No longer able to protect herself with money and an army of lawyers and expert advice from her numerous enemies, her only hope was to find a good hiding place where she could wait until the furor over her ministry’s collapse died down. Then she might be able to emerge and pick up the pieces of her life, if any were left to pick up, that is!
As for other plans, what options did she have? The angels, whatever their reason for sparing her life, and whatever was meant by the angel in the airport, couldn’t help her survive a single day in Jerusalem’s streets, could they? She knew she was on her own.
Fortunately, she had taught on this period in eschatology until she knew every event, backwards and forwards! Nothing could, she assured herself, take her by surprise.
Even the poker-faced "Women in Black," showing solidarity with their own gender, let down their guard and the tour became one big hell-raiser of a pull-out-all-the-stops party. The buses behind Dixi and Trixi’s flagship bus were celebrating the coming world peace too—Heloise could hear actually hear them, they were making so much noise and tooting their horns continually!
“Good!” Heloise thought, gritting her teeth in the brain-splitting racket. “In the chaos they are making, I can easily slip away the first time the door is opened! They’ll never see me go!”
“Don’t say anything,” he said as she bent to hear what he had to say. “I will let you out where you must go when we get to West Jerusalem!” “But—“ she protested. But the noise was so terrible, she couldn’t even hear herself.
And she couldn’t believe they would be able to get to West Jerusalem anyway, the modern Israeli-populated half of the city.
Yet the moment she thought that, the bus lurched to the side as the driver roared his horn and darted into an opening, and then, holding Heloise spell-bound as he looked out the front windows, openings continued to be made for them, but only temporarily. Just as they entered one, the traffic returned to stall behind them and nobody else got through. Time after time this happened, and the bus made progress until a turn into a side street took them away from the congestion and through other narrow streets that finally released them in West Jerusalem.
Without hesitating, she took the dive. She leaped down with her small bag, and the bus roared away, leaving her on the crowded street in front of a giant wall-billboard, “SAVE OUR BELOVED MOTHER EARTH, FELLOW BIOPHILES AND GAIA-LOVERS UNITE! ARF--THE FLIGHT PASS ALL THE WORLD IS TALKING ABOUT FOR ALL MAJOR AIRLINES, USE IT AND YOU EARN FLIGHT CREDITS FOR PRESERVING THE FAST-VANISHING, WORLD-NOURISHING AMAZON RAIN FOREST”
Some of them, she saw, had their one heel raised in a stork-like way and pressed against it and as they stood on one foot hotly discussing some fine theological point of their over six hundred religious laws. These were the same people who refused to say the name “Yeshua” for Jesus, instead saying “Yeshu,” an abbreviation meaning , “May His Name and Memory be erased! But then the Moslems weren’t any friendlier.
Didn’t the Dome of the Rock have diatribes against Jesus Christ as God’s Son inscribed with giant letters across the inner side of the dome?”
Looking up to see what could possibly be causing the world to come to a standstill, Heloise couldn’t imagine what she saw was real. Huge, spherelike, glowing shapes, clustered, but moving in regimented patterns. Slowly they stopped moving, but their lights continued to glow and blink off and on.
Like everyone else, Heloise had heard of UFOs all her life and never expected to see any herself. But now she was viewing UFOs with thousands of others.
It was the last thing she wanted to see—after all she had just been through. But there it was-—undeniably!
The old Air Force declarations on the subject were sheer propaganda and hogwash. Everyone could see them plainly for what they were—bona fide UFOs!
Trained to be skeptical of such things, she looked around to make sure.
Yes, the people were taking videos and snapshots of them. Children were waving.
Sirens went off from Israeli police, who apparently were the only ones left in society trying to deal with the damage the UFOs had caused in disrupting the traffic flow everywhere in the city.
Tearing her eyes off the UFOs, she knew what she had to do, UFOs or no UFOs. Heloise walked as quickly as she could through the crowds, which were forming everywhere.
She passed by the big name hotels, then sought out side streets where there might be rooms for rent or small, easily-affordable flats. Her small nest egg might be able to sustain her, she thought, until the worst of the media lost interest in her case.
But Israeli inflation rates soared in peace time. Could it hold out until then? Maybe she would have to take a job?
Up the hill on Golda Meier Avenue, then down a side street, Moshe Dayan, on the eastern side ending in a cul de sac she sighted a small three storey hotel named “Hadassah Oasis Hotel” and went in.
No one was at the desk so she waited, noting the portrait of a hawkish prime minister, Menachem Begin, on the wall. She glanced out the front, and saw a man looking back at her.
He hurried in, and seemed to be very distracted, grabbing the wrong book, then throwing it aside for another. He flipped through pages, looking for reservations.
His finger pressed ran over the page and stopped at one name, and he looked up at her.
“Yes, we have your suite ready for you, Ms. Green! Just sign the book, we’ll take care of the other things later!” Astonished, Heloise took the pen he thrust at her.
The manager looked at her with greatest impatience.
“Later, please madam!” he cried. He didn’t even ask for her passport, and let her sign, throwing her a key and a paper of hotel rates and services, and she was free to go! Then, his camera in hand, he rushed back into the street with his camera.
This would never happen in a normally operating society, Heloise knew. She had done business with a thousand hotels, in over 100 countries, but this was the first time the rules had been thrown out the window! It had to be the UFOs and MJ’s visit, simultaneous mega-events, that had turned Israeli culture upside down! And how on earth had a reservation for a fictitious name she had thought up just for use on the flight over appeared in the manager’s book of reservations?
She couldn’t find that out now, she realized. Maybe there was a real Ms. Green somewhere, who had called the hotel, and she was now taking her place temporarily. Whatever the case, the important thing was that in the meantime she could keep her passport and true identity!
Not stopping she took the elevation to the next floor to her room on the next floor, and immediately locked herself in. Once inside, she leaned against the door, trying to make sense of what had just happened.
She had made it this far to safety—but how? It had to be a miracle—even a dozen major miracles that had gotten her to this point.
She finally decided to stay as long as she could, until the real Mrs. Green showed up. Until then she was free to stay indefinitely as long as she paid—that was the rule in the east, and this hotel could be no exception. Israelis and other Mid-Eastern people regarded the home, even if a hotel room, as inviolate!
If she refused room service, she could save the money and her privacy as well. It would take a tremendously determined manager to force her out because she wouldn’t accept room service. And she could always give him a bribe to sweeten him up.
The windows were heavily curtained as most Israeli windows were, easily capable of stopping thrown rocks. Drawing them a bit, she looked out and gasped. Her high vantage on the hill gave her a superb, roof-top view over the rest of West Jerusalem, directly into East Jerusalem. Where the UFOs still giving Jerusalem the biggest thrill of its entire existence?
Her eschatology had always held that there would be signs and wonders to deceive the masses, and here they were, right on cue!
How deceptive they really were, the crowds in the streets clearly proved! In her research she had determined they were demonic, not at all evidences of a friendly, super-intelligent and advanced race of Extra-Terrestrials gullible New Age people wanted to believe they were.
These people thought E-Ts could impart great knowledge and ways to peace to the inferior earthlings and the planet would be saved from self-destruction. What stupidity!
She had taught on this many times, referring to their origins in pre-Adamic times as possible relics of the lost pre-Adamic super-races. For all their razzle-dazzle, they were insubstantial, a Punch and Judy show for those who were informed enough to be impressed.
But right now, Harry seemed far away--hazy and surreal like the domes of Xanadu in Coleridge's poem.
What entranced her was not the UFOs that were turning every head at that moment, but Jerusalem itself—-the true and still living Miracle of the Ages. It was the true Xanadu--not a poet's drug-induced creation but...how could mere words do justice to it? A stubborn, intractable, grittily beautiful reality, defying logic, it had somehow survived over three thousand years of sieges and destructions—some fifty in number! Now it was sat poised once again as the world’s center of attention. A strangely beautiful, medium-sized city in the mountains with mellow, golden limestone buildings sprinkling the slopes—world peace hinged on what did or did not take place at the MJ-EU Peace venue.
