Josephine Zidane, is the President of Tailor Made Tours, one of the biggest ground handling tour firms for Christian pilgrims in Israel. In a recent encounter with KUNLE AKINRINADE in Jerusalem, the 48-year-old lady talks about her growing up days, how her company handle Nigerian pilgrims and how she became a mother of a set of twins, following prayers and predictions by Nigerian clergymen, after battling childlessness for 20 years.
What were your growing-up days like?
My parents are Israelis who were initially based in Russia but now living in the United States of America (USA). I was born in Russia and my parents brought me to Israel when I was two weeks old. My parents later left for the United States of America (USA) but I decided to stay back here. I actually broke the protocols that children must obey their parents. I chose to disobey my parents to stay back here and serve as a soldier when I was 18 years old. I never knew that God had a huge plan for me in life to serve all the nations of the world and become the bridge between Israel and other nations.
Did you start your tour firm with Nigerian Christian pilgrims?
No. We started with all the Christian nations of the world with huge projects. But in Africa, I started with Ethiopian Christian pilgrims and churches many years ago. But by coincidence I came to Nigeria in 2007 and brought excellence in taking care of Christian pilgrims. I am serving my clients well. I have been in business since 1992. I established the tour company in 2000 and my Nigerian office in Abuja was established in 2007.
Does your company still manage Ethiopian pilgrims as ground handler?
Of course, yes. We are the main gate today for African Christian believers to the Holy Land of Jerusalem. We have Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and others, but Nigeria is my favourite.
Why is Nigeria your favourite?
I love Nigerians. That is actually the most precious friendship I have with people all over the world. It is a kind of unbreakable bond that makes us so committed to Nigeria.
What’s your assessment of Nigerian Christian pilgrims and the arrangement for the pilgrimage so far?
Definitely we are progressing, and Tailor Made is a major stakeholder in bringing greater performances and excellence in realising unity with our people in Nigeria. And you see the result is that Christian pilgrimage has not been the same with Nigerian pilgrims since we started handling pilgrimage and managing Nigerian pilgrims since 2007.
Nigerian pilgrims are more than ever before well welcomed and embraced in Israel, just like the Americans. It’s a different protocol all together. The era of buses conveying pilgrims breaking down and making them to eat anyhow at 2-star hotels is no more. What we have now is excellent services all through. People are undertaking their spiritual journey and they are happy with their wellbeing, and that is what is most important.
How do you rate Nigerian pilgrims?
Organisation of pilgrimage from your country is very strange because of the fact that this exercise is sponsored by Nigerian government. Nigeria is the only country in the world that still sponsors Christian believers to the Holy Land and Nigerian pilgrims are really much into prayers. They love Israel. They love Jerusalem and we can see that once they are here (Israel), they are becoming truly angels, and it’s really an amazing atmosphere to see Nigerian pilgrims in Israel.
In what ways have you benefited from prayers of Nigerians?
Actually, my unbreakable bond with Nigerians is really about prayers. When they pray, something amazing happens. And it is no joke that we witnessed showers of blessings or heavy rain whenever Nigerian pilgrims are here. It’s an amazing thing every year.
What is more amazing is that God has used Nigerian clergymen to change my story. When I visited Nigeria a few years ago, Nigerian pastors prayed for me after about 20 years of being childless and looking for the fruit of the womb, and I became Iya Ibeji (twins’ mother). I became Mama Double Double because of prayers by Nigerian clergymen for me.
For me and my household we hold Nigerians in high esteem because of the prayers, and this is a lifetime thing. I am not only here for business but to do everything to hold Nigerian flag very high. This is where I come to the delicate issue of some Christian pilgrims from Nigeria absconding during pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is a spiritual exercise and people should not insult this exercise for all kinds of rubbish. Some of the pilgrims are doing all kinds of rubbish by absconding, and they are damaging the name of Nigeria as well as frustrating other Nigerians who want to come and pray in Israel.
Where and when did the prayers by the clergymen take place in Nigeria?
Oh, the prayers took place in so many places in Nigeria. I remember the very first person who prophesied to me was Prelate Sunday Makinde, who used to be the head of the Methodist Church in Nigeria. Prelate Makinde prayed for me for several days in 2008, and at the end of the prayers, he prophesied that I would become Mama Double Double (mother of twins).
Also, in 2011 in Osun State, one of the big prophets in the state, Prophet Isaac Adebunmi, prayed for me for so many hours and prophesied that I would become Mama Double Double (mother of twins) and the prophesies came to pass. And there are many other Nigerian clergy men who also prophesied that God would take me out of bareness and bless me with a set of twins, and it happened exactly as they predicted when I was eventually delivered of a set of twins after 20 years of being childless.
What names did you give your twins?
We named them Sarah and Isaac. But in Nigeria, they are called Israel and Nigeria (laughter). And it’s such an unbreakable bond that that has been created between us and Nigerians. We as a family feel that we owe Nigeria a lot because of the blessings that we have derived from your country, and that has changed the protocols between the two countries.
Now in Israel, when you say Tailor Made, they say Nigeria and vice versa. Now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior consult us when issues arise about Nigeria.
I have made presentations about Christian pilgrimage to other parts of Nigeria like Bauchi and Port Harcourt and several other parts of your country.
Apart from the spiritual benefits of pilgrimage, what else do you think that Nigerians can gain from visiting Israel?
Basically, Lagos State in particular has brought excellence to pilgrimage here. But Lagos State has improved on preparations and wellbeing for pilgrims. We have come to pray but we also need action, and I am glad that the Chief of Staff to the Lagos State governor, Mr Tayo Ayinde, has talked about giving actions to our prayers for Nigeria, and this what Christian pilgrims from your country must do for the greater development of the country. Up till now, the National Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC) is still talking about spiritual aspect, but we are saying that there is need to set aside one day out of the period for the pilgrimage to share of the secrets of national development that Israel has to offer on water resources, agriculture, security and education to give Nigerian people knowledge on what to do about it when they go back to Nigeria and further develop their country.
When was the last time you visited Nigeria?
I came to Nigeria for the first time in 2007 and I have since been coming to the country every year.
What are the lessons you have learnt from your interactions with Nigerians?
Let me tell you, I have learnt so much from Nigerians. And the lesson is that I have become more humble in life than ever before. The Yoruba people have taught me great wisdom. They said to me, ‘Josephine, if you are a monkey that climbs trees too high, you will fall down.’ The lesson in this wise saying is that I should take things slowly and learn not to think too highly of myself, hence, I have become more humble as well as become a servant in real life too. This is because I know where I am coming from and where I am heading to, and I don’t want to fall.
Also, when crucial things are happening to me in life, I have learnt to take them easy because of the wisdom Nigerians have shared with me. Like when I visited one of my staffs who lost her right hand in a car accident in Gombe State, I was very devastated. But Nigerians told me that I should thank God for her life because she’s still alive. They asked me to shun despondency and look at life as a half full glass. So you (Nigerians) have an interesting approach to life and we Israelites like you for that. It is for this that I want to urge you people not to change your positive spirit.
What are your favourite Nigerian foods?
I am in love with Amala, Fufu, pounded yam and pepper soup. My husband also loves eating fried plantain, pepper soup and catfish from Plateau State. We love Nigerian cuisine a lot.
Source: The Nation