Our guide and shepherd in Israel was encyclopedic-brained Mordecai. Skilled tourist-bus driver Mohammed steered us—40 mostly Christians from many different countries—safely along and through scores of treacherous curves, alleyways, passageways and mountain roads. Guide Morty and driver Mohammed, obvious good friends, both live with their families in the Tel Aviv area.
As we drove north from Jerusalem through the Jordan Valley, Morty explained our plan to drive along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, then on to Capernaum. But Mohammed, phoning local friends and yanking a few strings, arranged a special side-trip for us to cruise the Sea of Galilee. An optional ‘extra’ which none of us turned down … and complete with that haunting Hebrew music that has you either weeping, dancing or both.
I’d already fallen in love with fellow tourist Sandra, a messianic Jewish woman visiting Israel for the first time with her husband and two young sons. Originally from Columbia, South America, they now live near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (Canada) in the tiny town of Elbow. Incredibly, six people in all had all travelled from Elbow (pop. 294)!
As we sailed over these special waters, I noticed Sandra bouncing on her bench as the music tempo livened. I couldn’t sit still any longer either, so hopped up and invited her to join me on the deck between us and the sea. Sandra and I skipped and twirled around awhile, and then she coaxed her seemingly-on-the-way-to-becoming-ultra-Orthodox hubby up.
Here he tries (as he tried throughout) to get me to do it, ah, properly. Apparently I wasn’t even saying, or singing, 'Hallelujah right. It’s 'CCHHH..cchhAAlleluia' (beginning with the funny chokey sound Czechs, Dutch and Germans do so well), he corrected me.
Mohammed gave me a couple of gifts on separate occasions, making like it was a great secret to offer them. First he passed along a little wooden dove pin (not sure what the dove is carrying: looks like it could be a fish, or maybe a carrot, but likely supposed to be an olive branch); then a few days later a Jerusalem cross made of local wood..
While my husband and I ate breakfast with him one morning, I asked Mohammed if he is Christian.
“A little bit,” he replied, with a twinkle in his eye.
As Mohammed dropped us off at our last hotel, I thanked he and Morty for being so fantastic at their jobs, and remarked how I loved that their names were practically archetypical Muslim and Jewish. And how it was too bad Ishmael and Isaac hadn’t gotten along so well!
Morty seemed puzzled. “Was it Ishmael?” He looked at Mohammed and they shared a few words in Hebrew. Then he peered back at me. “They probably did!” he replied.
“Yeah, I bet you’re right,” I agreed in wonder. “They were brothers after all.” We left it at that, but had definitely reached another level of the deep mysteries of Israel.