A LEAP Of FAITH
December 29, 2006 1:46pm CST
The following article was taken from: http://www.pennlive.com/entertai ... amp;coll=1#continue The American who became queen Sunday, July 02, 2006 BY KIRA L. SCHLECHTER Of The Patriot-News The story of Lisa Halaby is a veritable fairy tale, the thing many little girls dream about. She caught the eye of a king and became his bride. But Lisa Halaby -- who became Queen Noor when she married King Hussein of Jordan -- is not a storybook character but a much more complex, humble woman who found herself thrust into a very different life when she happened to fall in love with royalty. Her memoir, "Leap of Faith" (Miramax Books), is The Patriot-News Book Club's selection for July. The book's subtitle, "Memoirs of an Unexpected Life," is perhaps more telling of Noor's character, a woman who says it was impersonal to be addressed as "Your Majesty" and who found it unsettling when people stood when she entered a room. Born to an American mother and an Arab father, Halaby became Hussein's fourth wife and the stepmother to his eight children, including Abdullah, who became king after Hussein's death. They would then have four children of their own. Just before they wed, he gave her the Arabic name Noor al Hussein, meaning "light of Hussein" -- an indication of how deeply he felt for her. She also converted to Islam, because, as she wrote, "it was the first religion I had been truly drawn to," not out of any urging from the king. What's most notable about the book is Queen Noor's humility and humanity. She was raised in a well-to-do household (her father, Najeeb Halaby, served in several presidential administrations, then went on to head Pan Am for a time), attended prestigious prep schools, and was in the first co-ed class at Princeton University, where she majored in architecture and urban planning. She writes more, however, of her shyness and her complete lack of interest in the trappings of wealth. And instead of boasting of her relationship with Hussein, who at the time was one of the world's most eligible bachelors, she speaks of her misgivings, of not being sure she had the fortitude to become queen or whether the Jordanian people would accept an American career woman as the wife of their head of state. She doesn't hesitate to say how much she adored Hussein, but she keeps details of their married life to a minimum. She stresses throughout how important her privacy is to her. But the final chapters, in which she writes of Hussein's battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, are deeply personal and wrenchingly painful. Noor also writes extensively on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, much of which she witnessed firsthand. Hussein worked for the rights of the Palestinian people and strove to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, but would not tolerate extremist attacks against Israel from within Jordan, a country that worked tirelessly for peace, she said. While it might irk some that the queen refers to Israel as "Palestine," her views of the conflict, which has wrenched the Middle East for decades, are clear-headed and balanced. She even delivered several policy speeches on the king's behalf during his reign. "Leap of Faith" is a moving, beautifully written look into a world most people rarely see -- not only that of royalty, but of the Islamic way of life from within.