Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Real Religion

My friend Steve was recently in the hospital here in Jerusalem. He had a serious health challenge and was there for quite a while.

If you've known me for any length of time, you know the special story of Steve (an Israeli Jewish) and Azmi (A Palestininian/Muslim) who many years ago, forged a father/son bond.

Steve helped Azmi become established as an attorney in Jerusalem. Azmi has helped Steve with many health challenges and navigation of social services with the state of Israel. Their special friendship and bond has touched the hearts and minds of everyone they encounter.

Azmi is like a son to Steve and has really 'been there' for him in times of trouble.

Steve has other friends who have visited and helped, but none more consistently and completely than Azmi.

Azmi was explaining the other night that he was a bit surprised by the fact that some of those closest to Steve didn't seem to 'step up' and help as much as he would have expected.

One particular guy whom Azmi really likes (and feels close to) did not help much at all. This dissappointed Azmi.

Another friend, who is a fairly 'extremist' and 'right wing' Jew, has been there for Steve much more. Azmi knows that this guy's poltics view him and his people very unfavorably. He obviuosly disagrees with those views, yet he admires and respects this guy for how he has 'shown up' for Steve.

Azmi said to me, "I don't care what a person's political or religious views are. I judge them by what they do... how they act in situations like this." He said something I really loved. He said that when trouble strikes and a person steps in to help that, "THIS... is the REAL RELIGION."

In other words, he went on to explain, that talk is cheap and even buying in to an ideology (for whatever reason) rings hollow... the real judge of a man's faith and character is how he will react when someone near him needs help.

I'm reminded of my own Dukhobor roots. It is not important the dogma or creed in which you believe - it only matters how you treat other people as you move through life. That is Azmi's view as well.

He's a bit more charitable than I am when it comes to 'forgiving' someone's association with violent or nasty ideology (in this case Jewish extremism where no non-Jews are particularly welcome in their society). I admire his ability to look past that sort of thing when it comes to the care of a loved one.

If we all practiced the "REAL RELIGION" what a world we would inhabit!

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