In a time, seemingly long ago, a time before the fax machine, cell phone, and Internet there was a great metropolis called Los Angeles. And this metropolis, because of its year-round pleasant weather and friendly inhabitants attracted people from all over the world who wanted to visit and in many cases move to such a wonderful and welcoming place. This is a tale of two people of this time and place, one a native, strong and sure, the other, a well-mannered visitor from half a world away, both young men the details of which concerning them, once told, will forever change the world—the year was 1982…
Sam sat with two of his new fraternity brothers at their favorite falafel place in the heart of Westwood Village, laughing and eating an amount of food one might expect to be ordered by a much larger party. Sam, although a freshman at the great institution of higher learning known as UCLA, had already established a reputation for having an enormous appetite—not just for food, but for all things. In most students, a prodigious appetite for all things worldly would give others pause, however Sam was without having to say so, different. He came to the University with credentials, which established him as not only possessing the greatest of athletic prowess, but an academic record and intellect unequalled in all of the land. Yet, he thought little of these matters. And on the rare occasion on which he spoke of his gifted state of being he would only say, “Someone cannot take credit for that, which they haven’t earned. God did not make all men with equal abilities, but God did make all men and therefore we are all equal, in that, all is owing to God.” And then he usually continued, “Anyone up for some pizza and a movie?”
“So are you going to the game this weekend?” asked Val, a tall, thin, young adult of Romanian descent.
Sam nodded, still chewing on a bite of falafel. “I have a ton of homework I haven’t started on, but that’s never stopped me.”
Steve, a premed student with grades and a physique second only to Sam’s shook his head. “I don’t know how you do it? You’ve been out every night since orientation. And you drink cocktails during your lectures…”
Sam chuckled. “Oh c’mon, I did that once or twice. I don’t condone drinking,” he poured some Jack Daniels from a small bottle into his Diet Coke and continued, “in lectures. And on a serious note: it’s more important to feel information than to know it. Anyone can memorize names and dates, Steve—the what’s of the world. But the why’s of the world, that’s where true wisdom is found. By the way is this baba ghanoush great or what?”
And as naturally as the conversation had been flowing between the three fraternity brothers it stopped, as all three sets of highly intelligent eyes came to rest on the not so large figure, which stood before them—something like none had seen before, a slight of build Arab boy with a large suitcase in each hand.
“Excuse me,” he said in perfect English, with a tone more polite than the fraternity brothers had ever heard. “I’ve lost all of my money and I’m very hungry and you seem to have a large amount of food, can I trouble you for a small portion, just a little bit?” And before they could answer he continued, “I come from a very wealthy family—I’ll be able to pay you back for whatever you give me,” he concluded with a confident smile and twinkling bright eyes.
Sam looked the stranger, whom he guessed to be their same age, up and down, but Val spoke first. “You’re definitely not from here, are you?”
The young man laughed. “No, I’m not from here, I just arrived this morning from Saudi Arabia. I’ve come to America to further my education and learn your customs. But the place I was supposed to stay at was very bad, they rented my room out to another student and they said that they couldn’t give back the money my father sent them in advance, for thirty days. So I have no money, no food and no place to stay.”
Sam moved a falafel to the empty place at the table and pointed to the vacant stool next to him. “Well my little Saudi Arabian friend, you better eat something…”
“Thank you so much, you’ll see, you won’t be sorry.” He extended his hand. “My name is Mohamed.”
“I’m Sam, that’s Val and that’s Steve,” said Sam, shaking Mohamed’s hand.
Then like he hadn’t eaten in several days Mohamed began to dine heartily.
“You can eat for a little guy,” commented Sam.
Mohamed rocked from side to side delighted by Sam’s observation. “The food here is very good. And how fortunate am I, to be lost in such a large city, in such a large country and make such good friends? Of course I’m hungry—I’m celebrating my good fortune.”
“You like to talk a lot don’t you?” Sam stated more than asked.
“Oh yes. I need to practice my English, so we must speak to each other at all times.”
“All of the time. Not at all times. All of the time,” corrected Sam.
Mohamed laughed and almost fell from his stool. “See, that’s what I’m talking about.” A serious expression spread over his face like the curtain that comes down to hide a grand, old theatre stage. “Sam, do you think it’s possible if I stay with you—I’ll be able to pay rent when my father sends more money.”
