The eleven remaining disciples of Yeshua hide in the place where they shared the first Banquet of God with hem. The door is locked because they are afraid of the Jews and the Romans. Miriam of Magdalen comes to the room, knocks out Shave and a Haircut, and is admitted into the room. She says to Kephas, “I have been to the sepulchre where they buried the Lord. He is no longer there!”
Shimon, called The Rock by Yeshua, locks the door behind her and says, “So they moved his body.”
Miriam shakes her head. “We saw a woman with white skin and white hair, in white raiment. She said the Lord is risen!”
As the disciples debate what this news means a worm tunnel appears in the midst of the room. Yeshua floats through it, and the tunnel disappears again. Yeshua stands there and greets them all with great joy, but they can hardly believe their eyes. Yeshua says, “The peace of God be with each of you.”
But at first they are very frightened because they think he is a ghost. So Yeshua says, “Do not be afraid! Look at my body and see that it is truly myself. Touch me and see, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see me have.”
But che has no holes in his hands or feet, nor scars from the Roman whip, and some of the followers do not believe it is really che. Yeshua then tells them certain things they had once shared that only hez disciples would know. Then they acknowledge it is indeed Yeshua, but they still think che must be a ghost. So Yeshua asks for something to eat. They give hem a piece of broiled fish, and Yeshua eats it in their presence to prove che is not a spirit.
Then Shimon remembers how he fled from Yeshua’s side in hez darkest hour and how he denied that he knew hem when he was in the house of Caiaphas. Shimon sinks to his knees and says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
Yeshua assures Simon he is already forgiven, and che says, “Indeed, soon I will depart from all of you, and return to my father, but you are eyewitnesses of all these things. Now you are no longer disciples but my apostles. I now send you forth to preach the forgiveness of sins and to bring the Banquet of God to all the nations of the world, beginning here in Jerusalem.”
Yeshua leads them out of the city as far as Bethany. The tunnel appears again beside hem. Yeshua withdraws from the apostles and enters the globe. The globe is lifted into the sky, and the apostles watch until they can see Yeshua no more.
After that the apostles return to Jerusalem to begin the work that Yeshua has trained them to do, with much prayer and thanksgiving, and ever they come together to eat the memorial feast established by Yeshua on the evening that che was arrested. And they have no more fear of the unbelievers, for their master has suffered the most cruel death men can devise, yet che is now risen to a second life, and for those who are baptized and come to believe, the same is promised to them.
“And so it begins,” Caiaphas the High Priest says when he hears of the growing new movement, “just as we feared it would be when the body of this Yeshua went missing. Now these men and those of like mind will go among the people and tell them this Yeshua is risen, and stir them up to vain superstitions.”
Yet the apostles, despite the fears of Caiaphas, are not really of like mind. The Yeshua movement snaps in two barely out of the starting gate. One faction, led by Yeshua’s half-brother Yakob the Righteous believes the movement is nothing more than a new take on orthodox Judaism and proposes to work towards an accommodation with authorities such as the Pharisees and Saduccees and even the occupying Romans. Yakob’s group decides to remain in Jerusalem close to the levers of power.
The other faction, led by Kephas, remembers how the authorities ruthlessly executed both Yohanan the baptizer and after that Yeshua himself. They are not remotely interested in making peace with any enemy save Death, which Yeshua has shown through his resurrection can be conquered by anyone who makes the rule of God present in the world. In time, Shimon’s group migrates north, first to their original home near Galilee, then they move farther north to settle in Antioch.
A third faction called the Ebionites stays behind in Galilee when Kephas moves to Antioch. And a fourth faction called the Gnostics more or less cashes in on the momentum of the other three movements, but they bring along a host of new ideas that Yeshua never taught.
Yeshua hemself samples the progress of his apostles at various points in time, appearing to remain young even as his apostles wax old and die. At first, aside from the odd “miracle” to prod things along, che does not interfere. But standing on Mount Olive the summer exactly forty years after che had been crucified, Yeshua witnesses the end of the Second Temple and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Che knows Judaism is finished as a religion of the temple. From that point going forward personal adherence to the purity code of Moshe, as taught by rabbis in synagogues, would atone for personal and corporate sin which had previously been absolved by animal sacrifices.
Spot checks farther up the timeline confirm to Yeshua that no third temple would ever be constructed. What troubles Yeshua is that over that same span of time his followers never take his message of the Banquet of God to anyone other than the Jews. In that timeline, with the fall of Jerusalem his own movement is rapidly extinguished as well. Yeshua goes back to the 30s to see what he can do.
Early on the Jewish aristocrats and religious authorities realize the new “Way” of Yeshua is a tumor growing on their power structure. They think the only way to stop it is to escalate to bloodshed. The first victim of this new policy is a deacon of the Jerusalem mother church named Stefanos, who has been selected to aid the apostles in attending to the physical needs of the people while they focus on preaching. Stefanos is particularly fired up for Yeshua, and it is easy to manipulate a mob into interpreting his preaching as the provocation of a Jewish apostate and stone him to death.
This mob violence is witnessed by a certain Pharisee named Saulus of Tarsus, and he heartily agrees that Stefanos deserved to die. He volunteers to become the chief thug for the orthodox Jewish side, and goes around the country kicking in the doors of Yeshua-followers and dragging them, men and women alike, to prison.
