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The Universal Story of Wandering People

October 3, 2012

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The story of a nomadic people wandering their way to a promised land is not unique to the Jewish people.

Dr. Lynn Schler, head of the Tamar Golan Africa Center at BGU, identifies this as the central theme of "The Great Trek," the founding myth of the Boer people of South Africa.

The Great Trek was a series of eastward journeys in the 1830s and 1840s that became etched in the collective memory of the Boers. It was at a point in history when the Boers set out to free themselves from British rule.

And even though the British willingly let them leave, the Boers still see the trek as their "Exodus," taking on the biblical themes of leaving behind slavery and the tyranny of British rule.

"They saw themselves as the chosen people, ordained by God to live in South Africa," says Dr. Schler.

Similar to the temporary dwellings that Jews erect during the festival of Sukkot, the Boers have wagon carts that became a symbol of their trek east of the Cape of Good Hope.

"As they go [east], they take their wagons and organize them in big circles, forming many movable forts," says Schler.

The article in the The Jerusalem Post also cites other peoples of the world whose stories contain similar symbols and themes.