according to the history of the Arab ways and living is never supposed to rain in the desert. Yet in the lands of the Middle East, things that “never happen have a shocking way of happening.
It hardly ever rains in the gigantic Sahara, which occupies much of the region’s total area.
But when it does rain, it pours pelting down in torrents, turning the desert sands to rivers of slimy mud.
Like weather conditions in the Sahara, the sprawling lands of the Middle East can surprise you.
The region occupies a lot of territories, and it takes in many peoples. Some peoples speak Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew, and other languages.
There are Christians Jews and millions and millions of Moslems. In short, there is as wide-ranging a group of peoples as you can find anywhere on the globe.
These peoples have rarely been at peace for any lengthy period. Through their long history, their lands have been fought over again and again.
In the past three decades, one particular quarrel has been especially bitter. It’s the quarrel between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Israel is the Jewish nation. Most of its people are jews. In the rest of the Middle East, the majority of the people are Arabs of the Moslem faith
What has angered the Arabs is the existence of Isreal itself, Arabs have lived for almost 13 centuries on the land that is today Israel, and they re-sent the Jews as intruders.
On the other hand, for the last 2,000 years, Jews have looked upon Israel as the land to which they hoped they would return one day. Some Jews, indeed, have always lived on this land.
Since 1948, this dispute has caused a handful of wars and uncountable small, but bloody, clashes. It has further divided a region already divided in several different ways.
And it has shown again and again
how little unity exists throughout the troubled Middle East.
About all that unites the many peoples of the area in the name we give them – “Middle Easterners “but what’s Middle or Eastern about the nations of the Middle East?
After all, those countries are either on
The northern edge of Africa or the western edge of Asia.
Part of the turmoil lies in the fact that the term was invented by Europeans.
They used the word “East’ to distinguish the region from the
West”-that is, Western Europe. The way Europeans explained it, there were two “Easts”- a “Far
East” (otherwise known as East Asia) and a “Near East” (that part of the “East'” which, for Europeans was closer to home).
That all seemed very clear to Europeans. Unfortunately, it was anything but clear to the so-called “Near Easterners” themselves.
To some of them, it seemed as absurd to call themselves “Near Easterners” as it would call Greeks “Near Westerners or English Far Westerners.” And so, to clarity
the name-calling somewhat the term “Middle East was introduced.
The term has generally stuck. And it does make some sense. For the “Middle East” is indeed
“middle” in one important way: it is a middle ground.
linking the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa and
major bodies of water such as the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
Today the Middle East is swept up in a rolling tide of change. All over the area, sleepy villages hear the
the roar of jet planes overhead. Dusty camel tracks are becoming major highways. Desert tribes carry transistor radios with them as they move from water hole to water hole.
These changes make big differences in the way people think and act, the way they work and dress, even the way they look at one another. These differences, in turn, promise to create new challenges for the entire Middle East in the years ahead.