A Bridge across the Jordan: The Friendship between a Jewish Carpenter and the King of Jordan

A Bridge across the Jordan: The Friendship between a Jewish Carpenter and the King of Jordan

by Adaia Shumsky, Abraham Shumsky

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This is the engrossing memoir of the experiences of a Palestinian Jewish carpenter, Mendel Cohen, working at the Jordanian royal court. His diaries have been translated and edited by the Shumskys, who are both psychologists (Adaia is Cohen's daughter). They have done an excellent job of bringing to life an era of Middle Eastern history. In 1937, Cohen was recruited from Jerusalem by Emir Abdullah, ruler of Jordan, to install a parquet floor in his palace. Abdullah was so impressed by Cohen's work that he retained him as chief carpenter until the outbreak of the Arab-Israeli war in 1948. The two became friendly over many conversations and chess games. A born storyteller, Cohen offers reminiscences of palace life that are dramatic and perceptive. Included are descriptions of encounters with harem women, tales of political intrigue and Bedouin customs, plus a sharply etched portrait of Abdullah. Despite their cultural differences both men, according to Cohen, believed strongly in peace between Arabs and Jews. Abdullah was assassinated in 1951 and King Hussein, his successor, signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews
Fitting somewhere between the stories of Lawrence of Arabia and Anna and the king of Siam, this is nicely recounted by the Jewish carpenter's daughter and son-in-law, bracketed by their own pertinent observations.

Actually, Mendel Cohen was more than a simple carpenter. He was a contractor to the king. Abdullah, the only Arab chief known to have talked directly with Israeli leaders, was the first ruler of Transjordan (as it was then known), an entity created shortly before the birth of Israel. Cohen, a native of Jerusalem and fluent in Arabic, was hired in 1937 by then-Emir Abdullah to refurbish his palace in Amman. Work led to friendship, and Cohen soon became familiar with the royal household and the inevitable court intrigue. Portraits of Abdullah's sons, the slow Naif and the explosive Talal (father of Jordan's present king, Hussein), the noble characters, and the wily courtiers are all drawn neatly. The stories related here range from the operation of the harem to feasts in the emir's tent, where an entire roasted camel was not an unusual entree. More than a royal backstairs exposé, this is a thoughtful text, respectful of Arab ways and the teachings of Islam as well as the lessons of the writers' own heritage. Biblical history is felt as a current presence. The forces of enmity that finally separated Cohen and the king (in 1948, Cohen fought in the Israel Defense Force against the Arab forces commanded by Abdullah) have not abated, yet years later, visiting Amman at the invitation of Hussein, Cohen's daughter found reason in her father's experiences to hope for peace.

An engaging story and a vision of friendship, seen perhaps through rose-tinted glasses, but nevertheless a rare upbeat view in a particularly dim season for Mideast peace.

Product Details

Arcade Publishing
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.75(h) x 1.25(d)

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