Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sitting Eight

By midday, Iz and Pal had developed a brand-new game. They called it, “Your Book, My Book.”

They mentioned the various names that were in the Talmud and the Koran, and were shocked to find out how many were the same. Abraham was in both, as was Joseph, Isaac, Ishmael, Noah, Adam, Eve, Moses. Yes, they were all there.

Iz’s book had some other different names and Pal’s mentioned both Jesus of Nazareth and Mohammed, but it was really quite surprising. Kind of freaky.

They also realized that the two of them looked much the same. By now they smelled the same. They both believed in God. Both had never touched pork and had strict families. They came from desert Bedouins and they both really, really liked Hershey chocolate bars with almonds.

Aside from Iz being shorted by circumcision and Pal not really having a country, they should be brothers.

It made them wonder if anyone had ever thought of it before. They were so preoccupied with their new game that neither noticed the arrival of a guest—a slender, lanky young man with dark brown skin, curly hair and pieces of coal for eyes—piercing but still permitting some of the warmth of childhood.

Iz did not recognize the stranger but Pal knew him.  He spoke quietly. “Hello, Talsan.”

The young man stood tall, staring off into the distance. “It is hot, my little brother. You will sicken yourself in this heat.”

“I drink as much as I can,” said Pal, continuing his calm tone.

Talsan chuckled. “In the desert, by the time you think to drink, it is already too late.”

He sat down next to his younger brother.

Iz spoke up. “I am Jubal,” he stated. “Amir’s friend.”

“So,” asked Talsan, “are you the trouble-maker?”

Pal interrupted. “No, I am the trouble-maker. No, I mean—there is no trouble. We are just enjoying being together.”

Talsan shook his head. “Papa is worried. He has talked to the elders.”

Pal quickly shifted to his haunches. “Why did he talk to them?”

Talsan raised his voice. “Because he wasn’t going to talk to you out here in the desert, running from family and Allah.”

“I’m not running,” said Pal. “All my life I’ve done whatever I was told to do, even though there were questions exploding in my mind.”

“Questions?” scoffed Talsan, “what questions?”

Pal paused as if deciding whether to continue the conflict. “All right, Talsan,” he said with intensity. “Answer this. Why do we live in a religion, in a culture, that speaks so highly of family, friends and love, but then teaches us to hate these people walking nearest to us in the village?”

“We do not hate them,” Talsan spat. “They hate us. We are merely protecting our lives.”

Iz jumped in. “I don’t hate you. I don’t hate Pal. I don’t hate your father. I would just like to live—and have some fun.”

Talsan laughed scornfully. “Now I know you are a boy. Fun is out of the question. We are to become men and take our place—first at the universities and then, in leadership of our communities.”

“Without fun?” asked Pal.

Talsan heaved a deep sigh. “Papa has explained all of this to you. It is time for you to come home. He will not pursue you. He will pray for you but he will not come to you. It is a shame and a disgrace that you would wish him to defile himself by chasing his son down in the desert.”

“I don’t want him to chase me,” shouted Pal. “I want him to leave me alone and let my friend, Iz, and me, start a new life. Maybe a new town.”

“Or even a country,” piped in Iz.

“Iz,” said Talsan. “Listen to yourself, little boy. Our country has existed for thousands of years, filled with tradition and rich spirituality.”

Iz interrupted. “But how can it be spiritual when it is so full of hate?”

Talsan shook his head. “Do you hate the lamb when you take the wool? Do you hate the chicken when you collect its eggs? Do you hate the animal when you spill its blood to provide meat for your table? What you call hate is merely the way of nature. Things that are alike seek their own. In the process, they reject different species so as to keep purity within the ranks.”

Pal screamed at his brother. “You make no sense! Is this what they teach you at the university? These are just weird stories that don’t mean anything. My friend, Iz, here, is not a chicken. And I’m not an animal stuck in some herd. Talsan, you cannot tell me that you believe this.”

Talsan drew a deep breath. “What I believe has no power if it cannot change what I see. All of my wishes for peace and love are meaningless when I live in a world of bigotry and intolerance. I don’t want to change the world. I just want to keep the world from changing me.”

Both boys squinted at him, confused.

