Avraham Azrieli’s “The Elixirist” is excellent, so full of exciting events that it will make a wonderful motion picture. It is the story of a young boy of 16, Sall, who lived in the biblical time of the judges, before the Israel tribes united, when they sometimes engaged in war with one another, when Israelite and non-Israelite nations fought to gain territory, all of which happens in this tale. But it is not about Israel, although the Hebrews are sometimes, rarely, involved. It is about a boy from the land of Edom, a country to the south-east of Canaan, whose father is a healer, who is hated by the high priest of Edom who felt that healing belongs to God and people should not interfere and attempt to heal people as Sall’s father does and as Sall helps him do.
The problem that Sall faces is that he has fallen in love with the high priest’s daughter and the high priest would never allow him, the son of a healer, to marry her. More to the point the girl looks at him with contempt. He wishes he would be better looking and be able to impress the girl he loves. He has a dream in which a dwarf tells him that if he travels the far distance to Damascus he will find an elixirist who will change him. He decides to take the trip on a donkey with his mother’s dog, despite the many dangers in the war-torn world on the way. An elixir is an alchemic preparation for transmuting base metals into gold. An elixirist is a person who uses elixirs. If the elixirist can change metals into gold, he thinks, he can change me into a man who my love will like.
The trip is filled with adventures: a meeting with the Edomite general who is in love with his mother who inexplicably advises Sall not to return home for many months, the encounter with a female handless dream reader on a mountaintop, his journey with a Moabite merchant who robs him of his mother’s dog, slavery to a potter in Jericho, finding a way to end the slavery, capture by a group who ties him naked in the sun where he blisters until he looks like a leper and is shunned by fearful people who see him, the magical healing at Job’s bath, his journey with the lying brown prince of Kush who had a secret murderous agenda, the battle between two Hebrew tribes provoked by the brown prince, the fishing success that he developed, the kindness of a hunchback, drowning and being saved and taught by the elixirist, the unequal battle between Edom and Egypt, and much more. Even perhaps of equal significance is that during each leg of his long journey the 16-year-old hears life-saving wise advice, usually one-liners, that teach him, and which he uses as he moves on.
Who was the elixirist? How did he do his magic? Did the 16-year-old change? Did he get the girl he loved?