It all started out rather innocently and innocuously. I needed the latest statistics on apparel exports from Jordan to the United States. My friend, Janset, in Amman, e-mailed me back within minutes.
But she added, also rather innocently, that there would be a breakfast meeting Feb. 3 with the top corporate officers of major U.S. importers of apparel with His Majesty King Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan pushing to encourage more manufacturing in Jordan.
King Abdullah of Jordan, left, shakes Stuart Pilichowski’s hand at a breakfast meeting in Washington Feb. ‘.
I wanted in. No doubt about it. Not just the chance for increased business with new clients, but an opportunity to meet the king. An opportunity to appear before the king in a forum with others and show that a nice Jewish boy from Fair Lawn, N.J., kippah-clad, travels to Jordan regularly, has Jordanian friends, and everything is fine and dandy — or even quite kosher, if you will. That perhaps, silly me, there may even be more than a cold peace going on between Israel and Jordan. A strengthening of ties. A vision of future warmth and affection, even friendliness, between the cousins, ah, I mean countries.
I requested entr?e. After a series of e-mail exchanges and some biographical information, we were in. The palace ordained that Pilichowski gets to meet the king.
My boss and I were the only Israelis there. About ‘5 Americans attended as well as assorted Jordanian officials.
We flew into D.C., arriving on Thursday, Feb. ‘. The meeting was to be held the next day at the Four Seasons Hotel. Clearly, the fanciest, most luxurious hotel I’ve ever been to. Or as the nice Jewish boy from Fair Lawn is wont to say, "a really fancy-shmansy place."
The concierge had been there for ‘5 years.
He was quite upset when his friend (chaver) Yitzhak Rabin was slain. Leah was a dear friend too.
Well, onto the king….
We were ushered into a large meeting room at one of the lower levels of the hotel. The tables were set up in the shape of a "U." Of course the king was at the head of the table/room.
The explosives-sniffing canine did its thing around the room. Hakol B’seder.
After some schmoozing (yes, Arabs and CEOs schmooze too) we were asked to take our seats. Then we were asked to rise.
Two minutes later, the king made his entrance.
He proceeded to shake everyone’s hand. A photographer kept snapping away. I kinda imagined that at the end of the meeting the snapshots would be in the lobby with the photographer hawking them for five bucks apiece. But the Four Seasons doesn’t do that.
When the king got to me I offered him good morning wishes in English, Arabic, and Hebrew. I wished him a happy birthday. (It was his birthday earlier in the week. In Jordan it’s a national holiday.) Then I said what I had practiced for the previous few days: "I hope the peace and cooperation between our nations will spread throughout the region. It’s my prayer that the forces of moderation will ultimately be victorious. May we, the children of Abraham, forge new bonds of peace and friendship."
Nah, I didn’t say any of that. I didn’t have a chance. He’s a real fast hand-shaker. Before you know it, he’s zipping by.
So peace in the Middle East and goodwill towards mankind wasn’t exactly accomplished. Not by me anyway. Not at this forum.
Leading up to the meeting I thought I’d have a half-minute or so to talk to the king. Rather than bore him with Super Bowl stuff, I was all set to forge new bonds between our peoples and tell him this great joke I heard that he might use when he addresses Congress.
Lost opportunities? I guess I was dreaming. Woulda, shoulda, coulda.
The king is definitely a dreamer and has aspirations for his nation and his people far greater than the average leader and certainly way above that of other Arab leaders.
The king has a wonderful sense of humor. He alluded a few times to the consequences if his Minister of Economic Development wasn’t successful.
At the end of the day I was happy to simply be in the same room with him. My boss took the lead and talked about the local political situation and the recent Hamas election victory.
Business as usual for the shmattah business was the message he delivered.
The king agreed and said Hamas would have to "put up or shut up." I guess the king can make such declarative statements without worry.
What, you didn’t see those headlines? That’s because only Women’s Wear Daily was covering the event and they didn’t focus on the politics of the Middle East.
I’m meeting with the king of Jordan, who’s working to build a better nation for his people, and at the same time our own government in Israel is focused on beating up teenagers who want to build a better nation.