When Herod Agrippa I takes command of Judea, appointed by Emperor Claudius, the Jewish authorities tell him that Yeshua was a man who had deemed himself to be God, and had drawn many followers to him, and these followers continue to make converts even after Yeshua has been executed. Herod is a good Jew and this deeply offends him. He takes the violence to a whole new level by arresting Yakob Boanerges, the brother of Yohanan, and puts him to death by the sword.
This seems to have the desired effect. The followers of Yeshua’s way goes underground in Jerusalem, but Saulus hears they are still openly preaching in Damascus, so he goes there with letters written by certain rabbis authorizing him to find Yeshua’s disciples and bring them to Jerusalem in fetters.
When Saulus is well on his way to that city, Yeshua causes the mouth of a wormhole from the Land We Know to fall upon Saulus. It is the first “alien abduction” in history. Night is transformed to day. There is a warm alpine meadow with many different flowers, and stunted trees, and the biggest mountain Saulus has ever seen, covered by dozens of glaciers. There, seated in the meadow on a log, is Yeshua, who says, “Do not be afraid, Saulus.”
Saulus asks in reply, “Who are you, Lord?”
“I am Yeshua, the son of the living God. I am the one you are truly afflicting when you arrest my followers, for they are my hands and feet in the world.”
Saulus sinks to his knees and says, tearfully, “Forgive me, Lord.”
“There is nothing to forgive, Saulus. You honestly believed my followers were turning the children of Israel away from our God. I honor your zeal, but I have a better use for it.”
“Anything, Lord,” Saulus says. “What would you have me do?”
Yeshua smiles at him, “After you have been baptized men shall no longer call you Saulus. After that you shall be Paulus, and you will be my missionary to the Gentiles.”
“The Gentiles, Lord?”
“I know it’s very ironic. You studied the Code of Moshe under Rabbi Gemaliel and your observance of it is impeccable. You are the perfect Jew, Saulus, but it turns out that is all the Code of Moshe is really good for: making Jews flawlessly unlike anyone of the neighboring nations and kingdoms. But the written law doesn’t make you objectively righteous to my Father because God can see inside your heart and loyalty has to begin from deep within. Do you see?”
“I do, Lord, there is the kind of righteousness based on the fear of being caught, and there is the righteousness which springs from the desire to please one’s master.”
Yeshua laughs. “Clearly you are going to be the brains of my organization, if you join me, Saulus. No doubt you have heard of the man I left in charge of my flock back there, Shimon, son of Yona.”
“I understand you renamed him Kephas, or ‘Rock’, Lord.”
“That’s true, but you may not know why I did that.”
“The rumor is he is a man of great strength, Lord.”
“I named him Kephas because he is as dumb as a rock. Nevertheless, if I turn you loose without putting you into the proper relationship with Shimon and my brothers and my other followers, you will run where I do not want you to go.”
Yeshua, speaking these words, stretches out hez hands and touches Saulus’ face. Instantly, he is filled with dismay and says “Save me, Lord, I cannot see!”
“Others will guide you to Kephas,” says Yeshua, and Saulus does not see how he is returned to the place where he has been taken from.
Saulus, blinded by the touch of Yeshua, is led the rest of the way to Damascus by his traveling companions. Before he enters that city, they are intercepted by Ananias, a disciple who has been alerted by Yeshua. Ananias takes them to his house in the city. There Saulus is baptized, and following the command of the Lord he begins to call himself Paulus.
After a number of days, they journey again to Jerusalem, where Ananias tries to get the brethren to accept Paulus, but everyone is afraid of him, and fear he is trying to infiltrate their cells in order to betray them to the Jews.
In the end it falls to Barnabas, an old friend of Paulus who studied with him under Rabbi Gemalial, to meet with the man and find out what his story is. Barnabas is one of the earliest converts to Yeshua. He had been a wealthy landowner who sold his holdings in Crete and used the money to fund Kephas’ ministry. So Barnabas has the ear of Kephas, and after a long talk with Paulus he believes his friend really has met the Lord somehow and converted to the Way, just as he said. Yet it seems incredible, and it would be a hard sell, for as Saulus he had been the worst enemy of the nascent Church.
Through the mediation of Barnabas, then, Kephas comes to Paulus, who is still blind, and it is entirely within the power of Kephas to leave Paulus thus and remove a thorn from the Church. But Kephas is preaching a gospel of forgiveness, and he knows that Yeshua would scorn his hypocrisy if he did not try to heal the man. So Kephas touches his eyes, and something like scales fall away from them, and Paulus can see again, but his vision would never be nearly as good as it was before he met Yeshua, and Paulus would require the services of an assistant to write all his letters. Yet that, too, was part of Yeshua’s plan to mold his character. For years after that Paulus would beg the Lord in prayer to remove this impediment, and Yeshua would always answer, “No.”
“The Lord Yeshua spoke with me,” Paulus says to Kephas. “Not in a vision, but man to man, just as I am speaking with you now.”
“So you say,” Kephas replied. “He spoke with me too, after he was raised up from the dead. He spoke with me for years before he was put to death so I actually know the Lord. Can you say the same?”
Paulus shakes his head, conceding the point. “The Lord said I was to be sent to the Gentiles.”
