THE FIRST STONE


INSHA ALLAH


by


Larry Martines





It is not as you and others say

Insha Allah –

that it is the will of God,

it is truly the will of man.




Over the millennia, countless religions have risen to contain

the darkest fears of the minds of men.

None have been able to restrain man’s ability to exploit those fears,

and they probably never will.










Published by Create Space

for

Wildcard Books


circa 2008


© Larry Martines


THE FIRST STONE


CHAPTER ONE


July 1991 - Tel. Aviv, Israel


            Crouched low, silent as death itself, the man dressed in black moved close to his prey. Then like an eerie apparition, he rose up behind the Israeli and with a fast, graceful, looping reach embraced the unsuspecting man in a deadly headlock. A simultaneous, spine punishing move bent the Israeli backward hard against the knee of his attacker

            The smaller man twisted in frantic horror, his arms flailed in empty air as only his toes touched the ground. Ismael sensed his victim’s terrified desperation as the Israeli struggled in vain to free himself from the vice-like grip of his powerful attacker.

            Maximum stealth, brutal strength, black belt skill and expert precision guided Ismael Abukar as he wielded his scimitar and pushed it into Rubin Hymanovitz’s side. A bone crushing stranglehold compressed the man's larynx against the back of his windpipe and choked off his death-scream. The air on which it carried gurgled out of a punctured lung and bubbled through the blood that flowed over the scimitar as it slid under the man’s ribs into his heart.

            Their heads side-by-side, so close that Ismael pressed his lips against the Israeli’s ear and breathed into it hot stinging words in perfect Hebrew. “It is time, infidel – my father waits for you in the other world.” They were the last words the dying man heard as a final twist of the blade fully severed Rubin’s heart.

            The Israeli’s black fedora rolled away on its upturned brim. It teetered and tottered, as it turned in diminishing circles and came to rest with its sweat-stained headband facing upward. It lay there, illuminated by a narrow shaft of light that sliced through an opening in a nearby wall. Size 7 5/8 was the last thing his bulging eyes might have seen, as the life of Rubin Hymanovitz came to a violent end.  

            Ismael released his grip, withdrew the scimitar and let the lifeless body slip quietly to the ground. Its head twisted in a grotesque angle, and open, bulging eyes appeared to watch his murderer’s movements.

            Ismael looked down, and through a hard smile quietly said, “Yes, Rubin, Allah has willed that you answer for your crime against my family. You must now be in hell. There is much terror in your eyes.”

            Ismael, in a calm, deliberate manner, bent over the lifeless body and wiped the bloody blade clean on Rubin’s suit jacket. He then disappeared into the surrounding darkness – leaving one more scimitar murder added to the growing list of these terrorizing nocturnal events.


Earlier that night Ismael had completed his final prayers for the day, and then tracked his prey to a secluded place and eliminated him. He left the much feared imprimatur of the Saracen-Scimitar-Assassin as the now infamous murderer had become known.


He kept to the shadows, worked alone, moved quickly and left no tell-tail trail. Like an eerie hallucination he materialized out of the night vapors, wielded his deadly scimitar and vanished like a noiseless shadow consumed in the black of night.

            Ismael knew Tel-Aviv's narrow streets, alley ways, walls and courtyards. He navigated the maze of old and new structures with catlike ability, but he liked it best in areas where it was old, dark and friendly to his nocturnal activities. Dressed in black western style clothes, typical of the modern Israeli, he easily blended with the general population of the old city as he planned his movements to never appear on the same street or in the same alleyway twice.







Chapter Two


Thirteen years earlier, March 1978


            The coastal town of Sur, in the southern part of Lebanon had been home to Ismael Abukar, his parents and his sister.

            Ismael's father, Saddam Abukar, a regimental commander in the Amal Shiite Militia, place his hands with affection on his son’s shoulders and said, “Ismael, I have been called to lead my troops in defense of our Lebanese homeland. Israelis have launched all-out attacks on PLO bases here, and have occupied much of the area. Our religious leader, Musa al-Sadr, believes we can beat back the Israelis and rid our selves of the PLO trouble makers at the same time. I want you to watch over your mother and sister. I’ll feel better knowing they’re in your care.”

