"The Haj" follows the history of a Palestinian Bedouin family from the early 1920s to the late 1950s, focusing on the head of the family - the muktar of the Tabah village - Haj Ibrahim al Soukuri al Wahhabi, an his youngest son Ishmael. The authors craftily weaves the delicate history of the middle east into the life of the family. The situation in Palestine before WWII, the complex relationship between the Muslim Tabah village and a neighboring Jewish Kibbutz, the region during and just after the war, the declaration of Israel's independence, the independence war of 1948 and so on. What I liked most about the book is the wealth of information about the life of an Arab family, the traditions of Bedouins and the complex relationships inside and between tribes. It amazes me how the author managed to gain such a deep understanding without actually living among these people. There is also a touching human story going on here. Ishmael, his sister Nada and to a lesser extent Haj Ibrahim himself all have doubts in the traditions of their people, but find this tradition too strong to really express their individuality in any uncommon way. On the critical side, the book suffers from the same flaw as Exodus. The author is clearly very much anti-Arab and pro-Israel, and he just can't stay objective. IMHO this harms the credibility of his writing somewhat, although all in all the book is still excellent.

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