Madison Morrison's Web / Sentence of the Gods / Every


Madison Morrison

Illustration by Denis Mizzi


Tel Aviv mid morning view over rooftops, out over schoolyard, on to Chinese Embassy, its flag aflutter, red field, large yellow star surrounded by a semicircle of four smaller stars. And Pharaoh said, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive. View extends to seven-story apartment building, atop which the windows of a penthouse reflect another building; behind a railing stands a scarecrow dressed in pink, one arm raised, silver foil dangling from it. There went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. View continues out over park filled with deciduous trees, still bare of foliage. And the woman conceived, and bare a son. On to the Mediterranean Sea, a beautiful sailboat, in the light haze, skirting its coast. And when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. Ha’aretz magazine, Friday, February 25, 2000, an interview with Anat Levit, author of Nicole and Pierre:

And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein. “When I got divorced.” And she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink. “I discovered God.” And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him. “He’s been with me ever since.” And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river. “To me, he is intuition.” And her maidens walked along by the river’s side. “Either you have a husband, or you believe in God.” And when she saw the ark among the flags. “I prefer God.” She sent her maid to fetch it. “Who at least is an abstract, harmless entity.”

Out into Rehov Hayarkon for southward stroll along this beach avenue. “I couldn’t perceive life as a plot, as a sequence of events.” Israel is a modern country: superhighways, from airport to Tel Aviv, from Tel Aviv to other parts of the country. “For twenty years this problem was evident in my writing, which focused primarily on myself and my own feelings.” Over the avenue an inner-illuminated, electric sign, indicates “Ayalon,” the expressway exit, “Jaffa,” farther ahead, other names and distances, all in Hebrew. Set in France, Nicole and Pierre tells the story of the narrator’s thirty-year relationship with Nicole as well as the story of the two women’s relationship with Danielle, their teacher. We are passing the “Ambassade de Suisse,” its white cross on red background flying high above in the breeze. Israel is mentioned in the book only in passing, as a place the two heroines once visited. We are passing Melody Hotel; in the window to its dining room a girl in frizzy hair, tight shirt over high breasts, takes a seat alone for a late breakfast. “I don’t find Israeli reality very interesting,” says Levit. At “Stagecoach Pub” a man in plaid shirt, standing atop a ladder, works at wiring a new electrical connection to the establishment’s rusticated Western U.S. facade. “I want very much to touch the world without restricting the soul to geographical boundaries.” On a table sits his leather pouch, a hammer protruding from it; beside it, in disarray: pliers, electrical tape, a cell phone. “I want to touch things shared by all humans.” Parts of the antiquated plastic connecting box, now disassembled, have also been cast upon the table. Beyond: a shoreline bordered in high-rise, brand new apartment buildings.

When she opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. Levit has never lived in France, only visited. She had compassion on him and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children. Though she has studied French, she says she could not understand much of the language, “perhaps because my love of Hebrew is so total.” Then said his sister to Pharaoh’s daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee? And yet, she says, “When I wrote, I heard my heroines like some inner music.” And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, Go. “As though I were translating from the French.” And the maid went and called the child’s mother. “Amazingly, each of the characters in the book fits into some part of myself and my biography.” And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. “Nicole and Pierre’s marriage, for example, is the realization of a dream that I had had for years.” And she called his name Moses: “Of marrying a man thirty years older than me.” Because I drew him out of the water.

We are passing the Hilton Hotel, which rides like a huge ship above a walled-in cliff planted with new shrubs. Levit was born, 1958, in Tel Aviv, where she still lives with her two girls. A two-engine plane enters the scene from the south to descend for its landing north of the city. Her parents were also born here. We are heading toward “City Center,” says a black-lettered, yellow sign, its direction indicated by a red arrow. “My mother was a housewife, and my father was a car dealer, whose only connection to Hebrew literature was looking after the cars of great writers.” We are passing “Ophir Tours,” its window advertising specials on Norway, Tahiti, Panama. She has twin sisters, one a yoga instructor, the other a photographer. In a red collar a large white dog sits atop a white towel; she is tethered by a blue leash to the corner of a store, in whose interior her owner is shopping. Levit regards her writing as a therapeutic bridge between writer and reader.

And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? Intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known.

Moreover said he, I am the God of thy father. At Rehov Arlozorov author turns left in search of a livelier neighborhood. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. The cream, beige and white affluence of beachside Tel Aviv is slightly oppressive. And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. At Rehov Ben-Yehuda we make another left and begin our return. I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt. Author still hoping to encounter signs of life. And have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. Past “Café Nordo,” in yellow letters on blue. And am come down to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians. Past “Café Dan, restaurant since 1944.” And to bring them up out of that land unto a good land. Before long we arrive at a paper stand-cum-pharmaceutical kiosk-cum-curiosités touristiques shop. Unto a land flowing with milk and honey. In its window are banners schematically representing the sights of the Holy Land. Unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. “Israel from Alef to Tav,” reads one, each letter of the alphabet bearing within it a picture of a notable tourist attraction.

Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt. A reproduction of an ancient engraving shows “Jerusalema Hodierna.” And Moses said, Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh, that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? “Shalom,” reads the inscription on a plate, in both Hebrew and English. And He said, Certainly I will be with thee, and this shall be a token unto thee that I have sent thee. A yellow-breasted, blue-winged dove carries in its beak cherries still attached with their leaves to a branch. When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain. Confidently a woman strides past in magenta beret, magenta knee-length coat, black slacks, black purse, high black shoes.

And Moses answered, Behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee. In the street, bathed in bright sunlight, two men are seated on either side of a black and white backgammon board. And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thy hand? And he answered, A rod. A woman in black leather jacket over turquoise sweater emerges from a yarn shop, whose window displays many colors. And he said, Cast it on the ground. We pause before a frame shop. And he cast it on the ground. In its window, along with mirrors, are many Chinese masks. And it became a serpent. All have been freshly repainted. And Moses fled before it. A bus in cream, red and beige lumbers past. And the Lord said unto Moses. Its messages all in Hebrew. Put forth thy hand and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand.

We turn back into a quieter, residential street, where construction of a six-story apartment building is still in progress. Levit’s despair, she says, forced her to start viewing her own life as a story. Smaller homes with palm trees in front of them line the street, some with doctors’ offices on their first floors. “My art became the center of my world.” There’s a whiff of spring in the air, though the weather is still cool. “On days when I wasn’t writing, I felt I had no right to exist.” At curbside is parked a blunt-nosed, red Volkswagen bug of recent vintage. “But I’m an optimistic person, and my will power survives against all odds.” On the sidewalk, a yellow scooter.

“In the years I was writing the book.” We have returned to the schoolyard that we had earlier viewed from above. “Which were also the years following my divorce.” Its grounds are heavily barred. “I kept thinking of something that Toni Morrison once said in an interview.” The windows of the schoolhouse within are also barred. “After her own divorce, she raised two small children, made her living by working as an editor, and in the evenings wrote for fun.” Students have painted murals on its walls: a romantic scene of a blond man being kissed by a blond woman, both of them with their eyes shut. “‘It wasn’t easy,’ she said.” All against a background of blackened high-rise buildings. “‘And I wouldn’t recommend it.’” Their windows lit in yellow. “‘But I know that my divorce.’” Half a dozen fifteen-year-old kids are playing basketball in the courtyard, one of them in a Dallas Cowboys tee shirt. “‘Is what got me the Nobel Prize.’”


As the Lord commanded Moses his servant, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses. So Joshua took all that land, the hills, and all the south country, and all the land of Goshen, and the valley, and the plain, and the mountain of Israel, and the valley of the same; even from the mount Halak, that goeth up to Seir, even to Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon under mount Hermon: and all their kings he took, and smote them, and slew them.

We are leaving Tel Aviv and heading into the Judean Hills. Concerning the one who discovered all things I sing the geography (Gilgamesh). We study the map that our guide holds before us: a green coastal plain, a white rise of hills, a brown desert. Concerning the one who experienced all. Bordered by the River Jordan, flowing to the Dead Sea. I shall sing every thing. On our left we are passing the vineyards of biblical story. He searched the world at large. On our right, a grove of olives. He who experienced all gained complete wisdom. The olive tree, we are told, can sometimes live 2000 years. He discovered what was secret, what was hidden, he brought back a tale of times before the Flood. Over the horizon, our throughway disappears into the Hill of Gideon. He journeyed far and wide, weary and resigned. Where Joshua saw the sun and the moon stand still. He engraved his labors on a monument of stone.

Gorgeous fig trees have begun to blossom in this valley redolent of military history. He built the wall of Uruk, the sheepfold of holy Eanna, the pristine treasury. We pass the ruins of the Roman city that once guarded the valley. See its wall, which is like a copper band, survey its battlements, which no one else can match, cross its ancient threshold and approach Eanna, the home of Ishtar, which no future king nor any other man will ever match. We pass through deforested lands. Mount the wall of Uruk and inspect its foundations, which the Seven Counselors laid. Where 2,000,000 trees were recently destroyed by fire. One mile square is the city, one mile square the orchards, one mile square the clay pits, one mile square is Ishtar’s temple.

We witness the remains of trucks disabled in the 1948 War of Independence. Look for the copper tablet-box, undo its bronze lock, open the door to its secret. These army vehicles have been repainted rust red. Lift out the lapis lazuli tablets and read them. And left as monuments. Left as monuments to Gilgamesh, warrior lord of great stature, superior to kings, man of suffering, hero born of Uruk, a raging flood-wave, which can destroy the strong wall.

On the opposite side of the road the pink almond is blossoming. Who opened up passes in the mountains, who crossed the oceans, who inspected the edges of the world. We begin a much steeper ascent. As far as the sunrise. The sun in our eyes. There is none among the kings of teeming humanity who can compare with him.


At twenty leagues they ate their ration, at thirty leagues they stopped for the night. We are pausing for a rest-stop at a memorial erected to The King, “The Elvis Inn of Jerusalem.” Fifty leagues they traveled during the day, from the new moon to the full. Elvis Presley pictured before his Rolls Royce. Eventually they came to Lebanon. Elvis pictured in blue, in black and white, in gold. They dug a pit in front of Shamash, they refilled their water skins. We stand before a huge gold statue of The King. Gilgamesh went up to the mountain and said, “Bring me a dream!” His black guitar rested against his leg.

He washed his filthy hair, he cleaned his gear. We enter the restaurant, whose walls are covered with Elvis memorabilia. He clothed himself in robes and tied a sash about his middle. Over the audio system. He put his crown upon his head. Waft the seductive strains of “Stay Off of My Blue Suede Shoes.” Ishtar the princess raised her eyes to his beauty. Bronze statues depict The King. “Come to me, Gilgamesh, be my lover,” she cried. Elvis standing at a bar. “You can be my husband, and I can be your wife.” Elvis seated at a table, inviting guests to join him. “Bestow on me the gift of your fruit.” Tourists, taking seats beside him, are being photographed with The King. “I shall have a chariot of lapis lazuli and gold harnessed for you.” Against a backdrop of pink star-studded awnings. “When you enter my house, the threshold shall kiss your feet!” Photos of Elvis: “Kings.” In uniform. “Nobles.” On the beach. “Princes.” Riding on a bicycle. “Shall bow down before you.”

Newspaper clippings: “The verdure of mountain and valley shall bring you produce.” “Elvis:” “Your goats shall bear triplets.” “The Truth behind the Legend.” “Your ewes shall bear twins.” “Love Spat with Ginger the Night He Died.” “Your loaded donkey shall outpace the mule, your horses shall run with the chariot, your ox be unrivaled at the yoke.” “The King is Coming —” And Gilgamesh said to the princess: “In Person!” “I shall bestow upon thee.” Over the audio system, the screams of a giddy crowd. “Body oil and garments.” “Elvis in Action as Never Before.” “Ale fit for kings.”

