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Chapter Four

“You cannot love God, unless you first love your fellow man,” Yeshu’a said, teaching a small group of children one evening seated in a arc around him, close to a brightly burning fire, the warmth being welcome against the chilled night air.

“But what if they want to fight and hit us?” came a young voice in reply.

“Turn the other cheek.”

This was too much for one father seated nearby, listening to the discourse. Jumping up angrily and grasping the hand of his child seated within the gathering, he voiced annoyance and anger that such teachings should be uttered to one of his sons.

“I teach my sons to be men,” said the Arab merchant loud enough for those who chose to hear. “We turn the other cheek to no man!” he trumpeted, as he stomped away, pulling his bewildered son behind him.

Wondering what his response would be, all eyes now turned to Yeshu’a, who remained unmoved by the disturbance.

“He who lives by the sword, shall die by the sword!” he said, in a quiet confident voice. “But enough of fighting. What story would you like me to tell you this night?”

“Tell us the story of the hoopoe and Solomon,” asked a shy little girl, who sat in the midst of the group.

“Ah! We’ve heard that story so often,” moaned her big brother, with irritation.

“I shall say it once more, just for you,” Yeshu’a said, with a smile to the little girl as she shyly covered her face with her hands.

“The great King Solomon was making his journey across the vast desert, with so little shade from the heat of the sun. A shadow fell upon the King as a great hoopoe flew overhead. The king welcomed the shade it’s great wings offered him. All day long the shadow followed him, shielding him from the sun, and for the following day also. When the great King came to the end of his journey, he asked the hoopoe to come before him, for we all know Solomon could speak to birds and beasts. He said he wished to reward the hoopoe for its loyalty and kindness, and asked the bird what it would like as a reward.”

“A crown, a crown,” interrupted the children, with glee.

“Let me continue, for I fear we shall be here all night,” laughed Yeshu’a, continuing the tale.

“The hoopoe replied that he would like a crown of gold, like the crown the great King wore, for he was a cheeky bird and feared no king.”

‘Oh, hoopoe,’ replied Solomon, ‘I believe you are a foolish bird, for a crown will not bring you happiness, but if that is what you wish, then a crown of gold you shall have,’ he said. With the wave of King Solomon’s hand, a gold crown appeared, which the king placed upon the hoopoe’s head to the delight of all.

“Many months passed and the hoopoe appeared before the King once again, and Solomon asked him what he now requested, ‘Oh, king, please take from me this troublesome crown of gold, as unkind men wish to covet it and my life is in peril. I have no peace from dawn till dusk’. King Solomon smiled in understanding, not wishing to say, ‘I told you so!’ Waving his hand the gold crown disappeared from the hoopoe’s head.

“However, in order that the hoopoe would not go unrewarded for his service, the king replaced the crown of gold with a beautiful crown of gold feathers, which the hoopoe proudly wore, for ever more.”

The children smiled with joy at the beauty of the story, little realising the great depth of the tale Yeshu’a just related.

“Now, away to sleep all of you, for tomorrow you have an arduous journey ahead.”

“Yeshu’a!” a voice called out from the darkness. It was Yusuf, walking slowly into the light of the camp fire. “I have come to warn you of the danger your teachings may have on those with closed minds, particularly these Arab merchants.”

“I teach only truth, to young enquiring minds,” answered Yeshu’a.

“I overheard angry talk and criticism of you and your teachings, from he who took his son away from your gathering,” Yusuf said. “I felt I should warn you. Be careful, for such people have evil hearts.”

“I thank you, dear friend, for your timely warning. But I have no fear, for it is impossible to have fear and also to have faith in God.”

Yusuf grasped Yeshu’a upper arm in friendship, and in turn, Yeshu’a grasped his, in Roman style. They parted, with their bond of friendship strengthened.

Dawn came, heralding another blistering day; another day of hot sands, dry air and relentless heat. The heat dulled the mind, requiring one to plod along in a dazed fashion, speaking to nobody. Those fortunate enough to ride a camel could nod off and still hold balance without falling. Sometimes one would come across the dried skeleton of a camel or donkey, lying half covered in the drifting sands, a sobering reminder to all travellers that the desert was master here.

“Not long, now, ‘till we end this intolerable journey,” was the grumbled remark along the route. “And we will be entering through the gates of glorious Jerusalem.”

They knew they were drawing close to habitation when a young Arab boy came riding along on a tawny coloured donkey, singing to himself a wailing song with his eyes closed, oblivious of the passing train, his singing was accompanied by the sharp clap, clap sound of the donkey’s hoofs striking stones on its way. The merchants called out to the boy, if Jerusalem was nearby. His response was to the wisdom of camping for the night and entering the city the following noon. This lifted the hearts of all the travellers. Their journey had been a strenuous one for young and old; battling against sandstorms, lack of water, and tolerating the unremitting heat of the desert. Thankfully they were spared the dread of a bandit attack.

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