Hagar approached Abraham’s tent, Ishmael following after his mother with little concern for what was coming. Abraham had no choice if he wanted to keep Sarah happy. Hagar and his first-born son, Ishmael would be cast out, homeless and destitute in the desert of Beersheba with no promise of a future, and certainly none of the coveted inheritance. It would come through Isaac, Abraham’s second son, born to Sarah. He would receive God’s covenant blessing and favor, and all future generations of the Jewish nation after him. But, the God of Abraham did not turn away from Hagar and Ishmael. He heard her cry, and saw her distress. He would spare them both, provide for them, and through Ismael many nations would be born. (Paraphrased; Genesis, chapter 21 in the Old Testament Bible NIV.)
The above story is true. When I read about Sarah, Abraham, Hagar, Ismael and Isaac I think about the division, hate, and turmoil in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians, and people and cultures of other Middle Eastern countries with the ongoing conflict. One might think that what was written centuries ago and recorded of stories like Abraham’s might be of little consequence to us today. But, what was written back then by those who lived and recorded their stories is relevant to our lives today. It comes back, bigger, more profound. The two most basic things we need most are love and acceptance. They can unite and bind us, but. if we have neither only divide and separate us. The characters in the story below are fictional, but their situation and circumstances could be real. It is not just their story, but one in places all over the world.
Tel Aviv, Israel – present day
“Why did you wait till now to tell me?”
“Gamal, your father deserted us. I never saw him again after that. I felt shamed, as if it was all my fault. So I left, moved closer to the settlements and just tried to blend in.”
“Like a Jew.”
“I had to find work, to support us…even though…” Sahar said, through her tears.
“Even though you were pregnant with a bastard’s son.”
Sahar shook her head, overcome with the emotion coursing through her like a hot iron.
“What about Sam’s father?”
“I was working in Jerusalem at a shop on Haifa Street when I met him. He was serving in the Israeli army then…At first I wanted nothing to do with him. He was Jewish. He came in often, was kind, and gentle…”
“And he married you.”
“Yes. We were married by a clergyman from another faith, because the Jews would not accept me, nor my people him.”
“So he captivates the pretty damsel, and off they ride into the sunset with her bastard son in tow.”
Sahar screamed at him. “Stop calling yourself that. You’re not! I never thought of you like that.”
“No? But, I was the curse that came with the shame of a sordid love affair with a man from Gaza…”
“We were a family. I tried to raise you both the same. I loved you. I never told Sam’s father anything…about your birth, or father. He accepted you and was willing to raise you as his own. He was not Orthodox so my past was not an issue with him. Then, one day…while on duty…with the military, rockets came. He was out there, trying to pull people from that carnage, but there were…Palestinians out there, shooting at them, and he was hit. He died, soon after.” Sahar’s shoulders shook, her cry intensified with every breath.
“And Sam? What does he know?”
“He only knows about his own father, how we met, how he died. Nothing about yours.”
“Then why tell me now, mother, after thirty years, making me believe I was Jewish, instead of…the son of a Palestinian?”
“Because your ties with Israel’s enemies affect your relationship with Sam, and his position in the army. You are brothers for God’s sake.”
“For God’s sake?” He laughed, sarcastically. “Your God does not care about us.”
“Gamal! What are you saying? The God of Abraham and Isaac is our God! We have no other. He is God to all.”
“We come from different people, mother. Or have you forgotten that?”
“I don’t serve Allah!”
“But, I do!” He said, his eyes glaring at her, cold and dark. “Goodbye, mother.”
“Gamal!“ She yelled after him, but he did not listen. He was gone, slamming the door behind him, shutting himself off from her, Sam, and all that he knew.
Joyce E. Johnson © 2016
Footnotes: Last year I posted short fictional stories under the title, Acid Rain, the first one under the title of Brothers Divided where Sam, a Jewish Israeli defense officer comes against those in the Arab nations set on destroying the Jewish people and the country of Israel. You can find those stories here. The above story is fiction also, and the prequel to Acid Rain.