“O, Gilgamesh, which of your lovers lasted forever?” “Rebel of Song.” “Which of your masterful paramours ascended to Heaven?” “Heartbreak Hotel.” “So let us enjoy your strength.” “Jailhouse Rock.” “Put out your hand and touch our vulva.” Out the window: the rocky sunlit terrain. Distracted, Gilgamesh gazed at the pine trees, walking amongst them. Brushed with conifers and scraggly bushes. He gazed and gazed at the height of the pines on the face of the mountain, where their shade was good, where they filled the undergrowth with happiness. “Mystique of Elvis Finds Home in the Holy Land.” Where they dwelt with the gods, entangling the forest.

Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the Lord said unto him Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.

Therefore divide this land for an inheritance unto the nine tribes.

And these are the countries which the children of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed for inheritance to them.

And Moses sware on that day, saying, Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s for ever, because thou hath wholly followed the Lord my God.

We are passing the Mount Scopus Campus of the Hebrew University. And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel. “Faculty Club,” say the yellow letters of a sign whose background is green. And he sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon. “Pope, in Egypt, Looks to Reduce Tensions” (International Herald Tribune). Moreover the children of Ammon passed over Jordan to fight also against Judah, and against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim; so that Israel was sore distressed. We have ascended for an overall view of Jerusalem.

“CAIRO.” The children of Israel cried unto the Lord, saying, We have sinned against thee, because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim. The golden dome of the Church of the Dome gleams yellow in the sun. “Beginning his pilgrimage to retrace the steps of Moses, the Pope arrived today in Egypt seeking to use ancient biblical symbols to reduce modern religious tensions.” And the Lord said unto the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines? Above us, the mountain rises gently to a grey dome, site of the Crucifixion. “John Paul II paid back-to-back calls on Patriarch Shenudah III, the Orthodox Coptic leader, and Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar and Egypt’s leading Islamic authority.” And ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their land, yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Down in the valley, below the wall of the Old City, rising on the opposite side, is the Mount of Olives. “He is the first pope ever to visit Egypt.”

The air is fresh, the weather crisp. Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah. “As President Hosni Mubarak escorted the pontiff, 79, down a red carpet at the airport, a band welcomed him with the triumphal march from Verdi’s ‘Aida,’ an opera set in Egypt.” The sky is clear. And Gilead’s wife bare him sons; and his wife’s sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father’s house; for thou art the son of a strange woman. “Using the Arabic phrase for ‘peace be with you’ in an airport speech, the Pope stressed the need for tolerance.” Puffy white clouds serenely drift overhead. Then Jephthah fled from his brethren and dwelt in the land of Tob: and there were gathered vain men to Jephthah, and went out with him. “‘To do harm, to promote violence and conflict in the name of religion is a terrible contradiction and offense against God,’ the Pope warned.” Farther up the hill begin a few high-rise buildings. And it came to pass in the process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel. “‘We must all work instead to strengthen the growing commitment to inter-religious dialogue.’” Three of them still under construction. “‘A great sign of hope for the peoples of the world.’”

And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob; and they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon. And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father’s house and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress? From here we proceed on past the Mount of Olives, viewing its churches and its Jewish Cemetery. “Egypt’s reputation for pluralism has been tested recently by outbreaks of violence between Christians and Muslims, most notably clashes over the New Year between Muslims and Copt Orthodox Christians in Kosheh, a village in Southern Egypt, which left ninteen Christians and two Muslims dead.”

And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Therefore we turn again to thee now, that thou mayest go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead. Thence to the Tower of Herod, with its carefully mortised stones. “During his welcoming address, Mr. Mubarak reminded the Pope that Jesus Christ sought refuge from Herod’s persecution in Egypt and stressed his country’s record of religious tolerance.” And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the Lord deliver them before me, shall I be your head? We continue on down through narrow alleyways. “‘Your voice on these issues is of enormous value,’ he told the Pope.” And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The Lord be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words. Past “Moses Restaurant.” “The Pope had separate meetings with the Coptic and Muslim leaders, and at both events he was warmly received by his religious counterparts.” Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them: and Jephthah uttered all his words before the Lord in Mizpeh. On to the Christian Quarter. “He told Shenudah III, the leader of the largest Christian minority in Egypt, that he considered Egypt a ‘holy land,’ and added, ‘I feel at home here.’”

And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king of the children of Ammon, saying, What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me to fight in my land? And the king of the children of Ammon answered unto the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and unto Jordan: now therefore restore those lands again peaceably.

At last we arrive at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. “When he traveled to the residence of Imam Tantawi at the Al Azhar university complex, dozens of Muslim clerics crowded around him, eager to shake his hand.” And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon: And said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon: But when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the Red sea, and came to Kadesh, then Israel sent messengers unto the king of Edom, saying, Let me, I pray thee, pass through thy land: but the king of Edom would not hearken thereto. And in like manner they sent unto the king of Moab; but he would not consent: and Israel abode in Kadesh.

“After a private meeting, the two religious leaders sat side by side at a conference table.” We mount its narrow stair to the site of the Crucifixion. Then they went along through the wilderness, and compassed the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, and came by the east side of the land of Moab, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, but came not within the border of Moab: for Arnon was the border of Moab.

We progress through the final stages of the Via Dolorosa. “Sheikh Tantawi told the Pope, ‘We are very happy you are so close to the Palestinian people,’ an apparent reference to a treaty the Vatican signed last week with the PLO that angered Israel.” And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon; and Israel said unto him, Let us pass, we pray thee, through thy land into my place. But Sihon trusted not Israel to pass through his coast: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and pitched in Jahaz, and fought against Israel.

We arrive, in the Greek Orthodox section of the church, at a cutout figure of Christ, his loins swathed in gold, his head in a spiky gold halo. “The sheikh announced he would travel to Rome next fall to return the papal visit.”

And the Lord God of Israel delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they smote them: so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country. And they possessed all the coasts of the Amorites, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and from the wilderness even unto Jordan. Descending again into the Romanesque Crusaders Church, we examine mosaic representations of Christ being taken down from the cross, two nails still in his feet. They led him into their ancient monastery and made him welcome, up to a point (BBC News).

So now the Lord God of Israel hath disposed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it? Being bathed. He wants closer relations between the Vatican and the Orthodox, but they prefer to keep their distance.

Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess? Being rewound in his winding sheet. The Pope’s prayers alone won’t be enough to heal the split. Being placed head first into the rock-cut grave.

So whomsoever the Lord our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess. We complete our tour in the Chapel of the Skull of Adam. And now art thou any thing better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Which communicates above, through a fissure in the rock caused by the earthquake that occurred at the moment of crucifixion. Did he ever strive against Israel, or did he ever fight against them? With the blood of Christ. While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns, and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years? Why therefore did ye not recover them within that time?

The Pope was showing the strain, struggling to speak, but called again for unity between the churches, between countries and between faiths. We glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel. But that’s still a difficult message in the Middle East. Wherefore I have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war against me: Thankfully we enter into the courtyard again. The Lord the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon.

So the Pope has fulfilled his dream by coming here to Mount Sinai, for believers one of the places where it all begins. Having recapitulated in reverse order the stations of the Via Dolorosa, we arrive at last at the tunnel and enter through it into the space before the Wailing Wall, for the Jewish people the meeting place between God and Man. Under a full sun we cross the sloping square to observe black-hatted, black-suited Hasidic practitioners as they stand before tables atop which Bibles have been piled on purple cloths. He has been treading carefully on this trip, for next month he goes to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Ordinary Jews, wearing skullcaps, place their hands on the stones, men and women standing to pray at different sections of the Wall. And that will be a religious and political minefield.

Standing with our backs toward the exit from the square, we note at one corner the golden Dome of the Rock, atop it a golden ring supplied by King Hussein of Jordan before his death, at the other, six-pointed Stars of David, accompanied by six eternal flames to commemorate the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. But here today there was a moment of harmony, and, for the Pope, of pure joy, though every step was labored. We mount to a level slightly below the golden dome, the site from which Mohammed is said to have ascended into Heaven. Today he walked in the path of Moses. Higher and higher we mount, to enter the Jewish Quarter.

In our meanderings through Jerusalem we manage throughout the afternoon to visit most of the significant sights of this Holy City, including the Tomb of David, covered in a red cloth, adorned with the six-pointed, double delta, one directed toward Heaven, the other toward Hell, along with an embroidered representation of his harp. Palestinian students at Bir Zeit University pelted French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin with stones yesterday for his characterization of Hezbollah attacks on Israel as “terrorist” actions (Ha’aretz). Above this room we visit the scene of The Last Supper. The violent protest at the West Bank university sent the French leader scurrying for cover in a Mercedes that had been provided for him by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and led Jospin to cancel a planned trip to the Khan Yunis refugee camp in Gaza.

Le Premier ministre Lionel Jospin a affirmé hier devant les députés à Paris que « la France n’a pas été humiliée » quand il avait été « caillasé » samedi à Bir Zeit par des manifestants palestiniens (Le Monde). We view the western wall from within and from without. « La France n’as pas été humiliée, parce que je me suis comporté de façon digne face à la violence », a déclaré M. Jospin. We study the monuments of the Old City, the Burnt House of the Jewish Quarter. We examine the confluence of Roman, Byzantine, Crusader and other constructions. Also canceled were plans for him to visit a Red Crescent building, where he was to have had a rooftop view of Jewish settlements in Gush Katif and listen to Palestinian arguments that the settlements should not be left intact under a permanent agreement with Israel.

When we have finished with Jerusalem, we follow on to Bethlehem, to examine the scene of Christ’s Nativity in the space of a Greek Orthodox church, bordered by a Roman Catholic church. Arafat apologized for the students’ attack and ordered an inquiry into the incident. We return to Jerusalem to locate the site where Mary “slept,” the Dormitorium, euphemism for her death-place. It is she, we are told by our Jewish guide, who unites the Mortal with the Divine. It is Christ, her Son, who propagates the Word throughout the Universe.


An account of the early history of the Jews, their origin, their exodus from Egypt, the extent of their wanderings, their subsequent conquests, and their removal from Israel would, I think, be out of place here, and in any case unnecessary; for many Jews before me have accurately recorded the doings of our ancestors, and their accounts have been translated into Greek with very few mistakes. (Josephus, The Jewish Wars, “Preface.”)


Second day. Antiochus. Rainy departure for Masada. Eager to avenge his defeat at Simon’s hands. Sunday morning, 8:00 am, Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. Marched into Judea. Israeli soldiers arriving after the Sabbath to return to their posts. Pitching his camp before Jerusalem, he besieged Hyrcanus. All are in military uniform but are bearing civilian backpacks, their rifles slung from shoulder to mid-calf. Hyrcanus opened the tomb of David, the wealthiest of kings. Eighteen-year-old boys, eighteen-year-old girls, they arrive in family cars, in taxis, descend from city buses to walk across the lot, where they wait for military convoys to load. And removed more than 3,000 talents. There is not much joking. With a tenth of this sum he bribed Antiochus to raise the siege. They know where they are going, they know what they are doing. With the balance he did what no Jew had ever done before. They are neither happy nor unhappy about it. He maintained a body of mercenaries. They are doing their duty. (Josephus, “Herod’s Predecessors.”)