“And what will you tell the Gentiles?” Kephas asks. When Paulus again has no answer to that, Kephas says, “I see that Yeshua has left it to me to teach you his doctrine. Gentiles you say? Did you know that some of the apostles, even the Lord’s brothers, insist the Gentiles must become good Jews before they can be baptized in the name of Yeshua? That only the circumcised can come to the table of the Banquet of God?”
“The Lord Yeshua made it very clear to me that is not what he intends.”
Kephas nods. “I’ve been trying to find some middle way. But now you come along and say you will go to the Gentiles, and not receive them as Jews first. I tell you that is the sort of thing that can split our Way irretrievably in two.”
“‘Come now, and let us reason together’, says the Lord,” cites Paulus from the prophet Isaiah.
And so they take the issue to the whole church at the Council of Jerusalem, convened by Yakob, the brother of Yeshua. Paulus is not permitted to speak, but Kephas pleads his case before the council, and his position as the chief apostle carries much weight. But Kephas does not have the ultimate authority over whole the Church that would be enjoyed by the Popes much later.
Although he is not allowed to speak, the astonishing transformation of Paulus from enemy of the Way to a wannabe apostle carries much weight. So the final verdict of the Council of Jerusalem is that Gentile converts to the Way of Yeshua do not have to be circumcised or adhere to the whole Code of Moshe, but a handful of commandments which Jews believed have been binding on all men since the time of Noah are retained. Paulus is not totally happy with the compromise, but few negotiators ever are.
Paulus is ordained the Apostle to the Gentiles, while the original apostles are to bring the children of Israel, scattered throughout the world, to the Banquet of God.
Finally Yakob the Righteous, the cousin and step-brother of Yeshua, deigns to speak to him. “Remember, Brother Paulus, that here in Jerusalem we are burdened with many poor. Do not forget these people when you preach to your more affluent Gentile flocks of Yeshua and the Banquet of God.”
And so, with the blessing of the whole Church, Paulus begins to make a series of travels throughout the northeastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, and he stitches together a network of a dozen new Churches in Greece and Asia Minor. Paulus benefits from his Roman citizenship, which comes to him by virtue of being the son of his father. His father had purchased Roman citizenship upon becoming a successful tent-maker in Tarsus. This is a trade that Paulus has learned from his father, and a trade he relies on to support himself as he engages in his missionary activity.
One time when Paulus returns to Jerusalem with financial contributions he collected from his constellation of Gentile churches a vicious rumor sprang up to the effect that Paulus is teaching Jewish Christians not to obey the Torah. Yakob doesn’t believe it for a minute, but he suggests that Paulus ritually cleanse himself in Herod’s temple to lay the questions to rest, and Paulus takes this advice.
With everyone walking on eggshells over this point, an opening is seen by the enemies of the Church. After the death of the Roman procurator Porcius Festus, in the short span before Lucceius Albinus replaces him, the High Priest Ananus moves quickly during the power vacuum and assembled the scribes and priests and Sadduccees. Yakob is invited to attend this “hearing”.
Ananus says to him, “We, as well as all the people, know you are a just man, and partial to none. Therefore we ask you to restrain your people, for they have gone astray in their opinions about your kinsman, this Yeshua, and hold that he is the Messiah. Stand, then, upon the summit of the temple, that from that elevated spot you may be clearly seen, and your words clearly audible to all the people. For it is Passover, and all the tribes have congregated here, and some of the righteous Gentiles are here also.”
Yakob ascends to the pinnacle of the temple as he was asked, but there he declares that Yeshua sits in heaven at the right hand of God, and that che that shall come again on the clouds of heaven with all the holy angels to judge the living and the dead.
The members of the council in great wrath throw him down from the temple, so the people would see this and be afraid. But Yakob is not killed by the fall, only crippled. So the members of the council began to hurl stones at him. In great pain he struggles to his knees under the bombardment and prays, “I beg you, Lord God our Father, do not hold this against them, for they do not know what they do!”
Finally a textile worker takes the staff he uses to wring out the garments he dyes and hurls it directly at the head of Yakob, which smites him dead.
A huge fire breaks out and destroys a tenth of the city of Rome. Rumors begin to spread that the Emperor Nero himself started the fire to make room for his new palace. To diffuse these suspicions, he puts a few Christians under torture and gets them to “confess” to arson to stop the agony. Based on this “testimony” hundreds of known Christians are placed under arrest and fed to dogs, or crucified, or turned into screaming human street lamps. Kephas is arrested, flogged, and crucified on Vatican Hill. Paulus is a Roman citizen and cannot not be flogged or crucified so instead he is beheaded on the Ostian road just outside of Rome.
After that a revolt against Rome breaks out in Judea, centered in Jerusalem. Nero appoints General Vespasian as military commander over three legions to put down the unrest. At first Vespasian has some success in Galilee, but when Nero is forced to commit suicide the Empire is plunged into civil war. Vespasian takes some of his forces to Alexandria to secure the Egyptian grain supply, and ultimately he is declared Emperor himself by the Senate. He leaves his son Titus in charge of the final assault on Jerusalem.
The city is defended tenaciously by the Jews, but four Roman legions surround Jerusalem with mighty earthworks. The outcome is never in doubt. After a siege of five months the entire city, including the temple which has always been central to Judaism, is pillaged and razed to the ground, except for three towers and the Western Wall, which are retained on the orders of Titus as a reminder to the surviving Jews of their lost glory. Yeshua watches this from the summit of Mount Olive.
