The cease-fire time came and went. However it mere survival kept men from stopping immidiately. No one was willing to take a chance. Yet somehow the sounds of war ebbed away and an ominous silence reigned over the Holy City.
Asher looked bitterly at the line of foemen guarding the walls to the Old City. The Hashemite Arab Legion, in the end the only ones to stand before them.
Asher said, "I thought we could do it. This time I really thought we could do it. Maybe we are 'cursed' as the old tales say."
David said, "Maybe we all have to bear our own particular curse. But you-we-survived. Isn't that enough?"
Asher said, "Maybe; but to get so close."
David said, "Ash, one day the Jews will walk in the streets of Jerusalem with none to do them harm. Mayby next year, maybe the following. Maybe in twenty years. Maybe not until the end of the world But not today. Today just be thankful to live."
Asher smiled wryly, "Next year in Jerusalem".
David then said, "Come, lets pay them our respects."
Asher said, "Are you crazy?"
David said, "No. They fought well and we must give them their due."
Asher said, "In front of everybody?"
David said,"Yes. That's the most important reason. You keep worrying over what having to defend themselves will do to the Jewish people. Well it is time to set an example. A good soldier respects an honorable enemy."
Asher replied,"They weren't ALWAYS so honorable..."
David replied, "Well if it comes to that neither were we, more's the pity. But that's not the point is it?"
They walked up to the city walls while the Jordanian soldiers looked on in suspicion and astonishment. Then Asher and David went up to the Arab commander at this section of the wall.
Asher said, "Well fought. And well ended."
The Arab said, "Yes, you have fought well too. Now we can rest. Until next time.
Asher said, "Must there be a next time?"
The Arab said, "Yes."
Asher looked at him for a long time.
Then he said sadly,"I suppose so. But not today?"
The Arab agreed, "But not today."
Then Asher extended his hand, and said, "Shalom".
The Arab clasped it and said, "Peace to you. And may we never meet again"
Asher looked at him for awhile. Then he said,"Yes, I see what you mean. Farewell."
As Asher and David walked off Asher said, "Well that's it. We will pay and pay and keep on paying. I hope it turns out to be worth it."
David said, "Did you really expect anything different?"
Asher replied, "No, though I had hoped... still we have always been 'paying' and perhaps this way is as good as any other. And perhaps what is most important is the peace of the heart not peace among men."
David replied, "Perhaps 'peace among men' is to much to hope for anyway."
The counterintuitive "may we never meet again" was borrowed from the children's book Heather, Oak, and Olive in which a Spartan boy who meets an Athenian at the Olympics says that. It is a wish that they may never have to kill one another.
The phrase, "not today" was borrowed from a Star Trek episode.