She left the window and went and sat down, looking back to the scene beyond the window that her mind replayed for her—the shining city, Jerusalem, so-called “City of Peace,” but in reality, the absolute opposite that was overly-populated with fiery Moslem mullahs and Arafats and equally vitriolic Jewish leaders like Begin and Sharon.
Yet the name was almost magical. She repeated the name, and even at that hour, knowing what she knew, it still ministered to her torn emotions and bruised spirit. A psalm, Fifty Seven, came to mind, which she knew by heart.
She rose and went back to the window. She just couldn’t get enough of the scene. The music of it threatened to overwhelm her senses and mind.
“I can see the Wailing Wall, the Temple Mount, and the Dome of the Rock!” she marveled as if she were seeing them truly for the first time.
How in the world had she been so lucky as to get this view? The big tourist motels would have charged her seven or eight hundred a night for the same view, and she couldn’t have gotten it without a reservation made months in advance. Yet this old hotel had held to prime real estate and kept its rates low! Somehow she had stumbled on the perfect place to hide her wounds and trouble. It was here, she knew, that Jerusalem would minister to her what it had promised the ages: peace! Everlasting peace!
She could have wept at this sign of grace in her life, but she was too exhausted. Going to a sofa, she sank down. With her she dragged all the stuff and baggage of the old past life of a bankrupt televangelist and a failed mother and wife. A moment later she was asleep in her clothes, her earring pressing sharply into her ear against the pillow without her even feeling it.
“No, thanks,” Harry said, as they all pushed out from the Dallas office of the UN-US center’s detention building through a crowd of reporters from tabloids. Seeing old, infamous faces, Harry hid his face under his coat as best he could as they hurried into their attorney’s car.
With no police escort, the press stormed at them from all sides, and the Turnbulls could not get the doors open and get in.
“Hey, any word on your missing wife, Reverend?” someone shouted in Pastor Harry’s face. “Going to trial on your sex scandal charge, Mr. Turnbull? Give us a date!” “We hear you’re fired by your church board, is that true, Pastor?” cried another.
Harry couldn’t resist. He snarled back into the dozen or so faces pressed close to his own, “Shut your filthy mouths! You all know that’s a lie! These are nothing but cynical, mendacious lies to earn yourselves a buck at our expense!”
Laughter and jeering erupted, and Harry, not knowing what to say in front of his children, shook his fists at them. Jake scowled, “Remember, this is all live on camera! You’re the minister of God, remember, Harry? Please don’t say anything more, or they’ll make you pay dearly!”
“But they’re lying through their teeth, and they know it and couldn't care less who they hurt!“
Harry and those closest to him began to push and shove. It was fast becoming a free-for-all, and Aloes was doing some of the best shoving too. A camera went down, and his foot “happened” to give it a smashing kick into a near orbit around the moon.
“Enough is enough, ” said the attorney. He pulled a car door open, sending a lady reporter from Star City Magazine down on her behind screaming about a smashed camera. Jake pushed the protesting Harry into the car, and Cassia, Myrrha, and Aloes tumbled after him.
With cameras and bodies thumping the car on all sides, they could scarcely move away as damning videos were taken.
She found only MJ discussions among the intellectuals of various groups and newscasters from C-SPANN and CNNC and EURO-SCAN covering his every step at the Knesset.
What was so strange was the parliament, which was normally so bitterly divided you could rarely get anything through the various governments. Now all, except the ultra-orthodox Hasidim, representing a most stubborn and fanatical constitutency that was still refusing to recognize Israel as a sovereign state because it was not formed as a theocracy, were amazingly united.
Jerusalem, the Holy City, would be divided, with Jews and Moslems being given adjacent holy sites as “Brothers of the Covenant of Abraham”!
The Israeli p.m. looked as if he wanted to fall down and kiss the carpet that MJ, dressed more appropriately in a black sequin coat, pants, and top hat walked down to get to his speaker’s stand to address the parliament. Somehow another iguana had been found to take Liz II’s place on the tour and was flown in by helicopter in time to make it to the event, and so his progress was slow going with the cumbersome reptile on his heels dragging on the diamond-studded leash.
His speech was transcribed on screen into French and also English. She could follow along easily, but she soon grew tired of all the applause dragging out his insipid speech about “If All Were One,” his award-winning song, and how he meant to apply it to the problems he found in the Mideast and other places.
Assuring both Israelis and Palestinians peace and prosperity, he quickly passed over the clause recognizing the statehood of the Palestianian Authority-governed lands and got to the part about a new Jewish temple to replace the treaty-ceded Temple Mount, and a model was brought out for everyone to see. This make her pay close attention, after she nearly went and lay down, growing tired of his puerile talk about peace and love and his too frequent petting of his pet rainforest iguana.
This was a most significant point—that the original site of the First Temple of Solomon, erected before Ezra’s time and Herod’s, was claimed to be located beyond the present Herodian foundation undergirding the Temple Mount! In one sentence, MJ had utterly removed all possible cause of conflict between Islam and Judaism, Israel and the Palestinian state! World peace, thus, was in the bag!
Hearing MJ’s coup de grace, everyone stood as one man to applaud, except the Arab m.p.’s who could not show the least emotional support, though they had agreed to sign the treaty with this clause guaranteeing the rebuilding of the Jewish temple, but only because the site was not to be on the Temple Mount that held the Dome of the Rock where the last Jewish temple had been located. To sweeten the deal, the cash-strapped Palestinians received billions in aid from the world government, the EU’s coffers.
They certified that the Solomonic Temple site lay actually a hundred yards beyond the temple mount site King Herod had chosen to build a new temple. Of course, this conflicted with the views and theories of many groups, among them the so-called Temple Institute-—but no one theory could satisfy all the other parties with their pet theories.
So political expediency dictated that the Israeli state approved the site fixed beyond the Temple Mount for the new temple.
continue the speech, halted, and finally went on despite loud applause. “We guarantee the statehood of the Palestinians, and at the same time the holy Dome of the Rock Mosque and the sacred Temple Mount are reserved for the people of the Palestinian state who hold to the Prophet Mohammed and the holy tenets of Islam—“
The Israeli citizenship-holding Palestinian Arab m.p’s, though much smaller in number, stood, applauding and cheering and waving their hands. MJ smiled and waited until he could conclude his speech. “The peace is eternal that we have established, and it will last far beyond the seven years of this treaty we are signing here today—“
He got no further in his complete overthrow of former Prime Minister Sharon’s iron-fisted policy of no statehood for the Palestinian Authority, for the Knesset erupted into such applause and rejoicing that his speech ended before he could conclude with a Vedic prayer handed him by a representative the Hindu peace delegation. Statehood was a tired subject, bitterly contested for so long that nobody wanted to talk about it.
It was religious concerns that consumed the minds of everyone in the East. Cameras switched to the streets of East Jerusalem, where giant screens set up on Palestinian state vehicles were showing the ceremonies in the Knesset, and Heloise saw the multitudes of Palestinians cheer and applaud and throw firecrackers.
But how could the Israelis and Palestinians, Judaism and Islam, agree after centuries of mortal conflict? Yes, the site the Jews had agreed to lay outside the area the Moslems claimed as their own holy ground, but wasn’t there more to it? What could it be?
Since it remained the sorest point of contention, MJ had advisedly done what his gang of spin doctors had told him to do—ignore it!
Let the attention lavished on the rebuilding of the Jewish temple, with not one word of ceding of the Temple Mount to the Moslem Palestinians, take every eye off the bone of contention. And when their eyes were elsewhere, and some riot police to take care of any ultra-orthodox Jewish rioters at the Wailing Wall, he could safely retire from the scene, the treaty signed by both contenders!
Then she lost consciousness.
Twice she got up, her ear paining her unaccountably, and went to the bathroom, then went back to the couch. Each time it seem some of her old baggage had slipped off.