Jerusalem, one of five Patriarchal Sees in the universal Christian Church, ceases to exist, even in name. The Romans eventually turn it into a colony named Aelia Capitolina.
The mother of Yeshua passes away peacefully while living in the house of Yohanan Boanerges in Ephesus, Asia Minor. Yeshua sends Issacharite women to gather her body and bury her near the Sacred Pool in Canterwood. No one sees her body removed. Yohanan knows only that before she could be buried her body was not to be found, and no one on Earth could have possibly taken it. Thus begins the cult of Miriam that would persist for ages.
When Yohanan dies, bringing to a close the Apostolic Age, the leaders of various Christian communities began to assemble biographies of Yeshua, and all of these are forgeries, attributed to various deceased pillars of the Church to add a vernier of authenticity. This soon gets out of hand. The bishops of Corinth and Carthage complain that someone is writing false epistles using their name to discredit them and promote their own agenda. In Rome, two men lay claim to the bishopric at the same time, and the controversy does not end until the Roman Emperor Maximinus Thrax exiles both of them to Sardinia.
Some emperors are a bit more harsh. Valerian orders that all Christian bishops, priests, and deacons, including Pope Sixtus II, must sacrifice to the Roman gods, under penalty of death. Many of them chose death. Decius extends the persecution to the Christian laity. He issues an edict requiring all citizens to sacrifice to the emperor in the presence of a Roman official and obtain a certificate proving they had done so. Most Christians comply rather than incur fines or even death.
Other emperors, however, are more tolerant. Emperor Constantine even converts to Christianity on his deathbed and Julian the Apostate is the last non-Christian emperor. Emperor Theodosius I makes Christianity the state religion of the empire, and eleven years later he outlaws most pagan rituals.
In the Seventh Century, a rival monotheistic religion called Islam arises to challenge Christianity, but the empire resists the Muslim onslaught until the Fifteenth Century when Constantinople finally falls to the Ottomans. This marks the final end of the Roman Empire.
During the long twilight period leading up to that, the Popes call for a series of seven Crusades, all of them brutal wars of conquest against the Islamic empire by Christendom. During the seventh Crusade the latest incarnation of Thaumiel comes to Yeshua in Canterwood and hands hem a sheaf of parchment. Hy says, “This is a papal bull titled Ad Extirpanda from Pope Innocent IV. Note in particular Law 25, where he authorizes the use of torture against heretics.”
The head of state or ruler must force all the heretics whom he has in custody, provided he does so without killing them or breaking their arms or legs, as actual robbers and murderers of souls and thieves of the sacraments of God and Christian faith, to confess their errors and accuse other heretics whom they know, and specify their motives, and those whom they have seduced, and those who have lodged them and defended them, as thieves and robbers of material goods are made to accuse their accomplices and confess the crimes they have committed.
Thaumiel says, “I can assure you, Yeshua, having made something of a study of this, there are things that can be done to human beings short of killing them or breaking their limbs that make even the agony you endured in Judea pale in comparison. Twelve hundred years, Yeshua, and this is what has become of your ‘Banquet of God’. So I think I can say, without contradiction, that I have won.”
Yeshua concedes the point, but he says the game is not over.
For a number of days Lord Kirodiel completely bypasses the hard target of Rumbek. Hyz army destroys the villages of Teal and Olivus, then fans out through all the surrounding hills. By the end of the third day the city of Mandakar lies in smoking ruins, and the entirety of Sealiah Island lies under the boots of the invading House Gerash.
At Mandakar the Gerash forces roll forward a prefabricated bridge and swung it out on a pivot to connect Fanon Island to Sealiah Island once more. Supported by many small boats the bridge swings across during a lull in the naval engagement when the forces of Rumbek have pulled back many ships to reduce the alarming losses from Gerash suicide commando swimming parties. The bridges from Fanon Island to Krone Island, and also to the main city on Liban Island, are preemptively sunk by Count Zelus to limit their losses.
This new intensity in Gerash violence is a set piece put on for High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel, who is now physically present on the battlefront rather than leading from behind as is often hyz preference.
Princess Khondiel stands long atop the ramparts of the walls of the city of Rumbek, and to har martial mind it is apparent that House Gerash is steadily gaining the advantage against House Bellon by sheer dint of numbers, and the hate by which the Gerash warriors flung themselves into battle. So Khondiel bids Haziel to immediately journey with har west beyond the Nine Mile Wall while the route is still clear. Sha says to Haziel, “I perceive the siege of Rumbek will soon grow strait, and the Brown Beard navy will be tasked to defend the city itself, letting the invincible Nine Mile Wall, undefeated in war, defend the rest of Magodon. But should Rumbek fall and Lord Kirodiel besiege the wall, none will then find their way through it, be they friend or foe.”
Haziel agrees with Khondiel. Sha asks leave of Count Zelus Bellon, which hy grants with great deference, and sha leaves with these words: “King Arman is surely dead, or captured, as you have surely guessed, and that is a grievous loss, my Lord, and if we had time I would mourn with you and the people as is fitting. Yet King Arman’s sacrifice is not wholly in vain, I deem. The house of Bellon does not stand against Gerash alone, and the king may have won for you the time you needed for the house of Antero to march to your aid from the west.”
