Even though Simay knew that her daughter was in God’s hands, Seda was still her child and the maternal instinct to protect still drove her to despair at the thought of her little girl with Seda the betrayer. Her concern for her daughter drove her to pray everyday for the girl’s safety
Early one morning three months later, a couple of hours before the sun began to rise, Simay felt a hand on her shoulder, shaking her awake.
“Wha..?” she asked sleepily.
“The Temple! It’s burning!” Iskender pointed insistently in the direction of Jerusalem.
“Burning?” she said “How can it be burning? I thought no one went in there except the priests.”
“Romans have no respect for the holy places of those they conquer.” Iskender seethed.
“Romans? They haven’t been driven out?”
“No, there are too many.” Iskender shook his head then motioned for her to come to the nearest wall. “You must see it.”
Simay came to the wall and stared out towards the city, far away on the horizon. A bright glow was growing within the walls of Jerusalem – the center of the light was emanating from the place where the Temple used to stand. If Simay had been able to be there to see it, she knew that the beautiful structure would be wasted, lying in ruins, engulfed in flames.
“Messiah prophesied it –this disaster.” the voice came to Simay’s ears and she and Iskender turned to see who had spoken.
An old man, face wrinkled with weather and age, stared out at Jerusalem as he continued. “I was there when He spoke of this. I was much younger then, but I remember that day…Yeshua said that there would not be one stone left upon another… Today is that day…”
The three stood solemnly, watching the fire spread from the Temple Mount out into the surrounding areas of the city. Even though Simay had never been allowed to see the inside of the Temple grounds, she wept for the loss – another piece of sadness to add to her growing burden for her children and the grief she still had for her husband.
“You were with Jesus?” Iskender asked the old man, suddenly breaking the silence.
“I was.” The man said, nodding, “I was quite young at the time, but I never forgot Him. I followed the group to Golgotha the day He died; I sneaked into Gethsemane two nights after Yeshua was entombed there. I waited and watched through the night. I must have fallen asleep sometime because I awoke to the cries of the guards. There was a bright light and a voice and then those Romans just fell over. What I saw next I can never explain… it was too wonderful. An angel – it must have been an angel – no man could have unsealed that stone and rolled it free from the tomb’s door.”
“You saw the Resurrection?” Iskender asked with eyes wider than Simay had ever seen them.
The old man nodded, smiling, “That was when I knew for sure that He was who He said He was – the Son of God.” The look on the man’s face left Simay and Iskender with no doubts as to the veracity of what he had said. “He is Yeshua Mashiach.” The man said quietly. “I am a Samaritan, despised by the Jews, but not by Yeshua. He offered life to all who would believe.”
“We are Ephesian.” Iskender offered.
“She is your sister?” the man asked, referring to Simay.
“By faith, but not by blood.” Iskender explained. “She is… my best friend’s widow…”
“Ah… I see. He is not long passed then.” The old man said. “Also a follower of Yeshua?”
“Yes.” Iskender nodded, managing to hold in the tears that threatened to appear.
“Then he is well and happy.” The old man said, echoing what the two Ephesian believers already knew. “He would not want you to be downcast on his account.”
Simay did not speak but Iskender nodded.
“And you, young woman.” The old man came to Simay. “I think that you will find that God has prepared something especially for you.”
This caught Simay’s attention and she looked at the old man’s face. His wrinkles betrayed a life filled with hardship, but they also could not hide the fact that, though he was here, in the midst of this troubled time, he was still joyful. Then he said something she did not expect.
“You should leave this place – both of you. It will not be safe here for much longer. Take your provisions and leave before the sun is up.”
“Why do you tell us this?” Simay asked.
“Because I must.” The old man said before nodding his good-bye and walking away.
Simay looked at Iskender questioningly. The big Ephesian shook his head. “I don’t know, Simay. I don’t understand either. But I believe him.”
Simay stood there for a moment, quietly on what the man had said. A new awareness seemed to dawn on her. She had never paid attention to it before now. The closest thing she could liken it to was when Diana used to guide her, but this was unequivocally different. The presence she sensed now was wonderful – the exact opposite of Diana’s oppressiveness – and this presence spoke peace to her soul.
“I think I believe him too.” She said.
“Let’s go then.” Iskender marched back to their packs, followed quickly by Simay.
The two thought that their actions would draw attention, but to their surprise, no one seemed to care that the two strange foreigners were leaving. If they wanted to take their lives into their own hands, the rest of the occupants of the fortress would be happy to oblige them.
Instead of leaving Masada through the front entrance, Iskender and Simay carefully left through a secret back door that Iskender had learned about from one of the Jewish men who took up residence here after the Roman garrison stationed at Masada had been wiped out a few years ago.
The way out of the fortress was dark and treacherous, but the Ephesians managed to get out of Masada alive and well. Once down the mountain the question of where they should go arose quickly.
