Egyptian soldiers were following when the Jews were carrying those huge stones on their shoulders. And the burden was such that many would simply die because of the burden, would be crushed under the stone, under the rock. His dead body would be thrown by the side of the road and another Jew would be put in his place to carry the stone. Even if a thousand lives were needed to put the stone on top of the pyramid it was perfectly okay. And on both sides, Egyptian soldiers were continuously beating people: “You are lazy! It is not because of the weight of the rock that you are so slow, you are simply lazy!” Many would die because of the beatings. They were treated in a far worse way than even animals have ever been treated.
Since those days, Moses had somehow managed to convince them: “You are God’s chosen people, and I have come to liberate you.” I know it is a fiction, but it was certainly needed because those Jews had completely lost the dignity of being human beings. Somebody had to convince them: “You are human beings – not only human beings but the most superior human beings, the very chosen people of God. Just follow me out of Egypt and I will show you that God has prepared a beautiful land for you, Israel.”
This was all beautiful fiction. But it worked; the Jews went out of Egypt. There was no Israel anywhere. For forty years they wandered in the Middle East, the vast desert, without food, without water – like beggars. And they were asking again and again, “Where is Israel? And how long is it going to take?”
My own insight is that, tired and weary, finally Moses reached the place that he showed to them – “This is Israel.” It was a barren land. In forty years, almost ninety percent of the original people who had left Egypt had died. Forty years is a long time. And when you are in misery, it becomes even longer.
Time is very elastic. When you are blissful it becomes very small: sitting with your friend, hours pass and it seems only minutes have passed. But hungry, thirsty, desert all around as far as human eyes could see – no Garden of Eden. It was certain that people would die.
When Moses reached the place that he named Israel he was surrounded by almost all new people, who had been born on the way. And there was such a gap. The generation gap that you talk about today was first felt by Moses and his people. Those new people had no idea who this fellow Moses was. There was no possibility of communication.
Hence, Moses had to leave the land with the new generation, with an excuse: “I am going to find one of our tribes which has lost its way somewhere in the desert.” It was true. One of the Jewish tribes had lost its way and reached Kashmir. Kashmir looks closer to God’s garden than Israel so they settled there, thinking that they had reached and all the others had lost their way in the desert.
Moses found them just at the very end of his life. He died in Kashmir. I have been to his grave, because there are only two graves in India – one of Moses and another of Jesus – on which the inscriptions are in Hebrew. And both graves are in one place, in Pahalgam in Kashmir. The word pahalgam means, “the village of the shepherd” – because Jesus used to say, “I am the shepherd and you are the sheep. Follow me: I will take you to your real home, your real land.”