Asleep immediately, she found herself sitting up, though her eyes were shut. Shut or not, she could see! Ahead of her were two horrible animals jostling as if in play on a rubble-strewn wilderness of desert land. But peering at them she saw they were dinosaurs, and not playing but fighting to the death. One was black, the other brown.
The black beast swung its long tail with long, wicked-looking barbs like huge nails at the other monster's head and body. The brown beast was armed with huge teeth and big claws.
Back and forth they wrestled and fought across the room, and then black beast overthrew the brown beast and stood upon it, the violence of his victory throwing up huge clouds of dust and fire all around them.
Finally, both were set upon and distracted in the fight-to-the-death fray by a third party, an even bigger, spotted leopard-beast with a diamond-studded crown. The leopard beast sprang suddenly into their midst, knocking them apart, and pinning each down with a giant paw. As the leopard-beast raised its head, she thought she saw a tiny horn pop of its head with a king’s crown and a man's face set n it that was speaking continuously and boastfully through red, woman-shaped lips.
While they lay there, the claws of the leopard-beast extended and grew so monstrously large they gripped the whole earth in an unshakable vise that began to spurt blood. Blood!
“Where did this come from?” she wondered. She took a few steps back toward the bedroom, then shook her head and put the blanket slowly down on a chair. Running hands through her tangled, oily hair, she made her way slowly to the window. She looked out through a crack in the curtains. The brilliant sun was too much for her eye. In the blazing light she couldn’t seen the Dome of the Rock and the Wall.. Something spun her around. The door! Someone had knocked?
Unable to respond to anyone just yet, she went over to the door, and after a few moments, when the knocking continued, she put on the latch, and opened the door a crack and looked out.
It was the manager. He pushed some papers up to the crack. “Madam, please, we must have these written now. The authorities will hold me responsible if they are not completed!”
Heloise couldn’t possibly respond, or even talk to him—not until later, she knew.
The manager looked at her, and seemed assured that she was not well by her paleness and uncombed hair. Still he looked doubtfully at her. “You must fill these papers out first, Madam. The police will be very hard on me if you do not. The break-away Jews and Arabs that won’t agree with the new peace treaty are still operating, you know—“
Heliose couldn’t play the poor, weak female that every Easterner was trained to defend (as long as she acted honorably, that is!). She slowly shook her head, and the manager stood his ground and looked at her, shaking the papers in her face.
She shook her head again, and shut the door against him.
The manager seemed to be at a loss, but a short time later knocked again. Through the door, he seemed to have a different, apologetic tone, and Heloise could hear a woman speaking to him at the same time.
“You can order anything from the kitchen now, Madam. Soup? Would you like some nice chicken soup? It will make you feel good. But we have anything you would like to order.”
Something was shoved under the door when she wouldn’t open. After she heard the footsteps of the departing manager and whoever was with him, she pulled it out, and it was a food, wine, and services list, with places for her to check if she wanted those items and service.
Marking what she wanted, she slid it back out, and went to lie down.
A short time later, there was a knock on the door.
She opened it partway this time and found a smiling teen-aged boy in a bellhop’s uniform. He was carrying a tray. She took it and signed the bill, and though she couldn’t speak one word to any living soul just yet, she gave him a tip that made him grin broadly and he left.
She couldn’t stay up very long though. Sleep came again and again. Forced to lie down, she dreamed once more. This time she saw a cruse of oil, shining like pure gold, just like the one she knew from her own teaching series that the ancient Hebrews used to hold the holy anointing oil for the Tabernacle. The cruse faded, and she slept, and then it came again. Three times it appeared to her, and finally she lay, after the third appearance, awake, thinking about it.
When she came down into the lobby, the manager and several hotel attendants were with him, looking at her with surprise.
“How are you feeling, Ms. Green?” the manager quickly said in his good English. “We have been concerned about your health!” He turned aside, muttered something in Hebrew to the boy, and he left. The girl, too, slipped away, going through a door behind the manager.
He leaned forward on his desk. “I don’t wish to make you feel bad, Ms. Green, so when you return, if you feel better, then maybe you can do the papers we have here. It won’t take you very long, you will find.”
Nodding at him, she passed the desk, for it was just too early to be on speaking terms with with the world yet, and then went on out, not checking her key on purpose.
She paused on the street just outside the entrance and looked both directions. Now what? She wondered. All she saw were apartments, and this one small hotel. No shops!
Finding herself enjoying the fresh air and light, she continued walking, peering in at the window displays of the closed shops. Despite the closures, the streets were full of people and traffic, and there was a party mood.
She made her way down toward East Jerusalem, not sure she could get that far on foot before she felt too tired. But her strength held out, and suddenly before her was the Jaffa Gate of Old Jerusalem. To the side, her objective: the Wailing Wall!
Yet, giddy as she felt, her heart responded the closer she approached the great Third Temple Wall, which was actually a portion of the platform King Herod had constructed to support the last Jewish temple, the one Jesus had known.
In fact, the stones before her had probably witnessed Jesus himself passing by, healing, preaching, and telling parables. Gazing at the ancient stones, her first impression was more one of enormous pressure, the weight of the ages past, thousands of years, bearing down her finite, mortal form and dwarfing her with their immense age and size—and not only that, speaking to her, a message no human being really wanted to hear.
“You are a passing thing, mere dust thrown into the wind, but we am eternal,” they seemed to say—with some justification. After all, the temple stones had been there over two thousand years, and the more “modern” walls and churches that formed the “Old City” had stood there since the Crusades, and they would be around when Christ returned in all his glory to rule the earth, setting his foot first upon the stony crest of Mount of Olives on the “great and terrible” Day of Atonement.
“Of course!” she thought. “So MJ hasn’t really ignored the Wall—-he has made secret provision for keeping this revered site free of any disturbance by using the firepower of both sides if need be! And if any riot or demonstration starts, they’re both under orders to shoot and then round up any survivors and take them away to secret holding tanks—all without any coverage by the media.
“Oh well,” she thought, “I might as well go through with this visit!”
At last, she reached to touch the wall with her outstretched hand, but then she held back. What would she pray for? she wondered.
She had thought she would pray for her family, shed a tear over her situation, and maybe tuck a scribbled prayer a crevice between the huge stones. But none of that seemed on her heart to do. Faced with the real Wailing Wall, with authentic Jews wailing over the hundreds of years of persecutions they had endured as a people, she felt silly, shallow, and out of place. It was almost as if she would defile the wall if she touched it now. Why had she even come to Jerusalem? she wondered. It had been a mistake-—a big mistake.
She stared at the Hasidim as they prayed and bobbed back and forth with their prayer shawls drawn up over their heads, some of the fathers and sons weeping, while others stood and raised more militant, clenched fists at the Israeli-Palestinian troops stationed above the court of the Wall.
The more she looked, the more clenched fists she saw and the less praying. It seemed there was going to be a demonstration at the Wall after all.
And not too far for her to see, she caught a glimpse of more Hasidim, growing excited and shaking their fists, rush at a passing truck on the road that carried a MJ banner. Israelis and Palestinian soldiers rode the truck, and they hurled stones at it before the truck speeded up and left them in the dust, one man falling and ending up trampled by the following crowd..
Feeling a chill, Heloise decided to creep away as unobtrusively as possible. She knew she had no business anymore to be at the Wall with so many fanatic Hasidim.
One of the men, the fancy-dress item, now seemed to be gesturing to her. It couldn’t be! She thought. But he continued pointing at her with his finger with a long finger that seemed to spark with fire. There could be no mistake, she knew, she was moving toward him in response as if drawn by a giant magnet. Stranger than this, the Hasidim parted ranks, falling down to either side of her, so that she walked through their midst right up to the two men.
Dazed, she stood before them. Now she could see them clearly. One was young, or seemed younger than the other. Both were dressed the same. The older, beak-nosed companion said nothing to her, it was the younger-looking one that faced her.
It couldn’t be! she thought. They had to be raving lunatics! The Lord had commanded that no one should make a holy anointing oil other than those in his temple service whom he had commissioned for that purpose. If anyone should imitate the oil, he was to be killed.
