Monday, August 1, 2016

Enemy of the Gods 33

When they arrived in Joppa, the Nabateaen eagerly offered to be their guide, but old Nicholas declined and they pushed past him despite his urgent appeals to protect them from bandits. Young Nicholas looked about for the Jewish men, but could not find them. After a time, he and his uncle came across a small caravan of donkeys. The owner of the caravan, an Italian merchant, said he was headed in the direction of Aelia. Old Nicholas said, “That is where we are going. I hope you don’t mind if we follow you.”

The merchant welcomed their company. Young Nicholas asked his uncle, “Aelia?”

“Yes,” said old Nicholas, waving off an explanation until later. They followed the caravan out of the city and made their way along, keeping their distance behind the dusty line of donkeys. Old Nicholas said to the younger, “we must not speak of Jerusalem by its ancient name. It’s a very different city now, since Emperor Hadrian’s war on the Jews. He renamed it Aelia to erase the memory of the Jews, so we must call it that.”

Young Nicholas said, “So are there Jews there?”

Old Nicholas shook his head. “Since Hadrian, they’ve been banished from the city.”

Late that afternoon the caravan pulled in at Emmaus. The merchant said if they wished to press on, they could go on ahead until nightfall, but he did not recommend it. He said, “The hills are filled with men who are desperate for easy money, and with darkness you are sure to find them.” The two Nicholases took the merchant’s advice and prepared to stay the night. They found a Christiani assembly hall and there met a man named Dan who was very pleased to host an overseer from out of town.

As he led them to his home, young Nicholas said, “You are named for the prophet Daniel?”

“No. Dan. After the tribe.”

“Of Israel?”?

“Yes,” said Dan with a smile.

“Then, you are a Jew?”

Dan raised a brow. “Yes... Is that a problem?”

“No,” said Nicholas. “It’s just that where we live, there seems to be a great divide between the Jews who believe, and the Jews who do not, despite the same forefathers.”

“It is this way here too,” said Dan, sadly.

“I don’t understand,” said Nicholas. “Especially here, of all places... They have the same prophecies, the same God. They should see you as brothers.”

Dan replied, “They should, but a vast chasm has grown between those who believe and those who do not. I will tell you the story over dinner.”

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