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King Abdullah's driver's liscence in the Amman Museum
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

King Hussein learned to drive in one A Ford Pilot at the age of 15 in 1950. Many years later, he purchased this example of a 1950 Ford Pilot in the Amman's Royal Jordanian Automobile Museum to remind him of the first car he ever drove.
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Youth Selling Lettuce in Jordan
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Horse back rider on road to Amman
photo by Rhonda Spivak

This 1936 Cord was presented as a wedding gift by Sharif Hamid (Princess Dina's father) to King Hussein. This car always fascinated him and was used occasionally for private and official visits.
photo by Rhonda Spivak

King Hussein's 1966 Amphicar in Amman's Royal Automobile Museum. The site of the Museum says "Called “The Car That Swims”, Amphicar was a German attempt to produce a vehicle that can be used both as a car and a boat, mostly in quiet waters such as lakes. It uses a Triumph Herald engine. Built primarily as leisure vehicles, these cars were too slow for the road and not very practical in the water. About 2,800 units were made, most sold in the US. King Hussein used this car for relaxing outings in Aqaba in the 1960's. It suited the Red Sea's still waters very well. It was restored and repainted for the museum."
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Jordanian fighters
photo by Rhonda Spivak

This 1961 Phantom V Rolls Royce was a gift to king Hussein form Abdullah Salem Al Sabah, Emir of Kuwait. It was used in official Head of State visits and different national events and is part of the collection exhibited at the Amman Royal Automobile museum.
photo by Rhonda Spivak

This 1986 Mercedes-Benz 280GE military version is the vehicle that carried the casket in the funeral procession of King Hussein, as shown in the historic photo behind the vehicle. This is exhibited at Amman's Royal Automobile Museum.
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Mural of King Abdullah II in King Hussein Park in Amman.
photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak, Feb 20, 2017



King Abdullah II of Jordan was the first Middle Eastern leader this month to meet with President Donald Trump and warned him against moving the Israeli embassy from Jerusalem to Tel-Aviv. Reports seem to indicate that Abdullah told Trump that moving the embassy could drive new members to Islamic state and potentially anger Palestinians in his country thereby destabilizing Jordan, a US ally. (The New York Time has reported that Abdullah hurried to Washington to tell Trump this, without an inviation, gambling successfully that he`d be able to see  him) 

There are some people who are already saying that the current King of Jordan, will be the last of the Hashemites to reign over the country. Even though Jordan's King Abdullah II has so far managed to hang on to his Kingdom, notwithstanding the Arab Spring and all the forces of instability in the region, he has made clear he sees the Islamic State as an unprecedented threat.  ISIS jihadists undoubtedly see their natural operating territory spreading into the heart of Jordan. Estimates in 2015 were  that well over 2,000 Jordanians had joined ISIS, the third-biggest foreign contingent in ISIS after Tunisians and Saudis, respectively. The King, correctly fears the ramifications if they export jihad back home to Jordan, and as a result in June 2015, Jordan tightened its counter terror laws to clamp down on significant support for the Islamic State.


As Trump appears to have walked back from his promise to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, I've been thinking about just how potentially tenuous Abdullah's grip on the Kingdom is. I visited Jordan's Royal Automobile Museum in Amman before ISIS took to the world stage.The museum set up by King Abdullah II in memory of his father, the late King Hussein who was a real car enthusiast and whose passion for acquiring luxury vehicles was unrestrained. As I looked at the 70 luxury and sports cars exhibited in the museum from the personal collection of King Hussein or his father King Abdullah I, I was struck by the fact that the lifestyle of Jordanian Kings was incredibly lavish and excessive in comparison to the average Jordanian, most of whom could barely afford cars or gas, let alone the ones who still rode on donkeys. Indeed, fuel prices in Jordan are relatively expensive and are out of whack with the average income of the majority of people, such that many do not own a car because of the fuel bill. Jordan, unlike its Arab neighbours, has no oil, and is reliant on imported energy. It used to import Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which offered discount prices.


On my trip to Jordan, I took a photo of a teen who I saw standing around all day selling lettuce from a road stand in the heat of the Jordan valley. I went to buy some not because I wanted to eat it but because I was curious to see that he fetched no more than a couple cents for a head of lettuce. As I walked through the Royal Automobile Museum, I wondered how the average Jordanian, like the teen selling lettuce, walking through the Museum would grapple with the opulent and extravagant lifestyle of the Hashemites. I began to wonder whether some day there would be enough anger and opposition to this excessive lifestyle, that there would be a successful coup. At the time I figured it would be a coup by a Palestinian nationalist, since Palestinians make up approximately 2/3 of the Kingdom of Jordan, (and Palestinian gunman under the direction of Yassir Arafat tried several times earlier to overthrow Abdullah II's father, King Hussein, around Black September in 1970).  If anything, Jordan is under more economic and social strain today  having accepted more than one million refugees, mainly from Syria and Iraq over the last several years, which has increased the population in Jordan by 12%, and aggravated the country's energy crisis.


Although there is a secular Palestinian opposition to the King lead by led by Mudar Zahran, a Jordanian Palestinian politician, who is exiled in England, who wants to takeover and transition the Kingdom into a democracy, somehow this is not a likely scenario in my opinion.


The more likely scenario is that if the Kingdom were ever to fall, it will fall to ISIS jihadists and /or Moslem Brotherhood extremists. Unfortunately, Jordan has a long history with the terror groups that evolved into the Islamic State. Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the founder of its predecessor Al-Qaida in Iraq, was a Jordanian. He is believed to have masterminded several attacks on Jordanian targets, such as a triple suicide bombing in Amman in 2005. In June 2015 the Israeli security cabinet approved a proposal to build a 29-kilometer security fence along its border with Jordan, with the aim of keeping out ISIS and /or other jihadists and Palestinian militants, not just economic migrants. They are doing this because no one can guarantee how long the Hashemite rule will last. (Albeit I am not clear whether Israel has actually begun work on a security fence with Jordan). 


Thinking of my visit to Amman's Royal Automobile Museum I have this nightmare image in my mind of ISIS taking over, breaking into the Museum and seizing all 70 of the rare and historic cars in the Museum and motorcycles,( be they gifts from Emirs or Presidents), and driving them in one huge parade down the streets of Amman. (This might actually technically be possible since I have read that the Museum is closed one day of the week so that the cars in it can be driven.)   


King Abdullah's army, of course, is skilled and well-equipped and he has been very involved in the US led strategy to defeat ISIS. And that is why Trump might just listen to Abdullah when he says not to move the US embassy to Jerusalem (note that Jordan is the custodian over the Temple Mount)   


And let's not forget that there is one other country that  is highly invested in keeping the Hashemites in power in Jordan, and defeating ISIS. Reports indicate that Israel has sold Jordan drones and surveillance technology to counter the ISIS threat and Jordanian fighter pilots have trained closely with their Israeli counterparts ,


Israel will also be exporting natural gas to Jordan from its Leviathon Reservoir in the future.


In other words, Israel plays a critical role in ensuring that King Abdullah's regime remains stable and that he remains in the driver seat, so to speak.


And Abdullah who remembers well how his great grandfather was assassinated by a Palestinian extremist in the old city of Jerusalem may well have told Trump that his own life could be at risk if their were riots in his Kingdom of the US Embassy were moved to Jerusalem.





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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.