            Ismael looked into his father’s eyes and said, “Yes, father, I will do as you say.”

            Father and son embraced, and Saddam took notice of the man his son had come to be. Not yet eighteen years old, Ismael had already grown to be six feet tall and solidly built.


The Amal might have become an ally of Israel against their common enemy the PLO. Instead, Israeli fire power and superior military tactics decimated the Shiite forces without restraint as they destroyed whatever PLO forces they came upon. In determined attempts to ferret out scattered members of the PLO the Israelis devastated many Shiite villages that stood in their way. The Israeli juggernaut quickly overran ill equipped Shiite forces unschooled in modern military tactics. Saddam Abukar had been wounded and taken prisoner.

            A prize catch for the Israeli Army, his interrogations were long and arduous. Front line intelligence officers worked him over methodically, but they gleaned little information beyond his name, rank, and militia identification.


When Saddam Abukar’s family learned the Israelis defeated his father's regiment and had captured him, Ismael said, “Mother, I must go to help free father. He is still alive, and I hear that Israelis torture their prisoners. They make no distinction between Arabs. I am told they would be happy if all Arabs were annihilated.”


Dressed completely in black, he traveled only at night and slipped undetected through the Israeli forces. He found the command post where the Israelis were holding his father in a temporary holding area located in the outskirts of Bint Jubayl, about five miles north of the Lebanese-Israel border.

            Ismael hid by day in town with sympathetic, friendly Muslim villagers. Even at his young age he had a persuasive presence, already taller than most and ruggedly handsome. His people willingly sought to be of service to this special young man whose deeply tanned face, sculptured features and commanding presence belied his youth. Penetrating, blue black eyes like deep, dark reflecting-pools mirrored all, and his hypnotic gaze seemed to control all around him.

            He stayed with no family more than a day. During his fourth night of surveillance of the Israeli compound, Ismael discovered that his father is indeed alive and is a prisoner there. He learned quickly where intelligence officers interrogate their captives. It wasn't difficult since he could hear their screams clearly from the camp's perimeter, about a quarter of a mile from the building where the prisoners are being held.

            A full-moon hid behind the heavy overcast and low hanging clouds. Still dressed completely in black with his trusted scimitar fastened at his side, Ismael slithered to within twenty feet of the stucco-walled house and lay motionless in the surrounding shrubbery. He hoped he had guessed correctly, and this is where his father is being held captive.

            Inside the building the Israelis had established a makeshift prison, and from where Ismael had positioned himself he heard the voices of prisoners and their interrogators clearly. The interrogations were being conducted on one prisoner at a time with long periods between sessions. Nearly two hours passed as he lay there, barely able to move. Suddenly he tensed and listened carefully as a loud voice issued harsh commands in demanding tones.

            “Where are the locations of the PLO hideouts? You can make it a lot easier on your neighbors if you tell us what we want to know.” The interrogator, speaking good Arabic, continued, “We’ll destroy every town between here and Beirut, and Beirut will be destroyed as well. Many Lebanese will die, all because of a few PLO terrorists. Think about how many Lebanese you can save.”

            Ismael listened to the simple logic of the demanding voice and couldn’t help thinking, The Lebanese, and in particular the Shiites, didn’t want this trouble the PLO had brought with them. He found it difficult to reconcile the situation unfolding before him. Surely the Israelis must know that they and the Shiites of southern Lebanon share the same objective. Can it be that the Israelis identify all Arabs as not wanting the Israelis occupying lands that Arabs believe rightfully belong to them? If this is so, then the first consideration must be that the displaced Palestinians are brother Muslims, and their cause is that of every Muslim; we must prevail!

            The unmistakable sound of the firm proud voice of his father interrupted his thoughts, and through clenched teeth he said, “It’s my father! They’re interrogating my father!” Ismael had all he could do to restrain himself. He wanted to leap inside and kill every Israeli there. “Who are they to question my father?”

