The Haj by Leon Uris
Today, Syria is in the news every day with violent acts. So is Iraq. And so is Lebanon, once known as the Playground of the Middle East, is now bombed out. All of these lands are in the mid-East, and all are seriously stressed today. They all are countries of primarily Moslem population. Ever wonder what the life of an Arabian citizen is like? You don’t have to go much farther than this book, The Haj.
The story of the Palestinian nature is told at the time that Israel became a country, 1948. This Arab homeland is right in the midst of holy sites, age old country, and the time honored traditions formed from living in the sands and lands of the people who were the Palestinian originals.
The protagonist is Haj Ibrahim, the respected and powerful leader of his fiefdom. He an Arab leader. You see him change roles with the time and the circumstances. Initially, his is the time honored role of head of an entire tribe. He grooms his sons as helpers, and dismisses his daughters as beings just as low as what his two wives are. He forms a deep friendship with a native born Jew, Gideon Asch, who is an accomplished fighter, and who established the kibbutz next door. This is despite the antagonism between the two peoples. The Haj moves on to live in a camp set up for Moslem people. It is a calculated move to instill hatred into the Arab psyche, so as to better fight the Jews. From there he, a Christian Arab named Mann, and an Islamic patriarch, a Sheik, go to Zurich to attend negotiation talks. These three men represent the major religions of the region, Moslem, Christian, and Islam. They were there before Israel permanently trespassed into their land and lives. They are seeking compromise between the baby country of Israel, and their age old lands. Such reconciliation proves futile. And so, minus his partners, the Haj returns to the camp, a shrunken old man. He eventually asserts his rights as a Leader of his family, at great cost to his son Ismael, who was designated to succeed him.
For this is a tapestry of sights, sounds, emotions and actions in a region about to totally redefine itself and the boundary lines. It is seen through the eyes of the original inhabitants. The generations subsequent to this book, those we see and hear of today, simply take after their Grandfathers’ lives. As do we all.
The end conclusion is that the Arab people demand vengeance, and will die trying to extract it from the Jews or anyone else, even themselves. The Arab countries, which span many religions and geographical areas in the mid-East, are about to self-destruct as they head into new times, new traditions. The major characters in this book do so too.
This is a big book. There are many scenes of violence. It would help to look up locations and terms from time to time. There are those who have a strong hope for peace in the Middle East. As of today, the daily shame and carnage would seem to dash all those hopes. Through this book, should you see just a glimpse of what is in the mid-East today, then writing this review will have been worth it.