Talsan grabbed Pal’s arm, pulling him to his feet. “You will go with me,” he stated.

Pal collapsed, forcing his body to the ground, as Iz grabbed the grenade.

Talsan spied the weapon extended in the young boy’s hand. “So this is your answer to violence?” he posed. “How are you any different than anyone else? You would kill me to maintain your little society?”

Pal, lying face-down in the ground, spit back, “Talsan, I don’t want to kill you. You are my brother. I just don’t want you to decide my life.”

Talsan released his hold on Pal’s arm and stepped a few paces away, then turned and said, “I will tell Papa that your mind is deranged by the desert sun, and that you are under the power of some evil spirit. This should comfort him.”

He continued. “My little brother, I do not know what you’re doing. I do not know what in the hell this ‘Iz and Pal’ business is all about, but you are skin of my skin and blood of my blood. I will not hate you because I do not understand. This is where I am different from Papa. I pray you will change your ways, but I do not want you to starve and die of thirst. I will have food and water delivered here every morning until you decide to come to your senses. You are a childish idiot—but that should not be a death sentence.”

Pal stood to his feet and gingerly gave his brother a hug. Talsan nodded at Iz and concluded, “I do not hate you Jews. I just don’t believe that God chose you any more than He chose me.”

“No argument from me,” said Iz simply. “And thanks for the food.”

The boys perched in silence and watched as Talsan made his way down the hill. With each step he took they realized they were growing further and further away from their families and communities. Soon there would be nothing but the sand under their feet and the love they had in their hearts.

Still, it seemed like enough.


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Jesonian … March 17th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Setting the stage:

Jesus is in the beginning of his ministry. Fresh. Optimistic. Sharing high-sounding principles to what most people might consider a low-brow audience.

One day he is interrupted by the arrival of elders from a near-by town. They are Jewish leaders. The strange thing about the situation is that they have been sent by a Roman Centurion to intercede on the behalf of his servant, for healing.

The elders waste no time. They interrupt Jesus, testifying about the quality of the character of this Centurion.

“He is a friend of our nation. He even built us a synagogue,” they tout.

Most Romans were considered by the Jews to be conquering terrorists–not that different from ISIS in our day. So for the elders of a Jewish town to bear testimony for a Roman Centurion was not only peculiar, but inspirational.

Jesus drops what he’s doing and heads off toward the servant.

Then another strange thing happens. The Centurion rethinks his position. He obviously has a keen mind, and realizes that if Jesus enters his home–the domicile of a Roman–he could ruin his ministry for all time. It would be a disgrace to be in the house of a Gentile, and Jesus would be considered unclean.

So he suggests that Jesus just say the word, proclaiming the healing. The Centurion cites that he lives by commands all the time.

Jesus is astounded. Jesus learns from him, and says he has “never seen so great a faith in Israel.”

So Jesus says the word, and the servant is healed.

It’s a beautiful story. It lets us know several things.

1. The Gospel is not a Jewish Gospel.

2. It is possible for people of all races to get along as long as they show respect to one another.

3. The power in faith is in always simplifying your belief instead of complicating it.

But let us consider a possible scenario:

Such a man as the Centurion certainly, in three year’s time, moved up in promotions. Because he got along so well with the occupied people, he would be very valuable to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. There would be a very good chance he would end up in Jerusalem.

In the Holy City, he would have been given authority and respect, and placed in charge of difficult situations–maybe a predicament like carrying out a capital punishment during Passover week–because we are told that there is a Centurion at the cross.

Just for the sake of discussion–what if it was the same man? What if he arrived at his job early that morning and discovered that he was supposed to escort a prisoner to Golgotha–three of them, actually–and crucify them before six o’clock that night?

What if he was shocked to find that one of them was Jesus, the young man who had healed his servant three years earlier?

What should he do? His heart is torn apart. Yet to try to rig an escape would be complete death for Jesus, himself and many other innocent people.

What is left to him?

The keen mind is set in motion. The Centurion realizes they’ve already taken Jesus and beaten him, and that the Temple guards had cruelly mistreated him. There’s only one thing left for him to do–a single mission to honor the one who healed his servant. He tries to make the end easier.