            “My name is Saddam Abukar. I am commander of the First Shiite Militia Regiment of South Lebanon. I am defending my country.” There was a period of silence, then, Ismael heard a rough toned command.

            “You were defending the PLO positions, not your country. We’re not here to conquer Lebanon, or for that matter to kill Lebanese soldiers or civilians. We’re here to destroy PLO terrorists who have caused Israel much suffering. It’s not our intention to harm innocent people, but we’ll do what we must to rid ourselves of the PLO scourge you see fit to defend. Understand, Commander Abukar, you’re no better than the PLO in our eyes if you chose to protect them by not telling us what we want to know.”

            “My name is Saddam Abu . . . aye ee!” A loud thud, sounding like a solid object striking a slab of beef, caused his father to cry out in pain. Ismael could barely restrain himself. Allah Akbar, they’re hurting my father. What can I do? Allah, please guide me, give me strength?’ Ismael knew his father is a strong man, and he would not show any reaction unless he’s being badly hurt.

            Then speaking in Hebrew the Israeli officer in charge said, “That's enough, Blumgart! We don't want him dead yet. He has much information we need, and we’ll get it out of him one way or another. He's unconscious, take him back to his room. We'll inject him with the Sodium Pentothal when it arrives later. It's on its way now. He'll talk!”

            Lieutenant Blumgart, a brute of a man, roughly dragged Saddam Abukar back to his room and threw him in a heap on the floor, adding a few careless kicks in the process. Ismael would not forget the lieutenant's name.

            Ismael understood Hebrew almost as well as his native Arabic language, and he had also become fluent in English and French. He Thought about the Israeli's words – when it arrives. Can I somehow stop it from arriving? He then crawled back to the perimeter and planned how to intercept the arrival of the drug.

            He thought about the command post terrain he knew well from his fortnight surveillance. A single road leads into the compound where they’re holding father. I know it intersects with two other roads less than a quarter mile from here. One of them is the main road into town. My only weapon is my good scimitar, but it will not be good for attacking the vehicle that brings the drug. I need a hand-grenade. Perhaps I can get one from an Israeli soldier – if I can find one alone. I have to stay inside the perimeter – there might be an opportunity. I’ve seen soldiers walking between buildings alone. Allah be with me! Let one show himself soon!

             He slithered along behind the shrubbery and staked out a position near a connecting path. Thirty minutes passed. The moon remained behind a low hanging overcast and what little light it provided cast everything in a dull grey monotone that revealed little form of the surrounding landscape.

            It’s difficult to see into the shadows. This is good and bad, Ismael thought. He needed the cover of darkness, but he also needed some light to see around him. His young eyes adjusted to the near total blackness as he scanned along the path. He squinted hard when he thought he detected some motion. “Allah be praised,” he said to himself when, after a few moments, he recognized the deliberate movement of a person coming his way. Ah, he thought, it must be a soldier heading toward the building that houses the prisoners. There’s little time left to intercept the delivery of the drug, I must get a weapon.

             He crouched low, out of sight behind the shrubbery and listened as the foot steps grew louder. He knew he had to time his move perfectly, so he exercised maximum restraint until the moment he heard footsteps come opposite him.

            Hand to hand combat, new to Ismael, made him rely on instinct alone to prevail. Courage, determination and young animal strength all worked in his favor. He sprang up behind his target, wrapped his left arm around the man’s neck, pushed his knee into the small of the man’s back, simultaneously brought his right arm around, and plunged the scimitar unerringly into his victim's side.

            Even as he did this, the man surprised Ismael. The Israeli dropped his rifle to the ground, reached up with both hands and grabbed Ismael's left arm in a vain attempt to pull him over his shoulder. Ismael felt the man’s grip on his arm weaken, just as the scimitar found its mark.

