Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sitting Ten

“Stay back, lady!” Pal leaped to his feet, alarmed.

Karin shouted, “I’m a reporter! “

“We are young men,” said Pal.

“Dangerous young men,” added Iz. They stood shoulder to shoulder, gazing at the intruding female.

Karin halted her progress and softened her voice. “So I heard.”

“What do you want?” demanded Pal.

Karin slowly inched her way forward. “I want to report your story. I want to find out why you two boys are in the desert together. If you don’t mind, I want you to tell me why you’re dangerous. And I also want to give you some water and food,” she said, motioning to the supplies she had laid to the side.

Pal and Iz gave each other a quick glance. Water and food—always good. Iz spoke up. “Just leave the water and food and go.”

Karin shook her head. “No deal. I didn’t come out here to be your delivery service. I told you—I’m a reporter. I want to know what’s going on.”

“Nothing,” spat Iz.

“So why are you dangerous, then?” Karin moved a few steps closer.

Pal backed away. “Because we want to be left alone,” he replied.

Karin reached out with open hands and said, “Okay. Give me my story and I’ll leave you alone.”

“Here’s your story,” said Iz. “Two boys…”

Pal interrupted. “We’re not boys, Iz.”

“Right,” said Iz, slapping his forehead with his palm. “Make that ‘Two Macho Men, Left Alone and At Peace in Desert by Reporter’.”

“I don’t know,” said Karin. “I can tell you—it’s not really a page turner. How about this instead? ‘Two Muscular Manly Men Tell Their Intriguing Story to Attractive Reporter and All At Once, the World Understands’?”

Pal shook his head. “The world will not understand.”

Iz jabbed his friend in the arm. “And listen, lady. You’re not that attractive.”

Karin feigned an offended gasp. “Now I see why they say you’re dangerous. Your tongue just killed my ego at fifteen paces.” She paused to see if the boys would laugh. When they didn’t, she eyed them with deep contemplation, then continued. “Just let me ask you five questions.”

“One question,” said Pal.

“Four,” countered Karin.

“Two!” shouted Iz.

Pal displayed a toothy grin. “I guess that means three.”

“All right. Three questions,” Karin agreed.

“And no funny business,” said Pal, crossing his arms.

Karin chuckled. “Listen, fellas. I live in the Middle East. What’s funny?” She carefully eased her way into the thrown-together encampment and sat down beneath a palm, staring at the two young gentlemen in front of her. She crinkled her nose. Although she was a good four feet away, they reeked of sweat and grain. She motioned for them to be seated.

Pal refused. “So what is your first question?”

Karin said, “I’ll make it easy. I’ll give you all three questions at once. Why are you here, what are you trying to do, and I guess my friend down there in the jeep? He wants to know where in the hell his grenade is.”

Pal jerked his head and shot a look at the vehicle. “Is that him?” he asked Iz.

Iz squinted to see. “I can’t tell. At this distance, Army men all look the same.”

Karin eased her way to her knees and interrupted. “Well, are you going to answer my questions?”

Iz could not take his eyes off the soldier. “What does he want?” he asked Karin.

“He wants his grenade back,” she replied quickly. “He really doesn’t want to be blamed for killing and mutilating people because he was careless with his weapons. You can certainly understand that.”

Pal shook his head. “We’re not trying to kill and mutilate anyone,” he said.

Karin sensed a moment of vulnerability, so she went on the attack. “Well, listen, dude,” she said. “That’s what grenades do. Maybe you should have thought of that before you stole it and came out here, flashing it at people.”

Iz continued to stare at the soldier, with his back to Karin, and inserted, “We just want to be left alone.”

Karin spoke back harshly. “If you’re not careful, you’re gonna be just left dead.”

Pal eased his way a bit closer to her. “Listen, lady. No one will die. We don’t even know how the grenade works.”

“Shut up, Pal!” screamed Iz.

Karin laughed. “Oh—and that’s good?” she asked. “That you don’t know how a grenade works?”

Her question quieted Iz and Pal. Iz made his way over and sat down by the reporter. Pal stepped closer but remained standing. It was all so crazy—not what they had envisioned. They were horrified by their plight.

Karin gave the moment a chance to simmer, then asked, much quieter. “Why are you here?”

Fighting back tears, Iz tried to explain. “We had become friends, but we really were not allowed to be friends. Our families are separated, our countries are at war and our people hate each other.”

Moved by Iz’s admission, Pal came over and sat down. “If we try to be friends, excuses will be made why it is a bad thing. So we’ve come out here in the desert, where we can be friends without interfering with the war that the grown-ups like to have.”

Iz leaned forward and emphatically concluded. “They can have their war. We just want to be together and be left alone.”

