Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Our son Eliyahu Yeshaya feels a pull to the desert. Who knows? That strong feeling may be from a previous life such as that of Bnei Yisrael living in the midbar for forty years. This inner need of experiencing the stillness and stark beauty of the desert setting prompts him to venture forth in the desert.

Along with his friend Yair, Eliyahu Yeshaya went down south to the area of Sde Boker (famous for where Ben Gurion lived in his retirement) for a jeep excursion. Now when you think jeep you probably think of a big, strong 4-wheel drive type of jeep. Our son’s jeep is more like a baby jeep, with a roof rack that he built.

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They started their trip in the morning and drove on some very tough, rocky, dirt roads – a tough trail even for a jeep. They were there for the whole day and had a great time. Included in the itinerary were a visit to a spring called Ein Akev and to a dry river bed called Nachal Tzin. They also planned to travel to the Machtesh HaKatan (small crater) and from there up to Yeruchum where Yair lives.

At about 6:15 p.m., on the way to the Machtesh HaKatan, Eliyahu Yeshaya heard a really strange sound coming from the front wheels. He immediately stopped the jeep and got out to look at the car. Instead of being straight, the two front wheels were facing towards the jeep. “I didn’t understand what had happened. I looked around and didn’t see anything broken,” he related.

It was now about forty-five minutes to sunset. Amazingly he had mobile phone service even there. He called a friend who knows about cars, but he didn’t answer. He tried a few friends who work as car mechanics and reached one of them. This friend instructed Eliyahu Yeshaya to check various parts of the car. Our son heeded his friend’s bidding, but he could not find anything that was broken. The mechanic friend said that he would mull over the situation and see if he could come up with some helpful advice.

Eliyahu Yeshaya called another friend, and after hearing the situation, he told our son that he doesn’t know how to help him, but that he should definitely not drive the jeep because that would make it worse. After he was told that, he called another friend who works as a car mechanic, but he did not answer.

He talked the situation over with his friend Yair to try to figure out what to do. Eliyahu Yeshaya looked up on the internet for information about volunteer organizations that help people with all sorts of vehicle situations. He discovered that they do not tow cars from places which are not on conventional roads. He found a service that does extricate vehicles from their type of situation, but it costs over $1500!! “That was not an option,” he told me, “and we didn’t know what to do.

“While I was thinking about what to do, my phone suddenly rings. I answer it, and on the other end I hear a voice say, ‘Shalom! This is Yehuda. I am calling from Yeshivat Chut Shel Chesed of Rav Arush.’ Straight away, I understand that he is calling me to get a donation, so I thanked him for calling me and suggested that he call me the next day. I tell him that right now is really not a good time. He asks me why right now isn’t a good time to talk. I tell him how we are stuck in the desert, and I have to figure out how to get out of the predicament. I tell him that I would be happy to speak to him the next day.

“Yehuda then tells me that it is perfect timing that he called. He says that it is from Heaven. He tells me to stop everything and try thinking why this happened to me. He suggests that we daven Mizmor l’Todah, dance, sing and say thank you to Hashem for everything that is happening. Be thankful and everything will work out fine.

“Meanwhile I am fairly stressed out with the situation with the car and soon it would be night time, but I tell myself that Yehuda is right, and I thank him. He wishes me success and says that he would call me the next day.”

Eliyahu Yeshaya hung up and told his companion that they should be happy, they should sing, and they should dance. He put on really happy dancing music on full volume. He described, “We climbed up to the roof rack and started dancing and singing like the Breslev Chassidim sometimes do.” They had a great time dancing and singing, and it helped our son calm down. They then climbed down to daven mincha.

After mincha, Eliyahu Yeshaya looked at his phone and saw that the third friend that he had called, and to whom he had sent photos, had called him back. Eliyahu Yeshaya called this friend back. He advised Eliyahu Yeshaya to open up the hood of the car and to check the shock absorber mounts. Eliyahu Yeshaya asked him how he would see it. His mechanic friend told him, “Don’t worry, If that’s the problem you’ll see it right away.”

Eliyahu Yeshaya opened the hood and saw right away that the shock absorbers had been totally ripped out of their places. The mechanic told him to jack up the car and give the wheels a few kicks to straighten them out. He advised him to travel very slowly since nothing was holding them in place. It took about half an hour to jack up the car and kick the wheels to be straight.

Now they had a trip of about ten kilometers (more than six miles) to a paved road and the closest gas station from where the insurance company could send a tow truck. It was already 7:30 p.m. and the sun had almost set when they began their short, but long journey. Eliyahu Yeshaya drove the car about 3 miles per hour while trying to avoid large rocks.

On the way out, he noticed a jeep from the Nature and Parks Authority. He knew that it was unlawful to be in the area at night, and that he could receive a large fine. The ranger drove to where they were. When the ranger was told of their predicament, he not only did not fine our son, but he followed the car for much of the way to make sure that they got safely to a paved road.

They drove to the gas station near Sde Boker, arriving at about 11:00 p.m. Eliyahu Yeshaya called the tow service. Once his car was picked up to be brought back to Gush Etzion (there is a law that the owner of the car cannot get a ride with the tow truck), Yair called his mother who brought them to Yeruchum. The next day our son headed back home.

Eliyahu Yeshaya told me that he doesn’t like stories with “happy ever after” endings. “I got a lesson in taking things more easily. During the hour that I waited to hear from my mechanic friend, I was really stressed out. I should have been happy. There’s always a solution. There’s nothing to be scared of and worried about. Boruch Hashem, things worked out and we weren’t stuck in the desert forever. It wasn’t one of those total miracle stories. In the natural order of things, my car required an expensive repair.”

But they witnessed small miracles: the phone call from the Breslev chassid who lifted their spirits and bade them to thank Hashem, the fact that the mechanic friend returned Eliyahu Yeshaya’s call in a relatively short time and was able to clarify what the problem was, having clear phone reception in the desert and the park ranger who appeared out of the night and helped assure their drive back to civilization.

Eliyahu Yeshaya, our adventurer son, plans on doing more jeep excursions, but in the future he will travel more slowly and carefully. One can’t depend upon miracles!

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Adina Hershberg is a freelance writer who has been living in Israel since 1981.