Category Archives: Leap of Faith

Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life by Queen Noor

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter

I haven’t been interested in reading any of former President Jimmy Carter’s books.

And this Nobel Peace Prize winner has written a lot of books:

I didn’t know that he wrote not just non-fiction but also a book of poetry and a children’s book. And that doesn’t even include the books that he’s written prefaces, forewords or introductions for!

But the one I’m considering reading now is Carter’s Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. I remember reading a less than glowing New York Times review of this book in January 2007 not long after this book came out.

Obviously the publisher thinks much more highly of this book; here’s what the publisher has to say about this book:

President Carter, who was able to negotiate peace between Israel and Egypt, has remained deeply involved in Middle East affairs since leaving the White House. He has stayed in touch with the major players from all sides in the conflict and has made numerous trips to the Holy Land, most recently as an observer in the Palestinian elections of 2005 and 2006.

In this book President Carter shares his intimate knowledge of the history of the Middle East and his personal experiences with the principal actors, and he addresses sensitive political issues many American officials avoid. Pulling no punches, Carter prescribes steps that must be taken for the two states to share the Holy Land without a system of apartheid or the constant fear of terrorism.

The general parameters of a long-term, two-state agreement are well known, the president writes. There will be no substantive and permanent peace for any peoples in this troubled region as long as Israel is violating key U.N. resolutions, official American policy, and the international “road map” for peace by occupying Arab lands and oppressing the Palestinians. Except for mutually agreeable negotiated modifications, Israel’s official pre-1967 borders must be honored. As were all previous administrations since the founding of Israel, U.S. government leaders must be in the forefront of achieving this long-delayed goal of a just agreement that both sides can honor.

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid is a challenging, provocative, and courageous book.

Having read Queen Noor’s Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life, I’d like to learn more about Israeli-Palestinian history and politics and I’m interested in reading Carter’s Palestine because I suspect that it tells a different side of the story than we normally hear in the United States.

That this book has sparked much uproar makes me think that this is an important book to read — whether or not it is accurate.

Click here to view the table of contents or click here to read an excerpt.

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Leap of Faith by Queen Noor

Sadly, my book club’s discussion of Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life by Queen Noor was quite poor (click here to read all my posts about this book).

Maybe it’s because Israeli-Palestinian issues are a sensitive subject or maybe most of the group didn’t read it but no one seemed willing to discuss the book!

Oh well, I enjoyed the book and that’s what matters.

Any suggestions on books to learn about Israeli-Palestinian history and politics?

Leap of Faith by Queen Noor

I felt mesmerized reading Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life by Queen Noor (click here to read all my posts about this book), which I finished a few days ago.

Queen Noor is really a remarkable woman and role model. She is an international humanitarian activist and an intelligent and outspoken voice on issues of world peace and justice — she has worked with the World Wildlife Fund International, Seeds of Peace, United World Colleges, Landmine Survivors Network among many others.

The beautiful love story of King Hussein and Queen Noor nearly brought me to tears.

As someone who feels rather uneducated when it comes to issues of the Middle East, I was grateful to learn the differences between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims (Shi’a are a minority and believe that only direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad may have spiritual or political rule over the community), what the term Hashimite means (direct descendants of Muhammad), and about the tragic and complex history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I urge you to read this thoughtful intelligent memoir.

Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life by Queen Noor

I have been reading the extraordinary memoir of Queen Noor of Jordan, Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life.

This book is incredibly touching, from the breathless romance of their courtship to the painful stories of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

I’m a sucker for letters and I was particularly moved by the 10th anniversary letter King Hussein of Jordan wrote to Queen Noor, pubilshed in Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life by Queen Noor (which I’m reading for a book club).

Here’s the letter:

This is a very special time, this is a very special month and a very special year. We are ten years older and ten years old. We will never be ten again, but with God’s blessings we shall continue to grow and mature together all the more for many other years to come. Silver, gold, who can predict?

I thank God for our life of love and the children we are blessed to have. I thank you for so much. I know it is not all that I would have wished for you or anything close to that. I know myself, I know my shortcomings, and I also know I am blessed to have you by my side, loving, caring, brave, and pure. All the finest things in life grow more valuable as they grow and mature. I hope the times to come will be better than those that have passed, and I treasure all the happiest of memories of our travel through time. For despite the fact that everything changes from time to time and one drives down to start a hill climb, the balance I feel is in the realm of goodness as together we climb through the years.

