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The 1952 Lincoln Capri that served as the car for King Hussein's coronation to the throne
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

The historic plane that King Abdullah I flew the day he went to Friday prayers in Jerusalem 's Al Aqsa Mosque and was assassinated by a Palestinian extremist angry at Abdullah for agreeing to the UN 1947 partition plan and coming to term's with Israel, such that Jordan could gain the west Bank and Jerusalem. Abdullah's grandson [who later became King Hussein] was in the plane, and would have also been killed had a bullet not hit a medal on his chest given to him the day before by his grandfather.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

The narrative at the Museum relating to an 1958 assassination attempt against King Hussein by Syria in his aircraft [referred to as the Dove aircraft] when Hussein , who was a pilot, was flying the plane, the same plane that his grandfather Abdullah used when the latter was assassinated in Jerusalem in 1951. The narrative leaves out the fact that it was Syrian migs that attacked King Hussein's plane. The sign says: "Two Mig jets attacked the Dove aircraft in an attempt to down it. By great flying skills and some quick maneuvering, the King and his passengers were able to beat the Migs and reach the Jordanian borders where they landed in the middle of the desert, defying yet again, another assassination attempt."
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

King Abdullah I used this 1946 Humber for a few years before his assassination. It was used in trips around the Kingdom and the many trips to Jerusalem on Fridays. It is the only remaining car from the era of HM King Abdullah I. The car remained at the Royal Palaces for many years in its original condition, and was recently partially restored. 1946 marks the end of the British Mandate and the independence of Jordan with Prince Abdullah I becoming King.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

King Hussein survived two assassination attempts in this 1968 Mercedes Benz around the time of Black September, when PLO's Yasser Arafat tried to overthrow him. Fighting between Jordanian troups and PLO gunmen leading to the expulsion of the PLO from Jordan. The Museum refers to assassination attempts against the King but leaves out that these attempts were committed by the PLO.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

This Lincoln Continental Town Car was presented to Jordan by President Nixon, of the U.S.A. It was used for his visit to Jordan in June 1974. The car was also used by heads of states and dignitaries during their visits to Jordan, including US President Ford , Sultan Qabus of Oman, President Hafez Al Asad of Syria and President Yasser Arafat of the PLO.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

Specially prepared for high performance police and escort duty, this 1977 Ford was used by King Hussein when he wanted to drive “incognito” around town. It was used at night and for quick trips.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

The Rolls Royce Model 40/50 of Lawrence of Arabia is one of the first cars to have ever been used in the region. At the onset of World War I some of these cars were sent to Egypt, and from there, crossed through to Aqaba to join with the Great Arab Revolt. The soldiers had to build roads before the cars could travel any distance. The fighters wandered through the desert with these cars, slept in them attacked the Ottomans, were shot at and used them as ambulances. Emir Faisal accompanied Lawrence quite often in a regular version of the Rolls-Royce.The armored vehicle exhibited is a replica of the original.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

This is a 1916 Cadillac Type 53 in the Amman's Royal Automobile Museum. Sharif Hussein used a Cadillac for his first visit to Jordan and King Abdullah I used a 1927 Cadillac Limousine for official occasions, while King Talal and King Hussein used a 1948 and a 1952, respectively. Cadillacs were used extensively in Jordan as official cars.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

This 1984 Range Rover car was used when Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain and her husband HRH Prince Phillip during their trips to Petra in 1984
Photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak, April 17, 2016


It was absolutely fascinating to visit Amman's Royal Automobile Museum, which the current King Abdullah II opened in memory of his father King Hussein. The Museum contains an extraordinary collection of cars actually used by successive Kings of Jordan's Hashemite dynasty, from 1915 to the present day, and captures many significant historical junctures. But to my mind, what is most interesting is not only what is included in the Museum's exhibit, but what is not mentioned at all. The taboo subject in the Museum is  Arab/Palestinian extremism and terrorism, which not only succeeded in killing off King Abdullah I, but in 1967 resulted in Jordan losing the West Bank and Jerusalem, and which resulted in numerous assassination attempts on King Hussein both before 1967 (by Egypt and Syria in the fifties) and after 1967 (by Palestinian militants).  Presumably the Museum chose to omit these historical truths in order to accommodate and assuage the sentiments of Palestinians and many in the wider Arab World, but it makes for a very unhistorical account.  (Note: Palestinians made up about 2/3 of Jordan's population, prior to the mass number of some 700,000 Syrian refugees that have entered Jordan as a result of the Syrian civil war. ) 



The first "WOW" factor of the Museum is that it exhibits the actual Arab Legion Airforce plane that King Abdallah I and his young grandson prince Hussein flew to Jerusalem in 1951 when Abdullah was assassinated as he entered al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. He was assassinated by an extremist Palestinian nationalist who rejected Abdullah I's coming to terms with Israel. He was the only Arab leader to accept the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine.  Abdallah I had made a secret deal with the leaders of  the soon to be State of  Israel, which would enable Jordan to take possession of the part of Palestine to be granted to the Arabs under the UN partition plan when British rule in Palestine  ended. Thus, after the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, Jordan annexed the West Bank including East Jerusalem. Abdullah, however, paid with his life for this manoeuvre, which aroused widespread opposition from Arab nationalists who saw his taking the West Bank as being exclusively in the interests of Jordan.



