City of Peace
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"Most of us know the stories of King David from our Sunday schools: the stoning of Goliath, the friendship with Jonathan, his persecution by King Saul, the marriage to Bathsheba. Over the past centuries archaeologists have dug up proofs and disproofs of his existence, comparative mythologists have explored the connections between his tale and those of other middle eastern mythological heroes, philologists have deconstructed the texts of the Psalms and the Book of Samuel, yet still there's no certainty if he even lived, or who, or what, he really was. Why not, then, take everything that's known about him, assemble it in the way that he assembled all the parts of the Temple he wasn't allowed to build, and let him tell the tale himself?
"I haven't provided the evidence here, only the tale based on the evidence. Go to 'The Bible Net and you will find the results of 250 years of scholarship - not mine! - which provided the archaeology from which this has been constructed."
Excerpt: the king's first visit to the city that will become Jerusalem:
Abdu-Chava gave little away that day, but he did give away the one thing that I most desired, the real reason for this meeting - permission to accompany Adoni-Tsedek to the summit of Mor-Yah, to see the holy site again with my own eyes, and to make a covenant in my heart with Yah and Yahweh. To him it was the giving of nothing, for he had no conception of the deep significance. Indeed, with something of a guffaw, he even suggested I might pay the visit on a day of sacrifice, when the first-born children of the Bene Sala'am were given up to El-Elyon. Why, he even joked that I should take my own first-born (would that I had done, Shlomo - I mean sacrificed him on the holy mountain - it would have saved an awful lot of trouble later on), and pay the god the homage he required. To his surprise, I said I would.
"Take now your son, your only son Yitschak, whom you love, and go to the land of Mor-Yah, and sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on the mountain. So Abou Raham rose early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Yitschak his son, and he chopped the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went to the place of which the gods had spoken. Then, on the third day, Abou Raham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place far off."
What precisely did he see, coming to Mor-Yah from the south, through the Vale of Rephayim? Precisely what we saw, only five hundred years or so of even less development. First the Hill of Evil Counsel, and the glades beneath it where the fires of Moloch are lit for sacrifice, and the spring at Ein Rogel. Then the Hill of Tsi'on, with Sala’am at its summit and the Tsi'un, the great brass obelisk of Moloch that gives the hill its name, on the very summit of the summit. Below it the deep scarp where the Kidron and the Hinnom bifurcate, and beyond it, over a narrow valley, shadowed by Ophel and the Mount of Olives - Mount Mor-Yah herself, the Hill of the Tears of Yah, from whose dust Adam was created in the very beginning, where she wept by the tomb in which they had laid her Beloved Son, gored in the thigh by a wild boar, on the eve of the Pesach, millennia ago, and where she herself is buried.
"And Abou Raham said to his young men, 'Wait here with the ass while I and the boy go up and worship and come back to you.' Then Abou Raham took the wood for the burnt offering, and laid it upon Yitschak his son, and he took the fire in his own hand, and a knife, and they climbed the hill together."
With much the same trepidation that I was feeling, that historic morning. Steep climb, Shlomo, especially with the burden of a stack of willow wood to carry. Stones protruding everywhere, as if to trip you up. Gorse, lichen, a solitary olive tree, outcast on the hill-slope like a leper or a hermit. Stray outcrops of veronica, blooming in a dozen shades of purple, tourquoise, pink and white. Nothing human here, not even a sheep's turd. Only the rock, the meagre soil, the charnel smell. And then, at last, the summit, and the great rock, and the shrine with its rough dolmen that, so men say, but falsely, Abou Raham himself laid out to be an altar. The threshing-floor of the disputed name! Not to say disputed ownership, ever since Natan denied me the right to build the Temple there. But as to the name. The Bene Sala'am say Orvah, which is really a manger rather than a threshing-floor - though both are dedicated to Tammuz with the same teraphim and invocations; though they also say Orvanah, for which they have no explanation. The Bene Kena'an say Araunah, which might be a simple misplacing of the Vav in Orvanah - if Orvanah had been correct in the first place. Alas, it isn't. Wherever there's contradiction in the parchment, Shlomo, look for deliberate obfuscation by the theologians, and ask yourself, what are they trying to expurgate or hide? The answer is usually - Our Lady. And so it is here. For the true name is Oren-Yah, or more affectionately Ornah. The hill itself is proof of it. All the way along the peak the ash trees grow abundantly, a veritable sacred grove of them - ash grown in ash you might say, for the only compost here is the remains of human sacrifice. The holy tree of Yah, beneath which she dispenses Justice, on whose branches fruits of Wisdom grow, from whose limbs her priests cut their devining wands. The tree of power, the World Tree. But still no Temple, Shlomo, no royal palace for the Queen of Queens. The holy mountain of Edinu, where the skull of Adam lies beneath one hill and the Tree of Life grows out of insalutory soil. But no Temple. Just trees, a threshing-floor in which the tares and darnel crawl like field-mice, and beyond it that immense black granite rock where Abou Raham bound Yitschak his beloved son for sacrifice.
