Once, a few millennia ago, the tribes of Jacob, also known as the Hebrews, were living in the Nile River Valley under the rule of the Egyptian pharaohs.
The Hebrews performed many roles in society, but became known for keeping the wheels of the Egyptian economy going around. The vast majority of chariot chauffeurs, cart train drivers, Nile ferry-men and sedan chair carriers were Hebrews. They had a reputation throughout the Middle Kingdom of being fast, efficient and reliable. They were shrewd businessmen, offering affordable transport of people and goods, with convenient payment options. They never failed to please their customers, and grew wealthy in the process.
A new Pharaoh came to power and felt threatened by the wealth and influence of the Hebrews. He issued edicts such that they must work on their Sabbath, could not stop work for food or toilet breaks unless permitted by their customer, and must agree to any load even if they deemed it too heavy for their vehicles. He even began to dictate their fare structure so that soon they were losing money and became no better than slave labour. Customers felt free to whip their drivers and carriers even unto death without penalty.
God heard of the Hebrews’ suffering and sent Moses to lead them out of slavery. Moses went down into Egypt and formed the Transport Workers’ Union. He went to Pharaoh’s palace and announced himself as the representative of his people. He demanded better pay and conditions or the Hebrews would find work elsewhere and take their horses and chariots, carts, ferries and sedan chairs with them. Pharaoh refused to make any concessions. Nor would he let them leave and he ordered his soldiers to stop anyone who tried.
Then the Hebrews, led by Moses and blessed with strength by God brought the ten transport plagues down upon Egypt:
- The chariot chauffeurs were rude (or told irritating stories to their captive customers);
- The cart trains suffered unheard-of and unexplained delays;
- Ferry customers found themselves being charged with unannounced fare rises; and
- Sedan chairs were no longer cleaned between passengers, getting progressively dirtier over the course of the day.
Still, the Pharaoh would not let the Hebrews go.
- Chariot chauffeurs then began to plead a lack of parking by customers’ homes and dropped off their charges further and further from their front doors;
- Cart trains sometimes simply didn’t show up when scheduled or even much, much later;
- Ferries didn’t show up when scheduled and then all arrived at the piers at once; and
- Sedan chair carriers managed to jostle their passengers so much it was as if the roads were made of potholes instead of paving.
The Pharaoh said he would consider their demands, but he was not willing to put anything in writing.
- Finally, the ferry-men reduced their service to such an extent that their customers were overcrowded on every passage; and, more unbearably,
- Chariot chauffeurs, cart train drivers, and sedan chair carriers flooded the market and organised their routes to create massive traffic jams, trapping their customers in their vehicles and trapping many other Egyptians in their homes or streets as the constant stream of vehicles severed whole communities.
With all his kingdom brought to a standstill, at last, Pharaoh agreed to let the Hebrews go and seek business elsewhere. They made it as far as the Sea of Reeds when Pharaoh realised the impact this would have on economy and sent soldiers to find them. But the Hebrews had all the ferry boats, most of the trained transport horses and escaped across the water, whilst their pursuers tried to swim after them. Most sank in the sea.
Happy end-of-Passover! Next year a transport take on the trip through the Sinai wilderness…?