Updated: Jul 3, 2022
Andreli leaned back against the trunk of an old oak tree and rubbed his blistered and dirt- covered feet. Two long hard days of travel were behind them, but the journey was not over. The weak were starting to fall behind. One older lady had collapsed from the heat. The caravan leader halted early today, to give everyone more time to rest and to allow those who had fallen behind a chance to catch up.
Andreli grinned to himself, the day hadn’t been void of excitement. Some Jewish rebel threw a fit about traveling through Samaria. The caravan leader told him, “You are under no obligation to travel with us. You either travel alone, or you travel with the rest of us through Samaria.”
It was surprising he didn’t round up anyone else willing to go the long way, but no one was willing to risk thieves and starvation to tack on three days more to this unforgiving journey. The man had spat out more curses, and then he too trailed along with the rest of the caravan, but he made sure everyone could tell he wasn’t happy about it—swearing up a storm.
Andreli had tried to talk Hush into going with him to talk to the Zealot rebel, but Hush stayed up front with his wife. Andreli chucked, “I’ve never seen a man so afraid of thieves.” He got to his feet and reached his arms up above his head in a long stretch. “Better find some ground for my bed, and get a fire built.” Andreli scanned the area for a good spot. Hush was a few feet ahead, already feeding a healthy fire. “Shalom, Hush!”
Hush nodded at Andreli and glanced back at his wife, who was waving at the older gentleman, and casting smiling eyes over at Hush.
Andreli grinned. “Would now be a good time to sample some of your cooking?”
Hush’s wife looked startled. “I’m afraid I don’t have all the ingredients—” She started to say, looking at Hush.
“In that case, I’ll host! I’ve packed more than I could ever eat.”
Hush stepped forward. “Andreli, we could never impose—”
“Oh, right, right,” Andreli said, “you must bring a side, or something like that, of course.” He nodded. “And since you already have a lovely fire going, we’ll use yours!”
“Now hush, Hush.” Andreli grinned up at him. “We’ll use my fire tomorrow!”
“Oh, we couldn’t ask you to--”
“Not a problem, I’ll be right back with supper.”
“Andreli, I do—we appreciate the kind offer, but it would be best if we keep to ourselves.”
“Hush, you’ve been keeping to yourself the whole journey—it's time to start keeping company. Besides, I don’t let anyone keep to themselves.” He said with a puff of laughter, and with that, he strutted off to find some provisions.
Hush glanced over at his wife who was sitting by the fire, her eyebrows raised over laughing eyes and a soft smile. He shrugged, “You can’t be too careful.”
It must have been half an hour before Andreli came swooping in again. “Ah, Hush, here we are.” He laid a pile of food by the fire. “I hope you don’t mind; I brought some more company to our humble feast.”
Hush stared at the stack of food, a bemused look on his face. “Well, we have plenty of food.”
Andreli danced over to him and put a wrinkled hand on Hush’s shoulder. “I knew you’d see it that way. Always room for another seat at the table, I always say.”
Hush rubbed the back of his neck. “How many more did you invite?”
Andreli waved a finger. “Just one, just one, and he’s right over here.” The little man ran around the fire and soon was back with a stout, muscular man. He had a long scar that stretched from his elbow up his arm and disappeared under the sleeve of his tunic. His face looked like chiseled marble holding a permanent scowl.
Hush took a step back towards his wife, and his own face mirrored that of the stranger’s. He looked over at Andreli for answers, but Andreli was beaming.
“It’s him!” He said to Hush in a half whisper, “Don’t you recognize him? It’s the rebel who hates Samaritans.”
Hush kept his eyes on the stranger now. “Andreli...”
“Oh, Hush, he’s as gentle as a lamb. He’s refusing to eat while we are in Samaria.” Andreli snickered. “Let him get a whiff of my cooking, and we’ll see about that.” Upon Hush’s silence Andreli continued, “A body can’t make it on this journey without some food and drink in his stomach.”
Hush didn’t relax, but he said to the stranger, “Why don’t we all sit down.”
The young man eased himself to the ground. He didn’t speak and continued to stare as if determined to show everyone how unhappy he was. Hush wondered how long it took Andreli to get him here.
“I suppose you fellows will want to bless the food or some such thing?” Andreli looked at Hush.
Hush nodded. The young woman came up beside Hush, bowing her head, and the stranger also bowed his head in a quick mechanical motion. Hush held out his hands. “Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.”
As soon as Hush finished speaking, Andreli, still grinning, pointed over to him. “This here is Hush, don’t bother asking any personal questions, he’s a secretive type.”
“Jael.” The stranger said. “And I as I already told you, I’m not eating.”
“Jael, mmhhh, doesn’t that name mean mountain goat?” Andreli asked.
Jael looked over at him. “Your point?”
“Well, only that it’s fitting for one as stubborn as you.”
Jael leaned forward, his hand in a fist. “You may be fine with eating in this country crawling with Samaritan trash, but I for one will not put up with it.”
Hush tensed, and motioned to his wife. She quietly got up saying she would be back with some water.
Andreli was unfazed. “Why are you so mad at the Samaritans anyway? What did they do to you?”
“Well, I,” Jael faltered for a moment, and spat on the ground. “Samaritans are every Jew’s worst enemy. They are the scum of the earth.”
Andreli threw his hands in the air. “Thank you, that makes everything clearer.”
“If you think--”
“Please sir,” Hush interjected, gesturing to his wife who was making her way back with fresh water.
Jael turned red with embarrassment, and leaned back.
Andreli continued with a merry voice in his objective to get the man to eat. “You could at least tolerate them long enough to take the shortest route to where you’re going. I mean, it’s going to hurt you to go all the way around Samaria. It would add at least three days!” Andreli eyed the boy. “Isn’t your being here more like an invasion?”
Jael’s face soften into the smallest hint of a smile.
“This food is awful good... I should know, I made it myself.”
Jael’s eyes darted over to the platter of warm food. Then he scowled even deeper than before. “Love your friends, and hate your enemies.” He looked over at Hush, “Isn’t that what is said?”
Hush took in a slow breath. “That is what is said.”
“There.” Jael looked over at Andreli.
“But sometimes,” Hush continued, “I think it takes more strength to be a man of peace than a great warrior.”
Andreli clapped his hands and looked over at Jael. “I’m going to have you over more often. That’s the most he’s said since the journey began.”
Jael’s face relaxed and he almost chuckled.
“Now how about something to eat?” Andreli pulled a plate towards him.
“Maybe just a bite,” Jael said.
Hush smiled as Andreli reviled in his victory. He looked over at his wife who was smiling at the spectacle. His eyes grew sad, and he wondered again if he had heard right. Jael’s zealous spirit reminded Hush of his younger self. So sure—wanting to please God. Wanting to do everything right. He sighed. Everyone wants to do something big for God until they are in the middle of it.