Updated: Sep 3, 2019
Twice a week for two and a half decades I have driven the two-hour commute from my home in Jerusalem to the University in Haifa. Now that I am entering my last year before retirement, my chief delight in the approaching change in my life (other than no longer having to attend staff meetings) is that I will soon be avoiding the weekly encounter with drivers whose principal aim in life appears to be putting an end to it.
Transportation can be alarming, relaxing, formidable, tedious or therapeutic, depending on one's fellow travellers, the condition of the road and the condition of one’s vehicle. My car is sixteen. By dog reckoning that would make it 112 and I think that car years ought to be at least equal to those of dogs, if not shorter as a car often has a more strenuous life, as has certainly been the case with mine. My battered green Renault is undeniably as ready for retirement as I am.
Not so our excavation vehicle, a much younger and more formidable machine which has greatly eased our days (except for those during which it was out of action, which only made us more appreciative of its worth). Riding (not driving) it down the valley to the castle is in no way similar to any other form of terrestrial transportation. This is a purely maritime experience. The piles of shattered rock over which we rise and steer are like waves in a rough sea, and Aehab, who with great dexterity guides our 4 by 4, handles it like a master seaman. The crusaders of course used horses, donkeys and camels to reach the castle, and from the brief and singular experience I had a half century ago of mounting and sailing forth on the last mentioned animal, the one that with great suitability is known as the ship of the desert, they too perhaps felt that it was a nautical experience to reach Montfort (a castle that itself is so ship-like that Joshua Prawer referred to it as appearing from below like “…a giant ship’s prow cutting through the green hills of Galilee”*).
*Joshua Prawer, The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, London, 1972, p. 308.