Glancing at her, they were making a big fuss, for they were now standing, wondering what had happened to them, evidently. She looked at them, looked for the two strange men at the wall, but all she could see were the angry Hasidim. But now they were not looking at her but at the two men who had taken the Wall away from them. A single cry of rage erupted from the Hasidim, and they rushed at the usurpers.
But the most astounding thing now happened, to make everything else secondary. The two hands, each with a wound mark at the wrist, moved outwards, in a gesture of appeal with wrists extended, revealing the other sides and that they were pierced through in the way that could only be explained as proof of crucifixion!
Neither could the Hasidim at first comprehend it. They gaped, and then, gradually, the most awful look came on their faces, turning them all ghastly pale. One by one, they broke rank, the whole crowd of them, and ran away, back toward their section of the city.
One of the Witnesses pointed down to him. Sparks flew from his finger and struck the young man’s forehead. In response, he was babbling something, but two others of his people ran back for him, dragging him off, and cuffing him on the head.
But this incident was so minor, compared to everything happening before. Heloise still reeled under the impact of the pierced wrists and hands reaching out to the assembled Hasidim Jews.
She was still trying to control her emotions, when the scene seemed to shift back to the ordinary, and she could see only the two men at the Wall, standing alone, and herself, and a few frightened pigeons flying round and fluttering into each other in mid-air collisions. As for the hands and pierced wrists, they had vanished. Had she dreamed everything?-—the two men speaking to her, the miraculous sign of pierced wrists?
She looked at the two men and decided, no, she would get no answer for her questions from them. She would leave them alone too.
The wisdom of her choice was almost immediately made clear to her. Before she could leave, she felt like something else was going to happen. And it did! As if they were deep sea fish retiring for the night, they sank to their kneeds, still upright, but with eyes closed. This wasn’t anything extraordinary, but as she waited a moment later the extraordinary appeared: sheaths of green light enveloped the two, head to foot, like the golden green chrysalis of two Monarch butterflies! And even more strange and terrible, bluish fire licked at its edges—a sight to give anyone approaching them second thoughts about disturbing them.
Backing away, she experienced what sheer terror was like as it began to dawn on her what all this was. She realized she was standing in the presence of holiness, the Presence of the Most High God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Not only that, the prophetic vision John had received from an angel on the Isle of Patmos nearly two thousand years before her time was being fulfilled right before her eyes!
It was one thing, she found, to have taught about the Two Lampstands, the Two Olive Trees of the Lord—the great Two Witnesses of the Tribulation Period—and then to see them with her own eyes standing within spitting distance! Not only that, one had actually prophesied to her-—for surely it was a prophecy he had given her.
How she got her breath back and how she ran without stumbling and falling, she could not tell. She fled back to her hotel. Walking into the lobby, she then realized she was missing her mother’s handbag! She couldn’t help it. She screamed. Everything she had was in it, except her toiletries. Except for about four hundred dollars she kept in her jacket, she had lost everything—including her identification. How was she going to find it now in the dark?
Normally she would have photocopied her birth certificate and major credit cards at least—but no, she had been too hasty in leaving Dallas, and hadn’t thought it necessary on this trip. Should she go back? Just then, the manager came out from his private office. He signed with his hand for her to wait, and reached for some papers from under the counter.
“You must fill out the papers now, or better not come back!” he insisted.
She shook her head. “I just told you. I dropped my handbag at the wall. It contains my passport and all my ID and money! I’ve got to go and find it!”
“In that case, here are your-—your belongings! Please go, before the police come and take you away! And we don’t want police here!” He handed her a plastic shopping bag emblazoned with MJ’s mooning face, and “MJ, PEACE, and GAIA-LOVE, and she saw it contained the few toiletries she had placed in her rooms.
She went out to the brightly lit street, not knowing where to turn. Did she really drop her handbag at the wall? Or had she lost it in any one of a thousand places on the way back? She had no idea.
Suddenly, her last atom of strength seemed to desert her. She felt depressed, and very weak. At lowest ebb, in fact.
People hurried past around them, mostly stocky matrons with bread and groceries in plastic bags, hurrying to get supper ready in their apartments before their husbands returned from work.
“Sorry—“ she began.
She felt so weak she could have cried, except that the incidents at the Wall had drained her of any she might have had in reserve. But she stopped and looked at him more closely. He was wearing a Jewish "prayer cap" and long robe from Bible days and a cell phone tucked in his belt! Oh no! she thought. Not another!
He looked at her with disgust. “John the Baptist was a false prophet, an imposter, don’t you know? And Jesus, for that matter, was one too! Woman of the Gentiles, you could not be more wrong! The New Testament Period never happened—it’s all a fraud perpetrated by St. Paul and his renegade gang of followers. I am Ezekiel the Prophet, sent again to rebuild the Holy Temple with the people of God! Now is the appointed time for the true Jews to arise!”
“Will the work on the holy Temple begin soon, prophet of God?” she murmured. “I’m praying to live to see that great day. My parents wrote, I’m supposed to go for more chemo in Boston, but I’ve said no, I want to hang out here with you as long as I can.”
“Soon, it won’t be long now, ” he assured her, taking the money and slipping it away out of sight in his robe . “Your noble sacrifice, my daughter and friend of Holy Israel, will be rewarded!”
Smiling radiantly, the young woman went away and vanished in the passers-by.
Heloise began again. She bowed her head in the manner she had just seen. This was the last thing she had ever expected to do, after having given advice on the subject numberless times, but what could she do? Her circumstances, she thought in quick justification, had changed so radically!
He seemed in a hurry. “So you believe in me too, just over a handbag? Well, you’ll never find it in the dark! Don’t worry, my daughter! Somebody will turn it into the police, and you can pick it up tomorrow. People are scrupulous about that sort of thing here. Nobody will take the money and dump the purse in the nearest trashcan or throw it into the bushes in the park. This is a wicked, Gentile-overrun city, but it still isn’t as corrupt and cynical as New York!”
“Woman of little faith, trust in me! You’ll get it all back safe and sound. But if you really do believe in me, we can’t speak of holy things in this street. There are too many unclean, world-defiled Jews around here. Most of them I wouldn’t touch with a pole! Let’s go to where the Spirit of God still dwells in pure company!”
“Okay,” was all she could think to say as he led her quickly up and then down some streets.
It was all she could do to keep going at his pace.
She was getting out of breath when he stopped at a stop in the older commercial part, where Sephardic Jews and even some Turkish and Ethiopian Jews had set up shops for tea, souvenirs, Circumcisions “while you wait,” clocks, shoes, and fruit and vegetables.
A young girl with far too many ruffles in her purple skirts and gold ribbons in her hair seemed to recognize him immediately and called, and the proprietress, a large woman in a robe with a Star of David hanging a gold chain, who was lighting a lamp behind a curtain, hurried over out and bowed. “Yes, holy prophet, what will you have today?”
The prophet bowed slightly to her. He pointed at Heloise, who could do nothing but stare at them both. “She has just come to believe in me and my mission, and I’ve brought her here to speak with her about holy things. Ask her if she will have anything? I am on a holy 633 day fast, one day for every holy law of God.”
“Not another forty days like holy Moses?” the woman said, looking closely at his smooth, handsome face. “You will age yourself right into old age at this rate. Imagine, wrinkles and white hair at your age!”
“Yes, Madam, you have done well by yourself, to find our holy prophet at this time before the time of the Great Destruction of the Gentile Nations! Now, what do you wish? Tea, coffee, pastries? We even have some soup left from the day customers. It is still quite fresh. The goat in it I raised from birth in my own pen in back!”
Heloise couldn’t think of anything she could eat right now. Her mind was still on her missing handbag added to her having given the “holy prophet” a false message. Why had she done so stupid a thing as to act like one of his pitiful female believers?
Embarassed and confused, her senses were overwhelmed by the smells and strange sounds of oriental music in the back of the shop where the dishes were washed, and then children came out to stare and ogle her. She counted five that seemed to range from two years or so to the twelve or fourteen.