Sam exchanged an amused yet knowing glance with his fraternity brothers—there was an entire, well-understood conversation amongst the three without a single word needing to be spoken.
Sam turned his attention back to their unexpected dinner guest. “Well Mohamed, see we all belong to something called a fraternity. And we all live in a big house together—it’s common among University Students in America.” He paused for a moment trying to ascertain whether Mohamed understood what he was saying, but all he could see in his face was hope. “Anyway, we have an extra room and even though you’re not a member, I’ll convince the brothers to rent it to you for a while until we can find you a place.”
“Thank you Sam. And thank you Steve. And thank you Val. I will think of all of you like brothers from now on.”
Sam took the last bite of his food and stood, but again paused, bemused by Mohamed trying to lift the suitcases, which were larger than he. “Better let us take those,” said Sam taking one from Mohamed’s hand and nodding to Val to take the other.
“Oh thank you very much, my new friends and brothers. Are all Americans as big as you guys? I mean you’re all very big and strong.”
“Americans come in all shapes and sizes, Mohamed,” answered Sam.
And Mohamed continued to ask questions of Sam and his fraternity brothers the entire walk back from the Westwood Village to the fraternity house almost a mile away.
At the fraternity house Sam, Val, and Steve showed Mohamed directly to his nice little room. “Make yourself at home, Mohamed. Our home is your home at least until we can figure out what to do with you.”
“Hey pledges,” said the voice from behind. It was Jason, a handsome math major, who had recently become the president of the fraternity.
Sam turned to face their fraternity president. “Hi Jason. Um, Jason this is Mohamed, he’s visiting from Saudi Arabia, I told him he could rent the room for a while until he finds a place of his own.” Sam turned back to Mohamed. “Mo, this is Jason, he’s the president of the fraternity.”
“It’s very nice to meet you, Jason,” said Mohamed extending his hand, which Jason shook.
“Nice to meet you too, Mohamed…”
“And you need not worry Jason. As soon as I can reach my father he will send money and I will be able to pay for my accommodations.”
Jason smiled and gave Mohamed a nod. “Make yourself comfortable.” Then motioning Sam, Val and Steve to the door. “Pledges can I speak to you—outside?”
Jason gave Mohamed one last smile before closing the door and turning to Sam. “Are you crazy? Are you out of your mind? You’re a pledge you can’t make this kind of decision. I’m the president and even I can’t make this kind of decision. A non brother in the house?”
Sam shrugged. “He’s a nice little guy and he was lost…”
“He’s not a pet, Sam!” said Jason, interrupting.
“We couldn’t just leave him to wander around the city—he’d last five minutes in the wrong part of town. And besides, the house could use the money. We’ll just tell anyone that asks, that he’s visiting from another chapter.”
Jason sighed; the fraternity was badly in need of money due to a ruthless landlord that kept raising the rent. “And what chapter would that be, Sam? Incase you didn’t notice he’s an Arab. That means he’s Muslim. This is a Jewish fraternity! A national Jewish fraternity, Sam. That means every brother is Jewish, are you beginning to understand my concern?”
Sam put his hand on Jason’s shoulder. “Jason, I know that you’re the president and I’m just a lowly pledge, but Mohamed stays. If anyone asks it’s on me, I’ll take complete responsibility for him, okay.”
Jason glanced down at Sam’s hand on his shoulder, an ancient sign. “Okay Sam…”
“Thanks Jase, I’ll take it from here.” Sam reached for the door handle.
“Three hundred and thirty dollars a month, he has to pay just like everyone else…” said Jason, just trying to put some order into the affair.
As Sam opened the door to Mohamed’s room, he almost sent their new brother to the floor, as Mohamed had put his ear to the door to listen to their conversation.
“I was looking at the fine workmanship of the door, I didn’t hear a word,” said Mohamed, wide eyed—he had never met a Jew, but he had heard not such good things.
Sam smiled. “You didn’t hear that this a Jewish fraternity?”
“Well I might have heard that,” said Mohamed, timidly.
“Look this is America, everyone gets along here. If you want to stay with us you can. The room and three meals a day is going to cost you three hundred and thirty dollars a month. You can be our brother if you want—it’s up to you. Otherwise, I suggest you stay until morning, you don’t want to be roaming around the city at night if you don’t know your way around.” And with that Sam turned and left the room.
