A/N #1: I started to write this year Christmas story before Fiona put forward a theme of "Going Home". She graciously agreed to give me an exception. My story is written to a theme of "Tradition". Christmas traditions weren't the part of Alexander's world, but many others were. One of the most famous Alexander's traditions was to name almost every city he founded after himself. The events described in the story below gave birth to another tradition. There are certain historical (and personal) notes that I would like to provide for the better understanding of this story, but I put them in the end. For now, just relax and enjoy the reading (hopefully).

"It's a nice harbour, Alexander; we can keep some of our ships here."

"Forget it, Nearchus; I told you, no ships, they will just burden us."

"But are we at least going to stay here for a couple of days?" asked Ptolemy, "I rather like it here. The name of the city has a nice sound to it – Acco – like echo; I always liked the story of Echo and Narcissus, poor girl."

"It's not like you to take a pity on some poor forgotten mythological girl, Ptolemy!" chuckled Leonnatus, "and does Thais know about your secret attraction to this nymph?"

"Look who is talking," good naturedly answered Ptolemy, "weren't it your eyes that got watery when that old man told the story of the young girl who jumped into the sea from the Ladder of Tzur rather than get married to an old merchant?"

Philotas' comment was less amicable. "I bet our good friend Leonnatus is still pining for Alexander's sister. After all she had to marry her own uncle. Only King Alexander of Epirus wasn't that old!"

"None of your business," angrily answered Leonnatus, "I have better things to do than to discuss stupid rumours. Can I go now, Alexander? I have to check the security arrangements."

"Yes, you can go," agreed Alexander, "and Philotas, watch your tongue."

Philotas shrugged his shoulders, "It was just a joke; who knew that Leonnatus would be that sensitive too, it's usually Hephaistion who cries over the fairy tales."

"Philotas!" hissed Alexander, "Go and occupy yourself with something useful if you don't have better things to do than to offend everybody in your earshot."

"As you wish, my King," Philotas stiffly bowed his head and went away.

"We all have things to do," said Perdiccas feeling the shift in the King's mood, "we should also go."

"Yes, you all may go," nodded Alexander. "Hephaistion, please stay, I have a special assignment for you."

Hephaistion approached the king after everybody left and said, "One day Philotas will end up with a knife in his back. He is an excellent general but I don't understand why he can't realize that being everybody's enemy is not in his best interests."

"Some people are just born that way, they are too full of themselves," matter-of-factly commented Alexander. "For Parmenion's sake I hope that such day will never come, but let us worry about the present, not the future."

"What is it on your mind?"

"High Priest Jaddua and his refusal to accept Zeus and the Olympian pantheon as supreme gods."

"Ah," Hephaistion nodded in understanding and fell silent. During the siege of Tyre Alexander sent requests for supplies to the nearby rulers counting on their dislike of king Darius and his own promise to free those who helped him from Persian oppression and punish those who refused. Some gladly complied; others were reluctant to change one master for another. Jaddua, High Priest of Israel, sent his response from Jerusalem that he gave an oath of allegiance to King Darius the III and it's not in his nature to break a sacred oath. While the siege of Tyre lasted, Alexander had neither time nor resources to deal with those who defied him, but now, coming to the land of Israel through the Ladder of Zhur he intended to set yet another example.

He entered the city of Acco the next day and was brought the news that High Priest Jaddua arrived from Jerusalem anxious to patch their differences. Alexander, willing to give the man and his country the second chance agreed to meet with him and during the meeting he demanded that the High Priest agree to accept Zeus as a supreme god. The request surprised Alexander's friends since he was known to respect the religious freedoms of other people. It was speculated that after the refusal of Tyre's citizens to allow Alexander to make sacrifice to Heracles in the new city and all the time that their king lost while laying siege, he will be less benevolent to the cities and counties he conquered.

"What you want me to do?" asked Hephaistion after he realized that Alexander wanted him to take the initiative in this conversation.

"I received the news that Batis, the governor of the coastal city of Gaza, wasn't intimidated by the fall of Tyre and intent to refuse me the access to his citadel. With another siege ahead of us, I don't want to dwell here for a long time. But though Acco opened her gates for me I don't want this High Priest to instigate the revolt behind my back."

"Why did you ask him to denounce his god, you knew he won't do it?"

"But he refused to send me supplies when I asked him, you know very well that I couldn't leave it unpunished, one way or another. There was not much else I could ask him for. This country doesn't have much to offer."

"So, what do you have in mind?"

