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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

An Arabian Christmas Tale
by Rory Allen

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Yesterday, December sixth, was the first day marking the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting, like the Christian Easter after Lent. I had just finished a 600 mile desert crossing of sand, emptiness and solitude traveling through an austere, barren, desolate and inhospitable terrain. I arrived at the end of the desert to be greeted by a beautiful lush green range of mountains. Stopping, I got out of the car to breathe in the fresh almost alpine air and gazed down into the valleys that had stunning views of greenery with cattle, camels and goats grazing in fields alongside one another. I felt a wonderful sense of well being in this pastoral idyll.

When I got back on the road there were two Arabs hitching a lift into a town about thirty miles away. I stopped my car and they got in, and after exchanging the usual greetings they told me that they worked in a mosque in a small mountain village. One as an Immam, a priest, the other his helper.

After a while they said that many cars had passed them on this Holy day, driven by Arabs, but none had stopped. They said they were surprised that I had stopped. When I asked why their surprise they said, "We thought all Westerners thought all Arabs were terrorists."

I told them that this was not the case and not to believe in everything you see on the television or read in the newspapers. I proceeded to quote to them an old Arab proverb often used by the Arab himself. The proverb says that on one hand you have five fingers. Every finger is different, meaning that in every country, religion etc. you have good and bad and it is not the color of the cloak of the religion you wear that determines whether a man is good or bad, rather it is the color of a manís heart.

When we were arriving at our destination the Immam asked me if I was a Muslim. "No," I replied, "I am a Christian."

"Thank you," he said. "I shall never forget that on this second most holy day of the year it was not an Arab or Muslim or Friend that showed us kindness, it was a Westerner, a Christian and a Stranger."

With that they left the car and went on their way leaving me to drive off thinking that the world could be such a better place if we accepted that people were the same all over the world irrespective of race, creed or color.

I learnt later on that evening that a Palestinian Refugee camp had been attacked on this Holy Day of Eid and several young children had been killed. I wonder how we in the West would feel if one of our children was shot dead as we were celebrating Christmas Day or Easter.

I am also reminded of an interview with an old Israeli lady who was wailing helplessly after an Israeli bus containing school children was blown up. Sobbing, she said, "When is all this hate and murder going to end? Why can we not learn to love each other and live together? I pray to God for this every night." She then broke down and had to be led away. She had said all that needed to be said.

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