            Guided by Ismael’s strong right arm, the deadly blade curved in and up, toward the doomed man’s heart. As the dying man sagged in his grip, Ismael dropped him, recognized the man as an Israeli soldier, wiped his blade on his fatigue jacket and pulled the body into the shrubs. He avoided the bloody side, felt around the man's outer clothes searching for combat gear, and found several hand-grenades clipped onto the jacket. Ismael took only two hand-grenades. He had to travel light.

 

Twenty minutes later, he made his way through a field as he moved parallel to the road that led toward the intersection. Ismael had never killed a man before, and he was surprised that he had little or no reaction to the experience. Somehow, having had found the skill and strength to do what he had to, he silently offered thanks to Allah for the success of his efforts thus far. Allah Akbar. Allah be with me and help me do what I must. As long as they don't get the information they want from my father, they will keep him alive. Allah Akbar, Insha Allah.

            He moved with silent determination. His aroused senses made him aware of all around him. He smelled the parched dirt, dried grasses, barest traces of baked bread, and felt the mid summer air, dry and cool, like a desert night. He became acutely aware of the almost total absence of sound. The glimmer of a full moon began to emerge directly overhead as the overcast sky slowly dissipated. Allah be with me – keep the moon behind the clouds for just a short while longer.

             The sound of a single vehicle in the distance coming toward him interrupted his concentration. He moved from the edge of the road and concealed himself in a drainage ditch. There had been no rain, and the ditch had become parched and dried from the resulting drought that had inflicted still another hardship on the area. Dust invaded his nostrils and eyes. He knew he had to keep from sneezing, so he covered his nose with his black bandana.

            In the dim light of the sky behind the oncoming vehicle, a hazy silhouette of what appeared to be a military jeep came into view. It moved slow along the road as if it hadn’t come this way before.

            This has to be the messenger with the delivery father's interrogators are expecting, Ismael thought. He knew he’d have only one chance. He positioned himself between a sharp bend in the road and the oncoming vehicle. He lay low in the ditch inside of the curve, reasoning, it will have to slow even more as it approaches and its driver sees the curve, and its lights will shine away from where he placed himself. Now under cover of the darkness provided by a fortuitous cloud that covered the moon all was ready for him to strike.

            Ismael had limited knowledge of hand-grenades. He recalled casual remarks related to their operation that he had overheard between some of the regular militia men when he had visited regimental gatherings with his father. I remember they said the explosion will happen ten seconds after I pull the pin and release the handle. Allah, please let it be so!

            He knew his timing had to be perfect for the grenade to do its work before the occupants of the vehicle could react. He reviewed what he had to do. It will be impossible to time the release of the grenade as the vehicle approaches. My best chance is to let the vehicle pass, run behind it as it slows for the curve, pull the pin and count the seconds before I drop the grenade in the back of the jeep.

            The jeep came within a few feet of where Ismael crouched ready to spring up after it passed. He could just see two soldiers in the front seats. The moon had not yet broken through the overcast. Allah be with me. He prayed for it to be so. Silent and swift, like a spring uncoiling, he moved in behind the jeep as both driver and passenger shifted in their seats to accomodate the lean of the vehicle in response to the sharpness of the turn. Preoccupied by the sharp bend in the road and uncertainty of what lay ahead, neither the driver or his passenger had the remotest idea that the real danger lay behind them.

            The driver shifted down to a lower gear slowing the jeep and prepared to accelerate out of the turn. Just then he and his buddy heard a noise as the grenade landed on the metal floorboards in the jeep’s rear compartment. Ismael could hear the driver as he said, “Something must have come loose.” Still crouched in the road, Ismael watched the other man’s silhouette rise from his seat and turn to investigate. Ismael, keeping low, ran back and jumped into the drainage ditch that ran alongside the road. The stillness of the night suddenly shattered as the grenade exploded.

            A deafening blast scattered contents of the jeep and its occupants over a wide area of the road and the adjacent field. Ismael rolled over onto his back and watched the sky light up from the fiery explosion. Spare gas cans carried in the rear of the jeep, added an incendiary fury to the blast. With catlike agility Ismael recoiled onto his feet and disappeared into the night.

