Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Committee Chair

Kutak, Robert I.


Israel--Social conditions; Israel--Social life and customs


Times Square went mad with noise and excitement, and a small freighter slipped from its Brooklyn berth into the drama of the night. It was December 31, 1949--midnight-January 1, 1950; and I was on my way to the world in general and Israel and the Near East in particular. To say the words Near East, to hear them spoken, to read the combination of Latin letters, even to think them fleetingly can conjure up for me a haze of incense-tinged dreams in which I see exotic sights, breathe pungent odours, and hear mysterious sounds. The Near East is all this and more. It reeks of intrigue, passion, idealism, sweat, blood, mysticism, laughter, romance, tension, eternal values. One is aware of these elements at times and in places, individually or in combination; and after only a few hours in the Near East one is aware of the presence of one of these factors all the time and in every place--TENSION. The tension may be political, it may be religious, or it may be social; more often than not there is an intermingling. I lived in Israel almost five years with time out for a trip or two to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordon, a jaunt or two to the Continent, and a stop or two in North Africa. Part of that time Jerusalem was the home base, part of the time it was Nazareth. Belonging to that school of thought "while in Rome do as …," Hebrew and Arabic became more important than English, and a tiyul (junket to some part of the country) more important than an embassy tea. Hebrew, I studied formally with a private teacher and at the Hebrew University and informally with the greengrocer and the metalsmith and at wonderful sessions over a cup of fragrant thick coffee where ideas were presented and defended. Vulgar Arabic (colloquial, that is) I learned parrot-style; classical Arabic I studied in Nazareth whose population was some 9g per cent Arab. The junkets took me to various parts of the country: ultra-modern cities, biblical towns, ma'abarot (transient camps), kibbutzim (communal villages), sheikdoms, collective villages, outposts, and ancient ruins. In every experience there was an awareness of tension. During university days I learned to view tension, its causes and effects, as social phenomena; and the field of social tension became a major interest in my thinking. It was quite natural, therefore, that living in an area where tension wore little disguise it should compel my attention. My information came as the result of interviews formal and informal, the addition of scores of new books to my personal library, the collection of clippings, mounds of magazines, newspapers and bulletins, and my personal and sometimes undecipherable notations of "on the scene" experiences. Some explanations with regard to certain materials given in the text are in order. The terms Near East and Middle East are used interchangeably. They may be construed to mean the same general area. Exceptions to the herein described Islamic culture are to be found in the large cities where culture diffusion is in process, many of its inhabitants having had European contact. These cities, however, are not typical of Oriental countries any more than Paris is typical of France or New York typical of the United States.