JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
A tale by Johny Noer
THE DIVINE WORDS
… "not a hoof is to be left behind!"
To Bent Clausen this was a matter of interest – a complex, slightly threatening problem, that needed to be studied! He knew the word of Scripture with which I had answered the Ukrainian officer; he had a good imagination and did not need to utilize much of it, before he could visualize what would be the outcome of our situation. He knew that we were bound for Jerusalem. "They’ll open the gate", he said.
Bent was a tall, blond, thin-haired man, when he, in his early twenties, joined the Pilgrim Convoy. He belonged to the National Lutheran Church in Denmark, but possessed an acutely analytical mind. Also, when he studied Scripture, he saw the necessity of being baptized, after he had come to faith. From there he ventured on until he met us and started his long journey to Jerusalem. He was a lateral thinker, an observer of convolutions, complications and intricacies. It was good for him and for us that he fell in love with Martine from Belgium. If not he could have developed into a living nightmare. She gave him seven children, and that kept his feet on the ground. Nobody but Martine could have provided him with quite sufficient data to make out of him a family-man. He had a superb intelligence, and probably the highest IQ in his class at the elementary school back home in the Danish town of Herning. In different jobs his superiors spotted him a long way off. Bent Clausen was born for intelligence work at the highest level, equipped for some electronic hothouse, but a forgotten pawn in the secular business-world. Now, here he was, travelling with a bunch of believers towards the Holy City and with the daily problems facing us, he had an ample outlet for his outstanding talents.
Bent listened to my report, calculated and said, "Johny, they’ll open the gate! Don’t worry!"
At 10.00 a.m. on a Friday morning, a military jeep stopped in front of my caravan. A captain emerged. He politely saluted the driver and watched the vehicle as it drove away. He had evidently come to stay for a while; something important to discuss? He stood at the entrance next to my balcony and seemed to admire the quaint picturesque wagon, which was my home. It was a far cry from the steel-and-glass erections of the big cities or the enormous cylinders of the capital. But he seemed to like it. It was less pretentious. More like himself, perhaps…
"Good morning, Mr. Noer! How was your night? He shook hands with me like I was a lost friend.
"Very nice, thank you. It’s a great place!" I looked around at the forbidding border site, where we had been staying for these several days.
"I knew you’d like it. Everybody likes these attractive surroundings." He smiled and stepped into my caravan.
The captain’s eyes left the saloon, and he cocked his head sideways in my direction. "… have cows?"
"Yes, among other things." I was surprised. "We have goats, hens, lambs, cats and dogs."
"Well, the situation in your country demands perhaps, that we do not become a burden to you!"
The captain was a stocky man with a slight belly, thick shoulders and chest and a huge perfectly round head, that now smiled with great reluctance. "A burden to us?"
"Well…" I recognized a blink of pride in his eyes.
"Let’s get specific!"
"I’m told it’s hard to get milk for the children!"
"Nonsense! You need no cows! We have discussed your situation. In fact I have a message for you."
"A message?" We were still shadowboxing.
"Yes, you may leave! The gate is open! Good news, hey?"
I was worried. I thought the captain was acting strange. He seemed under some sort of pressure. "That means, we may just disappear?"
"Yeah, something like that. You can go, your family can go. Your children can go – but the cattle stay!"
"The cattle stay?"
"Yes, the cattle stay!"
The captain seemed to have a lack of understanding; he didn’t know the impact of his words. He wasn’t introduced to the ancient, divine transference of power, which was behind that very phrase. The fat man in the badly worn uniform-jacket was in no way aware of the fact, that with this sentence he had entered holy ground: Something timeless, a sort of biblical secrecy touching some carefully folded slip of the first pages of Holy Scripture. "The cattle stay!"… the words smelled like the mixing of ancient chemicals: A smoke signal; they were more than a message: they were a warning!
Let me explain: It might have been in the early hours of the day when Moses and Aaron 4000 years ago stepped before Pharaoh. The majestic power that hit their eyes was searing. The light from the throne shone off the white marble like sunlight off a snowy tundra. The two men squinted for a moment trying to find refuge behind the throne hall’s enormous columns, but the light came from all directions. In front of them was the all powerful, sovereign ruler of Egypt, whom they were going to oppose.
Standing there atop the magnificent stairs that spilled down to the hall below, Moses must have felt like a reluctant player on the world’s biggest stage; he was about to challenge Pharaoh with the well-known words: ‘let my people go’, and somewhere beyond the glaring lights, Moses could hear that specific sentence echo through centuries. To his right, a procession of priests and princes was now entering into the hall. They all stopped in apparent distress to see the scene now unfolding on the staircase. Then Pharaoh spoke.
"You may go, your children may go, your family may go, your people may go – but the cattle stay!"
The silence that hovered over the throne hall at this very instant exceeded anything the Pharaohs of the world have ever witnessed: No battle, no ceremony, no mystical vision, no prophecy… nothing in the 4000 years history of the anti-Semites could possibly match the scope and drama of this very moment; what Moses answered was an insult, an horrific challenge. He said: "Not a hoof is to be left behind!"
"Get out of my sight!" Pharaoh shouted. "Make sure you don’t appear before me again. The day you see my face, you will die!"
"Just as you say," Moses replied, "I will never appear before you again!" (Ex. 10:25-29)
The man in the wrinkled shirt, unbuttoned his collar and loosened the normal army-coloured woollen tie hanging around his neck as he listened to me. He was unable to understand my conviction much less to decipher the message, when I said: "Not a hoof is to be left behind."
He seemed to be listening intently and waited with his rehearsed answers. "I understand, Mr. Noer, you’re right: Not a hoof is to be left behind!" He sipped his coffee and searched for another question. He glanced at his checklist and repeated, "Of course, you’re not leaving a hoof behind!"
"Anything else?" I asked politely.
"No, sir, I can’t think of anything. What did you say: ‘Not a hoof is to be left behind?"
He wrote the words in his checklist, folded it and placed it in his breast pocket. Then he rested both elbows on the table and leaned forward. "Mr. Noer, I am not pushing, but I need to get it right. You said: ‘Not a hoof is to be left behind’?"
He nodded his approval and stood up to leave. "Well, then goodbye, sir."
When he left he murmured to himself, "Not a hoof is to be left behind." He shook his head. I watched him walking up the lane, from where the jeep returned. He looked back. His lips were moving. Evidently he talked to himself. The same phrase, perhaps: "Not a hoof is to be left behind."
Bent Clausen was waiting at the door. "What did you say to him?" he asked.
"Not a hoof is to be left behind!"
He smiled and shook his head as if this impressed him a great deal. "Did he tell you that the cattle were to stay?"
"Relax, Johny, that phrase about ‘the hoof’ will give them chills!"
"They’ll think we have clearly gone mad!"
"Not at all!" Bent was firm. "The drama has only just begun, "Wait and see; the gate will be opened to us!"