"And they came to the place which the gods had spoken of, and Abou Raham set up an altar there, and laid the wood out in the proper manner, and bound Yitschak his son, and laid him on the altar, on the wood."
As then, so, still, today, despite the intervention of El Shaddai to preserve the life of Abou Yitschak. But Adoni-Tsedek has only ever sheathed his knife after the deed is done. On such a bleak and barren hill, where might a ram be found, and in what bracken? Happy are they who dash the little ones upon the rocks.
Extraordinary, Shlomo, to stand here - here! Of all places. On the very site of the Akeda! To you, I know, it’s nothing. A child's playground (Av-Sala'am wept the day I ordered the pillar of Moloch to be cut down; he had lassoed it with a great web of rope, on which he and his young friends would swing for hours. "Why are they taking away our favourite game, father?" "Because it's not a game, Avi. It's an asherah, a totem pole. Dedicated to a god who literally eats small boys.") A rock to cut your knees on, eh, Shlomo? Another tiresome duty burdened on you like a stack of willow wood by a nuisance of a father. So it has become, perhaps. But then, then, it was beyond the power of belief that I was standing there. My hand touching the rock, and not consumed. And yes, it's true what they rumoured. Yes, I did take off my shoes and walk from the threshing-floor to the black rock barefoot. So should a man, when he walks on holy ground.
There was an ambience about the place, something mystical, something emanating from the pagan rites, that made you feel that this must be another gateway to She'ol. The very ground seemed eerie with so many deaths, with Death itself. Look at the black rock, and watch it turn blood-red before your eyes - an authentic miracle. A gorse bush on the side of the hill could have been the very one in which Abou Raham heard the bleating of the ram. I am not often the victim of such silly mysticism and superstitiousness. But here I felt it. A great sense of history, of tradition. As though the rock were the navel of the universe, and out of its centre, invisible yet tangible, an immense umbilicus - scarlet as the thread the midwife wrapped around the wrist of Zerach - stretched out into time, linking me back to the forefathers of our people, to Yehoshua ben Nun and Abou Mousa, to Abou Yah-Akov and Yehudah our ancestor, ultimately to Abou Raham himself.
"Sha'ul has slain his thousands, but Daoud his tens of thousands."
Only now did I understand the real significance of that phrase, which has nothing at all to do with numbers. I had come to make a vow, but I didn't know until this moment that this was the vow that I would make - to stop the killing and to embark upon peace instead. I had intended, in fact, precisely the reverse - a vow not to rest until I had seized Sala'am and Yevus and the palace on the hill of Tsi'on and the surrounding villages, and unified them as a single city, and made it the capital of Yisra-El. And perhaps they were the same vow, because the one is noit possible without the other: first the war, then the peace. It will not come in my lifetime though. Perhaps in yours, Shlomo, or in that of your children's children. Perhaps one of our descendants, some scion of the root of Yishai in the distant future. But I made my vow that here, right here, on this very spot, on Mount Mor-Yah where Abou Raham sacrificed a ram in the place of his son Yitschak, meaning to bring to an end forever the history of human sacrifice among our people, that on this very spot I would fulfill his meaning, that I would build a temple for the Queen of Queens, a royal palace for the wedding of Our Lady of the Earth and her Lord of Heaven, a shrine to house the Ark of the Tabernacle and to keep the Scroll of Abou Mousa. Where else but here, Shlomo? Where else but here?
And in the meanwhile, Michal was right, Giv-Yah would have to serve, in name at least, as temporary capital.
"Will you help me do it, Avi-Atar?"
He was weeping, as I was, not with real tears that moisten a man's face. But in his soul. Looking towards Nov and grieving for his father.
"We shall raise the Temple on this very spot, and I shall make you the first High Priest of Yisra-El."
And Amnon, my first-born, clutching at my fingers as we turned to leave.