As we exit Tel Aviv under Moses Bridge, the sun breaks forth from behind a cloud onto the fertile plain. To explain the origin and worth. We pass an ad for “I.D. Design,” yellow lettering on a red ground. The very essence and nature of Christ. The guide enunciates for us the day’s itinerary. No language could be adequate. Once more we will follow the direct route from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, climbing once more the mountains to reach the city, whence we continue, descending, by another direct route, to the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth. At Masada, our guide tells us, we will reach the ancient fortress by cable car, after which we will visit the Spa called Ein Gedi, where it is possible to bathe in the Dead Sea. There, he adds, you will also have access to facilities such as indoor sulfur pools, containers with black mud, which you may cover yourself with, and so forth. Most of the day will be spent, he informs us, in the “Judean Desert.”

Having predicted the future, he returns to the present. The Holy Spirit Himself says in prophecy: Once again, in the narrative, we are leaving the plain behind to approach the mountains of Samarea Judea. “His generation who shall declare?” Again he reverts to the future: Soon we will be approaching Jerusalem and then descending into the valley. “For no one has known the Father, except the Son.” Through a windshield spotted with rain, the horizon begins to clear. “Nor again has anyone ever fully known the Son, except only the Father who begot Him.” Our driver today is David, we are told, our guide Alberto. (Eusebius, The History of the Church.) Oil refineries have sprouted up on this otherwise agricultural plain. The roadway is bordered with tall crosses bearing electric lines.


Having picked up “the people of Jerusalem,” as our guide calls them, twenty more tourists, we begin our descent at the city’s outskirts. We are taking the highway to Jordan, “the road that gives Israel access to the Arab world.” From East Jerusalem we are heading in the direction of the Afro-Syrian depression, a geographical feature connecting the Middle East with the continent to the south. We are passing through that part of Israel which must revert to Palestine, according to current agreements, when the new state is established. As for the Light that existed before the world. We are passing Bethany, where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. The intellectual and essential Wisdom that was before time itself. Off the right shoulder a boy in a blue windbreaker, stick in hand, herds sheep along the narrow path between modern highway and cliff. The living Word that in the beginning was with the Father and was God. The garage doors of Bethany. Who but the Father could clearly conceive of Him? Are rather gaudily decked out in cerulean blue, citron, maroon.

We are skirting the eastern side of the Mount of Olives, viewing the modern tower that commemorates the Ascension of Christ. Before anything was created and fashioned. We are passing the West Bank settlement, our guide informs us, of Ma’aleh Adumim, and its 26,000 residents. Visible or invisible. We have entered into the desert, he says, though vegetation still persists, including recently planted trees, deciduous as well as coniferous. Soon, he tells us, we will encounter Bedouins. He was the first and only begotten of God. Two surveyors stand at work, on either side of the highway. The commander-in-chief of the spiritual and immortal host of heaven. Christian hermits also inhabit these mountains, living in caves, grottos, churches. Though we have not yet seen a Bedouin, we do see a dump truck heading for an Israeli settlement.

At last we encounter our first Bedouin camp, its makeshift tent stretched across a corrugated metal frame. The angel of mighty counsel. A Bedouin camel stands proudly by the roadside. The agent of the ineffable purpose of the Father.

On the hill before us, a sign announces, perches the “Inn of the Samaritan.” The fashioner, with the Father, of all things. The coloration of the landscape has changed to sandy brown and suave green. The second cause, after the Father, of the Universe. We pass another Jewish settlement perched atop a hill. The Child of God. The ground cover has markedly decreased. True and only begotten. The riverbeds are utterly dry. Of all begotten the Lord and God and King, who has received from the Father lordship and dominion, godhead, power, and honor.” Ahead, beside a sign indicating “Sea Level,” stands another camel. To His divinity the Scriptures bear mystic witness. There remain 1300 meters to descend, our guide informs us. On our left we gaze out toward Jericho over a plain inhabited continuously for 10,000 years. At last, on our right, opens up a view of the Dead Sea: In the beginning was the Word. Pale blue. And the word was with God. A darker blue toward the shore. And the Word was God. Ahead we can see The River Jordan. All things came into being through Him. As it finishes its course from The Sea of Galilee, to the north. And apart from Him came into being not one thing. The river, our guide informs us, was the site of Christ’s Baptism by John the Baptist.

Within half an hour we have reached Qumran, site of The Dead Sea Scrolls, “where they were written, hidden and rediscovered.” From here we skirt the shore of the Dead Sea for miles and miles and miles. We are heading in the direction of Mount Masada, site of the Jewish rebellion against a Roman rule “which eventuated in the suicide of Israel.” Masada, the Fortress, was also “the kingdom in exile of Herod,” who fortified it so that he could live for a dozen years without supplies from the outside world. We have taken the turn-off and approach the mesa-like mountain. We will ascend by cable car to the ruined palace atop it.

At this period Antony was living near Athens, and Ventidius sent for Silo and Herod to take part in the Parthian war, instructing them first to settle the problem of Judaea. View from cable car station of path winding up mountainside. Herod was delighted to send Silo to Ventidius, while he himself took the field against the bandits in the caves. The cable car descends to meet us, its large spools turning on the cables. These caves opened on to almost vertical slopes and could not be reached from any direction except by winding, steep, and very narrow paths. Slowly the car glides to a stop on a platform contained by grey wire mesh. The cliff in front reaches right down into ravines of immense depth, which drop straight into the torrent-bed. Author enters the car and stations himself beside the operator’s stand. Atop it, along with a Hebrew newspaper, sits a to author also unintelligible Hebrew book, which, from the European book’s perspective, reads from back to front.

So for a long time the king was defeated by the appalling difficulty of the ground, finally resorting to a plan fraught with the utmost danger. The operator pushes a button, and we are off. He lowered the toughest of his soldiers in cradles till they reached the mouths of the caves. We soar over a valley in the direction of a sheer cliff. Who then slaughtered the bandits with their families, throwing firebrands at those who proved awkward. In view of ascending and descending pedestrians. Wishing to save some of them, Herod invited them to come up to him. Who wind their hardy way along a narrow switchback path. Not a man voluntarily surrendered, and of those who were brought out forcibly many preferred death to captivity.

One old man, father of seven children, was begged by the children and their mother to let them come out, as their lives were guaranteed. His response was terrible. One by one he ordered them to come out, while he stood at the cave-mouth and killed each son as he emerged. Herod, in a good position to watch, was cut to the heart, and stretched out his hand to the old man, begging him to spare his children; but he, treating the suggestion with contempt, went so far as to sneer at Herod for his lack of guts, and after disposing of the last of his sons and killing his wife too, flung their bodies down the precipice and finally leapt over the edge himself.

As another cable car begins its descent, a flock of eight large birds flies by in silhouette against a pearly cloud. We approach the mountainside, which is strewn with rubble. Quickly the car passes us. Having immortalized his family and friends, he did not neglect to make his own memory secure. We look out over a plain that is streaked, dappled, multi-colored: dark beige boulders, broken slabs in off-white, white run-off rocks. Suddenly we skirt the mountainside itself, our course now following closely the steps of the path beneath us, which levels into a semicircular trail, then resumes its upward course in a steeper ascent. He built a fortress in the hills facing Arabia and, after himself, called it Herodium (seven miles from Jerusalem he gave the same name to an artificial hill, the shape of a woman’s breast, adorning it more elaborately than the other). We accelerate, as we move toward our destination, an orange landing pad, upon which another yellow car awaits its descent. He encircled the top with round towers, filling the enclosed space with a palace so magnificent that in addition to the splendid appearance of the interior of the apartments the outer walls, copings and roofs had wealth lavished on them without stint. A noisy crowd of passengers prepares to debark, excited by the prospect of arrival. At very heavy cost he brought in an unlimited supply of water from a distance, and furnished the ascent with 200 steps of the whitest marble. We jolt into our berth and are out at once onto the concrete platform, from which we view the cable station below.

The mound was of considerable height, though entirely artificial. Thence over the broad salt flats to the shore of the Dead Sea, now reading turquoise under clearing skies. Around the base he built other royal apartments to accommodate his furniture and friends. On its far shore, the mountains are absorbed in a blue haze. So that in its completeness the stronghold was a town, in its compactness a palace.


A bird flies past and joins its solitary mate, then veers upward toward the ramparts, its mate settling into a grotto eroded into the cliff. Of Herod’s five children by Mariamme two were girls and three boys. Half the sky quickly clouds over to block the sun from view. The youngest of the boys died while at school in Rome. A cool breeze quickens, rippling through flags on the summit. The two eldest he brought up in royal style on account of their mother’s noble birth and because he was king when they were born. The electric motor hums, as another car but recently arrived begins its descent. A more compelling reason was his passionate love of Mariamme, which every day consumed him more fiercely. Its motion causes the deck to vibrate. Blinding him to the calamities that his beloved was bringing upon him. Two eerie condors arrive from above. For Mariamme hated him as passionately as he loved her. Another cable car arrives from below, its various wheels turning on several cables.

She had good reason to be revolted by his actions and could speak freely because of her hold upon him, so she openly took him to task on account of what he had done to her grandfather Hyrcanus and her brother Jonathan. This group of tourists exits more quietly, full of awe at the prospect. For he had not spared him, even him, child as he was. Far below, in the broadening landscape, we now make out a canal, beside it a thin strip of highway. Herod had given him the high priesthood in his seventeenth year and after bestowing the honor had immediately executed him. Back and forth along it move speck-like automobiles. Because, when he put on the sacred vestments and approached the altar during a feast, the whole crowd had burst into tears. The sun re-emerges from behind the broadly clouded sky, re-illuminating the surface of the sea, whose shore is embroidered with a border of white sand. The boy was therefore sent at night to Jericho, where, by Herod’s command, the Gauls took him to a swimming pool and drowned him. Under the sunny sky its middle waters have turned deep blue, its coastal shallows green.

Unlike the grey, tan and beige of the plains, with their sugary frosting of salt, the cliffs themselves are caramel. These were the things for which Mariamme took Herod to task. Like the plains beneath them, no vegetation clings to their surface. Turning her attention to his mother and sister, she next heaped abuse upon them as well. Herod was muzzled by his infatuation, but the women were furious, who, knowing it the most likely way of rousing Herod, conceived to bring against her the baseless charge of adultery. We emerge through the breach in a wall of the ramparts to a panoramic view of the palace in ruins. Among much false evidence concocted to convince him, they accused her of sending a portrait of herself to Antony in Egypt, and in her over-mastering licentiousness of having exposed herself, in spite of the distance, to a man who was woman-mad and able to get his way by force. “Generations go by but Masada remains,” says our guide, quoting a famous source. Herod was thunder-struck; in his passionate love, tormented by jealousy, he nonetheless recalled the terrible skill with which Cleopatra had disposed of King Litanies and the Arab Malchus. He knew he was in danger of losing not only his queen but his own life.


We begin another climb to an even higher vantage point, from which we look down onto the floor of the palace, where a red-and-white Kawasaki maintenance truck is parked. With no roadway leading upward, it is somewhat mysterious how it has reached this elevation. On an adjacent terrace a green-shirted, grey-haired maintenance man mixes water with cement.

So, as he was bound for foreign parts, Herod put Mariamme in the care of Joseph, husband of his sister Salome, a trustworthy man, loyal because of their kinship, giving him secret instructions to kill her if Antony killed Herod himself. Joseph, with no evil intention but simply to prove to her how passionately the king loved her, as he could not bear that even death should part them, disclosed the secret. On his return Herod, during intercourse, protested with many oaths his devotion to her, the only woman he had ever loved. “And a nice way,” she exclaimed, “to show your love for me — giving Joseph instructions to kill me!” When he learnt that the secret was out, Herod was frantic and declared that Joseph would never have revealed his instructions unless he had seduced her. Blind with rage, he leapt from the bed and rushed wildly about the palace. This opportunity for slander his sister Salome seized with both hands, assuring him that his suspicion of Joseph was true. Driven mad by uncontrollable jealousy he ordered the instant execution of them both.

