Desert, Yes, But Warm…?

Amman, Jordan

When I arrived in Jordan for the first time in early February of 2004, I had no sweaters, no winter coat, no sweatshirt. Over two feet of snow had fallen on southern Pennsylvania the night before I left for Peace Corps Orientation. It was cold when we left Washington, D.C., cold on our layover in Frankfurt, but for some reason I didn’t think it would be cold in Jordan. After all, Jordan’s a desert! (I still don’t know why it never occurred to me, traveller and researcher extraordinaire, to check the CIA Factbook for the average winter temperatures in Jordan…!)

When I stepped out of customs at Queen Alia Airport in Amman, the first thing I saw were several tall men with black-and-white Hattas wrapped around their faces, just like the terrorists I’d seen on TV. It took me a few hours to figure out that they do that to stay warm!

Amman is cold. It gets at least a foot of snow a year. That winter of 2004, some villages in the mountains in Shobak got so much snow that food and heating gas had to be airlifted in.

Yesterday, we could see our breath inside our apartment. And I just kept thinking, I don’t understand how people could think that the total blockade that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip since November could be fair. We’re not talking about an embargo on luxury items. We’re talking about basic necessities, as described by Harvard professor Sara Roy here.

Maybe you think Gaza is a nice warm desert. It is a desert, yes, but while spending my third winter in Jordan, having been to the Sinai in January 2006, I can tell you that it must be cold in Gaza tonight, and there’s no electricity and no heating oil.

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