The Haj

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The Haj is a novel published in 1984 by American author Leon Uris about a Palestinian Arab family caught up in the area’s historic events of the 1920s-1950s as witnessed by Ishmael, the youngest son. The story begins in 1922 when Ibrahim, Ishmael's father, takes over the position of muktar from his dying father in the relatively isolated village of Tabah in the Ajalon Valley, just off the main road leading to Jerusalem from Jaffa. The book then goes on to show how the family is affected by the proximity of nearby kibbutz Shemesh, by the political struggles exhibited and the pressures exerted by the region’s Arab leaders during the course of 35 years, and by the disruptive effect being a refugee had on them.

Haj in the novel's title refers to the pilgrimage to Mecca which every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so is obliged to make at least once in his or her lifetime. Literally, it refers to the pilgrimage which the head of the family, Ibrahim al Soukori al Wahhabi, made to Mecca in his young adulthood, and which gave him the honorific Hajji used throughout the book. Figuratively it refers to both the transforming physical journey that the family makes from its home in Tabah to the refugee camps near Jericho, and to the psychic transformations that the family endures as it is ripped away from its traditional life and sees, one-by-one its values being eroded.

Plot summary

The novel begins in 1922 with a depiction of traditional life in the Arabic village...
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