Under a pavilion, a model of the palace during its most extensive phase has been fashioned out of lead. The total structure measures 300 by 600 meters. “The height of the massif on which it sits brings us nearly up to sea level,” says our guide, who has begun his account of Herod, the first king to glorify the mountaintop. Rage, however, quickly gave way to remorse, and as anger died down love was rekindled. So hot was the flame of his desire that he could not believe her dead, but in his sickness of mind talked to her as if still alive, until time revealed to him the terrible truth and filled his heart with grief as passionate as his love had been while she lived.


The most famous episode in the history of the fortress took eight years altogether: five years of fortification without attack, three years of being besieged.


The mother bequeathed her bitterness to her sons, who, aware of the blood on their father’s hands, viewed him as an enemy, first at the time of their schooling in Rome, later, and more so, when they returned to Judaea. Considerable reconstruction of the palace has been undertaken. As they approached manhood this feeling grew steadily stronger; and when they reached an age to marry, and one (Aristobolus) wedded the daughter of his aunt Salome, the accuser of their mother, and the other (Alexander) the daughter of King Archelaus of Cappadocia (Glaphyra), they made no further attempt to conceal their hatred. Archaeologists have painted a black line along the wall to indicate the height of their original finds. This boldness gave slanderers their chance, who now more openly suggested to the king that both sons were plotting against him, that the son-in-law of Archelaus, relying on his father-in-law, was getting ready to flee in order to accuse his father before Caesar. Stuffed with these slanders, Herod, as a bulwark against his other sons, recalled his son by Doris, Antipater, and began in every way to show him preference.

We begin the tour proper at the northern end of the palace, with its enormous storerooms, required for survival by Herod’s appetite for security. A visually unidentifiable aircraft makes its presence felt by sound alone. The green-jacketed maintenance man has fastened on a black and white overstock and tethered his locks in a kerchief.


The new attitude was more than the two sons could stomach: when they saw the commoner’s son promoted, pride in their own birth made their anger uncontrollable, and every new annoyance called forth an outburst of wrath. We turn back from our starting point to examine the commandant’s quarters. As a result they provoked increasing hostility, while Antipater was now winning favor by his own efforts. In this totally arid environment, Herod arranged for the palace to be equipped with swimming pools, saunas, a supply of fresh drinking water. He was very clever at flattering his father and concocted a variety of slanders against his brothers, putting some of them into circulation himself and getting his close friends to broadcast others, till he destroyed any chance of his brothers’ ascending the throne. “Visitors to Masada in ancient times,” our guide comments, “reached the summit from the East, just as we do today. After climbing up the snake path, they too made their way to the southeastern entrance of the northern palace. Here they reached the planned compound, containing two buildings with an entranceway in between.” Both in his will and by his public actions Herod declared Antipater to be the heir, who was sent in royal state to Caesar, with the robes and all the other trappings except the crown. In time he was able to bring back his mother to Mariamme’s bed. “The rooms of the buildings were richly decorated, some with wall paintings that depicted scenes of erotic passion.” By employing two weapons against his brother, flattery and slander, he cleverly coaxed Herod into contemplating the execution of his sons.

“The commandant’s palace has been replastered and repainted with fragmentary frescos to indicate its grandeur of design.” Alexander was dragged by his father to Rome to be charged before Caesar with an attempt to poison him. As we stand at the entrance to the commandant’s headquarters, we realize that from this point one could control the traffic of visitors to the palace and oversee the unloading of goods to the storerooms.” Having at last a chance to bring his grievances into the open before a judge more experienced than Antipater and better balanced than Herod, the accused kept a respectful silence about his father’s faults, but vigorously combated the imputations against himself. We exit into a narrow passageway and out into a larger one. Having next made it clear that his brother and companion in danger was as innocent as he was, he went on to denounce the villainy of Antipater and the wrong done to his brother and himself. The long and wide alleyway in which we stand, its original plaster reconstructed, is one of the great storerooms, five to either side of the commandant’s office.

In an otherwise clearing sky, the sun is still hidden by a patch of cloud. In all this he was aided not only by a clear conscience but by the vigor of his oratory. The second parallel storeroom has been left in the state in which it was found: the stones of either wall caved in. We continue down through yet another storeroom, one of several in a rank.

Declaring as his peroration that his father was free to put them both to death if he was satisfied that the accusation was true, he reduced the whole court to tears, and so moved Caesar that he dismissed the charges and effected an immediate reconciliation, on the understanding that the sons should obey their father in everything and that he should be free to choose his successor. The king then took his leave of Rome, to all appearance abandoning the charges against his sons, but still retaining his suspicions; for he was accompanied by Antipater, who had inspired his hate, but dared not openly reveal his enmity through respect for the reconciler. As he skirted Cilicia, Herod landed at Eleusa and was hospitably entertained by Archelaus, who expressed delight at his son-in-law’s acquittal and the greatest satisfaction at the reconciliation: he had previously written to his friends in Rome to stand by Alexander at his trial. He escorted Herod to Zephyrium and gave him presents to the value of thirty talents.

We ascend the stairway of the northern palace, one of many that Herod had caused to be constructed on the site. Archaeological work is now in progress. We climb yet higher to the northern palace’s “villa.” On this upper terrace a metal scaffolding has been erected for an electrically operated pulley-crane. From this perspective we look down onto the plain again to discern the eight squares of the Roman army camps erected for the siege of Masada. Back in Jerusalem, Herod assembled the citizens and presented his three sons, expressing his deep gratitude to God and to Caesar for having set his troubled household to rights and bestowing on his sons something more precious than the throne — which is to say, concord. On a wooden easel, stapled behind a piece of plastic, a photograph shows Bill Clinton and his family at Masada, “initiating conservation efforts to save the northern palace.” “That concord,” he continued, “I shall myself knit together. “This is amazing,” the President is quoted as having said, “so important for humanity.” “Caesar made me lord of the realm and judge of the succession, and while acting in my own interest I shall requite his kindness.” Of his visit: “I could do this for twenty-four hours.” “I proclaim these three sons of mine kings, and call first on God, then on you, to confirm my decision.” “Incredible!” “The succession belongs to the one by priority of his birth, to the others by their noble parentage: my kingdom is big enough for more than three.”

We mount a semicircular stage to look out through a vista of 180 degrees, down toward the canal again and on to the Dead Sea, whose farther shore has been obliterated by haze; mountains, rising through the distant mist, seem to approach us. “Those whom Caesar has joined together and whom their father nominates you must defend, honoring them justly and equally, but each according to his birthright.” At the end of the semicircle, a plaque, entirely in Hebrew, explains the details of the cliff opposite us, atop which is situated another Roman castrum. “To pay one more respect than his age entitles him to would give less pleasure to him than annoyance to the one neglected.” Clouds begin to encroach upon the plain, casting their shadows mysteriously against the flatter stretches of the mountain’s face.

We stand now in a palace built for Herod, himself alone, its stage representing his bedroom windows. “The Counselors and Gentlemen of the Household who are to attend each king I myself shall choose,” he told his Roman audience, “appointing them securities for the preservation of concord.” Herod, our guide informs us, was known to rehearse his speeches meticulously, in the privacy of his own quarters. “I am well aware that division and rivalries are engendered by the malignity of the companions of princes.” Occasionally he would ask his confidants to add rhetorical flourishes. “But if companions are good men, they encourage feelings of affection.”

We have left the palace, the cloud patterns shifting with us as we go. To the west the mountains have taken on a deeper coloration, as wispy cirrus and scumbled stratocumulus float above them. “I must insist, however, that not only these officials but also the officers in my army place their hopes for the present in me alone: it is not kingship, but the honor due to kingship that I am bestowing on my sons.” The central dome of heaven, however, has largely cleared. “The sweets of power they will enjoy, but the burden of responsibility is mine, however unwelcome.” Allowing the sun to warm us on this cold day. “Let each of you consider my age, my way of life and my piety. I am not so old that an early end is in sight.” Summer temperatures here often reach 48 degrees centigrade. “I am not given to that self-indulgence which cuts men off while still in their prime.” The orthodox Jews, the Zealots, built a synagogue on this site. “I have served the Almighty with such devotion that I may hope for a very long life.”


We move now to enter its precinct. “So any man who puts himself at the service of my sons in order to bring me down I shall punish for their sakes too: it is not meanness towards my own children that makes me limit the reverence to be paid them.” “It is one of the few synagogues in Israel from the time of the Second Temple,” says our guide. “It is the knowledge that to the young, adulation is a temptation to presumption.” Its columns have been replastered. “If everyone who comes into contact with these young men upholds what is right, I shall reward him, but if he promotes division, not even the man he is serving will give him any recompense for his malice.” Its seating arrangements restored. “Everyone, I think, will be loyal to me — and that means to my sons as well; for it is in their interest that I should be on the throne, and in mine that their concord should be unbroken.” Under the floor of one of its chambers,” a plaque tells us, “scrolls were discovered representing a version of Jeremiah.”

The sun is pleasantly warming. Another piece of road machinery stands in this little courtyard. Turning left we have mounted through an aperture, over natural stones, to consider the casement wall, from which the Roman siege was observed. “It is at this point that the Romans industriously built the ramp that eventually enabled them to conquer Masada,” says our guide. “You, my good sons, turn your thoughts first to the sacred laws of nature, which keep even beasts in the bonds of affection; then to Caesar, who brought about our reconciliation; and lastly to me, who entreat when I might command — and continue as brothers.” The sun has reached its early March zenith. “I give you henceforth the robes and attendants of kings; and I pray that God will maintain my settlement, if your concord remains.”

So saying he gave each of his sons an affectionate embrace and dismissed the people, some of whom said Amen to his prayer. Some, who wanted a change, however, pretended that they had not even heard it.


Using Jewish slaves, the Romans slowly but surely accumulated the ramp and then pushed up its course huge towers to shield themselves in their assault of the fortress. Once more we pursue a sandy path that takes us along the fortresses’ perimeter. To our left we view the Dead Sea again. To our right only the tops of the cliffs are visible above the casement wall. We pass uncommentated the Columbarium Tower, later altered by the Byzantines into a honeycomb design. At the northwest corner, beside the terminal for the pulley that brings building materials up to the fortress, the green-shirted man is helping to unload a huge canvas sack.

The brothers, however, did not leave their divisions behind but parted still more suspicious of each other. Back in the central courtyard we stand before two enormous circular stones, discovered by archaeologists and originally used as cannonade against the attacking Romans. With unceasing concern for detail Josephus continues his narrative in Chapter 5: “Herod’s Murder of his Heir.”During the fifth century, Masada was inhabited by hermits, who built a Christian church here.” In which he concludes with a meticulous account of Herod’s own Death. We return to that point in the ramparts where the Romans broke through to gaze down upon the ramp now eroded by the course of 2000 years. (“The sickness spread through his entire body,” he reports, “accompanied by a variety of painful symptoms . . . unbearable itching all over his body . . . constant pains in the lower bowel . . . swellings on the feet as in dropsy, inflammation of the abdomen . . . mortification of the genitals, etc.”) How mighty and determined had been the original effort!