Karin was reasoning in her mind the whole time the boys were speaking. She knew she needed to do something, or the situation could easily go awry. She spoke gently but firmly. “It’s not that way, boys. There are lots of Arabs and Jews that get along together. For God’s sakes—they work in the same companies and factories. I’m sure there are lots of Jewish and Arab boys that are friends.”

“Do you know any?” Pal asked sincerely.

“Now that is a trick question,” said Karin. “Just because I can’t offer a name doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”

Iz leaned forward. “But aren’t you a reporter? Aren’t you supposed to have answers?”

“Okay,” said Karin, drawing a very deep breath and releasing it slowly. “Let’s say you guys are right. Let’s say your families won’t allow you to be friends. Here’s my question. Is it really better to live out here—pardon me—starve out here, to be with each other, than to be with your families, safe and sound, knowing they love you, in your own communities?”

Iz sadly shook his head. “You just don’t get it, lady. What you’re saying to us is to give up our love and friendship just so our families will think we’re all right and will include us in the home. Why can’t we be included…together? Why don’t they make an exception because they love us?”

Iz’s speech touched Karin. “Hell if I know,” she responded. “That’s just not the way it works right now. And you’re not going to change it playing in the desert, dehydrating yourselves and smelling like a three-day-dead goat.”

Pal was surprised. “Do we smell that bad?” he asked.

“No,” replied Karin. “It would take four baths for you to smell like the goat.”

Iz shook his head. “Very sorry. I guess our manly body parts are much more mature than we thought.”

Karin winced, considered a retort, but opted to move on. “Well, I guess you’ve answered question two–‘What are you trying to do?’” she noted. “Or is there more? Are you boys trying to send a message to the Israelis and Palestinians?”

“Yes, we are,” said Iz. “Leave us alone.”

Karin looked around in all directions. “It appears you are alone.”

“Then good,” replied Pal. “But we also can do without reporters.”

Karin pretended to cry. “You mean you don’t want to be famous?”

“No,” said Iz. “Famous is our worst fear. The less people know about us the better.”


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Ask Jonathots … March 3rd, 2016

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The medical field keeps people alive much longer than it used to. Do you think this is a good thing?

Are you asking me, do I think more people should be dying? (Somehow or another, I think this is a trick question.)

For thousands of years, life offered only one possibility: quality.

Quantity was fairly unlikely, except in a few rare cases, where longevity was miraculously granted without any obvious effort by the recipient.

Most people, from the time they were children, grew up with an awareness of their mortality and the realization that death was not only present, but often imminent.

So over the years, through medical advances, we have succeeded in increasing the quantity of life without really doing anything to enhance the quality.

This is what I feel about long life: Long life is wonderful if it’s good life.

To me, good life has three elements:

  1. Purposeful work.
  2. Expanding, growing relationships
  3. A good balance of vulnerability and confidence.

The medical field does not address these situations, nor should it have to. This should be the responsibility of our philosophers, teachers and ministers.

If you’re only going to live longer to spend that time fussing about your health, well-being and treatments, then I’m not sure what you’re achieving by becoming a prisoner of your own body.

So I think pursuing a long life is an enriching experience as long as you avoid a trio of negative by-products:

A. Becoming obsessed with your physical health to the detriment of your emotional and spiritual health.

B. Allowing your concern about health to encompass your conversation to the point that you become irrelevant to younger people.

C. Living so long that you settle for a less-than-fulfilling situation, which is only a fragment of what you originally intended to have in your life journey.

Somewhere along the line we need to understand what life is all about. A great teacher once stated that “life is more than the body–what we shall eat and what we shall wear.”

So true.

So if you can give the same attention to your body that you have given to your heart, soul and mind, then I think it’s possible to live on for a long time…with joy.

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The Alphabet of Us: C is for Cunning… December 22, 2014

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All human beings possess a heart, soul, mind and strength. Nothing of any true significance can be achieved unless this is understood.

Three pushy forces bully us to conform to the pattern of what is now considered, in this short-sighted season, to be normal.

  • “I must be better”
  • “I must be popular”
  • “I must be smarter”

Human beings were never meant to be consistent. It is within the spectrum of our unpredictability that we create our learning curve and our charm. When we deny this vulnerability, we place ourselves in a position where we must defend our “better,” our “popular” and our “smarter.”

Unfortunately, this leads to lying. And even worse than lying is the misconception that we can actually pull it off. This is cunning.

Cunning is the contention that “because I am better, very popular and smarter, I can trick you into believing whatever I desire.” It is ugly, selfish–and worst of all, it is doomed.

To escape cunning you have to counteract the three pushy bullies and speak the truth about your own inconsistent journey.

1. I am not better. I need to fail. I need to admit I fail. Failure is my only hope for escaping the disaster at the end of repeated stupidity.