She looked around. No menus, not even a crude board with the menu in chalk.
“How much English could the woman grasp?” she wondered.
She decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. “Whatever you have, is fine.”
The girl and her mama hurried away, and there was the banging, whooshing sound of antique billows, then smoke came from behind the screen, as most of the children remained to stare at the prophet and the strange lady.
Heloise held a napkin over her nose, for the smoke was thick.
The prophet let the smoke curl round his head, and smiled, showing perfect teeth. “This woman—a devout widow from Beirut--does everything the old way without an electric kitchen the secularized, unclean government can turn on or off as it pleases, the way of the true remnant of the people of God here. That is why I like it. They use only an earthenware oven to do all their cooking, baking, and heating. Everything is kosher too! But you have to wait a little longer, that is all.”
Should she flee now? she wondered. The widow’s primitive experiment in archaic cuisine was not funny at all. Thanks to him, she was rapidly losing every chance to find her purse on her own. “Maybe I can explain my bow, that it just a mistake in etiquette?”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I just can’t believe in Old Testament prophets walking the streets anymore—-least not the ones that we see here in Jerusalem. I think they all have good intentions, but they are basically—how can I say it kindly?—either lunatics or charlatans out for money. Besides, you could be someone from the Shin Bet security service sent to spy on me, an undercover agent.”
“It’s not your rejecting my sacred anointing and my calling that wounds me. I have grown used to this base treatment by unbelievers and heathen, for no prophet is accepted in his own country. It is only here, my true land of birth, that certain, spiritual people believe me. At least they did until this MJ-—the Anti-Messiah!-—showed up! I’ve suffered a considerable falling off of late in my following, thanks to him! But then, I have him to thank for purging my own ranks of false followers!”
She almost jumped when he mentioned MJ.
A pleased look shone in his eyes.
“Aha! So you agree with me on him.”
“And your name?”
“You might as well know. If you are from the Shin bet, you would know it already anyway. Heloise Turnbull..”
“Not the well-known American evangelist, Heloise. Turnbull?” he repeated, smiling.
“Yes, but I prefer to be known here at Mrs. Green, if you don’t mind, since my divorce. I don’t like being hounded by photographers and journalists.”
Quickly now, she moved to head him off, knowing where it was all going.
He didn’t seem inclined to let her go just yet. His eyes still shone as he regarded her. That made her a little uneasy, and angry too. “So we agree on MJ?” she retorted. “So what does that prove? I am not going to accept your agenda, whatever it is, just because I refuse his!”
She felt sorry for him. She couldn’t believe he really was an undercover agent—he was so artless about his behavior, particularly when she shoved her identity in his face the way she did. He was evidently so filled with good intentions, and totally deluded to think he was the prophet for the people of God he claimed to be leading in the End Times!
How in the world, she wondered, had he come to believe he was the man of the hour instead of MJ ? Why, with his looks, wasn’t he an aspiring young actor in Hollywood? It almost made her laugh, from the irony of it all. Here she was consorting with a genuine false prophet, something the heretic hunters back in the states had always accused her of being.
“And where are you from?” she burst out. “You don’t look Jewish at all, and your English is too good for an Israel-born. Do you speak Hebrew too?”
They never taught me a single word of Hebrew. They were modern secularists, both physics and mathematics teachers at the U. of Chicago, and totally neglected my religious training. I had to find out my holy calling, and who I was, by reading the Torah and the other books.
I moved to Washington and was working for the White House, as a consultant on Jewish voters and financial affairs when, using the archives and FBI files (which we weren’t supposed to access but we did it all the time!) I found out I was Jewish, and not only that, a prophet for these very times!”
For once she hadn’t dared to confront the religious madness in the man. She rephrased her question before he could answer, “That’s a quantum leap you took back then, wasn’t it? Being Jewish is one thing, how did you ever come to think you are Ezekiel the Old Testament prophet resurrected or reincarnated into the 21st century?”
He didn’t seem to hear people who stooped to such pointed and personal questioning, as if he despised small talk. He looked out the open door at the passing modern Israelis. It seemed to Heloise like he might even spit, his face was filled with so much violent disgust.
No! God will never build on this rotten, filthy, utterly defiled foundation the Christians and Moslems and the Reformed and Liberal Jews have built together! So I tell the people who will listen to me, God must destroy this city first before he builds holy Jerusalem.
Only when this city you see lies in ruins beneath my feet, and MJ is dancing in flames in Gehenna where he belongs, will the feet of the true Holy Messiah come! Only then will we see the temple restored and the proper rites performed. Only then, I tell you. The treaty they’ve just signed in an utter fraud and an abomination in the eye of the Lord!“
“I thought so!” she thought. “He’s no charlatan with a hand in everybody’s pocket, he really believes in himself, that he is the holy prophet sent by God to make things right in this world.” She marveled. “And that makes him dangerous! A fanatic! A wannabe Messiah! He actually prefers the destruction of an entire city just to see the old Jewish Temple and Orthodox Religion rebuilt on his terms!”
Suddenly, seeing her rising to put him off, he dropped his ranting prophetic manner, and touched her arm. “Pardon my preaching at you! I forget you aren’t yet a true follower at heart. You need more time, time to absorb the truth of my teachings. But wait! First, I can help you find a place. I see you are needing one.”
She was astounded, and paused. “How did you know that?”
He shook his head. “I just know. Wait a minute. The tea here is excellent, perfectly kosher. Then I will show you a nice hotel, where you will be happy to stay. Trust me, my friend from the Goyim.”
The proprietress came up at that moment. “You want a nice hotel to stay? Everybody’s full up! But this one, he can tell you! He is a wonderful man. You can trust him! He does this for many fine visitors to the holy city who hear of him and come to serve him and the cause of the rebuilding of the holy temple.”
Heloise shrank back. Not only did the reminder that he still had followers strike a chill in her heart, but everything they said was being overheard.
“I really don’t need help,” she said. “I’ve been to Jerusalem many times before. It isn’t new to me.”
Both the woman and the prophet glanced at each other, as if this stranger, a mere tourist, had too high an opinion of herself. The woman shrugged and moved off to the kitchen, if that was what it was behind the screen.
Heloise, who had sat back down on the edge of her chair, now rose. But that moment the tea came, carried out on a big heavily ornamented silver platter by the tallest, strongest girl. It was an elaborate service even for the Orient, and Heloise was impressed. There was everything the finest hotel in, say, Iran or Afghanistan, might offer.
Heloise took a sip of the scented tea, and found it pleasantly sweet but fruit-flavored, with a touch of almond. It was delicious! Just the thing for her badly-rattled nerves. For the first time she felt her body began to revive a bit in strength.
Surprised, she thanked the woman. The proprietress smiled. The prophet seemed to relax too.
“I told you it was a very good, kosher place here. They do things right.”
Heloise could not disagree, though she had wanted to run for her life a moment before. Now she had to drink the tea that had been prepared so beautifully and expertly.
A little girl came out then with a tray of oozing sweetmeats. Heloise declined, and the little girl went away smiling.
As soon as she finished her cup, the widow returned, and was going to pour another, but Heloise shook her head. “Thank you, but I really should be going. Thank you very much. It was very good! I feel a lot better now.”
She rose, still not sure what to do without her passport and other things in her handbag.
“Please let me help you,” said the prophet, and he took the plastic one carrying her toiletries.
Hoping the woman could make change with it, Heloise put down a twenty dollar bill from her precious money still in her pocket, her lowest denomination, on the table. The prophet saw it and handed the bill back to her.
“They will be greatly offended if anyone attempts to pay for their sacred service to me,” he explained. “It is their offering for the rebuilding of the holy temple, you see. This widow is a true believer! Her husband was tortured and killed by Hamas two years ago for trying to set a model of the Temple inside the Dome of the Rock.
You’ll never read about him—-nobody will print the story, of course. And his body has never been turned over to her or his family. We believe his body was dismembered and burnt to cover the crime and also to serve as punishment to the family, which they think deserves the same fate for producing such a son.”
