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April 07, 2003

For Judeophile living in Jordan,studying in Israel is merely a dream

An interesting story found at JTA showing the hatred that seethes in the Middle East toward Jews but also shows how one man tries to go beyond such hatred.

AMMAN, Jordan, March 31 (JTA) — Aviv’s mother marvels at the way her son, perhaps one of Jordan’s only self-avowed Judeophiles, references the Bible in discussing contemporary politics in the Middle East.
“You see,” says Aviv professorially, “the borders of Israel are supposed to stretch from the Nile to the Euphrates. That is what it says in the Bible: Numbers, Chapter 2.”

Aviv, who has cat eyes and receding hair combed straight back on his head, says, “Who knows? Maybe I have Jewish blood somewhere in these veins.”

Aviv — a Christian whose family asked that his Arabic name not be used — stands in stark contrast to the prevailing sentiment in Jordan.

With the local and Arabic satellite channels searing the suffering of the Iraqi people onto Jordanians’ minds, anything American, British and especially Jewish is taboo.

Thus his courtship with Hebrew is conducted under supreme secrecy.

A crafter of mosaics who once owned a thriving arts shop near the Roman ruins in Jerash, he has developed numerous friendships with visiting Israelis who were stunned to hear his astoundingly good Hebrew.

His only formal training was a six-week course conducted at a local tourism college in Amman. The rest he picked up from tourists and long hours of studying after work.

Now his Hebrew books — Amman booksellers have since taken such texts off the racks — are stashed away under the family’s Armenian Orthodox Bible.[more]