2. Although I love human beings, I don’t need to be popular if such notoriety comes along with sacrificing my character and my soul.

3. The only way to become smarter is to learn from people who know more. This requires that I admit that I am less intelligent.

At the root of every drama which ends in defeat is a character who contends that he or she is better than others, popular for a time and smarter, which enables them to use cunning to produce the backdrop for their demise.

You will never be destroyed by being weak.

You will be destroyed by acting strong and ending up weak.

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God, Father … August 18, 2012

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It was 1976, I was twenty-four years old and was blessedly invited to be the keynote speaker at a Christian Business Men’s Meeting in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. There were approximately two hundred people in attendance, some of them female, most of them very successful in business, but nearly all of them of Italian descent.

Now understand, I was old enough to be there but young enough to be very nervous about conversation with a bunch of folks who were making lots of money and were, well … Italian. I think what spooked me was that I didn’t want to be the first one to bring up some subject that might accidentally be offensive, so when I was back in my motel room, I practiced avoiding certain words: spaghetti, meatballs, the mob and the recent hit movie, The Godfather. I know it sounds stupid, but remember–I was twenty-four, and although I had discovered my feet and that they were under me, I didn’t always know exactly where to walk.

Fortunately for me, I was seated at the head table with the president of this Christian organization, who was named Dominick. He was a lovely man–free and easy. He immediately broached all the subjects I was afraid of, drew me into the conversation and let me know that a Pennsylvania Dutch boy from Ohio was welcome at their meeting (even though I didn’t exactly know what oregano was).

Right before the actual program was to begin, Dominick took me aside and explained that he was terrified because it was his job to open the evening with an invocation of prayer. It was really kind of comical. Standing before me was a guy with a two-thousand-dollar suit who made business deals every week, but wasn’t quite sure how to close the deal with the Almighty.

So I explained to him that the best thing to do in public prayer is to be as natural as possible–conversational if you could manage it–brief, and to use language with which he was accustomed. He seemed very appreciative and greatly relieved.

So when it was time to begin, Dominick rose to his feet, strode to the podium and said, “Let us pray.”

Then there was a delay. I began to wonder if maybe Dominick had lost his nerve on his way to the throne of grace, but then suddenly, he spoke–strongly and confidently.

“You are our God…”

Once again, another pause. It wasn’t a pregnant one or protruding, but still present. So he started again.

“You are our God … Father.”

With the close proximity of the two words–God and Father–it sounded as you might expect. “Godfather.”

The whole room burst into uproarious laughter. It must have gone on for a minute and a half. Dominick was embarrassed, but soon joined in with the giggles.

I loved it. He was never able to actually regain the attention of the gathered souls to finish his prayer, so after the laughter finally died down, he leaned into the microphone and said, “You know what I mean. Amen.”

This brought another burst of levity throughout the entire banquet hall. So by the time I got up to speak and share, the audience was relaxed, joyous and in a mood to receive. Believe you me, I didn’t waste any time to make hay off of the “Godfather prayer.” All through my little presentation and discourse, people would occasionally giggle, remembering the misplaced wording of Dominick’s prayer. It was delightful–free of pretense. The pressure was relieved from the room concerning our differences and we were just a bunch of folks enjoying chicken cordon bleu (look at me…I was expecting lasagna) and opening up our hearts to a God who truly was our Father.

The vulnerability possessed by Dominick led to some human exposure, which brought about some needed laughter, causing everyone present to be excited about receiving and allowing for the end of the evening to be consecrated in healing. Yes, when it was time to ask people to share their needs, fears and illnesses, the front of the banquet hall filled with human beings who were hurting, but willing to be made better.

Just like in the movie, we came to our God, Father, and made a request–one that He had no intention of refusing.

Being in Michigan, I thought about that event this week. I wondered if the same ingredients are still floating in the air in our society, just not landing in any obvious configuration.

Are we still willing to be vulnerable? The word means “capable of being wounded.” For after all, if we’re not willing to expose ourselves, the areas that require attention will continue to decay.

Can we laugh anymore? Would an audience today allow itself to interrupt the holiness of prayer with a burst of joy?

Can we take the healing that comes from that good cheer and allow ourselves to believe that we need to receive newness of life?

And then, can we actually step out of the crowd to accept the healing that our hearts, souls, minds and bodies often crave?

I hope so. I hope there are business men and women, workers and even young humans who can escape the monotony and repetition of a society which is self-deluded with its own importance, and just relax in being with one another in the presence of their Creator.

I wouldn’t want to be twenty-four years old again. I wouldn’t want to go back to 1976. I wouldn’t want to eat bland-tasting chicken at a banquet hall in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. But I would like to meet once again with people and sit at the feet of our Godfather”and believe that He has the power and strength to chase all our problems away.

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