After the tea, feeling grateful at least for the favor of some renewed vitality, she was at a loss, and tried to regain lost ground. But it was impossible. She tried to say she could use some Israeli money over and above the charge for the tea, but the proprietress smiled, and agreed with the prophet. “Tea for the holy man of God and his fine friend from America. We are all people of God here. You are welcome to return anytime, since you do honor to God’s holy prophet!”
Heloise, though she flashed with sudden anger and resentment, had to hurry or she would have been left behind. “What arrogance! Who does he think he is? And what does he think he can get from me anyway?” she thought, senselessly.
Whoever he really was, whatever his true intentions, he did not even look back as he went this street and that, and finally stopped close by East Jerusalem.
He had turned into a courtyard, and there were several former consular houses, all old, faced with tile, and intricately carved in the doorways, looking like ancient firetraps of the pre-World War I Turkish era. One just like it called “Orient House” had once housed the Palestinian Authority seat in East Jerusalem before the official new headquarters was constructed. Raided by the Israelis under Sharon, it had passed back into Jewish control. But this couldn’t be Orient House—there was no sign of it being anything but a hotel.
How strange! she thought. She noticed there was even a carved almond branch, flowering, above the entrance.
“I have a room here permanently. They will let you rent the biggest apartment, which is empty right now.”
He led her into the formal entrance of the old house that had either held the French consulate in bygone days or some local Palestinian sheik from the Trans-Jordan era with a taste for French culture.
She was wondering how to get free of Ezekiel when a robed, gray-bearded Orthodox rabbi came to greet them wearing his traditional talith, the prayer shawl all the orthodox were wearing. Carefully, like an egg in hand, he carried a tiny reproduction of Solomon’s Temple in his hand in a glass case, which he set down on the counter. Seeing Heloise, he quickly covered it with a cloth as if it were too holy a thing for her profane Gentile eyes before he turned to them.
Ezekiel introduced her to him as Mrs. Green, a visitor from America who had come to support the cause of the new Temple.
The rabbi’s manner seemed to relax a degree as he peered at her. But only a degree. “Sorry, we do not have anything very nice for you, Madam. Our hotel is quite old, you see. There is only this one flat with a bath, on the third floor. Can you climb many stairs? I am sorry we have no modern elevator.
The entire structure would have to be rebuilt in stone, replacing all the wood according to the present building codes to take one. There used to be one here years ago, but General Allenby of the British staff took it away when they evacuated the city. Are you sure you don’t want to register at a place among your own people? There is an American ambassador in the city, he can help you no doubt.”
She then checked her watch, and in the dim light of an elaborate brass lamp she saw she had lost another half hour. It was completely dark out now, thanks to the turning off of many street lamps for either economy or some religious reason. Would she be able to find her way back to the wall? She hated the idea she had to walk the streets of an oriental city at night looking for her mother’s handbag! The peeling wall-paper around her, the musty odor, the creaking floor and decrepit carpets beneath her feet—she only wanted to get away.
And could she stay in the same place with such a madman as Ezekiel the Second? Impossible!
But she saw in a flash that they weren’t listening. It was a matter they held strictly between the two of them!
The rabbi repeated himself after a bow to the prophet who showed no expression and simply stared at the man.
This made her most uncomfortable. She shook her head. “I’m really sorry I caused you both trouble,” she began again, moving toward the door.
Ezekiel reached the door first. He turned and almost shouted at the hotelier something that sounded like Hebrew, which he wasn’t supposed to know much about.
Then he turned to her. “Don’t worry about me, Mrs. Green! I won’t be staying here tonight, or the next either. You’ll be quite safe here from any imposition on my part. “
He turned back to the hotel manager, using plain English this time. “Now give her my quarters, son of Levi! I have a spare bedroom she can have, with its own bath.”
The rabbi looked at them both with horror.
“What?” he cried. “This isn’t done in my hotel! We are holy people here! Goyim in this place? God forbid!”
“’My son’?” Heloise almost blurted out. How dare he think he could address a dignified, older man that?
She watched, amazed, as the rabbi gave in to the younger man. He expressed his deep regrets over his outburst and bowed to the will of Ezekiel as if to his superior, despite the great gulf in age and his rabbinical training. Then he spoke a few words aside with Ezekiel about the temple model, pointing to it several times, and Ezekiel patted the rabbi on the back and said, “Well done! We’ll see it done exactly according to the model!”
Having instructed the rabbi the prophet set down her humble bag of toiletries in the rabbi’s care and left the hotel, shutting the door.
Now that she had a place of refuge offered her, a sudden weak spell then hit Heloise, and she wanted to sit down. She couldn’t seemingly take a step, even to save her life. What was wrong with her? She wondered. Was it menopause? She could accept it was menopause, brought on by all the traumas she had been experiencing both in Dallas and now in Israel!
Suddenly, it seemed she should stay, or at least look at the prophet’s flat. How she could feel that, in her disoriented state, she could not explain. But she felt it anyway.
She turned around, holding to the door for support. “I would like to see it first. ”
“Of course, Madam,” said the rabbi-proprietor in the kindest tones she had yet heard in Israel. “My sons will show you to the rooms. Please to follow them, Madam.”
He raised a little bell, and two young smiling men came at the first tinkle. They lacked the curling sidelocks of the ultra-orthodox, the Hasidim Jews, that made them look so outlandish to Western eyes, but they still were wearing floor length dark robes like their father’s.
The rabbi turned to them, said a word, and then turned to her with emotion rising suddenly in his face. “Please excuse us. We are not at all believers in this strange foreigner who calls himself ‘MJ’ and promises us a new Temple on the Herodian mode—but no, he is a------“
He broke off what he was going to say. “We serve breakfast and also lunch, but, sorry, no ham and eggs and milk, it is strictly kosher here,” he added as if in apology for her sake.
Heloise was still startled by the rabbi’s outburst, betraying that his faction of the orthodox Jews were holding for a second Solomonic Temple rebuilt on the Temple Mount and were boycotting the chosen “impure” pre-Herodian model ratified in the peace treaty. That was news to her! Despite all the show of camaraderie between Israelis and Arabs, Moslems and Jews, at the Knesset, thanks to a violent outcry by the Hasidim who were willing to shed blood over the issue, there were deep rifts in the peace process already showing up, mere hours after the signings!
“That would be fine, if I stay here, that is. And if it will help, I’ll carry my things myself.”
That offer seemed to please everyone, so then she followed the two young men up the staircase that took them first one direction then another, winding finally to the third floor. She was nearly exhausted when she found herself at a lamp-lit, beautifully carved door. She looked around in surprise. The hotel seemed to be more lavish on the upper storeys. The young man nearest her opened the door with a huge ornate brass key left over from General Allenby’s administration and gestured for her to enter.
She found herself dazzled by an exquisite chandelier of crystal and gilt. The entire apartment was a reproduction of a French Second Empire salon, all in minature and miraculously well-preserved. The carpet was evidently modern, but in white and gold to complement the white and gold furnishings. It all looked far too much for her slim budget.
She looked out, and in the dim light she could still make out a balcony of fine marble and tile-work with potted candy-stripe pink geraniums in high bloom. Everything was very beautiful, the prophet had certainly not led her to anything to be ashamed of—but what was the price? Surely too high for her budget!
Maybe she should stay one day. She could afford that, and then look for a more suitable place in the morning.
“I will stay,” she said, she heard herself saying.
“Thank you, Madam,” the young men chorused, and they bowed, leaving the room immediately.
Her voice had shocked her. Why had she said she would stay. Was she crazy too? she wondered. What if he used his key? She was defenseless!
It somehow thrilled her, to be “defenseless,” with a holy young prophet about to besiege her married virtue! What an unholy thought it was, she thought, while enjoying it.
How far she had lapsed from her evangelical faith, to be indulging such fantasies! She thought, felling not at all ashamed. On the contrary, she felt revived as a woman for the first time in weeks. Just the same, old habits reasserted themselves. She went to the door, shut it, and locked it. Then she went to look around the rooms. After finding her bedroom, with its elaborate canopy and beautiful crystal lamps, she went out, feeling dazed at all the changes she had just experienced, internally and externally, and sat on a fair copy of a Louis Philippe chair.