Zelus says, “I thank you for the spirit in which you intend to say these words to me, Lady Haziel, but if Rumbek is destined for a dark and bloody fate, I consider it my duty to share in that fate full-willing, and it pains me to say so, but false words of hope are worse than none at all, I deem.”
Haziel says, “Count Zelus, it is the farthest thing from my mind to throw you a line of hope and then fail to tie off my end. Little do you know of my labors to bring hither aid from House Bellon. If Rumbek can hold out for yet a little while more, then High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel Gerash may find hy has stepped into a trap. Then all who crave peace might win through to the day when King Arman is laid to rest in honor, and you are crowned king in this city. Farewell!”
Princess Khondiel has judged well the time of their departure. Mere hours after sha and Haziel depart Rumbek and take the bridge to the narrow strip of land at the foot of the Nine Mile Wall, the Brown Beard navy rallies all their ships around the Isle Liban. This leaves Lord Kirodiel free to pull all hyz troops off Sealiah except those directly involved in the Rumbek siege, and those troops are ferried across the channel to the bench of land nigh to the Wall almost on the very heels of Haziel and Khondiel.
The beautiful dwellings and public buildings of Krone Island, isolated now from Liban, are burned to the ground in a blaze kindled by Lord Kirodiel hymself. After the fire consumes everything and the flame abates, Kirodiel scattters the embers in the sight of the defenders of Rumbek looking on from across the strait and hy also sprinkles the ground with salt. “Even so shall Rumbek be wasted utterly,” hy cries in a loud voice. And the hearts of the folk of Rumbek fall.
The peninsula of Magodon is ringed on three sides by cliffs of sandstone which rise from the sea some four hundred feet, but at the Nine Mile Wall yeng erected masonry that made that tall cliff purely vertical, slotted in many places with holes for observation and to shoot arrows or pour boiling liquids. The wall is higher than the face of the cliff, so that it could face west as well as east, as the need might be. Between the face of the wall and the face of the natural cliff which it encloses are many platforms and stairs and catacombs filled with weapons for the bane of besieging armies and stores to supply defenders for many days of battle.
When Princess Khondiel and Lady Haziel are admitted through the Wall they climb many steps and ramps until they arrive on the plateau of Magodon at the top, where they behold the banners and ranks of countless troops from the House of Antero. Then Haziel knows har long labors have born fruit. For sha has kept har avatar at a remove lest Israel force the tangle with hyz dragon too early, and so Haziel did not known of the presence of the Red Beards until sha saw the host with har own eyes.
Bellon troops who are rallying to the aid of Rumbek from across the land of the Brown Beards have also come to the city with the forces of the House of Antero. Already many of these are filling positions on the Nine Mile Wall to turn back the Gerash invaders.
But there in the sight of everyone under arms Demonstroke arrives on the east wind. The flying beast releases from its left claw something resembling a star that falls from the sky burning like a torch, and it strikes the ground near the center of the Nine Mile Wall with great violence, such that it digs a deep pit therein.
And Demonstroke releases from its right claw another projectile that falls directly into this new pit, and there follows a blast under the ground of such a magnitude as had not been seen on Barbelo since the fall of the asteroid that brought the world flood, and never in living memory.
The bottom half of the Nine Mile Wall nigh to Rumbek blows straight out, and the masonry of the Wall above the blast collapses in ruin, and in place of a sheer wall there is now a ramp of sand, but many besieging Gerash troops also die, or are buried alive by the debris.
Lord Kirodiel pays no mind to hyz own casualties. Hy commands hyz remaining generals to charge up that ramp with their divisions to the Magodon plateau above, and they immediately began to comply.
Then Demonstroke himself drops from the sky and crashes to the battle plain behind the wall, and smoke rises from its black carcass like the smoke of a great furnace, and the orange sun is darkened by reason of the smoke. And the dragon rises again out of the smoke glittering with black armor as smooth as glass, and its teeth are rockets which are loosed against yeng, and the sound of its wings are like a great waterfall. And Demonstroke has a flexible tail like a scorpion, and there is a gun in that tail which kills yeng with rounds as thick as a thumb.
Demonstroke descends among the ordered ranks of the allied families like a storm, killing yeng at will, and scatters them in disorder before they can make a counter-charge down the new ramp in the Nine Mile Wall.
When Khondiel sees all this sha holds Haziel’s hand and squeezes it, and Haziel says to har, “Alas, our enemy Israel is come.” And Haziel knows the dragon has the power to snatch har victory away when sha is on the very cusp of attaining it, and that was reason enough to summon har own avatar, but sha finds that neither victory nor defeat means much to har now. A new thing has come to dominate Haziel’s consciousness. When sha looks upon Khondiel sha sees har anew, as though gazing upon har for the very first time. Haziel finds that Khondiel has suddenly become the most important thing in creation to har, and sha is desperate to get Khondiel away from the field of battle.
A living star has fallen in love with a planet-dweller.
Demonstroke alights near High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel Gerash on the battle plain. Joy and Lord Israel dismount from the beast. They come before the Gerash Patriarch, who bows to Lord Israel deeply. After hy pays obeisance the three of them witness the avatar of Chokhmah also landing on the plateau of Magodon close to them, and Israel says to Joy, “Destroy the avatar of Chokhmah immediately!”
