My life for the past few years has been training mules and donkeys. I love the work. It is exhilarating and exciting. I am especially pleased to see the good breeding that has become evident.
During a presentation at the San Tan Expo here in Arizona 3 years ago, I met a man named John. John was a novice equestrian and what I liked about John was that he was honest and a realist. He was not trying to put on a show or tell me how good of a cowboy he was but, but instead said, “Steve I need help.”
Steve, Would You Come to Israel?
John needed help with his draft mule. And not being a small man himself, I tackled “the big boys” and got the job done. Then one day not long after meeting John, I received an email from him telling me that I would be hearing from a man from Israel by the name of Yoav Be-er. John told me that he had worked with Yoav’s father-in-law in Tel Aviv. John told me I would feel right at home with Yoav and his family who wanted me to come to Israel to help with mules. He said Yoav could promise that I would be safe in Israel. In this day and age, with all that is going on in the world and the Middle East, that is always a concern.
I did receive an email from Yoav. It said “Steve, would you come to Israel?” I replied that I would surely go anywhere to train mules and donkeys and help better people with their communication with these fine animals. So we started making arrangements. He wanted to know if I wanted to see Israel. Of course, I did! I read about it in the Bible and have also seen pictures in books and on the internet. We also talked about the logistics of the training – how many mules could be scheduled for my program? I told him I limit my sizes to 10 mules, 12 at the max to do justice to both the rider and the mule. It is my belief that a teacher/trainer should not have over 12 animals so everyone can have some personal attention.
We talked at length about what I wanted to see and do while visiting. I told him I would like to bring my wife of 48 years, Susan, he said, “Wonderful!” I told him I wanted to a few see the Christian places and again I reiterated I want to see the real Israel. I was eager to see the lands and the places where Jesus walked.
The Trip to Israel
We made arrangements flying into Tel Aviv from San Francisco. Now I must say that at one time, I would joke with people and say, “I don’t fly” but the Bible says “Lo, I am with you always”. And of course I twisted the scriptures there but it was always a joke I used. I just hate not having control of what I’m driving (i.e. flying). It was 14 hours from San Francisco to Tel Aviv. Most the time people relaxed on the flight or used the little TV sets in front of us. We enjoyed some good meals on the plane and it was amazing how time flew by. When we arrived in Tel Aviv we were really excited to think we were here in Israel. I was surprised that the airport was not very busy at 8:00 at night. We went through customs without much fanfare. We just needed to answer a couple questions. I wasn’t exactly dressed like a mule rider with my hat and boots and all. I was dressed more like somebody that just got up out of bed. I was wearing my sweats and a T-shirt and tennis shoes. So I might not have been what Yoav expected, but he found me at the gate and introduced himself.
I wasn’t exactly dressed like a mule rider with my hat and boots and all. I was dressed more like somebody that just got up out of bed. I was wearing my sweats and a T-shirt and tennis shoes. So I might not have been what Yoav expected, but he found me at the gate and introduced himself.
The airport was one beautiful building! There were incredible artwork and statues representing Israel all throughout the airport. But now here I am meeting Yoav for the first time. Yoav is a small framed man about my height of 5’ 6” but not an ounce of fat anywhere on his frame. Over the next couple weeks, I would come to know why he was so lean, but for now, I just soaked up his excitement. He was smiling ear-to-ear and gave me a great big hug as he said, “Welcome to Israel!” He made me feel like family and I loved the excitement on his face. He grabbed my luggage and away we went.
It Didn’t Take Long To Hit It Off
We left the terminal building and his excitement spilled over as we found his car which was borrowed from his father-in-law. In Israel, a wounded veteran gets a new car of his choice every three years, so he had to sell his and it sold quickly, necessitating the loan from his father-in-law. My wife, Susan, climbed in the back seat and I settled into the front seat with Yoav. I could not help but notice that he just could not quit smiling as he said, “I cannot believe you are here!” Speaking in broken English and Hebrew, I listened to him as he said, “This is like a dream for me”.
It was an hour and a half to his hometown which was the village of Sharona. The questions kept coming! Yoav was asking about Arizona, my Ranch, how long I’ve been with mules and donkeys, and questions about training, saddles, bridles, and tack. He asked all the usual questions you would here from a mule or donkey enthusiasts. Time just flew by. I was amazed at how the highways look so much like ours. We were traveling by night so I could not see what the terrain was like or the countryside but I was so excited because it was almost like it was in Southern California in some ways.
Feeling Like Part of the Family
Yoav built his home. He has 4 lovely children. Interestingly, he asked me to not share pictures of his family as they have concerns like we do right here in the United States with predators and I won’t go into any more on that topic. His home was a ranch style house. I Cyprus wood siding and high vaulted ceilings with pine looking cabinets and walls with tile floors. Yoav built his home on land in the family since 1950 the farm is currently his father’s. According to Jewish customs and laws, the oldest will inherit the family estate. Yoav’s father is still alive and a shepherd of goats and sheep on a beautiful farm.
Yoav’s wife, Sharon, met us at the door with lots of excitement. The kids were wide-eyed and excited I was a little surprised because of the late hour, the excitement was all over their faces. Yoav had originally said to me, “Steve, we will put you in a nice bed and breakfast down the street from our farm”. But Susan and I said we would rather stay at their home if possible. Yoav said, “But Steve, we have 4 kids!” Our reply was “Wonderful! We want to feel like part of the family”.
The Real Israel
I can’t wait to share with you more pictures of Israel and I do mean the real Israel! Israel is full of religion. We saw so much and fully understand why people visit Jerusalem, Galilee, and other areas. We met and talked with many people who live in Israel (not tour guides!) and we heard about Jesus and where He walked and heard of His life. We saw the Jordan River and the lake where Jesus walked on water. We walked the streets of Jerusalem and saw farms and countryside. It was amazingly and deeply spiritual for us.
I can tell you that this was an exciting trip. I’ve been to Brazil twice and I’ve been to Egypt and of course Canada and Mexico. But this was so very special – to get to see where my Savior walked and lived.
I will tell you more about my visit in future articles. For now, happy trails and don’t forget to give me a holler if I can help you in any way.