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Temple of Artemis in the ancient Roman city of Gerasa at the sunset, preset-day Jerash, Jordan. Source: vesta48 /Adobe Stock

Knifeman Stabs Tourists at Jordanian Site Jerash


Eight people, including four foreign tourists, have been stabbed in Jerash, an ancient tourist location in Jordan. Conflicting reports about the attack are presenting varying details about the injuries, but local media said at least two people were in “critical condition.”

Reuters reported that Jordan’s minister of health, Fayez Jaber, said “three Mexicans and one Swiss” tourist were wounded along with four Jordanians when a man went on a “stabbing rampage” with a machete in Jerash city, a major tourist destination offering spectacular ancient Roman ruins.

Local media have reported that two of the eight stab victims have been flown to the capital Amman for treatment. The Guardian quoted local police sources, which claim a 22-year-old man was arrested at the scene who had come from a nearby Palestinian refugee camp. On Wednesday, residents of the camp released a statement saying they “denounce and condemn” the terrorist act carried out by what they called one of these “cowards in Jerash.”

Jerash’s Unparalleled Archaeology

Jerash is an ancient city located north of the capital Amman and has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. It’s renowned for its ruined walled Greco-Roman settlement of Gerasa, the 2nd-century Hadrian’s Arch, also known as the Triumphal Arch, which was built in 129 AD in honor of the visit of Emperor Hadrian, and behind this arch is the hippodrome which hosted chariot races in front of up to 15,000 spectators.

Amphitheater in the ancient Roman city, Jerash, Jordan. (sola_sola /Adobe Stock)

Amphitheater in the ancient Roman city, Jerash, Jordan. (sola_sola /Adobe Stock)

Furthermore, the Corinthian columns of the Temple of Artemis and the Forum’s enormous oval colonnade are but a handful of the hundreds of ancient attractions that make Jerash one of world’s best-preserved Roman cities, and as such, a major tourist pull with great importance to Jordan’s flagging economy.

The Horrifying Attack

The Independent reported on videos that had been posted on social media showing a bleeding woman lying on the floor and another panic-stricken woman wearing a T-shirt stained with blood and screaming in Spanish “It's a dagger, it's a dagger, there is a knife. Please, help him now!” The Guardian quoted one eyewitness, Natalie, who said she heard a commotion and when she realized people were bleeding she thought there must have been “a full-on fight,” and it was only when she saw a man’s hand “split open” she knew somebody had stabbed people.

Photo from the scene of the incident. (Roya News)

Photo from the scene of the incident. (Roya News)

Natalie added that local guides had told her and her group that the knife attack had been carried out by “a psycho” who had been arrested and that the rest of the site was now safe; but she said she was surprised that no police lines were set up and tourists were walking around “through all the blood.”

Resisting Reaction is Not Easy, But Essential

With tourism contributing to about 10% of Jordan’s GDP, the country suffered real hardship when the conflict in Iraq increased and from the outbreak of civil war in neighboring Syria. And with tourism having shown signs of recovery in the past three years what must absolutely not happen here is that Jordan becomes ‘black-listed’ in the minds of tourists and travelers because of the actions of “one brain-washed psycho” with an extreme religious agenda, because similar attacks can and do happen in Paris, London, Switzerland, and all over the world, every week.

And what will certainly not be given as much as a mention in this article are any terrorist organizations or extreme religious groups that might or might not have been involved in the attack, for their fleeting violent ideologies are but passing thoughts compared to time scales of the deeply ancient Jerash.

This city will stand strong and will inevitably attract tens of millions more tourists over the coming centuries because there is just so, so much to see and learn at Jerash, so much so, that it can seem daunting at first – especially given that there exists virtually no signage.

Jerash - September 29, 2018: Ancient Roman ruins of Jerash, Jordan. (rpbmedia/Adobe Stock)

Jerash - September 29, 2018: Ancient Roman ruins of Jerash, Jordan. (rpbmedia/Adobe Stock)

A Call to Action, Not Reaction

How should we react to such crimes? If we were to follow the routes of reason and logic we would have to conclude that Jordan is as safe, or dangerous, today as it was this time last week. And statisticians might argue that this one horrific incident “could” have occurred in any European city, so reacting to “one psycho” by avoiding an entire city, or country, is a bit, well, absurd.

If I had the opportunity I would return to Jordan tomorrow and would immerse myself once again in one of the most culturally rich nations in the world, with its endless and massive open air interactive archaeological sites.

And remember, “they” only win if “we” get scared, and if you decide to not go to Jordan based on this one incident you should also avoid visiting the Tower of London or the The Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

Top Image: Temple of Artemis in the ancient Roman city of Gerasa at the sunset, preset-day Jerash, Jordan. Source: vesta48 /Adobe Stock

By Ashley Cowie

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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