Short Trips Around Small Countries: Jordan I Background

One day in 1995 as I was about to leave work at the National Science Foundation, our boss came around asking “does anyone know about the Middle East?”  I put my head out of the door and said, “yes I  do!”  As a matter of fact it was true, I had been a student of the Middle East for many years and had read widely on the subject, mainly because of my interest in Israel.  She said to me, “We’ve had an urgent request for someone who knows biotechnology and knows about the Middle East to serve on a committee, are you interested?”  I said “Yes,” so she replied “write me up a one page description of your interests now and I’ll submit it and we’ll see what they say.”

A few days later I received a call from someone at the US Information Agency.  He said “I received your description regarding biotechnology and the Middle East,”   I said “yes, what’s it all about,”  He said “we’re putting together a Committee to deal with scientific relations between Jordan and Israel, and they’ve identified biotechnology as one of the topics and you seem to be an appropriate candidate.”  I said “good.” Then he asked, “are you the Jack Cohen who used to be at NIH and helped set up a program at the American Chemical Society to help scientists who are being persecuted?”  I said “as a matter of fact I am.” Then he replied “well, my name is John Hughes, and I was an intern in that program.  I remember you well.  So you’ve got the job,  When can we meet?”

This amazing coincidence got me appointed to a Committee consisting of three representatives in the subjects of agriculture, education and biotechnology from each of the three countries Jordan, Israel and the USA.  We were the Joint Expert Group (JEG).  The program was known as the “Jordanian-Israeli-American Trilateral Cooperation in the Physical Sciences, The Social Sciences and Applied Technology.”   For these negotiations, first there was a meeting of the Committee in Washington DC, including a representative from each country (a diplomat), to draw up an agenda, then two meetings in Jordan, then one in Israel and finally one back in Washington to finalize the Report of the JEG.   The Americans were intended to be advisers to the other two as a measure towards fostering peace between the two countries.  It was thru this means that I happened to tour Jordan in 1995, soon after the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan.

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