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THE MUSLIM AND THE JEW

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.” Continue reading