Israel Stories

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Crusader

The shop was dark apart from rays of light peeping through the window in between books piled high in straight columns that any Roman would be proud of. I reached for a thin volume called Palestine, Land of Promise, blew off the dust and began to read.

“I’m a Crusader”, you know, a voice behind me called. “Of course you are”, I thought. I turned to confront my clearly insane Knight. There is a character in the book Jerusalem Poker, called Haj Huran, who claims to be 3000 years old and the sole defender of Jerusalem. He walks the streets of the Old City wearing nothing but a loin cloth, yellow cape and a crusader helmet. “I suppose your name is Haj Huran”, I sarcastically suggested. “Oh you’ve read it”, he replied and slightly despondent went back to labeling books.

“Do you know about the ‘enchanted forest’”, he called over. “Which enchanted forest?” I replied, trying to leave the shop. “The Crusaders cut it down you know, very sad”. “Yes, very sad”, I said and ran for the street. “Somewhere in between where Tel Aviv and Netanya stands today”, he called after me excitedly. I gave in, returned to the shop. “That’s a large area, could you be more specific”. “Well”, he continued, picking up the book I had just put down. “According to Walter Clay Lowdermilk, who wrote the book you were just reading but didn’t buy, even though it’s a good book and cheap, the Crusaders cut down the enchanted forest located in the Sharon area”.

“So what your saying is, that its not there and in fact if its under Netanya, or Herzliya or even Tel Aviv, you’d never find it anyway”. “’Spose you’re right”, he answered despondently, but I reckon if we found it we could be famous”. OK, I thought, time to go. I smiled, made my lame excuses and left the shop, walking very quickly, not looking back and remembering not to look into his eyes like all the fairy stories warn you about.

He called after me but I didn’t look back until I realized I was holding the book. So reluctantly I returned to the shop, money in hand. “Page 57”, he whispered and then returned to his book labeling.

On page 57 there is a vague reference to the Crusaders chopping down an area of the Sharon area called the Enchanted Forest. Time for an internet search.

Then I found it. Rehov Hanasi Street in Herzliya is called, by some, the enchanted forest. It fits the bill. In the Sharon area, close to Crusader settlements, even the trees look like a vaulted roof from some Crusader church as they form a high canopy over the road. But, well it’s not quite old enough, in fact its 800 years too late.

So I guess we’ll never know. I resigned myself to never seeing fairies flying around Tel Aviv (behave) or even a Unicorn grazing in downtown Netanya. Except, well, there is another legend that states that the symbol for the tribe of Joseph was a unicorn. His two sons were awarded his territory which just happens to encompass the Sharon area. So not only was there an enchanted forest, but Unicorns as well! All I needed now was Pegasus, Phoenix and maybe a Minotaur to complete the set.

I returned to my Crusader friend and told him my theory. He looked at me as though I was mad. I was certain he would swallow all of this. Then he said “of course we have a Pegasus but it appeared further north”. “Further north?” I asked, slightly confused.”Yep, Elijah ascending to heaven in a fiery chariot with fiery flying horses, but it was further north than the Sharon, and while I’m on the subject, what about the legend of Abraham surviving death after being thrown into Nimrods fiery furnace, like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, eh? But that was in a different country.”

I probably shouldn’t have returned to the book shop. My Crusader was clearly one chapter short of a novel. As I returned home I rushed passed the most surreal sight. I slammed on the breaks and had to look again and again before I realised I wasn’t delusional. A bulls head with human legs, the Minotaur!! My rear view mirror was a little dirty so I undid my seatbelt for a better look. Then I saw it in all its glory - an Arab tying a rope around a bull’s neck!

I wondered if all myths and legends started life as something innocent, but concerned not to lose my faith, I plugged in my seatbelt and left the Arab to it.

Maybe in two thousand years someone will read this scribble and tell his friend who will tell his friend until eventually someone will write it down again. And so a legend is born.


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