“Yes, my Lord!” Joy bows her head in acknowledgement and runs back toward the waiting dragon.
Khondiel guesses the time is very short now. Sha says, “Speak plainly to me now, Haziel. What do you want me to do?”
Haziel says, “My avatar will take you far away from this place. I want you to go. No, I need you to go. Something happened to me just now. Khondiel, you are now the most important thing in heaven or Earth or Barbelo to me.”
But Khondiel says, “If I leave in your avatar, House Bellon and House Antero will have no defense against the dragon. Forget about me, Haziel!”
But Haziel recalls Khondiel’s own words at the Battle of Salem when sha saw har naked in a cage and Haziel told Khondiel to forget about har. Haziel repeats the words again for Khondiel now, tearfully, “Don’t you know by now that’s the one thing I can never do?”
And Khondiel openly weeps, because for the first time sha knows har undying love for Haziel is truly being reciprocated at last, and they are mostly tears of happiness.
Haziel says to Khondiel, “All those things I preached to everyone about love were really just so much straw, because I didn’t know what love really meant until now, neither as Haziel nor as Chokhmah, nor as both, neither as nephil nor living star.”
Khondiel still wants to protest, but sha can see the dragon is now rising above the battle plain, and sha can see that Haziel desperately needs har to do this thing. So sha kisses Haziel and climbs inside the avatar like sha has done many times before.
Then the avatar of Chokhmah leaps in to the sky with fire and smoke and noise, and Khondiel, pressed against the rear hatch, feels harself to be too heavy to move, and once again sha is deeply terrified, which is an extraordinary thing, for Khondiel leads the Fallen Angels. But her terror is not rooted in har own personal safety. Khondiel is afraid that the love that has been acknowledged at last by Haziel will never now take root and flourish. Such a good thing! And it wasn’t going to happen. No. Khondiel of a surety knows that now.
Demonstroke lumbers into the sky after har and smites the avatar with a fearsome white flame directly from the heart of the orange sun, a flame that pours from its open mouth, and the avatar is destroyed, which is no small feat, for it had been made deep in the belly of Sol. And Princess Khondiel, riding inside, instantly dies and is lost forever to Haziel.
Binah tells her parent there is simply no scenario by which history can be changed on Barbelo to save Khondiel.
Thaumiel feels the fold-line that once linked Chokhmah to the avatar retract through the fold-door that he keeps open in his capital city, never to return again.
In that very moment Haziel knows Khondiel is dead, and the world seems to turn empty and gray to har. Sha refuses to speak a word until long afterwards, for sha is utterly lost in har grief. In a daze, Haziel falls in among the forces of House Antero as they return to the west, fighting (along with the stragglers of Bellon) a fierce rear-guard action against Lord Kirodiel.
Joy flies the dragon back to her master Lord Israel. Hy praises her for removing the thorn of Chokhmah’s ancient avatar from Barbelo, but hy also laments, “There remains a second avatar in the Land of Haaretz called the Ark of the Covenant, and it will be such a small thing for Chokhmah to enlarge his link with that avatar and cause the seed of one or more new avatars to pass through it and unwrap, and thus attempt to hinder me on Barbelo yet again.”
And Joy is astonished, because she discerns that Israel does not know a certain thing that she is free to reveal. She says to hym, “It may please the Lord to learn that since the conception of Binah, Chohkmah is no longer free to construct an avatar within his body, nor may Binah construct an avatar within hers, for the life of both elohim share a single sun, and to build an avatar now within this shared sun would kill one and perhaps also the other.”
Then Israel literally rubs hyz hands in evil glee, knowing the course of action that now lies open to hym. “The Ark of the Covenant is the only remaining avatar of Chokhmah, and if we destroy it, neither Chokhmah nor Binah shall have the means to antagonize me on Barbelo again!”
Lilith Gervasi is an English Jew and an eighteen-year-old survivor of the Holocaust. She does not sleep nights anymore, not even now, a full year after the War. Instead she stays wide awake, watching the coast with her war surplus Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle for Nazis who would never come. She suffers terribly from something 21st Century doctors would call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
One instant Lilith is scanning the beach in front of St. Catherine’s lighthouse on the Isle of Wight. The next instant a woman appears.
The manner of the woman’s sudden appearance is entirely out of the ordinary, Lilith thinks. Then again, so is standing watch all night every night. Lilith realizes it is entirely possible she is not sane.
The female is not a Nazi, but Lilith isn’t taking chances, not after what she has suffered. She fires a round into the air from fifty yards to get the lady’s attention and advances closer. Lilith sees that the strange woman has white hair, but despite that she looked to be rather young, and is perhaps only thirty years of age.
The woman watches Lilith draw near with the rifle but she cannot put her hands over her head because she is nursing a baby. When they are close enough together that they can comfortably speak the woman says, “Please don’t shoot again. As you can see I have a baby.”
“Who are you?” Lilith demands. “You don’t sound remotely English.”
“My name is Haziel,” sha says. “And you are correct, I am not from your country at all. I am from somewhere very far away.”
Lilith’s rifle drops a bit from its sight-line on Haziel’s head. It is now aimed at har heart. Lilith says, “So what are you doing here? And how did you get here?”
