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The Desert Highway: A Glimpse Into The Mid East Mind

JESSE PETRILLA

The morning was spent in Jerusalem and I would sleep that night in Tel Aviv. The next day I would travel north to Nazareth where I would meet with Pastor Afif, an Arab Palestinian Christian, the pastor who would baptize me in the Jordan River. This was Christmas of 2005, and I was on what would be my first of several trips to the Middle East since. I knew there were many Palestinian Christians, but what I then came to find out is just what a sizable minority they are, much more than I had expected. Many of them are Israeli citizens, and who largely participate in Israeli politics; some even serve in the Israel Defense Force. To no surprise, many of them are at odds with other Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim alike, depending on whether or not they stand behind their beliefs, or cave to pressure and join the cause of Hamas or Fatah, but what I did learn from some of these Christian Palestinians was how, regardless of where they stand politically, they are constantly under attack by the radical Muslims of the region. Their churches are burned, their families are intimidated, and their lives are threatened, all because they are believers in Christ, despite the fact that they are largely the descendants of Arab Christians who have lived and thrived in the region since the time of Jesus. This has been paralleled in many other regions of the world where the descendants of indigenous Christians have become outnumbered by the Muslims, and now they live in fear for their lives. In Egypt for example, the Coptic Orthodox Christian church once enjoyed the majority in the once Christian nation. The Copts today in Egypt are descendants of the Christian inhabitants of Egypt nearly 2,000 years ago. Yet after the invasion of Islamic armies in the 600s AD, and a steady flow of Islamic immigration and forced conversions, the Christian population has dwindled to less than ten percent today, and the percentage is falling further as time and Islamic intimidation press on. In France, the Netherlands, Great Britain, and many other European nations, Muslims have greatly increased in numbers in recent years, and along with it the growth of Islamic aggression to the point where Christians live under the same intimidation as in many regions of the world with Muslim majorities. In America it is already starting. For example, in Dearborn, Michigan where the population is around 30% Muslim at this time, they are already holding pro-terror rallies that look like something straight out of Gaza City or Fallujah, where Hezbollah flags and signs are displayed calling for the destruction of America. If at 30% in a small region the radicals are so empowered to come out to act in that manner, what will happen when they cross the 50% threshold? Through lax immigration policies in America, and the ability of radical Islamists to use our laws against us, what fate will America one day suffer?

The day of my baptism I looked at my map to plot the best route for the day’s schedule. I was alone, and after leaving the River Jordan would travel through a valley crossing point into the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan near the Israeli/Syrian/Jordan borders. I knew I’d find a taxi waiting for me at the border with an eager driver hoping to receive a tip in U.S. dollars. The plan for my travel in Jordan was to then head down what the map called “The Desert Highway” which if one followed to the end, would lead into Saudi Arabia. The only other major highway marked on the map led east towards Iraq, and neither road seemed to have many towns along their route, but was populated by sparse Bedouin, nomadic Arab, villages. The primary objective of my journey through the Jordanian kingdom was not to visit all the lovely tourist sites, but to meet the people. Learning the mindset was the primary goal. I wanted to see the country that terrorists such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi grew up in, and talk face to face with the locals in the desert to see what I could learn from them in my painfully broken Arabic. So my journey began, I would travel down the desert highway to learn what I could learn.

Talking with the IDF

Several days earlier, I had the opportunity to get a tour of an Israeli army base on the Israeli border with Lebanon only a few hundred yards from a Hezbollah terrorist camp on the other side of the fence. The terror organization still being very strong at the time in Southern Lebanon, with unaided vision you could see right in front of you across the fence Hezbollah terrorists engaging in training exercises. A sight that gives you quite an uneasy feeling to say the least. The visit with the Israeli soldiers was a wonderful opportunity to mingle with troops who had to live day to day with an enemy staring them down from only a few hundred yards away. The striking differences were astounding between going from mingling with modern civilized troops one day, to traveling into other mid-east regions that seemed to be thousands of years back in time only a few days later. When I told my IDF friends of my plans to head into Jordan, one soldier told me to remember the terrain when I am there, because, he joked, “one day you may return wearing a uniform and carrying a rifle.” With these memories fresh in my mind, I set out from Israel through the ancient town of Bet She’an near the Jordanian border. While in Bet She’an I was at the bus stop trying to figure out which road to travel and which bus would take me to the border crossing checkpoint. I saw an Israeli Army officer sitting at the bus stop and asked if he spoke English. He nodded his head but said not a word, and I asked him in simple and precise English if he knew which bus to take to the border. To my bewildered surprise he immediately responded in a strong Brooklyn, New York accent with what route and bus I needed to take and what to do when I get there. No sooner had he finish telling me this, than his bus arrived. He quickly boarded it and was gone. Such an odd feeling to be 10,000 miles away from home, on the border with Jordan, and have a New Yorker give me directions. I hopped on my bus and a short while later was at the border. After being discouraged from crossing by several Israeli border guards, I crossed into the Jordanian territory. When there, having miscalculated the exchange rate, I accidentally gave a young fellow $15 for carrying my duffel bag and showing me where to meet a taxi. I finally realized this in the taxi on the way to Amman, luckily before paying the driver. It must have been quite a surprise for the kid to receive such a tip in a nation where the average salary is around $150 a month if they are lucky; I only hope he didn’t spend it on something nefarious…