“We cannot go back to Jerusalem with the Roman’s sacking the city.” Simay said.
“No, certainly not.” Iskender agreed. “I think we should get to the other side of the Dead Sea, then take it from there. There is bound to be a safe haven somewhere on the other side of that salt water. But since there are so few boats that travel the Dead Sea, we will have to go around the Southern end of it.
Simay nodded in understanding and agreement and Iskender continued, “It should not take us long to go that far. We can see the Dead Sea fairly well from here already. The hardest part will be getting across this rugged terrain between here and the water.”
After that, both Ephesians stood quietly, surveying the land around them, not fully comprehending the journey they were about to embark on.
Iskender bowed his head, “My Lord, You have brought us out of Masada and here to this very spot. Bring us safely to the place You would have us to be. We ask this in the name of Jesus.”
As Simay listened to Iskender’s words she sent up a silent prayer of her own for her two lost children asking that God protect them from the evils that had fallen upon them all.
Iskender took a deep breath and then stepped out in faith, down the rocky hill that he and Simay were standing on
It took them two full days to make it around the tip of the Dead Sea and up to a small town several miles North of the Southern tip. The terrain was unforgiving which made the going slower than it otherwise could have been and Simay had been suffering from swollen feet and ankles – probably from a combination of the rough ground, the heat, and old shoes. But she trekked on, refusing to complain about how she felt – a vast difference from the Simay that Iskender had been used to traveling with in the years past.
There were other marked changes in Simay over the next weeks and months. She still grieved over Malcus’s death, but she was not in a constant state of despair as she had been the night after his murder. One thing did concern Iskender though. During the two or three months after he and Simay reached the small town in which they now took refuge, the young woman always seemed to be hiding something.
It bothered Iskender that Simay still did not trust him with something that was obviously important. He tried several times to ask her what was on her mind, but she always changed the subject to something innocuous.
The big Ephesian finally gave up and waited for her to reveal her secret in her own time. He distinctly remembered several times that Malcus had tried to push Simay into telling him something. Those instances had not ended well.
Iskender’s evaluation of the situation proved to be correct when, a couple of weeks after he stopped trying to find out what was preoccupying her, Simay came to him with her situation
Iskender heard a knock on his door around midday. He set down the pen he was holding.
“Are you in the middle of something? I can come back later.” Simay said timidly as she peeked into the room.
“No, no. I needed a break anyway.” Iskender said. “Copying the same invitation fifty times is rather tiring. This person has way too many family members.” He smiled.
“Are you sure?” Simay asked again.
“Yes, I’m sure.” Iskender nodded and indicated the second chair in his small rented dwelling. “Please, sit.”
When she did not say anything Iskender asked, “What’s on your mind?”
Simay looked at the other Ephesian and started to say something, but stopped and started over.
“You remember what Malcus asked you to do?”
“Of course I remember.” Iskender said.
“Well… there was something he didn’t know when he gave you that charge.”
“It doesn’t matter. A promise is a promise. I still intend to keep it, no matter what Malcus did or didn’t know.”
Simay took a deep breath before continuing. “I lost my husband and two of my children in one day… I might have lost the third if it hadn’t been for you.”
Iskender stared at Simay, not believing what he had just heard.
“I didn’t know myself until shortly after we reached Masada.” She offered. “I’m sorry to burden you with this – especially now, with the Roman occupation and Seda on the loose with my daughter… I wish I could just put everything back together the way it was.” She said, in tears.
“Simay.” He said gently. “You are not a burden; you’ve become my good friend, and your husband was the best friend I have ever been honored to have. I promised to look after you and your children. If Malcus had known there would be a third, he would have asked me to guard that one too. I honor the spirit of my promise, not just the words of it.”
Simay bravely swiped at the tears on her face, “Thank you, Iskender. You don’t know how much that means to me…”
The Ephesian smiled at the young widow sitting next to him, then his face became serious.
The change of expression startled Simay and she started to stand up to leave.
“Please, stay.” Iskender said, “I have something that I need to talk with you about as well. There’s just never been a good time to bring it up. It’s still not a good time, but it might be the best chance I get.”
Simay sat back down, not knowing whether or not to be afraid of what Iskender would say next.
“I’ve been thinking about the promise I made to your husband. I know that you and I, and this third child, will do everything we can to find Ibrahim and Seda again. I also know that as it is now, I am limited in my ability to protect you.” He paused. “I’ve been thinking about how to correct that limitation.”
Simay looked at Iskender strangely.
He continued, “As far as I know, there is only one solution… And if you say ‘no,’ I will understand completely. If I were in your position, I don’t know what I would say.”
Simay’s heart leapt into her throat as she waited for Iskender to finally spit out what he was trying to say.
“I know that no one could ever replace Malcus in your heart, and I would never ask you to replace him…”
To Simay’s dismay he paused again. The silent moment seemed to go on for eternity before he spoke again.
“Simay – my friend – will you be my wife?”