“I am here to meet someone,” Haziel says. “As for how I arrived, I can explain it to you, but you would think me to be entirely balmy, rather than just yourself.”
Lilith lowers the rifle to point at the ground between them, and there is even the faintest glimmer of a smile. “Why did you bring a baby?”
“This is my beloved newborn daughter Del,” Haziel says. “I’m so madly in love with her I never let her out of my sight.”
That is quite enough. Lilith unchambers the round and slings her rifle over her back.
It is pre-dawn, and in the gloomy light that is beginning to gather Haziel can take a better look at Lilith. The girl has just reached adulthood, but there is also an aged look in her hollow eyes, as though she has already lived four lifetimes, and it haunts Haziel. A kind of Darwinian process in the camps has produced a girl who is able to outwit, bribe, or intimidate anyone to get what she needs to survive. Haziel sees the results right on Lilith’s surface. Sha asks, “Do you live here, at the lighthouse?”
Lilith nods. The work camps had emaciated her body, and when she returned home to the Isle of Wight and was fed by her father, the weight came back in the form of strong, wiry muscles. She is eighteen but looks twice that. “My father is here, she says. “He operates the lighthouse and runs a weather outstation.”
“I should like to meet him,” Haziel says.
Lilith spits at the ground. “He has sold his life to the Goy and betrayed the promise of God that our people should rule Palestine.”
“When you say your nation,” Haziel says, “I know you are not speaking of England, Lilith Gervasi. You are a member of a people whose very right to exist is always being questioned.”
Lilith’s eyes narrow at Haziel. “How do you know my name?”
“I know many things about you. I know that your father was used by the government to help deceive Hitler as to exactly where the invasion was going to take place. I know you and your mother were taken to camps on the Continent by German frogmen. I know they tattooed a number on your arm and I know that you have come through such suffering and human degradation and evil that few could ever begin to understand the mere periphery of it, let alone sympathize with the core of your ordeal and your memories of it.”
Lilith shows Haziel the six numbers tattooed to her arm by the SS to affirm har assessment is correct. She says, “The Crown owes a very large marker to my father, but he will not cash it in to obtain a thing, a concession of such little import it could not possibly disconcert the government in the smallest way. The Foreign Secretary refuses to allow Jews to immigrate to the British Mandate in Palestine. Not even Jews who are already British subjects.”
“Oil,” says Haziel.
One word, but it explains everything. The Middle-East is awash in petroleum, but if the Arabs suspect the Jews will have an independent state there they will attack the wells owned and operated by the British. So the Balfour Declaration and the Churchill White Paper were torn up for the worthless pieces of paper they always were, and all bets are now off in the Holy Land. Lilith says, “The admiral who deceived my father is dead. My father is willing to let the whole matter go.”
Little Del starts to cry. It is cold, dawn is just breaking, and che wanted hez mother to take hem back to a place that was warm so che can go back to sleep. Haziel says, “You saw the manner of my coming, and your eyes were not deceiving you. What would you do if I said I could take you to Palestine in the blink of an eye?”
Lilith does not hesitate at all. She goes into the grounds of the lighthouse complex and returns ten minutes later carrying a small tote bag with clothing and her personal effects. She also carries her rifle, but now she also had several boxes of .303 caliber cartridges carried on little straps. But she has not taken the time to wake her father and notify him that she is leaving, and Haziel knows that as matters stand the girl might never be persuaded to speak to him.
Haziel also notes, with some satisfaction, that Lilith carries in one hand a quantity of unleavened bread. That is the essence of the feast of Passover, to re-affirm the willingness of the children of Israel to respond without delay to the command of their God to depart a place. Deep down Lilith might have a small spark of recognition as to who Haziel really is.
Haziel asks Lilith to hold Del for a short time, which forces the girl to leave her rifle and other belongings on the ground. Holding the infant distracts Lilith from the instantaneous transition. The crack of dawn in England changes to mid-morning in Israel, for they have east toward the rising sun. Lilith sees the light has shifted, and the terrain has changed as well. The beach is gone, replaced by desert. Astonished, Lilith almost drops Del, but just manages to hang on to the child. Her eyes lift to meet those of Haziel. “Who are you really?”
“If I told you the truth, like I said before, you would think me a nutter, and blasphemous to boot. But hopefully, Lilith, at the very least I will be your lifetime friend. There may come a time when I will ask much more.”
Holding Del in her arms and listening to Haziel’s words has an effect that Lilith would never be able put into words. After a few wordless moments, as her body shakes with dry weeping, Lilith returns the child to Haziel.
After that she is whisked away by a number of Jewish farmers who live a few miles inland from the Mediterranean, at a kibbutz founded by Polish immigrants in 1943 named Yad Mordechai. The settlement lies on the coast highway only eight miles north of the city of Gaza and in later years would lie only two and a half miles outside of the border of the Gaza Strip.
Lilith speaks no Polish, nor at that point has she learned Hebrew (which has already been revived from extinction to become the official tongue of Eretz Yisrael). But all she needs to do was brandish the tattoo on her forearm, and it is enough for the pioneers. They are already well acquainted with Haziel and on good terms with har, but they refuse to reveal anything about her to Lilith when she begins to ask many questions. And in the weeks and months that follow, Lilith begins to suspect she had been taken to her new home by an angel of God. That first morning begins to seem like a dream. But much fighting lies ahead, and that would much more like a nightmare.