Mohamed looked at Val and Steve who remained behind not knowing whether they should have followed Sam out or not. “So if Sam didn’t say for me to stay, would you guys like me to stay?” asked Mohamed.
Val nodded. “Yeah, why not? When my family came to America I couldn’t even speak English…”
“But you’re Jewish, Val.” Mohamed turned to Steve. “Would I be welcome here if Sam didn’t say so?”
Steve shrugged. “To be honest Mohamed, I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter because Sam says you’re welcome here, so you’re welcome here—you should stay.”
Mohamed was thoughtful for a moment. “If Jason is the president and Sam is a pledge like you two, why does everyone listen to what he says?”
Steve shrugged again. “How much do you know about Jews? You see…Well I don’t know…”
Val interrupted. “There are twelve kinds of Jews, from the twelve tribes, Mohamed. And there are two kinds from the tribe of Levi, Kohanim, which are descendants of the high priest Aaron and Leviyim the descendants of Moses…”
Steve found his thoughts. “Think of it this way Mohamed, in the whole world of five billion people there are only fifteen million Jews and only about a hundred and fifty thousand out of the fifteen million are from the tribe of Levi…”
“So Sam is a descendant of the prophet Moses?” asked Mohamed.
Val and Steve glanced at each other and nodded.
“Basically, yeah, he’s a direct descendant of Moses,” answered Val. “And he might be a part of a group way smaller than that, but nobody knows for sure…”
Mohamed nodded. “Do you know that my people have a lot of respect for the prophet Moses?”
Mohamed had decided to stay and live amongst the Jewish fraternity boys, after all seeing the world outside of his own was the purpose of his travels. And over the course of his first week amongst the Jews he had found them to be very nice and very concerned for his wellbeing. He particularly enjoyed their love of the game of chess; classical music, literature and that they didn’t eat pork. His only regret was, that while he enjoyed his time with the other hundred and twenty or so brothers, he had not had the chance to spend more time with Sam. In fact, Mohamed had keenly observed, that Sam spent very little time engaged in the activities of the house and only seemed to have a casual interest in his studies. But movies, parties, girls and the beach seemed to interest him very much—strange for a direct descendant of Moses, thought Mohamed.
Sam slammed on the brakes of his Corvette, as it approached the bottom of the long, steep driveway—where Mohamed stood waiting for him. “What are you doing Mo, it’s not safe to stand there, I could have flattened you like a pancake. In America we usually stand off to the side of the driveway when we’re waiting for someone. Who are you waiting for, by the way?”
Mohamed walked around the side of Sam’s car and let himself into the passenger’s seat. “I’m waiting for you, Sam. I’d like to see how you spend the day.”
“Well we’ll need to stop and get you some swim trunks—we’re going to the beach.”
“Is that where you prefer to pray and meditate?” inquired Mohamed.
“It’s as good a spot as any. But mostly I just like to work on my tan and check out the girls in their swimsuits.”
Mohamed laughed. “Sure Sam, you don’t have me fooled.”
Sam looked at his unusual passenger. “You’ll see.”
The weather at the beach could not have been nicer. And as Sam had told Mohamed, he did no prayers or meditation, but rather, did lie in the sun and talk with several attractive girls who most obviously enjoyed his attention. Mohamed had never imagined that a man could find so much to talk to women about. Then, as fate would have it, the girls gave Sam their respective phone numbers and departed—leaving the two of them alone.
“Sam, you’re a descendant of the great prophet Moses, why do you behave the way you do?” asked Mohamed, not able to contain himself to any kind of casual conversation.
“Who told you that?” asked Sam, offering a question to a question.
“Your fraternity brothers have told me so. It is true?”
Sam nodded slowly and sighed. “It’s true my friend. But I assure you my ancestors never bargained for me.”
“Is it true that you speak to God?”
“Anyone can speak to God Mohamed,” answered Sam softly.
“But God knows you.”
“God knows everyone and everything, Mohamed.”
“You know what I mean, Sam. He knows you and you know him.”