Then Gilgamesh, like a butcher. Full of such thoughts we cross the plaza again to the Byzantine church. Heroic and ferocious. Its wooden lintel still extant in one of its walls, a mosaic still legible on its floor. Plunged his sword in between the base of the horns and the neck tendons. Deeply incised Hebrew and Arabic graffiti mark the walls of the apse. When they had struck down the Bull of Heaven. We zigzag back across the plaza, observing scars on the cliffs etched by modern means. They pulled out its innards. The western palace stands now under a bright sun. Then backed away. We glance down into a gargantuan water system. To prostrate themselves before Shamash. Inside its entrance court is displayed a plan of the palace, with its fifty or sixty rooms, many of whose walls are now decayed or fallen.

At last we arrive at the most secret of Herod’s palaces, filled with artisan shops, completely independent of the rest of the complex. The two brothers sat down. Here the remaining mosaic floor once served as the base of three saunas, one for the general public, one for Herod’s family, one for himself. Ishtar went up to the wall of Uruk the Sheepfold. The greatest of these includes not only a caldarium and frigorium but also an intermediate tepidarium. Her face contorted with rage. We exit into a courtyard and gaze down upon a bathing pool. She hurled down curses. Having reached the end of our tour, resting on a wooden bench we come upon a yellow telephone, atop it, a black receiver. “That man Gilgamesh, who reviled me,” she cried. On our redescent to the cable car, we pass a final rock-cut graffito: “Eva, 1999,” it reads. “Has killed the Bull of Heaven.”


Jaffa outing. And Samuel died. Via Bus #10 from Tel Aviv. And the Israelites gathered together to lament him. Past store with the single word “Bread” in black on white. And buried him in the house at Ramah. Past “Israeli Discount Bank” in green on white. Past “Change” in red on grey. Past “Café Verde” in white on green. We are heading up Rehov Ben-Yehuda in direction of the famous port. Past “Noah Hostel” in red on white. Past “Knigi” in Cyrillic letters, yellow on green. Past “Round the World Travel” in blue on white.

At Rehov Allenby we turn toward the sea and continue on past “Strip Show” (black on red), “Miami Hotel” (white and turquoise tiles). Counterclockwise we head around a fountain, its waters, in the wind, splashing off their surface. At last the beach emerges into view. For a stretch, as we continue in the direction of Jaffa, the beachside properties degenerate in value. As we turn back inland, a baby blue Volkswagen approaches us from the opposite direction. “Underground Tattoo,” says a graffito on a pink wall. And David arose, and went down to the wilderness of Paran. Again we turn to resume our original direction; before us, as the highway bends, looms tall “David Continental.”

And there was a man in Maon, whose possessions were in Carmel; and the man was very great, and he had three thousand sheep, and a thousand goats. And he was shearing his sheep in Carmel. Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb.

We have paused alongside a bus yard to change drivers. And David heard in the wilderness that Nabal did shear his sheep. In a park before another hotel concrete tables have been anchored in the ground and surrounded by permanent chairs, all their surfaces painted red. And David sent out ten young men, and said unto them, Get on up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name. From this practical plaza we recommence our journey. And thus shall ye say to him that liveth in prosperity, Peace be to thee and to thine house, and peace be unto all that thou hast. We turn right, then left, to reenter the beach road. I have heard that thou hast shearers. “Dan Panorama” looms before us. Now thy shepherds which were with us, we hurt them not, neither was there ought missing unto them, all the while they were in Carmel. Property values begin to rise again. Ask thy young men, and they will shew thee. Only to fall precipitously. Wherefore let the young men find favor in thine eyes. As the scene turns industrial. For we come in a good day. Within minutes we have arrived at the outskirts of Jaffa. Give, I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thine hand unto thy servants, and to thy son David. Half a mile beyond the Old Town’s graceful tower the bus stops.

And when David’s young men came, they spake to Nabal the name of David, and ceased. And Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, Who is David? And who is the son of Jesse? There be many servants nowadays that break away every man from his master. Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?

Rather than mount the hill that leads to a promontory over the sea, we turn about to descend toward what appears to be the center of town. The root of the fear of the Lord is when a man desires something and yet he gives up the pleasure for which his evil inclination craves because he fears the Lord (Eleazar ben Judah of Worms). Two rather rough types hunch together in the arched entranceway to a hookah shop. It is not that he fears punishment in this world or the next but he is afraid that he may not be perfect before God whom he loves. Along with a third, a girl, they now exit to linger beside a car, on whose back windshield reads a message in red letters: “No Fear.” When a good deed presents itself to him and he finds it very difficult to perform, he still performs it. Author crosses the street to examine a stairwell in which there has been a fire. As did Abraham when he bound his son on the altar. We continue on back down the hill. As it is written: Past a shop for “Showarma Falafel.” “For now I know that thou are a God-fearing man.” On whose sign is depicted. “Now I know?” Against a black ground. Surely He knew it before the world was created. A golden bowl. The meaning is: I shall not test you any further. In quick succession we pass a pastry shop, a jewelry store, a shop showing tall rubber boots. For since you have done this thing it is known by it that your heart is whole in all that I command you. In brown, maroon and black. I do not have to test you any further since, if you were ready to do this, all else is included.

By a circular route we re-arrive at the town square, actually an ellipse dominated by a pure, neo-classical tower. And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. We proceed on inland, past furniture stores showing outsized antiques, used modern chairs, newer merchandise of lesser quality. And they girded on every man his sword. The Hebrews are not a youthful people, but are respected by all men for their antiquity and are known to all (Eusebius). And David also girded on his sword. The neighborhood is fairly run-down. The spoken and written records of this people embrace men of a very early age, scarce and few in number, but at the same time outstanding in religious devotion, righteousness, and all other virtues. And there went up after David about four hundred men. In an antique shop a bronze maiden, naked, seated on a bench, holds her breasts with one hand. And two hundred abode by the stuff. Beside her stands a cupid, grasping a fish in either hand, a turtle perched on his foot. Some of these lived before the flood, others after it — some of Noah’s sons and descendants, but especially Abraham, whom the children of the Hebrews boast as their own founder and ancestor. We cross the street and head in the opposite direction, past a shop in whose open space sits a large oval table, set with old tableware and dishes, antiquated chairs drawn up about it.

But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, saying, Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to salute our master; and he railed on them. But the men were very good unto us, and we were not hurt, neither missed we any thing, as long as we were conversant with them, when we were in the fields: They were a wall unto us both by night and day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore know and consider what thou wilt do; for evil is determined against our master, and against all his household: for he is such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him.

In elaborate masonry, dating from a more elegant era, the old buildings of the quarter rise to four generous stories. All these, whose righteousness won them commendation, going back from Abraham himself to the first man, might be described as Christians in fact if not in name, without departing far from the truth. Their metal balconies are supported either by stone corbels or by more recently installed buttresses, whereby their imminent collapse had at some point been forestalled.

We pass an eating establishment called “Meaty Restaurant.” Then Abigail made haste, and took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and an hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on asses. In turn we are passed by a crowd of sixteen-year-old girls, dressed mostly in black and white. And she said unto her servants, Go on before me. They crowd the sidewalk, making it difficult to get by them. Behold, I come after you. It is obvious that they knew God’s Christ Himself. But she told not her husband Nabal. Since He appeared to Abraham, instructed Isaac, spoke to Israel, and conversed freely with Moses and the prophets. And it was so, that she came down by the covert of the hill on an ass, and, behold, David and his men came down against her; and she met them.

Having returned once more to the plaza, we traverse a side of the main street filled with deserted shops, then quickly enter a much fancier block, anchored by the richly appointed “Artisinale Moroccaine.” Over its door, in gold, a sign reads “Dorfes.” A decorative hand bears the Star of David. Within are costly antiques in ceramic, brass, tile, and inlaid wood. Now David had said, Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him. Crossing the street, we survey the shops along its side. “Police,” reads the sign on a station, whose confraternity also has taken the six-pointed star, this time enwreathed, as its emblem. And he hath requited me evil for good. Along this stretch of sidewalk we encounter yet more antique shops. Obviously we must regard the religion proclaimed in recent years to all nations through Christ’s teaching. Some at mid morning are open for business, some are not. As none other than the first, most ancient, and most primitive of all religions, discovered by Abraham and his followers, God’s beloved. “Cirous,” says one, in dark blue on lighter blue. So and more also do God unto the enemies of David. Through its window we glimpse two bronze lions surrounding two gilt-bronze horses, one with its rider dressed in a riding-cap and cape, one with a groom leading it by its bronze reins. If I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall. “American Burger,” read red letters outlined in black, set out on stanchions from a green ground. An adjacent sign depicts a crudely painted burger in “six deckers.” It is said to be “Kosher.” We pass two other restaurants, one Greek, one Arabic, turning at the corner to head shoreward. A middle-aged woman in long blond curls leans partly out the window of her purple sedan to regard author’s activity. We pass a mosque, followed by “Restaurant Hazan Brothers,” and head on up the hill. Four bus drivers on break are smoking cigarettes, seated on the sides of an hexagonal well in a square adjacent to the sea.

We continue our steep ascent along a sidewalk newly paved in stones to arrive at a set of three ancient cannons mounted on wooden bases. And when Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and fell at his feet, and said. From this higher elevation we view the ancient port, beyond which, Tel Aviv’s high-rise buildings. Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be. As we follow the crescent of the harbor we come upon a stone tower capped in a cone. And let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid. Beneath it is a model of “Old Jaffa,” the fortress as it stood at the middle of the nineteenth century, represented schematically before us in green, beige, black and white, all against the depicted blue of the sea. Let not my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he. The beige is for buildings already extant in 1840, the black, for those constructed by 1888 near the present remains of the wall.

Nabal is his name. Yellow indicates buildings outside the fortress. And folly is with him. Rouge, the wall itself. But I thine handmaid saw not the young men of my lord. Another display offers an abridged history of Old Jaffa. Whom thou didst send. Author pauses to absorb its salient details. A two-masted sloop, its sheets filled with wind, glides across the surface of the water. The city dates to 1800-1600 B.C., when a fortified settlement was established. In 1500-1450 Jaffa was conquered by the army of Pharaoh Tutmose III, an event attested at Karnak. Between 1200 and 1000 Israelites settled in its vicinity, as Joshua tells us. Circa 960 the Temple of Jerusalem was built, its celebrated cedars floated here from Lebanon. Author’s study is now interrupted by a group of voluble, japing American tourists.

Up more steps and we arrive at a modernized plaza. “Taj Mahal” announces an Indian restaurant, the shutters of its second story painted bright blue, “Van Gogh,” a disco opposite. From a narrow alleyway, reserved for viewing, we approach “Andromeda’s Rock.” Having crossed this long plaza, we descend by way of broad stone steps with shallow risers. On the side of a white building hangs a wood-famed picture of two white dolphins against a background of blue. Overhead a silver jet heads off toward Greece and Rome.

When we have reached the bottom of the steps, we face a decision: Which way to turn? Back up into the city, or down into the port? The port wins out.

Continuing our descent, we pass “Harel Printers and Publishers,” across from which, on a public wall, someone has painted a careful mural in representation of Elvis. We arrive at the foot of Andromeda Hill, above which rises in stages an impressive new building, its arches faced in handsomely cut stone. Here we make an abrupt turn and descend again, into a more commercial section of town. Three dogs are fighting on the sidewalk, a Dalmatian, a dachshund, a German shepherd, other strays threatening to join the fray.

We have reached the entrance to the port, indicated by a “Ministry of Transport” sign. We cross into a red-bricked plaza, the smell of fish in the air. Along the sidewalk are piled to dry plastic nets in aqua, beige, olive, silver and emerald. Fishing dinghies fill the berths within the harbor, their hulls in blue, red, orange, white and yellow. Restaurants are preparing to open their doors for lunch. Author pauses to observe, as a large crane with a square hoist lifts a recently repainted boat out over the harbor. Its blue water line, white sides and magenta stripes gleam in the sunlight. Proudly its owner observes the scene. Nearby another boat sits on the dock, balanced on wooden crates and steel drums, while its hull is scraped. Other boats await repair, some right side up, some upside down.

Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying, I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man; and keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself.

As we exit from the port we again are faced with a choice: to continue along the harbor road or remount by way of steep steps into the city proper. We choose the climb: rough steps between two stuccoed buildings, their surfaces covered with graffiti. In the stone gutter along the steps a cactus is flourishing. Having reached the street above, author turns right into it and continues his ascent, past buildings with yellow walls and orange shutters, with white walls and pale blue shutters, with ocher walls and grey shutters. These more ancient structures give way to newer ones, between which a view of the sea opens before us. Bags of sand and trestles of stone have been piled before a renovation project.

We arrive at the grounds of a huge new villa and look out through trees across another promontory to a much broader view of the Mediterranean. Its waters are greenish as well as blue, silvery in the near ground, purplish in the distance. We turn back in toward the Old Town. In a field of rubble graze three donkeys, one brown, one tan, one grey. In another open field laundry has been strung out to dry: a black bra, a yellow top, a purple skirt, green panties. “Only a few advertising companies can boast female partners, but women are moving up in senior management (Ha’aretz). Among them are Drori Shlomi, where Tovit Shlomi is a partner; Shimoni Finkelstein, with partner Mir Finkelstein; Zarfatti Sternchuss Zamir, with Shuly Glanz.”

Mounting even higher, we reach a Coptic convent. Having crested a hill, we return down a gentle slope, following Rehov Sha’arey Nikanor to the corner of a larger avenue, still but two lanes wide. Here we turn back in toward the center of town. On the peach-colored stucco of a building’s side someone has scribbled the word “Will.” Finkelstein believes that although few women have yet joined the circle of owners, their numbers will continue to grow. Tamir says many international advertising agencies already have women in top positions. Some of these are publicly traded and belong to corporations.

We continue down Rehov Jefet, where a large modern church, St. Anthony’s, looms into view. Moses was enabled by the Holy Spirit to foresee quite plainly the title Jesus: “Happy Birthday,” reads a graffito in a schoolyard. It, too, he felt to be worthy of special privilege. Four military helicopters pass overhead, all in sandy camouflage. Never yet heard by human ears till it was made known to Moses, the title Jesus was bestowed by him for the first and only time on the man who — again as pattern and symbol — he knew would after his own death succeed to the supreme authority. As escape from the monotony of middle-class housing, author descends toward the old quarter, arriving before too long at a neighborhood of Russian immigrants, who are selling junk on the street, antiques in stores. His successor had not hitherto used the designation Jesus but was known by another name, Hoshea, which his parents had given him. “The English Furniture Style,” reads the name of one, its interior filled mostly with cheap electronic equipment. But Moses calls him Jesus, conferring the name on him as the priceless honor, far greater than a kingly crown. Two wooden Thai statuettes, painted in cream, grace the entranceway to another store. For Joshua the son of Nun himself bore the image of our Savior who alone, after Moses and the completion of the symbolic worship given to men by him, succeeded to the authority over the true and most pure religion. “Napoleon Antiques,” reads the sign above the largest of these emporia.

Moreover thou knowest also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two captains of the hosts of Israel, unto Abner the son of Ner, and unto Amasa the son of Jether, whom he slew; he shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war upon his girdle that was about his loins, and in his shoes that were on his feet. At the corner a donkey stands patiently, harnessed to a green truck, atop which are oranges, tangerines and vegetables. Do therefore according to thy wisdom, and let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace. We enter into Rehov Rabbi Yehuda-Meracuza, where naughty videotapes are on display alongside commercial kitchen equipment. At the next light, we turn into a side street whose buildings have been braced with girders. Off these ancient streets run yet more ancient alleyways, bordered with medieval buildings. But shew kindness unto the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be of those that eat at thy table. One houses a woodworking shop, in which an ancient craft is still being practiced. For so they came to me when I fled because of Absalom thy brother.

Here we turn to head back toward Tel Aviv. Having arrived on its outskirts, author, under a warming sun, takes seat at a café along a well-tended avenue. Tall palms border the boulevard. Out on their lunch break Israeli girls, in full military dress, are strolling the esplanade. “Exceptionally bright, upwardly mobile — but not yet partners” (Ha’aretz). Now a young man too strolls by. Management is no longer a male domain. His heavy olive cable-knit sweater, reinforced at elbow and shoulder with leather patches, indicates that he is also a soldier. He too is bearing a weapon. Women now hold very senior and respected positions in business generally and in advertising in particular. Across the paved alleyway, in the corner of a building newly mortised in stone, the sign for a gallery not yet opened, reads “Art Plus/21,” the name repeated in Hebrew and Russian. The appointment of a woman to a senior advertising position no longer raises eyebrows and women are well represented in management internationally. From north to south a military helicopter overflies the scene. The magazine “Ad Age” recently published a table indicating the rising power of women holding senior positions in international advertising. Another female soldier passes in full battle dress, her personal backpack slung over one shoulder. The magazine saw fit to allocate eight pages to describing these women and their executive roles. In her hand she carries a pink shopping bag.

Mounting a gentle slope out of Jaffa, author continues on into Tel Aviv by way of Eilat Road, bordered with art galleries that are showing decidedly mediocre works of art. The galleries give way to small restaurants, the restaurants to shops selling water heaters, light fixtures, upholstery. Parked along the sidewalk is a white van for a company called “Red Bull.” A silver truck pauses for a red light. “Mountain Height,” read the letters on its side. As we mount higher, so does the drabness of the neighborhood: grey stucco building fronts, their windows bricked in; stores barred and locked. As though to address the problem of colorlessness, “Restaurant Algeria” has enlivened its doorway with a dozen balloons in half a dozen colors.

Before long, however, shops begin to show more fashionable clothes. Around the world there are women CEOs, media department managers, creative directors and supervisors. Still, in among these livelier boutiques are many other shops displaying dreary colors and plain fabrics. Some have remarked that the resulting social change will eventually undermine national unity. An overweight woman in green velvet top and pants, both ill fitting, searches her wallet for a shekel. It is a trend also gaining momentum in Israel and the power of women in these positions is growing daily. A store called “Fashion” shows women’s pant suits in dull olive, dull beige, dull grey. The street is lined with store names either out of date (“Paper Moon”), irrelevant (“Subway”) or incomprehensible (“Stigma”).

At Rehov Allenby things pick up. “Bingo” reads a sign in three-foot-high letters, its “B” in yellow, its “I” in red, its “N” in green, its “G” in orange, its “O” in purple. “Quota,” reads another sign. Ceramic statues of women in slightly salacious poses fill the window of a clock store. As we cross Rehov Yehuda-Halevi, high-rise buildings emerge into view from several directions. Tel Aviv is coming alive: glitzy jewelry store, tasty delicatessen, modern appliance shop. And, behold, thou hast with thee Simei the son of Gera. The sidewalk broadens. A Benjamite of Bahurim. The roaring, screeching sounds of diesel-belching buses dominate the street. Which cursed me with a grievous curse. A plaque in a tiny watch store window says “Iranian Spoken Here.” On the day when I went to Mahanaim: At Rotschild Boulevard the scene is filled with curtain-wall constructions. But he came down to meet me at Jordan. One in blue-green glass, another in straight lines of white marble. And I sware to him by the Lord, saying, I will not put thee to death with the sword.

As we continue on across the boulevard, another tower emerges, sheathed in grey tiles offset against one another. “Law Offices” proclaims a brass plaque. A pharmacy identifies itself in half a dozen languages. Now therefore hold him not guiltless: for thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him; but his hoar head bringeth thou down to the grave with blood. After we have crossed Rehov Ahad Ha’am, bookstores begin to appear: English, Russian, Hebrew. “America the Beautiful,” says a book in a window, its title repeated in Russian. Another, with graphic color photos treats skin diseases, in Russian only. Yet another, in Hebrew and English, celebrates the achievement of Albert Einstein. So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.

A musical instrument store displays many exotic varieties thereof; next door, acoustical guitars and keyboards are offered at half price. We enter a large, Russian-only bookstore, organized in sections. “Current Books,” “Modern Classics,” “The Nineteenth Century,” read its Cyrillic headings; “The Classics of Other Cultures” (in Russian translation); “Travel,” “Self Help,” “Computer Programs.” Before long the bookstores give way to expensive toy stores, bakeries, florist shops. A Honda salesman in a green vest pats a red motorcycle, as he tries to convince a customer to buy it.

We glance into a store specializing in dark glasses. The Root of love is to love the Lord (Eleazar ben Judah). Briskly, a thirty-year-old woman strides by, in high black boots, black pants, black leather jacket, her large breasts emphasized by the contours of her ribbed magenta sweater. The soul is full of love, bound with the bonds of love in great joy. She is wearing thick magenta lipstick. This joy chases away from his heart all bodily pleasure and worldly delight. “Big Size,” says a shop for the tall and fat, which is conducting a sale for sixty per cent off. The powerful joy of love seizes his heart so that at all times he thinks: How can I do the will of God? At Rehov Balfour a shop is discounting its CDs, each of them named in yellow, priced in red, on white sales tags. The pleasures of his children and the company of his wife are as nothing in comparison with the love of God.

We continue to encounter pretty girls. Imagine a young man who has not been with a woman for a very long time. A gorgeous redhead passes, pale freckles on her translucent cheeks. He longs for her, his heart burns for her. A brunette strides by in black boots and dark glasses. Imagine his great love and desire when he cohabits with her. She has left the top button on her Levis open. And how when his sperm shoots like an arrow he has so much pleasure. At a leather store. All this is as nothing compared with his desire to do the will of God, to bring merit to others, to sanctify himself, to sacrifice his life in his love just as Phinehas sacrificed himself to slay Zimri. Belts in black outnumber those in other colors by twenty to one. “I have lifted up my hand unto the Lord, God Most High, Maker of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread nor a shoe-latchet.”

We enter a neighborhood filled with coffee shops. Down a street that runs off Allenby the Mediterranean is once more visible. A black-haired middle-aged woman pauses to rein in her white poodle. The love of Heaven in his heart is like the flame attached to the coal. Over her black shirt she wears a black sweater. He does not gaze at women. In her other hand she holds a black scarf. He does not engage in frivolous talk. Covered in tiny red roses, surrounded with gold leaves. Instead he concerns himself only with the will of God. Before Allenby bends to the left, we pass a tattoo shop. And sings songs only so that he may be filled with joy. “Confusion,” reads a graffito on the wall of “Decca Dance,” a stripper bar. In pursuit of that priceless love of God. “Thai Me Up,” says the sign above a restaurant.

Through the window of another bingo parlor a VCR is visible. We destroyed Humbaba, who lived in the Pine Forest, killing lions at the mountain passes. “Multi-Win,” read the letters on its screen. The alewife spoke to him: Seated on a bench across from El-Gauchito Restaurant, a girl in her early twenties finishes an ice cream cone. “If you are truly Gilgamesh, who struck down the Guardian, destroyed Humbaba, who lived in the Pine Forest, killed lions at the mountain passes, seized the Bull of Heaven who came down from the sky, struck him down.” “No Commission,” says a kiosk called “Exchange.” “Why are your cheeks wasted, your face dejected, your heart so wretched, your appearance worn out, and grief in your innermost being?” In La Scala, which is selling recorded music, an ad with a picture of a sultry woman reads “Som Nom Esta Dalila.” “Your face is like that of a long-distance traveler.” “Dynamo Tours” has its shades pulled down. “Your face is weathered by cold and heat.” “A Taste of Life,” says the sign above a Hebrew restaurant. “Clad only in a lion skin, you roam open country.” Outside a gift shop a stuffed leopard sits on a stool.

