The beginning of what was to be my most life-changing experience was less than ideal. My flight to O’Hare Airport was cancelled and I missed my flight to Amman. When I finally arrived in the Amman airport a day late, my director had been waiting at the wrong terminal. So the first couple hours of my time in Jordan was spent in the airport, watching strangers interact and slightly panicking about the fact that no one was picking me up.
One thing I noticed right away, however, was the openness of Jordanians. Their welcoming attitude was an unexpected phenomenon for an airport. This hospitality is something that would continue to impress me during my two months on the archaeological dig. Wherever we went, locals would invite us to have tea and talk with them.
My favorite teatime was spent with a Bedouin woman in Petra, who told us about her ten children and let us take pictures of her and her family (pictures are a touchy issue in the Middle East). Families and friendships are extremely important to Islamic culture, and I found the respect and gratitude these people had for each other very touching. It’s not something you see as often in the United States. It was not taboo for men to show affection to their friends and the local workmen we hired for the dig would often lean all over each other during breaks.
My summer was an eye-opening experience. As a Jew, I have been taught that this part of the world is anti-Semitic, and although I wasn’t scared, I didn’t expect to be overwhelmed by fondness for these people. I found it tragic that I could not reveal to the friends I made among the workmen that I was Jewish. I wish they could have made the same discoveries I did.