“If what you say is true, Mohamed, you have to believe me when I tell you that it’s through no merit of my own.” Sam shook his head. “I have many flaws my friend, if my soul had known the challenges and temptations of this world, surely it would have stayed with the Lord—not that a soul has such a choice, but if it did…And you know the irony of it all, today right now at this moment my soul wishes to stay. Didn’t want to come. Doesn’t want to leave. The complexities of being such as we are created…”
“But Sam, it is true, yes. You know him and he knows you? I need to know, I have many questions.”
Sam nodded his head. “It’s true my brother, I see God in all things concerning the world. Sometimes, I try not to, but I do.”
Mohamed thought about which question he should now ask. “Sam, why do our people’s not get along?”
“Who says we don’t get along? Aren’t you happy living at the fraternity house?”
“I don’t mean us, Sam. I mean the others…”
“But all that matters is that we get along. The others have to figure it out for themselves. They have to choose peace and happiness, Mohamed. Neither you nor I can make that choice for them—we can only be an example of what could be.”
“Is that why you invited me to live with you as a brother, to set an example?”
“We are brother’s, Mohamed. The reason there’s discord amongst our peoples today is that we were separated all those centuries ago—the bad feelings from that have been passed on from generation to generation, until the generations of our time, that don’t even understand where the bad feelings come from—causeless hatred, my brother, which I assure you God loathes.”
“But it was God’s will that we were separated, Sam.”
“Maybe not, Mohamed, maybe not. But God did promise to build two great peoples from two firstborn’s and he did. Where is it written that the peoples were supposed to do anything other than love each other? The desire of brothers should be to be reunited and not be apart. After all, to hate your own flesh and blood is to hate one’s self. And because the essence of God is in all, to hate one’s self is to hate God.”
A school of dolphins swam close to the beach and frolicked in the water. Sam pointed at the unusual sight. “See, the wise souls of the sea agree.”
Mohamed watched in wonder—he had never seen a live dolphin. “Sam, if we’re all brothers, why do the Jews want to rule over us?”
Sam let out a loud laugh. “Who told you that? We can’t even rule over ourselves!”
“Seriously Sam,” Mohamed insisted, although he was still fascinated by the dolphins.
“Mohamed, there are fifteen million Jews in the whole world—that’s all. There are tribes in India that neither of us has ever heard of, which are larger. And only six million of the fifteen million Jews live in Israel. Now think about it, there are one billion Muslims, even if the Jews wanted to be rulers, which they don’t, so few could never rule so many. To believe that Jew’s want to rule Muslims or anyone else for that matter anoints only one ruler—fear. And the rule of fear empowers the sycophants that use fear to manipulate and scheme against their fellow man. But God always turns the scheme on the schemer, so one need not be too concerned.”
“Sam, if Jews don’t want to rule Muslims, why do they insist on the existence of Israel, in our midst?”
“God gave Israel to the Jew’s as a homeland.”
“But they were gone for a thousand years…”
“They were carried off in chains as slaves by the Romans…” Sam paused for a moment. “You realize that Israel is only one fiftieth the size of the state of Texas—you could fit fifty Israel’s in Texas.”
“So after all those years why not make part of Texas the Jewish homeland?” prodded Mohamed.
“So now man knows better than God, Mohamed?” Sam smiled that unusual smile of his. “God wants Jews and Muslims to live together—in peace. That’s why the Jewish homeland is where it is and not in Texas. And not that this is of any personal concern to me because my tribe was blessed with not being given an inheritance, but seriously, God gave your people a third of the globe and half of the oil—he gave the Jews a spec of land with no oil, no coal, no gold, no diamonds, hardly any water, oh and no strategic importance in the military sense. Seriously brother, would you trade your land for ours?”
Mohamed laughed and patted Sam on the back. “No, of course not. But…” And Mohamed was at a rare loss for words.
Sam stared at his friend. “But…You have a big house my brother and God has given you much. Your brother was carried off in chains and persecuted for a thousand years, do you really not have even one room and some food for him?”
“It would be easier to think this way, Sam, if the Israelis were better to the Palestinians,” said Mohamed.
“It’s my land. No it’s my land. It’s my dirt. No it’s my dirt. It’s my olive tree. No it’s my olive tree.” Sam laughed. “Like two children fighting over a toy that belongs to neither. Can you imagine killing even one human being over a tree, over some dirt? Keep the tree brother, I’ll plant another. Keep the dirt, because the earth is filled with earth—more than enough for all of mankind. And so much more than one person needs in the brief moment of one’s existence.”