            Israeli forces sprang to life and instantly mobilized against a potential assault. When nothing further developed, a detachment of heavily armed soldiers reconnoitered the area where the vehicle had been destroyed. Their initial assumption was that somehow a grenade got loose and exploded inside the jeep. It seemed to be an unfortunate accident. The Israeli commander listened to the report, and with not much more to go on concluded, “It doesn’t seem likely, but that’s what must have happened.”

            A short time later the incident took on a different explanation. The commander learned that the body of a dead soldier had been found in the bushes, the obvious victim of an Arab's sword. The only things unaccounted for, were two of the soldier's hand-grenades. It didn't take long to understand exactly what had happened.

            Major Julius Cohen, astutely said. “A soldier murdered inside of the compound, and his grenades used to destroy the messenger with the sodium Pentothal, adds up to an Arab eavesdropper who overheard the plan to use the drug on Abukar. It will be futile to search for the assassin. Post extra perimeter guards and place additional armed patrols on duty throughout the night. Now it’s time to see to the care of the dead.”




Chapter Three


            After Ismael had left home to search for his father, the Israelis made additional raids on the village where his mother and sister had remained. Few men had remained in the village, and none were with Ismael’s mother and sister. The Israelis searched the village to flush out PLO members and had brutally interrogated everyone at gun-point. No home was spared, and much damage had been inflicted as the Israeli forces forced their way into every house in the village.

            When Ismael returned, he found the door to his home had been broken – it leaned in – supported on one hinge. An ominous silence, disturbed only by the incessant drone of flies accompanied by a terrible odor that brought forth ominous thoughts of death. He pushed the door aside, and it fell off the single remaining hinge with a crash. He stepped inside and confronted a horror that would become his worst nightmare indelibly etched in his mind for eternity. His mother and sister lay sprawled on the floor, face up, arms splayed out hands touching, each with a single bullet hole in the head.

            Overwhelmed by uncontrollable rage and with no other way to vent it, Ismael let forth a blood curdling scream of anguish, heard by all in the small village.

            The nearest neighbor, Leila Gibran, who had just returned to the village with her mother-in-law, left her home next door and rushed into Ismael’s house. She too screamed as she reached for Ismael and they both held each other and sobbed hysterically. Leila’s mother-in-law, Celestia, rushed in, and being a Maronite Christian, she blessed herself as she too, bore witness to the horrible scene.

            It took a long time for them to overcome their grief, but then they helped Ismael attend to the burial of his mother and sister. Both, Leila and Celestia, noted the stoical resolve that revealed itself in the young hardened man they fondly remembered as a boy. When all had been attended to, Ismael said, “Insha Allah. I am blessed to have you for neighbors. Now I must leave to find my father. He’s all that remains of my family.”

   

He avoided the Israelis and the PLO. He understood that being a Shiite Muslim and the son of an Arab regimental commander, he would not fare well if he were to be detained and interrogated by either the Israelis or the PLO.

            As he worked his way down toward the border between Lebanon and Israel, he spoke with other Arabs sympathetic to his cause. “I am trying to make my way into Israel. I have to see if I can rescue my father who is a prisoner of the Israelis.”

            One such Shiite Arab when questioned said, “The border is impassable, you will surely be caught if you attempt to cross through the Israeli lines. Perhaps you should consider working your way around Rosh Ha Niqra.”

            Ismael knew this town as the northern most Israeli location on the coastal road. Ismael had developed into a strong swimmer while growing up in the seaside town of Tyre, further up the coast.

            A plan began to form in his mind. If I can work out a way to carry clothes, shoes, money and my passport, I am confident I can swim far enough down the coast to a point where I could come ashore unobserved. After that I will have to trust to Allah for his guidance.

            He elected to forgo his shoes for a pair of sandals and would only carry his trousers and a western style shirt he had obtained earlier. Rolling the clothes tightly around the sandals, money and passport, he placed the compact bundle in a goatskin water bag and secured it to the back of his belt. Also, attached to his belt he carried a small flask of water that he would use to keep from becoming dehydrated.