"I was under the impression that his refusal wasn't as firm as that of Tyrians, after all he agreed for the final meeting tomorrow. I thought that he might be more inclined to listen to your arguments. I was told that he was familiar with your role in finding the new king for the city of Sidon and was impressed. I hope that you can provide him with some compelling argument to accept my demand."

"I will definitely try," uncertainly assured Hephaistion.

"Very well," Alexander happily smiled and Hephaistion could plainly see that he took a big load from the king's shoulders by his promise. "That man," Alexander pointed at the stranger that was looming in the vicinity, "will take you to the house where Jaddua stays. Bring me some good news."

Hephaistion silently nodded and left the king's side.

After being led through a maze of streets and houses, Hephaistion was ushered into the big stone house and taken to the pleasant inner courtyard where the High Priest already awaited his arrival. The conversation started amicably without any mentioning of the real reason for Hephaistion's visit. Jaddua told him about the beautiful city of Jerusalem and the famous king David who made it the capital of his kingdom. He didn't fail to mention how later the warrior king David was succeeded by his wise son king Solomon. He then asked Hephaistion to tell him about Athens and Pella, and Hephaistion's own family.

Hephaistion quite enjoyed their conversation. He took pleasure in describing his favourite cities to the High Priest but when it came to his family he sighed and said that there was not much to tell.

"My mother died when I was still very young, and my father, being first a general in King Philip's army and then his diplomat in Athens, never had time to remarry, and I don't have any siblings. Alexander is my family. But what about you? I've heard that Jewish priests are allowed to marry?"

"Not only allowed but also encouraged to do so. But, everything in the hands of our G-d. My first two wives died childless and I almost resigned myself to the fact that it's in the G-d will that I never hear a child's laughter in my house. But we should never despair because the G-d's will is hidden from us. I married a third time and though my wife, whom I loved dearly, died giving a birth, I had a wonderful son to remind me of her."

"Had?" asked Hephaistion not missing the sadness in the priest's voice when he was talking about his son.

"Yes, had," sighed Jaddua. "He grew into a fine young man and got married last year. Only his happy married life didn't last long, he died a couple of months ago from a sudden disease. There was nothing that could be done for him. Anat, his young wife, and I were devastated, we still are, but one shouldn't doubt the mercy of the G-d."

"How so?" asked Hephaistion.

"When my son died, Anat was already pregnant; we fervently prayed to G-d that he would let the child to be born alive and healthy, and that it would be a boy. And our prayers were answered. Just before I left Jerusalem to meet your king Alexander here, Anat gave birth to a son. We called him Nehemiah, after my own son. Now you see, I am not only a High Priest but also a grateful grandfather; I would never betray my G-d."

Hephaistion was sure that one way or another Jaddua will find a way to bring their dispute into conversation, he just didn't expect to find out that the High Priest had his own personal reasons to keep the faith in his God. Then suddenly he smiled. Personal was the winning word; where politics and faith created an unsurpassable abyss, personal would bridge the gap.

"Why did you call your son Nehemiah?"

"Nehemiah was a cup-bearer of the Persian king Artaxerxes; he learned that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and asked the king to leave his service. Artaxerxes permitted it and Nehemiah went to Jerusalem and rebuilt the walls and the city to its former glory."

"It's a worthy endeavor," agreed Hephaistion who couldn't believe his luck how perfectly the story fitted his purpose. "King Alexander is also known for rebuilding the old cities and building the new ones."

"He is also known for destroying them," shrewdly commented Jaddua.

"That is true, but not all cities are worth rebuilding though I hope that your Jerusalem certainly is."

Jaddua couldn't fail to notice the sparkle in Hephaistion's eyes but he misinterpreted it completely.

"You are not suggesting that we rename Jerusalem into Alexandria?" the High Priest asked with apprehension; he was aware of Alexander's habit to name the new cities after himself.

"Oh, no, no," laughed Hephaistion, "I didn't mean that though it's not such a bad idea. But what if you name your grandson after Alexander? I am sure that if your son was alive, he would understand."

"Alexander is not even a Jewish name, and I doubt that it will be enough for your king."

"I am sure that there are ways to make it a Jewish name, after all you are a High Priest; and I am also sure it's better than denounce your God or have your country suffer the wrath of the Macedonian Army."

"It may be in my power to make Alexander a Jewish name, and I am willing to name my own grandson after your king," pensively said the High Priest, "but will Alexander accept such a small gesture instead of what he asked me for?"

"Perhaps it's not enough but it's a start," candidly answered Hephaistion. "We can think of additional tributes later, but you have to be willing to trust me."