The first thing I recall after crossing the border was the silence. Aside from the fellow offering to carry my duffel bag there was nobody there, not a person, not a car, the air was completely void of noise. Suddenly the screaming noise of an in-need-of-maintenance taxi tore through the air, the driver hauling along a mostly dirt road at freeway speeds. In broken Arabic I told him where I needed to go, asked him the rate, and got in. The Jordanian capital of Amman was where I was heading, I wanted to check into my hotel, the Radisson SAS, a western oasis in this nomadic land. A hotel that only a few weeks prior had been bombed by two suicide bombers, a husband and wife team by the name of Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari and his wife Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, such lovely couple activities. The wife, al-Rishawi, survived the bombing when her belt failed to detonate. Nonetheless the attack by her husband murdered 38 people at a wedding reception taking place in one of the hotel ballrooms. The fathers of both the bride and groom being among the dead. What kind of ideology could produce such hate of others and such love of death? I had been studying just what the terrorists believe, and how they come to adopt such extreme and utterly lunatic convictions. To the outsider, the reasons for such colossal numbers of extremists produced by such a culture becomes painfully obvious as time goes by, and as education of their beliefs increases. I hoped to marginally enhance this education through first hand interaction in the Islamic society. I figured the Radisson was the safest place in town since the so very recent attack, and the rates of course were reduced, so that was where I was staying.

The trip to Amman was a rough one. The border crossing point had only recently been opened to grant visas. Prior to the opening of this crossing, there was only one other place where a traveler could receive a visa at the border. Since the crossing was new for travelers without a Jordanian visa, it wasn’t exactly the most presentable region. The roads were almost entirely dirt, and the hillside was littered with well inhabited caves and tents. The taxi driver still felt the need to travel at freeway speeds along this “highway”, constantly swerving to avoid goats and piles of burning trash in the middle of the road. We passed through several villages where I could see markets set up along the side of the road. These markets were not much more than shacks with piles of produce lying directly in the dirt, the bottom of the piles clearly rotted. It was cold, and the sheer number of fires astounded me. People were burning whatever trash they could find to keep warm, creating columns of smoke spotting the sky, creating a fantastically chaotic ambiance. This route, not too far from the Syrian border, had almost nothing along it to indicate that there was any form of government or order in the region. The infrastructure was virtually nonexistent, and it took nearly two hours of twists and turns before we finally arrived at my hotel in Amman, a city reminiscent of an Arab Tijuana, yet a Beverly Hills compared to what lay outside the city limits.

The beautiful western oasis, the Radisson SAS, only two weeks after a suicide bomb attack

The next morning I met up with a taxi driver whom I paid around $50 American plus gas to drive me around the country for the entire day. We spent from sun up to sun down together traveling along the Desert Highway, and under the guise of pretending to be a pro-Islamist activist, I begun to learn his true thoughts on everything from Israel to bin Laden. The man, a Palestinian Muslim whose family was from Jenin, was virulently pro Al-Qa’eda, and talked of the “glorious” day when Israel would be destroyed, and when America would come to know Islam. Knowing that I was an American, he was very happy to see my mock-interest in helping in the Islamist cause. Naturally the entire thing was a facade on my part in order to hear his true thoughts, but to him he believed that I was part of what the extremists want most, Americans to join with them in becoming Muslims or dhimmi supporters of the Islamist cause. (In Islamic Sharia law, a dhimmi is a non-Muslim who accepts his/her inferiority, and agrees to live in a subservient state to Islamic rule). I wanted to stop at many places along the route, but many places the driver refused to stop. It was because he knew the regions all too well, and he told me we could not stop at certain villages because we “were not members of their tribe.” This ancient way of thinking astounded me, to be in the 21st century and be forced to live with a 7th century mindset of tribalism. Despite the limited number of friendly villages, we were able to find several spots that presented a favorable opportunity to mingle with the locals. Incredibly, the driver seemed to know almost everyone in the country regardless of where we stopped. Of course I was always wary when judging the true nature of anyone who expressed a desire for friendship, having researched elements of the Koran which state that a Muslim, although who may appear to hold a desire for friendship, shall never take an unbeliever as a friend. This is supported by various verses, known as suras, within the Koran such as the following; “Believers, do not seek the friendship of the infidels.” (Sura 5:57) or “O you who believe! Take not as your helpers or friends those outside your religion. They will not fail to corrupt you. They desire to harm you severely.” (Sura 3:118) Now digging a little deeper, one can find within Islam a principle called Al-Takeyya, which is a heavily practiced and Koran sanctioned form of deception. Sura 3:28 of the Koran states:

“Let not the believers take for friends or helpers unbelievers rather than believers: if any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah: except by way of Al-Takeyya, that ye may guard yourselves from them (prevent them from harming you.) But Allah cautions you to remember himself; for the final goal is to Allah.”