 

Resting periodically, he floated on his back and sipped sparingly from the small flask of water. He estimated his swimming pace at between two and three kilometers an hour. He could swim faster than that normally, but he wanted to conserve his strength in the event he had to swim farther down the coast than planned. He made a silent plea, Allah, please let me find the Israeli national park Achziv, where I can slip ashore while it is still dark.

            A small crescent moon rose in a black sky punctured by so many stars that when Ismael floated on his back and looked up, he witnessed a panorama that appeared to be multidimensional and alive. He wondered about his own relative smallness and insignificance in the face of all he beheld that surrounded him and the planet that he was just an infinitesimal part of. He wondered too about his chances to survive this journey, let alone find and save his father.

            Several hours later he dismissed all thoughts except one – finding a place to make a safe landing. He reasoned that darkness was his friend and therefore made for the darkest part of the shoreline. A slow breast stroke, allowed his head to remain above the water and his eyes focused on the shore. In the stillness of the early morning darkness he stopped often and tread water silently. He listened for any sounds that might be heard while he studied the dark shoreline carefully. Ah, he thought, the dim moonlight lets me see a sandy beach that goes further south, and off to the north there’s a much darker looking outcropping of rocks and vegetation. Allah Akbar, this must be Achziv!

            His rising euphoria received a sudden jolt as the sound of voices registered. They sounded as if they were next to him, and he nearly swooned as the strange sounds took form in his head. It took a moment to realize the strange sounds were coming to him across the water from the shore. He became very still except for barely discernible arm movements that kept his head just far enough out of the water to breathe and listen. The moment of panic that seized him as his mind raced passed, and he beseeched Allah to please stay with him. Just visible over the water surface he saw there on the beach two shadowy images moving toward the water’s edge. Could they have seen me?

            He strained to determine what the voices were saying. Their words carried clearly across the water. A strong male voice speaking in Hebrew said, “This is the most pleasant part of the patrol, walking along the beach. Too bad there’s not much moonlight. When the moon is full, it’s beautiful here, and it also makes it easier for us to see our way around.” Ismael took heart. For sure it sounded as if the Israeli had not discovered him.

            A second voice sounded – that of a young lady – a female soldier accompanied by the male soldier came into view. Ismael could not hear her well enough to understand her words.

            Near panic, Ismael thought, Allah, please let me remain invisible. I have come so far. I can see they carry weapons. Let it be they are on a routine patrol.

            He heard the male soldier as he said, “This is a lovely beach and we don’t usually have any visitors here.” The female soldier said something but again her softer voice didn’t carry well. However, the male soldier seemed to be doing most of the talking. When they reached the water near the rocks that bordered the north side of the beach, the male soldier aimed his search light into that area and carefully looked for signs of recent activity. Finding none, he flashed the light around the beach and paid close attention to the sand that had been washed smooth by the continuously lapping waves.

            “It would be there,” he said, “where telltale footprints would show up that would provide indication that someone had come ashore in the night. You see the sand has not been disturbed, so far, and this is why we walk the entire length of the beach.”

            “Has anyone ever found foot prints here?” The female voice raised as it asked, and Ismael could just make out what she said.

            “Surprisingly enough, we have. Occasionally a small boat will get past our patrol ships and drop off a swimmer who tries to make it ashore here. We’ve caught several by paying attention to footprints in the sand.”

            Ismael hearing the dialogue drifting across the water realized the danger of coming ashore on the beach. Allah Akbar, thank you. I will not leave footprints on the beach. I have to make my way through the rocks.

            So as the two soldiers walked away and headed down the beach, he quietly eased over toward the rocks. When he could no longer hear the voices, he slithered past the first of many rocks he had to navigate over and around to reach the trees. As he finally came close to the land he found a small clear pool of water where he rinsed the rock slime from his body and then slipped ashore behind the trees. Ismael prostrated himself on the ground and quietly said, “Allah Akbar, thank you, thank you.”

