Book Excerpt: From The Seasons of Tulul (Journal, Adventure)by Egon H.E.Lass
March 15, 1976
I awoke to loud voices in Ali’s shelter. I looked at my watch
and saw that it was a quarter to six. Work does not start until six-
thirty. I dressed quickly and walked to Ali’s shelter. Half of the
crew were there already, and Ali Muhammad was yelling at Abu
Sallami, who yelled back twice as loud.
I sat down in between them, blocking each other’s view. It
took me about five minutes to get Abu Sallami’s attention, asking
what was going on. He then heatedly told me what it was all about,
but forgot that I am not the world’s best linguist, and so I was no
smarter than before. Later, Ali Abu Feiz explained what it was all
When Abu Sallami arrived in the morning, he told Ali Muhammad
that his donkeys had entered Abu Sallami’s tobacco field, and Abu
Sallami had taken them out and driven them away.
“You drove them close to the Army camp,” Ali Muhammad said to
him. “You wanted to get them shot!”
“When your donkeys enter my tobacco field,” said Abu
Sallami, “I will take them out and drive them far away, so that they
do not return.”
“You touch my donkeys,” Ali Muhammad yelled, “And I will kill
The argument was very bitter. I had never seen Ali Muhammad in
such a state. He was snow white and shook all over.
“Yallah!” said Ali Abu Feiz. “It is six o’clock. Go and work
and stop your nonsense!”
He was trying to separate them over a wide area, and though it
was still half an hour early, they all jumped up and took their
But Ali Muhammad would not stop talking. He made several
grievous insults, and Abu Sallami turned with a hoe in his hand,
yelling, “Ali!” in a very threatening way. I saw Ali Muhammad reach
out and take his pick, and I was at him, tearing the pick out of his
hand, grabbing him by the lapels and shaking him violently.
“What is your meaning?” I shouted into his face. “What is your
meaning? What is your meaning?”
For a crazy moment he laughed at me and looked at me with an
expression that I cannot describe, as though he were trying to
placate me, that nothing bad would come between us. But suddenly
everything exploded around us, and there was a pitched battle. He
tore at my hands, shouting, “They are hitting my brother!” and raced
up the incline to the north, picked up an enormous stone and threw
it, and another one and threw it, and a third one and threw it hard,
and I saw it making contact with the right of Mahmud’s neck.
Mahmud, the Atrash, who was Abu Sallami’s son. And Mahmud tore
himself loose from the hands that held him, and grabbed a large
stone and lobbed it high and far, and it hit Ali Muhammad on the
At the same time I saw several flying picks and hoes, and never
saw where they came from or where they went. There were several
centers of turmoil; one just next to Ali’s shelter, another between
his shelter and my tent, and a third towards his tent and the
corral. There was a lot of running and shouting, and suddenly it
was over. They all came walking towards Ali’s shelter and made
ready to sit down again for another shouting match.
“Yallah, go home!” I yelled. “I do not want to work with such
people! Wallah, I will go home!”
I went towards my tent and lay down, panting and shaking. I am
not used to such excercises in the morning, and they tend to upset
me somewhat. When five minutes had gone by, Ali Abu Feiz called me
“They have all gone,” he said.
Little Muhammad sat in the corner as though in shock.
“Wallah, today we will have the salata all to ourselves!” I
He gave a pale smile. The rest of the workers soon arrived,
and we went to work as usual.
“Did you take Ali Muhammad and hold him?” asked Ali Abu Feiz in
wonder; because he had never seen anyone like me participate in a
“Yes, I did.”
“I saw him take a pick in his hand. What is the meaning of a
human being who takes a pick in his hand?”
“They are all donkeys,” he said. “Did you see what happened?
Wallah, I saw very little, the air was so full of flying things.
You held Ali Muhammad, and I held Abu Sallami, and Abu Halil was
holding Mahmud, the Atrash. That left one man loose: Suleiman, Ali
Muhammad’s brother. Is there a bigger donkey that this Suleiman?
It would have been well, but this Suleiman picks up a hoe and comes
towards us, thinking to hit Abu Sallami, who is in my hands and
cannot move this way or that. What shall I do? Shall I hold him so
that Suleiman can thrash him and kill him? I let him go fast, and
pushed him away from me, may his house be destroyed! And so it
“All over some donkeys.”
“The Qus of their mother on the Ars of all donkeys! It was not
the donkeys. They have had bad blood between them for a long time.
There is a cave in the mountains that both of them wanted, so a
sheich came and told them that each family should take half. But
each family wanted the whole cave, and always there has been trouble
between them. Wallahi, the police will take all of them and they
will sleep in prison tonight.”
We found out later that the police did nothing of the kind. As
everyone else, they themselves probably preferred to stay out of
trouble among the Bedouin and not to risk the feuding dangers of
Please check out the link on the title above, which I have also posted below!
All royalties of Tulul go to the International Rescue Committee!
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