Then Gilgamesh spoke, answering the alewife: “Stefan,” the sign for a fancy shop, has its “a” in the shape of the Eiffel Tower. “How could my cheeks not be wasted, nor my face dejected, nor my heart wretched, nor my appearance worn out, nor grief in my innermost being, nor my face like that of a long-distance traveler, nor my face weathered by cold and heat? Nor roaming open country, clad only in a lion skin?” Next door to “Nama Gallery,” “Paradise” is offering real estate for sale. “My friend Enkidu, whom I love so much, the fate of mortals conquered him!” In an alley being resurfaced a layer of white stones has been added to cinders. “Six days and seven nights I wept over him.” Along its curb run parallel pipes in red and blue. “I would not allow him to be buried, until a worm fell out of his nose.” “Iron and Steel,” reads the name of a clothing store. “I was frightened and I am afraid of Death, and so I roam open country.” A girl in tight black chinos, her blond hair tied in a black ribbon, offers a plastic bowl of water to a large dog reclining on the sidewalk. “The words of my friend Enkidu weigh upon me, I roam open country on long journeys.”

We have reached Boulevard Ben-Gurion, whose median is filled with leafy trees, so many that the sun only sporadically dapples its sandy surface. A BMW has been given a ticket. “Home Theater,” a video rental shop, displays in its window “Run-Away Bride” alongside “Hey, Relax, It’s Just Sex.” “How, O how could I stay silent, how, O how could I keep quiet?” Author crosses street to examine a furniture store that is showing sofas in yellow and black, in green striped red, in blue with light green swirls. “My friend whom I love has turned to clay.”

In a bridal shop a photographer is taking pictures of a woman dressed in a white gown. “Enkidu my friend.” In her arms she cradles a white floral bouquet. “Whom I love.” Beside her stands the groom. “Has turned to clay.” In a black, four-button suit, grey shirt and grey tie. At curbside a white Honda Civic awaits them, two pink balloons attached to its windshield, two larger blue balloons adorning its rear window. Gold ribbons have been stretched across its hood.

At “Hand-Made Carpets” a man and his wife are examining a large pile of oriental rugs. Author continues inland to complete his circuit, finally turning left at Rehov Meir-Ditzengoff. Seated at an office desk, a pretty girl dressed in white shuffles two pieces of paper. “Blanc et Noir,” a fashion shop, is showing nothing but black and white items. Under a white awning, against a white wall, on black hangers, “” has suspended two white tee-shirt-and-pantaloon combinations. Next door, at an outdoor café, a woman dressed entirely in black, lifts her white cup from its saucer to drain the very last drop of black coffee.

Illustration by Denis Mizzi


“Thus with the powerful cooperation of Heaven the whole world was suddenly lit by the sunshine of the saving word. At once, in accordance with the Holy Scriptures, the voice of its inspired evangelists and apostles went forth into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. In every town and village, like a well-filled threshing-floor, churches shot up bursting with eager members” (Tertullian, Defense of the Christians.)


As author prepares to leave Tel Aviv for Istanbul, on a trip whose first leg will take him to Amman and on to Beirut, the press continues to report on the future visit of the Pope to Israel: A group of senior rabbis here asked Pope John Paul II on Thursday to cancel plans for a Saturday Mass in Nazareth during his visit to Israel next month, contending it would cause ‘massive desecration’ of the Jewish Sabbath (The New York Times). Our plane lifts off, about half full. Meanwhile, in Orthodox neighborhoods at the center of Jerusalem far right religious factions, on wall posters, denounced the Pope as “the Wicked One” and condemned planned papal prayer services here as acts of “idolatry.” Most of the passengers appear to be Israeli and Jordanian businessmen, or people on other sorts of official missions. Favorable views of the Pope’s forthcoming visit are also expressed: There is scarcely a woman aboard the plane. He initiated the request for forgiveness from the Christian world to the Jews. Author’s seatmate for the flight is a Swiss expert on airport logistics. He agreed to an itinerary that takes into consideration Israeli sensitivities over the status of Jerusalem; he has proposed an ecumenical meeting with the leaders of the three main monotheistic religions at the Notre Dame center. After forty-five minutes we arrive in Jordan, where author heads for transit counter only to find that his flight, scheduled to leave for Lebanon in two hours, has been cancelled, the next flight scheduled ten hours hence, at 4:30 am.

The Jordanian officials are mild-mannered, gracious, warm. A bus, they inform us, is standing ready for the ride to a nearby hotel. We descend into the lap of luxury. Royal Jordanian Airlines has an office, its manager sends a telex ahead to Beirut to arrange for author’s later arrival. Thence we are led into an enormous dining room, whose ceiling, archwayed walls, tablecloths and chair backs are all in white. A buffet is offered of lamb and rice, chicken with mushrooms, salad, dessert. Author retires to his room to await the 2:00 am wake-up call. Out the window, through the dark night, nothing but desert is visible.

At 2:00 o’clock one is led into the dining room again for breakfast, then out again to waiting minibus, where author is joined by his new Swiss friend. Arrived at the airport, we take seats in the business class lounge for the 90-minute wait till boarding time. Our companions are a black Libyan executive and two portly Lebanese women, one with natural tresses, one with short hair dyed blond. Before long their men-folk, comfortably attired in leisure suits, appear. About the lounge stand airline personnel, ready to provide amenities. The walls of the spacious room, whose sofas and chairs are arranged in conversational groupings, are lined with amateurish oil paintings of touristic scenes in Jordan.

Author peruses the English-language paper, which reports on recent events and their aftermath: from Jerusalem, the stone-throwing incident in which Palestinian students had harassed the French prime minister for his criticism of Hezbollah; from Geneva, accounts of ongoing peace-talks between Israel and Syria; from Amman, news of the young Jordanian king’s visit to Turkey. The paper also includes detailed accounts of the American presidential race. At last, Swiss companion, author, and our new Libyan friend, make our way to the plane that will take us to Beirut.

On this flight author’s seatmate is a Lebanese-American, born in Byblos, raised and educated in the USA, Arabic-, French- and English-speaking, whose telecom business frequently takes him to Africa and the Middle East. Like all experienced travelers in this region, he is skeptical about the prospects for peace. In addition to an MBA, he has taken a PhD in management, hopes in time to become a professor, for now must be content with his financial prosperity. Though his spoken Arabic is fluent, his reading ability high, he nonetheless prefers to learn about the Middle East through the media of western languages. The fashionable young of the region, he reports, like to speak a western language, even among themselves.

When we arrive in Lebanon, however, his Arabic comes in very handy, for the regulations confronting the entering foreigner are formidable and stand in need of clarification. One must have a visa to enter the country, despite what the guidebook says. One must also present an on-going ticket. How much the visa costs may depend upon the length of one’s stay. In Arabic, the Lebanese-American negotiates for author a deal according to which no visa will be required. From the Visa Office, we proceed to Immigration, hoping to pass through the line marked “No-Visa.” But here we are redirected into the line marked “Visa.” Lebanese-American friend steps ahead of author and speaks to the immigration official. The way is smoothed. Author will be given forty-eight hours without a visa, or rather with visa stamp but with no charge. The question of an on-going ticket is never raised.

Met at the airport by a driver, who works for a company employed by several hotels, author’s economical car is soon whizzing along a superhighway from airport to city. The driver tells us that of all the Arab countries Lebanon is the best. Our rapid progress, author opines, would seem to confirm his opinion. He, however, wishes to insist as well upon the greater civility of the Lebanese, greater, he tells us, than that of Jordanians or Syrians, much greater than that of Iraqis and Iranians. Author mentions a recent visit to Egypt, where he had been hospitably received. This only further excites Lebanese jealousy. “When you have been here awhile,” the driver responds, “you will see that Lebanon is much greater than Egypt.”

Having made arrangements at the hotel desk for his on-going ticket to be purchased, reservations at an Istanbul hotel looked into, author retires to his room. Having perused the hotel’s “Golden Book,” he falls asleep and dreams:


The famous Helen of Greek legend has been magically conveyed to the Egyptian palace of Proteus by the god Hermes, where now, having heard of the Fall of Troy and the death of Menelaus, her husband, she is lamenting him. But suddenly Menelaus himself appears. In the wandering course of his return to Sparta, accompanied by the “false” Helen, he has been shipwrecked along the Egyptian coast. Before setting out to secure the help of Proteus, he leaves the “false” Helen behind in a cave. When he arrives at the palace, Menelaus discovers that Proteus is dead, that his son, Theoclymenus, is attempting to force the “real” Helen to marry him.

A curious scene of reconciliation follows, for Menelaus, puzzled by the two Helens, is only convinced of the reality of this “Egyptian” version when he learns that the other, “Trojan” Helen, after revealing her deception, has disappeared into the air. The “real” Helen must now devise for them both an escape from Egypt, a difficult matter, for not only is Theoclymenus determined to marry her, he will kill any Greek whom he finds in the land. With the help of Theonoe, a priestess and the sister of the king, Theoclymenus is fooled by the pretense of a funeral ceremony arranged aboard a ship at sea for a supposedly dead Menelaus. Menelaus and Helen then proceed to escape on the very ship provided for that purpose.


It is mid morning. Author has awakened and breakfasted. His travel arrangements have all been made: ticket, car to the airport, reservation in Istanbul. Returned from the lobby, he takes a seat by the window overlooking the street and opens its sliding pane.

 The neighborhood would seem to be a fashionable one, upper middle class, though its buildings appear a little seedy. Lebanon, says the “Golden Book,” is a strategic geographical area, which makes it open to the whole world. Though the rush hour is over, traffic is still barely moving in the side street; even the larger artery is clogged with double-parked cars, leaving all but a single lane of flow on either side of the median. It is a country where the mysterious fascination of history and the richness of civilization come to life. Across the way, within a rooftop apartment, a man dressed in plaid robe sits before a late breakfast table. With its 10.52 square kilometers, Lebanon enjoys two hundred kilometers of long [sic] and is made up of four distinctive regions which run parallel to each other. The length of a side street, in both directions, cars are parallel-parked, to the one side, against the curb, to the other, with their right wheels up over it.


Thanks be to God, the Almighty, the King of the universe, for all His mercies; and heartfelt thanks to the Savior and Redeemer of our souls, Jesus Christ, through whom we pray that peace from troubles outside and troubles in the heart may be kept for us stable and unshaken for ever.

Together with my prayers I now add Book 10 of the History of the Church to its predecessors. (Eusebius, “Peace and Recovery of the Church: Victory of Constantine.”)

Lebanon represents a pluralistic society of 3.7 million, one third of them living in the capital city, Beirut. The weather today is chilly, the room under-heated, the open window adding to the slight discomfort. Outside, the streets are still rain-dampened, though overhead the skies have begun to clear. “It will rain all day,” the driver had predicted, but his prediction, for the moment, seems not to be coming true. The main towns are Tripoli, Sidon, and Tyre, Baalbeck, Beiteddine and Byblos, Jeitta Grotto and Jounieh Mount Lebanon. “Clear Plus” read yellow letters on the blue ground of a dry cleaning establishment. “Pressing, Blanchisserie.” The cleaner is located at one side of the entry to a modern apartment building. At the other side sits “The House of Villa Roy and Bloch,” whose owner has just arrived to open it. With a key, inserted in an electrical lock, he raises its green grillwork. Beirut has long been considered as the natural crossroad between East and West.