After all, somebody gave the command for Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross.

Someone allowed John and his mother, Mary, to be near the foot of the cross to listen to his words and encourage him.

Someone kept the soldiers from tearing his Jesus’ apart, and instead, gambled for it–with him possibly winning the prize.

Someone knelt down, and as they nailed his hands, tenderly looked in his eyes, to comfort him.

Somebody asked them to be careful when they dropped the cross in its place.

Somebody grabbed a long reed and put vinegar and medication on it for him to drink when he was thirsty.

There was compassion at the cross.

And if it was the same Centurion, he did the best with what he had, to make things better than they might be.

Maybe that’s the definition of faith–doing the best with what we have, to make things better than they might be.

And when the Earth shook, the skies darkened and Jesus took his last breath, could it have been the same Centurion who looked up at his friend on the cross, and said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”

*****

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*******

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G-Poppers … July 14th, 2017

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G-Pop is fully aware that he’s reached an age when there is a fine line between being colorful and being crazy. Yet there are some things that need to be said, because the integrity of character and moral soul of America are in jeopardy.

It has nothing to do with political parties or whether one group of pundits is more favorable than another. Rather, it has to do with an overriding attitude–that as long as the goal is kept in sight, the means by which we achieve it are somewhat irrelevant.

It came to a head yesterday when G-Pop listened to one of our national leaders proclaim, “I think everybody would do the same thing.”

It hearkened back to a playground perception we used as children, attempting to explain to the adults around us why we chose a particular behavior. You remember:

  1. Everybody was doing it.
  2. I didn’t want to be weird.
  3. It seemed all right–matter of fact, it seemed natural.
  4. There was no real reason not to.
  5. Since everybody was doing it, I didn’t think anyone would get in trouble.

Just as our elders corrected us on such errant thinking, we need to stop, take a deep breath and cease being a nation of children who move on whim and justify it by saying, “What else could I do?”

There is only one advantage to being an adult: you get to make your own decisions.

When you were a child, you were surrounded by pressure, intimidation, and obvious manipulation.

That is supposed to change.

G-Pop wants his children to know that there is a day and time when the only purpose for continuing to live on Earth is to get better–not to rationalize obtuse, repetitive and useless actions.

If you’re not getter better you’re getting “badder.”

And the end result of getting “badder” is that you’re going to be exposed and trumped by those who have a brighter idea.

I don’t care if everybody else is doing something stupid. I don’t care if it seems natural in the moment, if the end result is unnatural.

G-Pop wants his children to stop watching the actions of our leaders and government, and begin to find the inner voice that says, “Let me pause for a minute and find out what’s right.”

G-Pop places no judgment on those who are trying to take us into the depths of uncertainty.

But G-Pop wants his children to realize that just because “everybody would do it” actually makes it suspect, instead of righteous.

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Ask Jonathots … January 7th, 2016

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Does wisdom come with age? Even today, kids are taught to “respect their elders,” but sometimes I’m not sure why. What are your thoughts on the notion that years add value?

I suppose the reason that “wisdom comes with age” has been promoted and generally believed by the populace is that the passage of years does grant more opportunity to screw up and survive.

But the truth of the matter is that wisdom is an understanding of the limitations of knowledge. Plainly, merely accumulating information which is deemed “correct” does not mean that the discovery of additional data in the future will not contradict or even eliminate your former comprehension.

People who become stubborn about their present knowledge will not only fail to become wise, but eventually will be considered ignorant.

So at any age you can learn the key to wisdom.

Wisdom has three basic parts that never change, and if you learn them, you can transfer your present ideas into a workable format for real life. The three parts are:

  1. Nothing is ever exactly what you think.

Aren’t you glad? It means you don’t have to be arrogant, therefore you don’t have to come across so foolish when you’re proven to be incorrect.

  1. Nothing will remain the same.

Even our faith evolves as we comprehend more about the true nature of life and God.

  1. Nothing is exclusive.

More simply phrased, anything you hear that leaves out one group of people in favor of another will eventually be exposed as errant.

So if you approach the knowledge that comes your way by filtering it through these three classic principles, you can become wise at any age.

If you don’t, you can end up looking like an 80-year-old dim-wit. 

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