The late former President Daniel arap Moi’s personal physician Dr David Silverstein has given Kenyans a rare glimpse of the man who was his patient for 42 years, crowning his eulogy with a Jewish prayer for Mzee Moi’s departed soul.
And what a figure did the doctor cut in a Jewish skull cap as he read from a quaint Jewish Bible.
The rarest glimpse was perhaps the “revelation” that the doctor, Mzee Moi and one-time Attorney General Njonjo occasionally partook, in a small glass, of sweet, cautious, sacramental wine from Israel which they called “Dawa ya Wazee”.
The one thing the doctor could not sway Mzee Moi from, mourners heard, was working too many hours. The doctor thought he had a sure-fire way to persuade the president from overworking by quoting a Bible verse from Exodus where Jethro advises Moses to a slow down on work but that didn’t work entirely.
The doctor himself, the mourners heard, was equally afflicted by the overworking syndrome to the chagrin of his wife Channa. So, two birds of the same feather flocked together.
Such was the closeness of the two men that Mzee Moi, the doctor said, held his son’s hand when the boy was eight-days-old -- time for Jewish circumcision. Moi had also attended the doctor’s wedding.
Ribs were tickled when Dr Silverstein said part of his duty as he travelled the world with the president was to ensure that they did not eat exotic meats … dog, rat or drinking buffalo milk while in China.
After Moi’s retirement, they would have many small dinners with friends, he said.
Dr Silverstein and Mzee Moi, whom he called a patriarch, first met in 1977 when Mr Moi’s secretary, Mrs Smith, called to ask where and when he could see him whereupon the good doctor replied: “Yes anytime at Kenyatta National Hospital.”
Dr Silverstein told of how, as a 33-year-old cardiologist, he was awed by the stature and the commanding presence of the 53-year-old Vice President.
Decades later, the doctor said Moi would be greatly concerned whether the amount of time he was spending with the doctor was disadvantaging other patients whenever Silverstein was in State House for the president’s weekly medical check-up.
They would discuss, Dr Silverstein recalled, the Old Testament and its application to international politics, the State of Israel and other issues.
Mzee Moi, Dr Western told mourners, strictly followed his instructions on medications. He, however, confirmed the “revelation” by the former president’s last-born, Gideon, that the Mzee Moi loved his meat.
Dr Silverstein recalled how Mzee Moi was gutted by the 1985 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister and his friend Yitzhak Rabin, and being unable to attend the burial did make things any better.
Mzee Moi, Dr Silverstein said, was happy when he suggested to him that they could mark the obligatory 30th day of mourning in Israel whereupon the President told Dr Sally Kosgei “we are going.”
The president, Dr Silverstein added, was the only international dignitary at the rite and was highly honoured.
Years later, in Israel for further medical treatment when the president had a problem in walking, it would turn out all he needed was a different therapy after he visited religious sites, especially the site of Jesus’s resurrection, especially when he saw the boulder on which the Messiah sat.
It was spiritual healing, said the doctor because medicine can not explain the improvement.
Dr Silverstein recalled the excited president exclaiming “Daktari! Angalia. Yesu alikaa hapa. (Jesus sat here!)