But once again the Angel of great counsel, God’s Commander-in-Chief, after the thoroughgoing training by which the greatest soldiers in His kingdom prove their endurance in all trials, appeared suddenly and swept all that was hostile into nothingness and oblivion, so that its very existence was forgotten.

At the “T” below, traffic continues to compete to see which line will enter the most cars into the flow. For centuries it has attracted the envy of outsiders and been marked by the invasions of several civilizations. Green, red and blue sedans enter from the side streets, before a taxi in grey follows. But all that was near and dear to Him He advanced beyond glory in the sight of all, not men only but the heavenly powers as well — sun, moon, and stars, and the entire heaven and earth. Today extensive reconstruction has begun to improve its infrastructure and economy. Across the way the ocher facade of a six-story building is cracked, mildewed, its paint worn away through a layer of white to the grey concrete. New buildings are rising out of the rubble, and the old architecture is being restored. Now the sunlight emerges from behind heavy cloud cover to illuminate a more recently painted four-story apartment dwelling. On its roof flourishes a small garden; within it are two swing sets, one with a long sofa-like bench. A potted cedar sits in one corner of the space, which is filled, in somewhat desultory fashion, with plastic chair, plastic bucket, ceramic vase.

The reconstruction plan includes the UN House, the Parliament building, the Serail, and the old Souks. The four-story building’s first floor houses two shops. The first is called “Pointure Studio,” the “Studio” in white, underlined in yellow, with a yellow dot over its “i.” Beirut International Airport’s first phase has been completed in 1998. The second shop is called “Stop M[ ]ze,” the bracket indicating a missing letter. And the new terminal is designed to receive 3,000,000 travelers. Pedestrian traffic is light, but many people have lined up before the black grating of a building whose identity from this vantage point is not clear. Phase 2 is in the process of being completed. A second line is backed up in a perpendicular direction. Stationed outside this building, rifle in hand, is a soldier in grey, white and light green camouflage. The sports city has been rebuilt and completed in 1998, with a stadium capacity of 50,000.

Beneath “Stop Maze,” as another sign beneath the larger sign designates the establishment, sit two other shops: Giovanni Più and Kookai. The Casino, built on a 110,000 square meter, in Maamelteenin Area, which had to close in 1989, because of the events, it has been reopened in December 1996. From author’s window view there is absolutely no evidence of destruction to the city. It is equipped with gaming tables, video jackpot, and slot machines. A man who had been standing in line exits from the black-grated building with nothing in his hand. It has begun to drizzle again, the clouds growing darker. The view from the hill by night and the surrounding mountain is outstanding. The length of the line has not decreased. Author approaches the window for a closer view of the building front in question, to determine what the line might be for. But the words that are now visible are only in Arabic.

By coming closer to the window we can see that this is in fact a crossroads. Cars are entering not exactly opposite to but cattycorner from the other alley. Tripoli. An olive-colored taxi has had its hood beaten out and covered with plaster. Tripoli is the second largest city of Lebanon and is situated 85 kilometers north of Beirut. Up the narrow alley, and over its building tops, we can just barely glimpse the Mediterranean. It is composed of two main parts. Before a beige apartment building, with darker beige balconies, stands a tall coniferous tree. Al-mina, which is mainly the port area, and Tripoli City proper. A woman with her two grown daughters, 22 and 26, walks down the sidewalk, she in babushka, they in jeans. Tripoli has an abundance of archaeological treasures, and a visit to the traditional Souks is a must. They have crossed the alleyway, the prettier of the two girls stepping to the left side of a car that crowds it, the mother and the other daughter remaining in the street. Recently the Rabbit Island has been opened for tourist visits. It has begun to drizzle.

Having retired for a nap, author awakes and returns to the scene. The sun is out again, but the wind has picked up, fluttering a flag on a balustrade. Over a ground of green is superimposed a white diamond. Tyre. The basilica itself he built solidly of still richer materials in abundance, never for a moment counting the cost. (“Festival Oration on the Building of the Churches, Addressed to Paulinus, Bishop of Tyre.) This is not, I think, the time to state the precise measurements of the building, nor to describe in full its dazzling beauty, the incredible vastness, the brilliant appearance of the workmanship, the towering walls that reach for the sky, and the costly cedars of Lebanon that form the ceiling. The temperature having fallen a degree or two, author must close window. Even about them the inspired word has something to tell us: Tyre is one of Phoenicia’s most important city states, it lies on the coast 83 kilometers south of Beirut and offers one of the most beautiful sandy beaches of Lebanon.

The trees of the Lord shall be glad,
The cedars of Lebanon which He planted.

I need not go into details now about the perfection of the overall design and the superlative beauty of the individual parts, for the evidence of our eyes makes instruction through the ears unnecessary. By pressing close to the glass, author can make out “Centre Minka,” presumably the first floor mall in another six-story apartment building. But I will say this: In 1979 UNESCO declared Tyre a World Heritage Site. After completing the great building I have described, he furnished it with thrones high up, to accord with the dignity of the prelates, and also with benches arranged conveniently throughout. Author risks opening the window for view down the street in a southerly direction. In addition to all this, he placed in the middle the Holy of Holies — the altar — excluding the general public from this part too by surrounding it with wooden trellis-work wrought by the craftsmen with exquisite artistry, a marvelous sight for all who see it. Four yellow cars have converged at the crossroad, three of them taxis, one of them a private Mercedes. Beneath us we glimpse for the first time the red, white, and red flag of Lebanon, a green cedar at its center. A yearly festival is held during the summer in July at the Hippodrome and hosts local and international performers. At the hotel’s entrance, in addition to another Lebanese flag, are five other flags, none of which represents any nationality known to author.

Tyre is famous for its glass-making, its embroideries, and the famous Murex dye. Author closes window again. Baalbeck. The sky has almost completely clouded over. Known also as Heliopolis, or the City of the Sun, Baalbeck lies 85 kilometers northeast of Beirut and is exceptionally reputed for its colossal Roman heritage, the Temple of Jupiter, with its six remaining columns, the Temple of Bacchus and the Temple of Venus. For a glimpse in the northeasterly direction, author opens window and leans out but encounters only the clean side of an undistinguished six-story apartment building, above which two television aerials, multi-pronged. Down below, an orange Volkswagen with black trim has been hemmed in by four other sedans. Tourists from all over the world are astonished by the remaining of those two great temples that took over 200 years to be built. Finally it escapes, heading southward and turns toward the sea. The annual summer festival launched in 1985 and interrupted by all the war years has been revived again in 1997.


And so, his love of goodness blended with a hatred of evil, the champion of the good set out with his son Crispus, that most humane emperor, by his side, holding out a saving hand to all who were perishing. Across the way, in the courtyard of a penthouse apartment, a woman in a red smock, thrown over her dress, labors furiously to push rainwater collected on the surface in another direction. Byblos: distinctive old city situated 37 kilometers north of Beirut. The view north leads to a yellow construction standing before a brown, seven-story building with an arch in white. It has been continuously occupied by many civilizations for 7000 years. The woman continues to sweep with a squeegee, endangering her brown shoes. Today Byblos is a blend of the ancient and the prosperous new. She wears a string of pearls about her neck. In Byblos one can find the largest amount of archeological treasure dated from many ages. Now she disappears within a turquoise doorway, failing to shut the turquoise door behind her. The inhabitants of Byblos were famous in the making of pottery. She returns to scoop water from a bucket and clean a piece of ceramic. Which has been revived and made the city Byblos a center of craftsmen and art. She reenters the doorway, leaving behind an assortment of potted plants, bushes, a circular table, a barbecue grill, pieces of wood stacked atop it. Then, taking God the universal King, and God’s Son the Savior of all, as Guide and Ally, father and son together divided their battle array against God’s enemies on every side and easily carried off the victory: every detail of the encounter was made easy for them by God, in fulfillment of his purpose. Moreover, it is well known for its navigation and its fishing port. Briefly she appears in the doorway again, only to disappear once more.


His adversary thus finally thrown down, the mighty victor Constantine, pre-eminent in every virtue that true religion can confer, with his son Crispus, an emperor most dear to God and in every way resembling his father, won back their own eastern lands and reunited the Roman Empire into a single whole, bringing it all under their peaceful sway, in a wide circle embracing North and South alike from the East to the farthest West. Jounieh. Yet again the wind picks up. This coastal village, once considered as a typical quiet town, lies fifteen kilometers north of Beirut. Up the street in a northerly direction, cars turn into another alley toward the sea. Today Jounieh has grown into a busy city, with many restaurants, shops and beautiful beach resorts. A taxi honks rather frantically, as a woman, denied entrance into it from one side, must walk around the rear of the car to get in. She takes a seat next to the driver. The most spectacular attraction for the tourist is the Jounieh Harissa Cable Lift, the first of its kind in the Middle East. The white taxi moves to cut off a blue taxi and enter the lane ahead of it. “All you need is Heart, Heart, Heart,” reads a panel on a bus, the hearts in question represented visually by a large one, followed by two progressively smaller ones. Up there in Harissa lies a gigantic statue of Our Lady of Lebanon, where the tourists can enjoy a splendid view of the Bay of Jounieh and Maamelteenin. On the southern horizon, the sky has briefly cleared.

Men had finally lost all fear of their former oppressors. From the alleyway on this side of the larger street a car enters against the flow of traffic to duck into a parking lot. Day after day they kept a dazzling festival. In the old city, some traditional houses have been restored. Light was everywhere. Along with fashionable boutiques all along the coastal road. And men who once dared not look up greeted each other with smiling faces and shining eyes. “Rice and Spice” read the yellow letters on the green awning of a store next to “Bross, Lebanon, Jeitta Grotto.” They danced and sang in city and country alike, giving honor first of all to God our Sovereign Lord, as they had been instructed, and then to the pious emperor with his sons, so dear to God.

Old troubles were forgotten, and all irreligion passed into oblivion. Two olive-colored taxis compete for the same space. The Grotto, discovered for the first time in 1836 by an American missionary, and much later by Lebanese explorers, members of the Lebanese Spelio Club of Lebanon, has an underground system of upper and lower galleries. Good things present were enjoyed, those yet to come eagerly awaited. Three white cars converge at the intersection. A woman in black babushka, black bag, black pants, exits from the institution before which people are lined up. In every city the victorious emperor published decrees full of humanity and laws that gave proof of munificence and true piety. She is wearing a blood red jacket. Thus all tyranny had been purged away, and the kingdom that was theirs was preserved securely and without question for Constantine and his sons alone.

Yearly concerts are organized in the beautiful setting of the upper galleries. Next to the corner apartment house, atop which the woman in red smock keeps working, stands a new six-story building, vacant from top to bottom. Cable cars and a train make regular runs between lower and upper levels. Blue-tinted glass covers its balconies. Boats glide quietly in the lower gallery, carrying visitors across the subterranean lake. In its lower reaches all is grey-green granite casing. Having made it their first task to wipe the world clean from hatred of God. Visitors are overwhelmed by the beauty of stalactites and stalagmites. They rejoiced in the blessings that He had conferred upon them. “Frac,” reads an awning on another apartment building, a top hat over the “a.” And, by the things they did for all men to see. Sidon. Two yellow taxicabs compete to enter the flow. Sidon. Displayed love of virtue. A grey car gets between them. And love of God. Now a white car in front of the grey. Sidon. Devotion and thankfulness. Forty-three kilometers south of Beirut. To the Almighty. Sidon is the largest city in South Lebanon. A white-bedded truck with a red cab enters the flow. Today it is considered as the main commercial and financial center of the South, with its famous fishing port. Up one block the traffic turns two ways, cars heading up from the South competing with cars heading down from the North. Its glass making and pottery are among the best crafts done in the whole of Lebanon. As they all turn into the cross street.