This is a special time, a special month and year. I am every proud of you as you stand by my side. I pray for God to bless you through the years and give us strength and courage, happiness, contentment, and the comfort of sharing and giving of our best. God bless our family. And many thanks to you for being you. The One God blessed me by bringing us together ten years ago to start through life a loving husband and his beloved wife. With you by my side, I celebrate each day. Happy 10th and with God’s blessings, many more to come.

With all my love,

Hussein

Leap of Faith by Queen Noor

I just picked up Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life by Queen Noor at my local library; it’s the next selection for one of my book clubs.

This is the memoir of Queen Noor, the fourth wife and widow of the late King Hussein of Jordan. Born Lisa Najeeb Halaby as an American, Queen Noor is of English, Swedish, Scottish, and Syrian descent. Educated in the United States at Concord Academy and Princeton University where she studied architecture and urban planning, she met King Hussein while working in Jordan on the development of the Amman Intercontinental Airport. The couple married on June 15, 1978 and had four children.

Should be quite interesting!

Click here to read an excerpt.

And since I’m reading this for a book club, I looked up some discussion questions:

  1. In the Acknowledgments section Queen Noor states, “This book was written in the spirit of reconciliation, which I hope will contribute to a greater awareness, especially in the West, of events that have shaped the modern Middle East, and encourage a deeper understanding of contemporary challenges facing the Arab world.” Prior to reading Leap of Faith, what was your perception of Jordan and the Middle East? Did reading this book change your opinion in any way? How is it different to get a personal perspective rather than journalistic accounts in the media?
  2. What circumstances in Queen Noor’s background-ie, her Arab-American heritage, her family’s international travels, etc-gave her an advantage in assuming the role of Jordan’s queen? What, if any, were detriments?
  3. In one instance Queen Noor recalls her “first impressions of Jordan” (pg 2) as being “overwhelmed by an extraordinary sensation of belonging and an almost mystical sense of peace.” Were you surprised at how quickly she embraced life in Jordan? Why or why not?
  4. What do you think attracted Queen Noor and King Hussein to one another? Queen Noor admits that she agonized over her decision of whether or not to marry King Hussein. One of her concerns was that his “own people might feel antagonistic toward their King, even betrayed, by his choice of an American woman, albeit one with Arab roots” (pg 82). How, ultimately, did she know it was the right decision to marry King Hussein?
  5. Queen Noor reveals that the “most precious gift” (pg 95) the King ever gave her was her name, which means “light” in Arabic. As she said, “Over the next few weeks and months, a transition gradually took place in my mind, in my dreams. I became Noor.” Why did this bestowing of a new name have such an impact on her? Why do you think she was willing to change her name?
  6. “My attachment to Jordan and Jordanians came very naturally, but it was harder to define exactly what my role should be in terms of contribution to the well-being of the country” (pg 128). What role did Queen Noor ultimately define for herself? Were you surprised that King Hussein encouraged his wife in the pursuit of a non-traditional role for a queen?
  7. The marriage of Queen Noor and King Hussein was inescapably intertwined with the politics of the region and the world. “My memories of those personally challenging times are inextricable from my memories of the political dramas we were engaged in” (pg 139). How did she make her marriage work under these circumstances? If you had been in her shoes what, if anything, would you have done differently?
  8. When Queen Noor told her family of her decision to marry King Hussein, her mother and father were both concerned for her future but for different reasons. Her mother “expressed her concern that our culturally different backgrounds might prevent us from finding a common language.” Her father’s anxieties “were more political” (pg 91), wondering if his daughter could handle the intricacies of a Byzantine royal court and fearing for her safety amid the turbulence of the Middle East. How did these concerns-personal and political-come into play in their daughter’s life as Jordan’s queen?
  9. During the Gulf War, Queen Noor visited the United Stated and believed that her husband “was being made out to be an enemy of the United States, when he was anything but” (pg 318). What was your perception of King Hussein as a ruler in the Middle East? Discuss the significance of King Hussein’s friendship with Prime Minister Rabin of Israel.
  10. Upon her marriage to King Hussein, Queen Noor found herself stepmother to his eight children, and she later gave birth to four children of her own. What challenges did she face being both mother and stepmother to twelve children, and how did she overcome them?
  11. What surprised you the most about Queen Noor?
  12. What will you most remember from Leap of Faith?