In lands of the Near East where it is hot by day and chill by night, workers still carry out the traditional tasks of their forefathers. Cereals are planted on the lowlands; fruits such as olives, figs and dates seem to grow everywhere. Grapes are an important product and today, as in the time of Jesus, vineyards splash dark green over low mountain slopes.
Chickens, goats and sheep still need tending. In many places plowing is done with the help of oxen as in the past.
National development programs, however, and the trend toward urban living, are catapulting more and more segments of these countries into the modern world. Young people especially are moving out of rural subsistence agriculture and into the cities where they work in non-traditional jobs and are exposed for the first time to movies, television and international news.
In Lebanon, Iran, Jordan, and almost every other Near Eastern country, courses in advanced technology, modern agricultural methods, and computer science are being taught. As a result, rapid social change is taking place throughout the Near East where peasants and potters are sharing nationalities with bankers and professors.
As all members of these societies work toward progress and a better quality of life, they can be comforted in their tasks by the teachings of Vatican Council II: While providing the substance of life for themselves and their families, men and women are performing their activities in a way which benefits society. They can justly consider that by their labor they are unfolding the Creators work to the realization in history of the Divine plan.
Ronnie Treanor is a graduate student in anthropology and writes for international development agencies.