            He looked at his watch and noted, It’s now four A.M. about an hour before predawn light will begin to show itself in the eastern sky. I must see what there is here. It looks as if there are some kind of straw enclosures in among this grove of eucalyptus trees. No one seems to be in them. It’s too dark to be sure. I best wait and see what happens.

            After about forty-five minutes, his shorts had dried enough for him to put his pants and shirt on. There were no sounds of any kind, which tended to confirm his conclusion that the huts were empty. He therefore, slipped his sandals on, transferred his papers to his pockets, and buried the goatskin bag and goggles in the sand. He then smoothed over the spot and covered the disturbed area with dried leaves.

             Dressed as he was, Ismael could easily pass for an Israeli. His extreme good looks and captivating eyes gave him an imposing appearance. His first move into the open would be the most critical and had to be done in as natural a manner as possible.

            The night’s darkness gave way to the earliest weak light of the coming day, and he was now able to see more of his surroundings. Again he took mental note of what he could see. There’s a large swimming pool and lounge chairs. This must be a resort of some sort. There’s no one here. It must not be open yet. There’s a building that looks to be the main area of the resort, but still there’s no one here. Allah Akbar, let it be so.

            He remained under cover of the trees as he edged his way toward the front of the building where he could see a road with a horizontal bar across it and a guard shack next to it. Ah yes, he thought. The barrier is for cars. Pedestrians can simply walk around it.

            He watched the guard-house carefully for several minutes and concluded that it, too, is deserted. The road led from the guard-house out to the main road that runs past the park.

            If I can get out to the road I should be able to blend in. I’ll just wait until more people are out there. If I stay behind the trees I should be able to get closer to the main road where I can see what’s going on.

            There’s some car and bicycle traffic, but I see no pedestrians. If I watch the roadway for a while maybe there will be a lull in the traffic. Ah, there’s no traffic now and still no pedestrians.

            He took a deep breath, stepped out onto the pathway alongside the road and began to walk in a southerly direction toward where he thought Tel Aviv should be located. He adjusted his walk to a purposeful stride without appearing to rush. It was a long way to Tel Aviv, and Ismael hoped he could hitch rides from passing motorists. He planned to tell them he was on his way to attend the university there.

            As he walked, he held his hand out indicating he needed a lift. After several cars went by one stopped, and a young female voice greeted him, “Shalom, hop in.”

            Ismael eagerly jumped in the car alongside the young lady as he too said, “Shalom, thank you very much.”

            As she shifted gears, she glanced over at her passenger and concluded he was an Arab, albeit a good looking one who also spoke good Hebrew. She decided to be playful and spoke in Arabic. “I’m headed down to Tel Aviv where I’m a student at the university there. Where’re you headed?”

            Ismael was surprised by the sound of his language, but he answered in Hebrew. “That’s great! That’s where I’m headed. You speak Arabic well.”

            “Oh, thank you, and you speak Hebrew well. Do you plan to attend the university?”

            “Yes, that’s my hope. I must first meet my uncle who lives somewhere near there.”

            “Oh, so you’ll be living with your uncle.”

            “That is also my hope. I’m sure he will find a place for me.”

            “Do you know where he lives?”

            “No, only that I’m to go to the Hassan Bek Mosque in Tel Aviv and ask for him.”

            “Is your uncle a holy-man?”

            “Yes, he is Imam there. I have not seen him since I was a young boy. I only remember he is a big man with a lot of black hair.”

            “Here we are chatting away, and I don’t even know your name, mine’s Helena.”

            “I’m Ismael, Ismael Abukar. I’m very pleased to know you. You are kind to have stopped for me.”

            “It’s my pleasure and we’re both in luck. I love to have company when I drive, and we’re headed to the same place. I’m getting hungry. I think we can stop up ahead and get some breakfast.”


And so Ismael, now in Israel, made the rest of the trip to Tel Aviv with Helena, who talked a lot and told him much he needed to know about the university and living in Tel Aviv. By the time she dropped him off at the Mosque they had developed a genuine appreciation for each other.