’m about to give are based on that. As I have a 1h40 flight I thought I’d just write a quick post about my big disappointment and my big surprise over there.
Israel was overall quite a big disappointment. I had very high expectations on many fronts but eventually I came back with a negative image of both the country and the Israeli society. On the other hand, I didn’t have many expectations from Jordan which actually turned out to be really great for both its people and the land itself.
In Israel we found awful service, unfriendliness and always a sort of gain-oriented approach. For instance as I explained in one of my posts about Tel Aviv, people working in bars and restaurants would always ask for tips, which I found very unusual and quite inappropriate. If 2 driks were 80 shekels (Tel Aviv is indeed exhorbitant) and you give them a piece for 100, they would automatically ask “Should I keep the change?” and my answer (to their surprise) was “No you should not”. Also, at the level of accommodation we didn’t get so lucky either. We had arguments with the owner of the place we stayed at which went on and on even after I came back to Brussels due to a bad review I gave on Tripadvisor. What and idiot.
Apart from this irrelevant detail that only foment groundless prejudices, the fact that I witnessed the occupation and apartheid in Palestine certainly did not help raising the profile of Israel to my eyes. The adjective I use when describing my visit to Palestine is “touching”. Touching in a way that can’t be easily erased. Being an international relations graduate I find it unacceptable that a state which is currently in violation of a number of UN resolutions is still allowed to perpetrate massive human rights abuses. Also, during our tours and chat with Israelis we always sort of felt a fake sense being under attack and that, even though many segments of the society are against the government, the IDF’s actions were always sort of justified.
The word “settlements” has a completely different meaning in my mind then when I left Belgium to reach Israel. A meaning of hatred and permanent impasse of a situation that only the Israeli establishment and don’t want to solve.
What came as a real surprise was Jordan. What a great place and what a great people are the Jordanians. I had been already to other Arab countries but Jordan was different in a very positive way. Jordan is a very hospitable country to tourists and foreigners and people will be happy to help you if asked.
I must say that that we were also very lucky to have met amazing people such as Marwan and Layan who were also so kind to drive us to Petra and visit it with us. By the way, Marwan is a very professional and enthusiastic consultant. I recommend visiting his company’s website (http://www.beyond-consult.com/) if you’re interested in making business in the region.
Also, we found kindness and great service everywhere. We could really see, even in the modest hotels where we stayed in Amman and Aqaba, how hotel personnel would really try to make the best to make us enjoy our stay and encourage us to come back. Thank you very much Jordan.