The unlikely couple, professor Hubnoth and Elia ben Oso-Pardo, crossed the street, arm in arm and I followed them past Eregast's fully renovated and refurbished restaurant where I noticed Shmuel's angry face behind a window, and we got to a row of four houses. Professor Hubnoth opened the door and entered the first house.
“Welcome to my new home,” he said and Elia ben Oso-Pardo couldn't believe his eyes as the professor took us from the hall and kitchen to the neighboring house where the entire ground floor was turned into a big dining room. A large double door opened unto the living room, the third house, and from there a narrow corridor brought us to the fourth where professor Hubnoth and his friend Moshe Cohen had their sleeping quarters.
“You've done very well for yourself,” Elia commented, looking around appreciatively
“Let's have a drink outside, on the terrace,” was Hubnoth's reply.
We sat down and admired the beautiful garden full of young trees and a lawn surrounded by rose bushes. Further back I spotted a secluded swimming pool behind a flowering hedge and palm trees all around.
Professor Hubnoth put down a tray of drinks and a bucket of ice with bottles of beer.
“So what happened in 1389 that caused you and Shmuel Eregast after 630 years not to be on speaking terms?”
“You are aware that this tiny village, a hamlet, really, does not have a name?”
“Sure! We all are still looking for a suitable name.”
“Actually, it has two names. It has been called Virgen de la Epifanía since 1389 and before that it was known as Rincón Rambam.”
“So what happened in 1389?”, I asked.
“First you need to realize this place has always been a Jewish settlement. Here, way out in the wilderness, in this remote and desolate corner of Andalusia, they started about a thousand years ago a self supportive community. Once a year they paid their taxes to the Moorish overlords and were left alone for most of the time. It is said that in 1150 or thereabouts the great biblical scholar and Rabbi Maimonides, the Rambam, went into hiding here with his family when they were on the run from the Muslims. There is no proof of that, of course, but that's what people believed. Hence the name: Rincón Rambam.”
Elia clearly enjoyed telling the story. He drank from his bottle of beer and wiped the foam off his beard.
“Anyway... The success of this flourishing community had not gone unnoticed and attracted people from neighboring villages. Christians, of course. They build their own houses and a church, right next to the synagogue. There was some resentment among the Jews, but eventually they went along quite well, joined forces where necessary and went their separate ways in faith and tradition. Together they kept their heads down when the cursed Moors came to collect their taxes. And so it went...”
“More beer?”, the professor asked, pulling out another bottle from the bucket of ice. Elia nodded and reached for the bottle.
“Now we get to 1389. Itzik ben Dov, one of my ancestors, may his memory be a blessing, was a precocious and restless child. As a Jew he had never set foot inside the house of the Christian God, it was forbidden territory. But he was curious, so one night when the entire village, Jews and Christians alike, were asleep in their beds, he sneaked out and climbed the fence of the cemetery. With the pulse of his heart beating in his throat he pushed open the heavy oak door of the church. In the immense darkness there was only one light, the tiny flame of an oil lamp.”
At that moment, in the middle of Elia's story, we heard a door slam somewhere inside one of Hunbonth's four houses. We all turned our heads and through the glass we saw Shmuel Eregast., running towards us, screaming and waving a fist in the air. Not noticing that the glass sliding door was closed, he slammed into it, fell on the floor and lost consciousness.