In addition, Sura 16:106 states that a Muslim can pretend to deny his/her faith entirely when under compulsion. Throughout history, Islamic scholars and Muslims throughout the world have interpreted Al-Tekeyya from these and similar verses to allow a Muslim to feign a friendship with a non-Muslim, and for them to act contrary to their faith when in the presence of the unbelievers (any non-Muslims). They can pretend to befriend the infidels, and lie about anything within their faith, or about their true intentions. In addition to this, there are also numerous similar verses within the Koran and Hadith holy Islamic writings stating sanctioned lying, so long as the liar is true to Allah in their heart. So this knowledge made me very cautious when speaking with individuals in Jordan or the West Bank, since I couldn’t be sure what they were actually thinking, I automatically assumed everyone is lying. I hate to do it since my judgment as a good hearted Christian, and simply as an honest American, is to hold a natural desire to trust people, but having my life at stake and having learned of Al-Takeyya from readings and experiences made me err on the side of caution. Better safe than sorry. But what is concerning is today many radical Islamic organizations setting up camp in America as “civil rights” groups lobby our government and our law enforcement with a constant bombardment of false propaganda counter to what their actual intentions are, all sanctioned deception within Islam. With most law enforcement and government officials unaware of Al-Takeyya, this gives the Islamists a free pass to infiltrate our society and use our free speech laws, combined with their sanctioned form of deception, to their advantage in furthering their fascist cause. I recall one such “civil rights” group, so worthless their name shall remain unmentioned, which was founded by members of Hamas, has had their chief spokesperson state on numerous occasions in interviews that he believes America should be under Islamic Sharia law rather than democracy, has had numerous leaders of their organization indicted on charges of terrorism, yet at the time of this writing they still successfully influence government leaders, hold sensitivity training sessions for unsuspecting and uninformed law enforcement agencies, have been given tours of Airport security procedures to make certain no one was being profiled, and continue to parade around as a civil rights organization claiming their intentions are peaceful, and that they intend to help America combat terrorism. That is why so many people fall under their yoke; people tend to trust others naturally when they do not know the facts. This radical Islamic organization which gloats about and professes their actions to work with and allegedly assist law enforcement, is knocked out of the water in an instant when one finds out that they distribute pamphlets to all of their members stating to never speak with law enforcement when a threat is heard, or never talk to the FBI under any circumstances, teaching and encouraging complete non-compliance in the War on Terror to their Muslim membership, and to the Islamic communities. This is just one of many examples of Al-Takeyya taking place in America today by Islamist infiltrators, and an unfortunate but necessary price to protect America is that we must stay cautious and vigilant for other instances of this deception.

With the Beduins

“George Bush, George Bush! Yes!” I hear loudly in English behind me while walking with a Bedouin guide in a Jordanian village, my taxi driver behind me. We turn around to see a joyfully smiling Arab with his thumbs up, inviting us to come into his mud shack and join him for tea. Was this a Republican in the Arabian Desert? Or simply a trick. Of course my mind shoots immediately to the latter and I politely turn down his offer and continue along. It is a sad feeling to never know one’s true intentions in a seemingly peaceful environment,…seemingly peaceful. In the villages along the Desert Highway, I encountered numerous sheep herders, cave-dwellers (literally), and nomads who simply wished to live their daily lives. One old man I did have tea with lived in a cave with his two children, one being a toddler, and the other being an annoying seven year old who kept running around yelling something in Arabic that I could not discern. The old man didn’t speak one word of English, and aside from my being able to understand simple directions and numbers, my understanding of Arabic proved virtually useless with him. While sipping tea over a small fire just outside of his cave, I could see the harsh desert life in his face, and knew that this man, who no doubt could not even read or write, knew nothing of terrorism, yet what frightens me is that although he represents the vast majority of Muslims in the Middle East in that he is an individual who simply wishes to live his life, individuals like him will follow the radical Islamic leaders who do know how to read and write, who have read the Koran, and who adhere to the extreme elements within Islamic teachings. The average Muslim like this man will march with the radicals simply because they will choose to back their fellow Muslim over the infidel. They, like many others, are truly victims in the global war between radical Islam and the West.

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