Jaddua didn't answer immediately but continued to study the man before him. Not only he was aware of the role that Hephaistion played in proclaiming Adbalonimus the king of Sidon but also about the place that Hephaistion held in the Alexander's heart. He was sure that with Hephaistion on his side he had far more chances of averting yet another disaster for his people. Jaddua truly enjoyed the friendly conversation that they had before he himself brought the real reason for Hephaistion's visit into discussion. He was willing to take his chances.

"So be it," accepted Jaddua. "I hope to see you tomorrow when I come answering your king's summons."

"You sure will," confirmed Hephaistion and stood up ready to take his leave.

Alexander was pleasantly surprised when he saw Hephaistion to return in a good mood and high spirits. "Did he agree?" incredulously asked the king.

"You'll have to wait till tomorrow," mysteriously answered Hephaistion.

"You cannot leave me in the dark," insisted Alexander.

"Don't you trust me? I am sure you'll be pleasantly surprised. I don't want to spoil it for you."

"I hope you didn't arrange for my marriage or something?" worriedly asked Alexander.

"Why would I do that?" Hephaistion asked, surprised. "It was the farthest thing on my mind. If you wanted his daughter's hand in the marriage, you should have assigned Parmenion for this task. Anyway, the High Priest doesn't have any daughters."

"No daughters? Really? But how many sons does the High Priest have?"

"He just had one son who recently died. Why are you suddenly interested in his family?"

"I am not," Alexander shrugged his shoulders, "it was just a question. I was told that it's one of the Jewish people obligations towards their God to have as many children as possible, so they could all worship Him."

"I didn't know that," pensively said Hephaistion and smiled.

"Why are you smiling again?" asked Alexander.

"What's wrong with smiling?" teased Hephaistion, "I am just in a good mood. Let's hope that tomorrow you'll be in a good mood as well."

Next day as agreed, High Priest Jaddua came to see Alexander before the king left to besiege the city of Gaza. After formal pleasantries Jaddua informed the king that it was not in his power or will to accept Greek Gods above their own G-d, but he was to issue a decree to proclaim Alexander a Jewish name, the first and the only one foreign name to be given such an honour; and his only grandson, who was just born a few days ago, was to be named after the king.

Alexander was first pleasantly surprised and even blushed a little but then he noticed the unhappy glances among his entourage. They definitely considered it too little of a sacrifice. Alexander was almost about to agree with them when Hephaistion interfered, "This is not all we agreed upon yesterday," he said to Jaddua and gave him an almost imperceptible nod trusting that the High Priest was clever enough to take his clue.

"Indeed it was not all," agreed Jaddua, "but I was hoping that you, milord," and he politely bowed in Hephaistion direction, "will be able to present this idea in better words to the king Alexander than myself."

Hephaistion inwardly smiled. The High Priest didn't disappoint him. He just hoped that the idea that Alexander unknowingly gave him yesterday would sit well with both Alexander and the High Priest.

"Not only the High Priest's grandson will be named after you, my king, but in order to commemorate your peaceful passage through the lands of Israel, all boys born in Israel during the year since your visit will be named Alexander."

A/N#2 - I am fully aware of the fact that Hephaistion left with Alexander's ships after the end of the siege of Tyre and was reunited with the King only at Gaza, but who is to say that he didn't drop an anchor at Acco?

Why did I choose Acco? It's a wonderful old city about 3500 years old and it's a city where I lived in Israel. It has an incredible history and while there in no known connection to Alexander himself I can't not to mention the fact the Napoleon Bonaparte, probably the best general after our great king, besieged the city and …. failed.

Jaddua's fear in my story about renaming Jerusalem into Alexandria was realized for Acco. After Alexander's death the city of Acco fell under the rule of Ptolemy who promptly renamed it into Ptolemais. It didn't last for a long time, though.

The Ladder of Zhur mentioned in the beginning of my story in modern days called "Rosh ha Nikra", see link here (?p=16&lan=eng), and the legend about the girl is a real legend; the grottos there are incredible.

Now about the story itself. It's not exactly my fantasy though I invented Hephaistion's participation in it. Till these days Alexander is a very popular Jewish name and it was indeed added to the list of proper Jewish names. High Priest Jaddua is also real and he was a High Priest in Jerusalem during Alexander's time. There are several apocryphal stories about his meeting with Alexander the Great. The one told by Josephus Flavius is the most famous one (if you are interested, see more details here .?letter=A&artid=1120) ; the story above is less known but nonetheless this explanation for the popularity of the name Alexander among the Jews is a true existing legend that may, or may not, have some roots in reality.

I hope you enjoyed reading this story. Your comments are very much welcomed and truly appreciated.