That still didn’t tell her what the hotel really was, however. A rabbi as manager and owner? A resident prophet calling himself Ezekiel? A secret agenda to rebuild the Solomonic temple on the Temple Mount?
What kind of place was it? But now her momentary euphoria was passing. Her head was sinking, she felt so terribly tired. Jet lag, she decided. How much longer would it go on?
Dragging herself to the bedroom, she lay down, and then pulled the antique, gold-monogramed sheets over her clothed body, leaving the light burning in the electrified crystal lamps.
Then she heard knocking again. Where was she? She struggled to remember. Finally, she recalled the prophet she vaguely remembered leading her somewhere in the city.
Her mind clearing, she refound reality with a jolt. She looked around, and realized that the whole thing was not a dream, she really was lying in bed beneath a canopy in a 19th century Turkish era mansion in old Jerusalem of all places!
Life could not have turned more bizarre, she thought. But she still had to face it.
This time she found she could get up, and she went to the door, after trying to get a gold-handled comb through her hair and not succeeding.
“What did I look like last night stumbling in her with that lunatic Ezekiel II leading me?” she wondered. “It must have been some scene, with the so-called prophet and me—a badly frazzled American tourist who had not only lost her ministry, her husband and family, and her money and identification but is probably going through the change of life!”
“Yes?” she said.
“Madam Green, we have breakfast ready for you!”:
She said nothing, couldn’t say anything, and simply waited. She never did say a word before breakfast to anyone—that was just her way since she was a child.
“She’s not mad at anyone,” her grandmother would say back then, defending her to her own parents. “She’s just like me—the Indian part! We never can find any words for anyone, not until we’ve had breakfast and some time to ourselves first! Give her some space and a little time in the morning—that’s all she needs!”
“Please, we have breakfast for you, Madam!” a voice insisted.
Opening, she looked out and found a young man holding a breakfast tray, with everything one would wish on it—a good kosher Jewish meal, fresh bread served with oranges, sliced, and sliced tomatoes and cucumbers! There was even orange juice!
Despite her queasy emotional state, it looked delicious! Her hunger rose up, and she took the tray. The young man went away immediately after a smile and a little bow though she gave him the glum look of a wooden Indian when he said he would return with hot coffee and tea.
Room service kept coming.
She was offered American and Turkish coffee, but she sent them back, keeping a pot of hot mint tea, just what she needed, she thought, to make her feel like her old self. She left the tray and went back into the apartment, and felt up to trying to do something with her hair and face in the tiny bathroom she found just off her bedroom.
The ornate plumbing was hard to use at first, but she found the water coming from the tap just warm enough, so she washed her face. Then she noticed the curtain behind her, and drawing it found a small claw-footed bath. She turned the gold fixture and out poured warm water, but with some rust in it. Letting it run, it turned clear enough for her to consider a bath.
“Watch out, world, here I come!” she thought.
She sat down on a chair by the big chandelier, and using a mirror put final touches on her lipstick, trying to get it right. Was her mascara, eye shadow, blush and toner all right? Her hair, without professional treatment, was a a fright, but, then, it made her look something like the pop diva types that seemed to follow MJ everywhere..
She stood and walked to a big mirror, and turned around to see if her clothes weren’t too rumpled for the public eye. Fortunately, she hadn’t turned much all night, and she decided she could get away with the wrinkles she found in her skirt and jacket. She went out and down the stairs.
She found the desk deserted, but when she looked out she saw the rabbi, or so he seemed, was just then dealing with a paper boy, who handed him a Jerusalem TIMES.
He glanced at her, a fully revived Heloise Turnbull, but went to his desk, laying the paper out, with the pictures of UFOs and MJ crowding the front page along with a headline about the government’s fall.
The paper brought her back to reality, which the hotel, a relic of an ancient regime, could never do.
“Oh no!” she thought. “Not that again!”
The world the old consulate hotel had shut out now rushed back in on her, overwhelming her senses. So much had happened in the last 24 hours! It was, most of it, stranger than anything she had experienced in her entire life—even with her ministry’s bankruptcy and the divorce forced on her!
She also felt a terror, not of running out of money in so odd a place as Jerusalem, but of running out of any ability to handle the strangeness invading her life from every side, which was more than she could handle if she couldn’t get a handle on what was making her so confoundedly weak!
“I am checking out,” she managed to say to the rabbi in a strained, high-pitched voice. The inscrutable Oriental, he simply looked at her without any expression. She repeated it, thinking he had not heard her right.
When he didn’t respond, she insisted in a squeaky voice that was all she could muster, weak as she was feeling at that moment.. “May I please pay my bill? I have the money.”
“Nothing, Madam. You were our honored guest. Our holy laws—they tell us to shelter the wayfarer and widow and orphan in distress.”
“But—but--!” she protested. “I really need to pay for my stay last night, and my breakfast!”
The rabbi smiled, shaking his head as if he couldn’t stop once started. “Oh, no, no, you are an honored guest of our great friend, God’s holy prophet for the Temple. He will take care of it.”
Heloise could not think what to say. How could a madman, a dangerous fanatic which he clearly was, be so well thought of? Suddenly, the whole scene grated on her nerves one time too many. She felt trapped, and she did the only thing she could do. She flung three twenties down on the desk, and fled like an utter fool.
It seemed hopeless. She paused once again to rest in a small park for Intifadia victims, a few small potted trees and flowers, with some benches, and an inscribed stone. She was sitting there, looking out at the busy street when a shadow made her lurch to her feet. She found herself looking in Ezekiel’s offended eyes, who looked down on her as if she were a mere misbehaving child.
He thrust money at her along with her mother’s old green handbag.
She snatched the handbag, but refused the money. His look, when she wouldn’t take the money, was unmistakable. She knew he was reading her very thoughts, the ones that had branded him a “dangerous fanatic,” and his knowledge of her stabbed her heart.
Even worse, he drove home the point with words.
“How could you act like that? You were my guest, didn’t they tell you? You must not embarrass me again! They accepted you for the sake of the holy Temple. They truly believed you were sympathetic to our cause. How can you walk on good, decent people’s feelings like that?”
“Thanks so much for retrieving my handbag! I really appreciate it! But what do you mean, your ‘guest’? I don’t even know you,” she said, letting the part about the Temple pass.
He waved aside her absurd, little protest after the outrage she had done to his honor as a prophet of God. His face turned deadly serious. “You don’t know where you are! You needed my protection. All sorts of people would take advantage of you. You don’t know this city. It may not appear to the tourist as crass and greedy as New York, but that is a deception. Jerusalem is a cess pool, overflowing with wickedness and violence of its own kind! The Lord God will soon wipe this Sodom and Egypt off the face of the earth, for its stiff-necked rebellion against his holy law and—“
Ezekiel scooped it up as he followed her down the street. He followed, but when she wouldn’t speak to him again, he finally let her go on alone.
As soon as she was sure he wasn’t following, she went in a café, just to sit down and rest her feet. She had acted badly, tried to cover it up and made everything infinitely worse. What could she do to follow that up? Nothing!
A hour later, after several coffees and something Israeli like a hard-shell taco with hot meat stuffing she found too hot and spicy for her tongue, she realized she couldn’t stay there all day, and went back out to face Jerusalem without Ezekiel. Her stomach churned. She realized the strong food had been a mistake for her already weakened condition.
Suddenly, she not only felt very, very menopausal-weak, but she had to get to a bathroom or suffer the consequences right in the public street!
It was without shame she bolted into an open shop and headed right for the back, and found a toilet as the shop girl stared at her. Without a word between them, Heloise went in, locking the door. When she came out, the girl was all apologies as Heloise tried to explain.
Feeling better, she gave the girl a twenty dollar bill for the trouble she had been. The girl shook her head, smiled too much, and Heloise insisted.