“You do speak the word of God, Samuel,” said Mohamed. “You don’t mind if I call you Samuel, do you?”
Sam shrugged. “When we speak to each other alone—otherwise I’m Sam.”
“The fraternity boy,” said Mohamed, with a chuckle.
They sat quietly for several minutes and enjoyed the afternoon breeze, which had come to caress them.
“Sam, will we see peace? Will we sit like this, together, as a people?” asked Mohamed, hopeful that all humanity could one day feel the rapture of oneness with God and brotherhood with one’s fellow man.
Sam nodded. “One day Mohamed. There will need to be much understanding. And even more forgiveness. But one day…”
Mohamed went on to live happily with his Jewish fraternity brothers for many months. He even bought a red convertible sports car, which he and Sam often took long drives in and talked about many things.
Sam continued to enjoy the ways of the world, but always made time to speak of the ways of God with Mohamed. On several occasions Mohamed suggested that Sam speak in this manner to others, but Sam always laughed and said, “There is no need for my words Mohamed, God has already inscribed all that needs to be said on man’s heart. Man need only to say these words to himself. Me, I’m just here to keep the world company… Hey, are you up for some pizza and a movie?”
It was the first day of final’s week, the last week of the school year, on which Jason called a meeting of the brothers—unfortunately, to deliver some very bad news. “I’m sorry to be the one to have to tell everyone this, but our landlord has decided that he doesn’t want us here no matter how much rent we’re willing to pay. He’s decided to tear down our house and build condo’s.”
This made all of the brother’s sad, (There were no other houses available anywhere in Westwood) but for the exception of Sam, who went about his day to day activities as if nothing eventful had transpired.
Upon the conclusion of his last test, Sam went back to the fraternity house and loaded Mohamed’s two suitcases onto the luggage rack of his Corvette. And having once made sure that they were tied down securely, he drove his friend to the airport.
“Thank you for everything, Sam,” said Mohamed, who then gave Sam a kiss on each cheek, as is the custom in the land, from which he came from.
Sam broke into the smile that Mohamed had committed to his deepest memory—it was like no other smile and he did not ever want to forget this about his friend. “Thank you Mohamed. It’s been a great blessing to have you in our home, amongst us.”
Mohamed turned to depart, but turned back with an envelope in his hand, which he extended toward Sam. “Samuel, I wrote a short letter to the other brothers. Will you give it to Jason, so he can read it to them for me?”
Sam took the envelope into his hand. “Have a safe trip, brother.”
Later that night Jason stood in front of the meeting of fraternity brothers. “I know everyone is concerned about getting their things packed but,” he held up the envelope, which Sam had delivered to him from Mohamed, “Sam asked me to open this letter from Mohamed, who left back for Saudi Arabia this afternoon, and read it to everyone at the same time.” It only took a moment for Jason to open the envelope and another to examine the papers. He took a deep breath before continuing, “The first page says, ‘Thank you, you’re the best brothers a brother could ask for,’ signed Mohamed. The second page is the deed to our property. And the third says, ‘Sam, you gave me a family, I feel blessed to make sure that my family has a home. When you think it’s the right time, please tell people of the things we spoke of. God bless you brother!’” Jason folded up the papers and put them back into the envelope from, which they came. His eyes were tearful. “I guess we don’t have to leave.” Jason’s attention came to rest on Sam. “Sam, do you have anything to say, did you know Mohamed was going to do this?”
Sam shook his head and smiled, which caused a bit of laughter to spread around the room. “He never mentioned it to me, but it must have been God’s will, Jason…Anyone in the mood for some pizzas and a movie?”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stan Lerner is an award winning-author whose diverse credits include the novels “Stan Lerner’s Criminal”, “Blast”, “In Development,” and the children’s book “Stanley The Elephant.” Stan Lerner is also the creator of the Las Vegas music spectacle “Night Tribe” and the writer, director, producer of the hit motion picture “Meet The Family.” Mr. Lerner was born in Montebello CA and has lived in downtown Los Angeles for the last fifteen years.
For more information about Stan Lerner please visit his author profile at: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/stan