What's remarkable is that when one looks at the website of the royal Automobile Museum, funded by the patronage of the royal family, there is absolutely no mention of who assassinated King Abdullah (nor is it mentioned in the sign next to the aircraft exhibited). The website states:


"On July 20, King Abdullah was assassinated at the foot of the stairs of Al Aqsa Mosque near the tomb of his father Sharif Al Hussein Bin Ali, who himself had dedicated his life to all Arabs.



The young grandson [the Late King Hussein] was beside his grandfather. A bullet hit a medal on his chest and saved him from physical harm..."



A sign next to this same plane [see my photo of it, with the exact wording] indicates that in 1958 there was an assassination attempt against King Hussein [the young grandson who became King] but it again does not explain who was trying to assassinate him. The context is that King Hussein, who was a pilot, decided to take a holiday in Switzerland, and chose to fly this same plane. While flying over Syria, the aircraft was attacked by two Syrian Mig-17 fighters, and ordered to land in Damascus. Hussein disregarded the order, and out manoeuvred the Syrian jets, escaping assassination. The Museum's narrative is that "Two Mig jets attacked the Dove aircraft in an attempt to down it", failing to mention that they were Syrian migs. 


The Museum also doesn't refer to an attempted military coup d’état against Hussein in early 1957 by Nasser's royal adviser, Ali Abu Nuwar, with financial backing from Egypt. While there are some 70 cars in the Museum, there is no car identified as the one Hussein drove to Zerqa (where he cunningly made Abu Nuwar drive with him) to stamp out the coup. Hussein was mobbed by loyal soldiers, while Abu Nuwar sat cowering in the car beside him. I don't know if that car exists or not, but it's not in the Museum.


On the subject of Jerusalem, the Museum contains a 1946 Humber used by King Abdullah I a few years before his assassination that he drove on trips around the Kingdom and the many trips to Jerusalem on Fridays. The historical photo in the Museum displayed behind the photo is one of Abdullah in Jerusalem. What caught my attention, however, is that (unless I missed something) the last time that the city of Jerusalem is specifically mentioned anywhere in the Museum is in relation to the 1946 Humber. There's no mention anywhere in the Museum that King Hussein lost Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 Six Day war, when he made the mistake of joining Egypt belligerent Nassar and Syria and other Arab allies in their war against Israel. (Hussein took the extraordinary decision of placing Jordanian forces under Egyptian command). You will not find any car in the Museum showing the last ride King Hussein took to Jerusalem prior to losing the city in 1967, or the car he drove immediately following the 1967 war.  Interestingly enough, the archival photos of King Hussein in various cars displayed on the Museum's website skip the years 1967 to the late 1970's (thus also conveniently missing the 1973 Israeli-Arab War). The Museum's website does make one reference to the Six Day War in the section "Touring Jordan's history-King Hussein" without directly mentioning that Hussein lost the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the war. Instead, it reads, "After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, he [King Hussein] was instrumental in drafting  UNSC Resolution 242 which calls on Israel to withdraw from all Arab lands it occupied in the 1967 war in exchange for peace."  



Another significant car is the 1968 Mercedes Benz 300 SEL dubbed the “Mabrouka”, that the Museum says "took King Hussein through some of the most turbulent times of the Kingdom." In it, he was subjected to two separate attempts on his life which he survived unscathed. "Here again, the Museum doesn't say who the attempted assassins were! (presumably in order to placate and assuage Palestinian sentiments).



My guess is that these two assassination attempts in the 1968 Mercedes Benz relate to events around Black September in 1970 when the PLO's Yasser Arafat tried to overthrow the King, leading to the King declaring martial law with the Jordanian army launching a full scale attack with tanks and artillery against the headquarters of the Palestinian guerrillas, with hundreds killed, and resulting in the King expelling the PLO from Jordan. Black September is referred to indirectly and obliquely in the Museum narrative as a" turbulent" time, somewhat of an understatement. Re: one assassination attempt see:



Interestingly enough, there is also no mention of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war that I could find anywhere in the Museum. The Museum does have the  Lincoln Continental Town Car  presented to Jordan by US President Nixon used for his visit to Jordan in June 1974, not long after the 1973 war, but that's the closest relevant car to this historical event. 



Another neat car is the one that is a police cruiser that King Hussein used at night on short trips when he wanted to be incognito (after so many assassination attempts, who could blame him for wanting to be incognito!)



In short, if you ever get a chance to be in Amman, go to visit this really interesting Museum, but make sure you bone up on Jordan's history awfully well before hand-otherwise you won't have much of a clue of what's going on. Any naive Western tourist could actually be left with the impression that Israel (not Egypt, Syria or Palestinian militants) was the one that tried to assassinate King Hussein all these times. The Museum is remarkable for the way in which it completely down plays, obscures, or omits crucial pieces of the most dramatic events of Jordan's history, in order to not offend any Palestinian or Arab nationalist sentiments or sensibilities. 



Note: My visit to Amman's Royal Automobile Museum took place in 2008, but based on what is on the current website of the Museum, to the best of my knowledge everything herein is up to date.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.