My cold lingers, so I will continue listening to the recording of Richard Burton's story of the Haj. It has been an exhausting journey as the various groups join together for a boat ride and then for security on the way to al Madina, but they come from different nations, people groups and Islamic sects for which the mutual hatred combined with the need to take offense at the slightest perceived insult must be taken into account. Then we have the fact that everyone is armed. It is a wonder that anyone survived the Haj
Perhaps I should step back a bit and note that Burton is a teller of stories and not just an observer and chronicler. In the few days that he is actually in Arabia, there are a few chances to purchase milk, water or a sheep from the local Bedouin, and some additional quality time being shot at from the hills as the Bedouin attempted to get some free camel meat and goodies. This expands into a long written discourse from which the Librivox readers produce nearly two hours of recorded material for this one section of Burton's narrative. Needless to say, the bulk of the material is not the result of first hand observations, although in some cases he has given some reference to his sources.
The importance of land is something that I may not have sufficiently appreciated. A story I am fond of from my childhood is that of Daniel Boone who doggedly defended his little patch of Kentucky from the Indians. After defeating the Indians, however, he was in turn defeated by ravenous lawyers and driven to resettle in Missouri. Expropriating land followed by packing up and moving are just parts of American life.
But the Bedouin see things a bit differently:
"Akhawat, or “brotherhood,” denotes the tie between the stranger and the Badawi, who asserts an immemorial and inalienable right to the soil upon which his forefathers fed their flocks. Trespass by a neighbour instantly causes war. Territorial increase is rarely attempted, for if of a whole clan but a single boy escape he will one day assert his claim to the land, and be assisted by all the Ashab, or allies of the slain." - A Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah & Meccah, by Sir Richard Francis Burton
Evidently a few American lawyers are need to teach them civility. This had me pondering the intractability of the Israel - Palestinian conflict. After the various conflicts of the 20th century, great waves of millions migrated from one place to another due to the conflicts. The Israel- Palestinian one only has presented a massive insoluble problem. As the Islamic world sees it, this land was once occupied, hence, the only acceptable solution is to re-occupy it. Zionism likewise has its entire identity in The Land, that is, in a land that the Jews can call their own. Thus, one of their premier newspapers is called Haaretz, "The Land". There is no solution to this.