It was just as she turned onto Moshe Dayan street, that she saw the sign in the window, “Clean European Studio Apartment” in English, on the second story above a shop. A flight of stairs at the side led up to the second floor, and she went up and knocked the first of three doors, all painted green and set on both sides with big pots of geraniums that could catch the light coming down from open skylights.
“Oh, I’ll take it!” Heloise cried. “--even with light housekeeping. Please, where is it? Can I go there now?”
“Why, yes—“ the woman said uncertainly. She turned to her husband, who had thrust his face out the door to see what was going on. She turned to him. “Can you stay with the children? I will show it to her, and then she can decide. It is such a little place, she may not want it. And mother will want her to do too much work!”
Despite her disclaimer, Heloise was not prepared for what she was shown. To her, it seemed as if a doghouse had been tacked on the building—-no human being, surely, could consider it fit to live in, she thought. Looking like a closet divided into two tiny rooms not much larger than broom closets, Heloise almost laughed aloud at the squalid “apartment,” but she sank down on the chair, and nodded she would take it.
Only then did the woman offer her hand, apologetically. “Excuse me, I should have told you before! My name is Esther, Esther Cohen. My mother’s name is Anna Rabinowitz, and she was born in Kiev, in Ukraine, and has a lot of the old ways about her still today, I’m afraid. But at least she knows a little English from the days she spent in a concentration camp, from the time Americans came to liberate them. As for me, we all studied English in school growing up--”
Something about the strange sounding –witz on the end of the mother’s name and the mention of a WWII concentration camp seemed to send up a red flag in Heloise. She looked at the door for the first time. No lock!
“But I’ll fix that,” she thought. “I can handle her old-fashioned, Ukraine-born mother too if I have to! There isn't anyone I can't deal with!”
Heloise, assuring her it was just fine for her, let her go after the young woman said she would talk to her mother in the morning and make arrangements for her to stay, if she still wanted the room.
The door shut, Heloise looked around at what she had gotten herself into—it appeared now, too hastily. What a change from her 12-million-dollar mansion in Bellwood Manor to a room like a jail cell!
She glanced up at the single bulb of her windowless sitting room and its furnishings of two chairs, then went into the other room, which was the room with a bed with no blankets or sheets, only a thin mattress. In the corner was a thread-bare plastic-shower curtain, behind which was a toilet without even a mirror on the wall. The toilet smelled, had cigarette butts in it, and had not been cleaned for quite some time.
She was too tired to react when she saw a gecko run across the wall behind the toilet, disappearing into a big crack. That did it! The reality of the place struck her like cement dropped on her, dragging her down against her will.
She spoke to herself like she would an unreasonable, sick child. “See, you can’t leave! You’re staying, Heloise! Don’t you even think of leaving! Just settle down and rest her a while! Settle down!”
“Where else can I stay tonight? This has got to be it!” she thought.
Slowly, the crisis of her latest attack of “mono” or “menopause” or whatever it was passed as she tried this—a technique she had used many times in the past whenever she had found herself in unspeakably difficult situations in ministry for a Westerner, particularly in Eastern Asia.
Feeling somewhat revived, she decided to rearrange things a bit while she still felt up to physical activity.
After she pulled the bed into the first room and shut the door, she felt she could sleep there, even if she had to do it with her clothes on the first night.
Before she could sleep, however, there was a knock on her door. At that very moment, yet another weak spell nearly sat her down on the floor. She had all she could do to open the door without collapsing.
“Please, some warm things for you, Madam,” said the young woman with arms full of blankets, sheets, and pillows. “They will help you to sleep in this cold place.”
Heloise, holding to the door for support, almost burst into tears, but forced a smile, and quickly made way.
Smiling, the young woman came in, and though surprised to find the bed in the sitting room, she made up the bed despite Heloise in a faint voice insisting five or six times she could do it.
“You must have some warm things on warm bed, it gets unbearable here in this city at nights with these floors and walls,” the woman explained, still smiling. “Even if they are stone, they are very thin, and ice can form on them indoors! Mother would never let you have her good blankets, but we have these, left by some people who are not being allowed back to their apartment—they were Russian Jews and had false identification— and the new people, immigrants to our country, will have their own they are bringing.“
“Why are you doing this for me, a stranger?” she asked, the moment the young mother stood up. “We just met!”
The moment she asked, a flood of thoughts and problems came with it, like a dam had burst:
How can East and West really come to common ground in order to understand each other? Utterly impossible! It is the East that has always been first to know what human hearts are like, and what they desire.
It is the East that knew the human heart in a deeper way than any amount of educated Westerners of the last couple centuries! And here I come flying into her life, vain and light, demanding the knowledge and wisdom that these ancient peoples, the Arabs and Jews, acquired only over long and many ages of time and much suffering!
What in the world can she—this angel of the Chosen People—say to a demanding little piece of Johnny-come-lately American fluffball such as I must seem to her?
Again, that old law straight from the times of the Patriarchy of over three thousand years ago coming to her aid? It couldn’t be! But this was Jerusalem, where the ancient times mixed unashamably with the ultra-modern and hitech, at the drop of a hat!
And a response from her, evidently, was required. But what? Heloise’s mouth fell open. She had taught Bible for twenty or more years, but here was yet another living proof that the Bible culture still lived on in modern times, and it was reaching out to her in real space and time!
The young woman bridged the gap herself. She took Heloise’s hand as she might her own sister’s, saying “My name is—in your language—Esther. It is different, of course, in our language.”
Heloise looked at Esther, who should have been a relic in a museum, not this vibrant, young mother and homemaker standing before her. She then made her numb hand give Esther’s a little pressure of politeness, she just couldn’t take it in. Her fate? To be sheltered by a “Haddassah”- named hotel on arrival, and now to find more shelter under that ancient name belonging to a modern Jewess, who must have looked quite a bit like the one who was holding her hand. It was all too much for a modern woman from the West to absorb.
For Heloise Turnbull, after what had happened to her at the Wall and elsewhere, this was far too much, indeed, for one day. Whatever her response or lack of it, Esther left her, and Heloise lay down to recover from all the surprises and shocks of the cultures of Israel, one ultra-modern and the other as ancient as the stones of Jerusalem.
She wondered if maybe she wasn’t losing her mind, but that her weak spells weren’t somehow connected with culture shock. That would explain why she had been feeling the way she did in Jerusalem, after receiving a perfect bill of health, with only minor problems for a woman her age, at her last checkup at Mayo’s in Rochester, Minnesota.
Yet her culture shock wasn’t all unpleasant in its effects, she reflected after a while lying still. She was overwhelmed at the sensation of being in a—could she not say it?—-“Biblical” and “Jewish” bed, feeling the wonderful, home-grown and woven wool blankets draw sleep back into her tormented body. It was just too good for her tired, beaten-up, abused Heloise Turnbull body, seemingly, to believe. What was Heloise Turnbull anyway? She, and all her tribulations and collapsed ministry and its world-wide agendas, had vanished like a child’s bad dream. Instead, what had taken her place felt like a furry kitten snuggled in her mother’s furry breast!
Was that so bad? No! she thought. At that moment, feeling as she did, she could just let her whole former life go and not regret it with a single tear! At least that was a nice thought to go to sleep with.
Just as she was easing into sleep, Ezekiel’s harsh criticisms of the people of modern Jerusalem came to mind with a jolt that stopped her from yielding to the strong tug of sleep.
“Why, the modern Jews aren’t nearly so bad as Ezekiel says,” she thought, angered when she thought of how lovingly she had just been treated. “He’s far too extreme in his judgmental attitudes. Thank God somebody here remembers Egypt and old Moses! Thank God, thank God, thank God…”
“Israel—-my new home?” she thought, half-amused but also comforted by the thought. “She hadn’t chosen Israel. Had it chosen her? Could it be? If so, that would the strangest thing that could ever happen to-—to whomever she was now!”
Then, without knowing it, she dropped off the edge of consciousness as if she had suddenly plunged off a cliff into sweet nothingness.