As a consequence of the victory over the Ottoman Turks in the First World War, Great Britain became the master of the whole Middle-East. In the closing days of the War the British Foreign Secretary. A.J. Balfour, declared that “His Majesty’s Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish People, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object.”
In 1922 the Churchill White Paper put forth the premise that Jewish immigration to Palestine could continue until such a time as there was a Jewish majority there. But by 1939 Britain bowed to threats to British oil extraction infrastructure from Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen and reversed this position. This reversal hit at precisely the same time that Jews were being exterminated throughout the growing Third Reich.
After the War, Polish Jews refused to be repatriated to their homes in Europe. Physical attacks on them continued, and several hundred were murdered in the first three months after hostilities ended. Hundreds of thousands of Jews ended up in Displaced Persons camps throughout Europe, where conditions were only marginally better than they had been in the Reich’s death camps.
For the balance of 1945, only eight small ships carrying a thousand Displaced Persons reached Palestine from ports in Italy and Greece. For the first half of 1946, another 10,500 immigrants arrived on eleven ships. Haziel took Lilith to the kibbutz at Yad Mordechai during this span of time.
From August 1946 to December 1947, 51,700 Displaced Persons try to make their way to Palestine on thirty-five ships, but are captured by the British and taken to new camps on the island of Cyprus, where they languish behind barbed wire. Many of the armed guards of these camps in Cyprus had liberated some of the same prisoners from the extermination camp at Belsen-Belson only eighteen months prior to this, and they are fully aware of this. Clandestine immigration to Palestine falls to a trickle. The British propose a plan to divide Palestine, but it is rejected by both Arabs and Jews, and the question is referred to the United Nations.
On August 31, 1947, the UN proposes the creation of two independent states in Palestine, one Arab and one Jewish, with the city of Jerusalem under separate international control to administer the holy places of the world’s three major monotheistic religions. The Jewish side of the partition was to have 500,000 Jews and 400,000 Arabs. The Arab side was to have 700,000 Arabs and 10,000 Jews, and Jerusalem was to have about 100,000 of each ethnicity. The Jews would get the blasted wasteland of the Negev desert, and the Arabs would get the fertile upper Galilee region.
The UN thinks all these arrangements are fair. So fair, in fact, that after Israel declares Statehood and the UN realizes the Displaced Persons are being handed rifles as soon as they get off the boat at Haifa, another SC resolution is passed to prevent immigration of males from age 17 to 45.
David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency whose authority was established by the League of Nations, knew the Jews would have to fight even for the lousy territory they had been assigned. He orders every Jew in Palestine mobilized for war, men and women alike.
On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly accepts the partition proposals by a vote of thirty-three votes to thirteen, with ten abstentions. The Jewish people, homeless since the days of Emperor Hadrian of Rome, are to have their own state again. There is rejoicing in the streets, but the people danced still knowing war lies just ahead.
On the day after Partition, a bus carrying Jewish civilians to Jerusalem is attacked by Arabs with rifles and grenades, killing five people, including a young bride named Shoshona Mizrachi Farhi on the way to her wedding The bus attack comes to symbolize the beginning of the war for independence, which would claim the lives of 6,000 Jews, or one percent of the total population.
In this period, just after Partition but before the official declaration of the state of Israel, the armed forces are called the Haganah (Defense). Great Britain still occupies Palestine, and considers the Haganah to be an illegal organization. By the fall of 1947 Haganah has two thousand regulars and a thousand reserves.
Armed Bedoin nomads surround a number of isolated settlements in the south, including Lilith’s collective farm. The Jewish leader David Ben-Gurion swears that not one single settlement will be evacuated. Armored cars produced in Tel Aviv are used to secure the water pipelines that these settlements depend on, and also to send weapons and reinforcements through the Bedoin lines.
After a Jewish convoy is attacked en route to reinforcing the kibbutz at Yad Mordechai, and all forty-six soldiers are killed, the Haganah develops a plan to occupy those Arab communities that lay close to or directly between Jewish cities and the far-flung settlements.
In most cases, the Arabs flee their communities when they are besieged and occupied. In the case of the town of Dair Yassin where they do not, the Jewish terrorist groups Irgun and the Stern Gang massacre all the Arabs, men, women, and children, to the shock and horror of most Jews, including the leadership of the Haganah. But the Haganah is not yet willing to cut off all ties to Irgun because they need manpower and rifles and they have the same enemies. In April Haganah and Irgun even conduct joint operations along the coast while the British accelerate their complete withdrawal from Palestine.
In reprisal for the Deir Yassin massacre in March, a convoy of armored buses is attacked on April 15, and seventy-seven Jewish doctors, nurses, and patients are killed. Only twenty-eight survive, and only eight of these are not wounded.
King Abdullah of Transjordan, who is the only real ally of the Jews in the region, offers Jewish autonomy, but only if it remains under his sovereignty. A Jewish Agency negotiator named Golda Meir is pained to disappoint her good friend the king, but she has to reject his offer. After all that the Jews have suffered, especially in the Shoah (or Holocaust), it is simply not enough to be represented in a foreign parliament.
This leads directly to the declaration of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948. Eleven minutes later, President Truman officially recognizes the state by cable, before he even knows what the name of the country will be.
Israel’s army boasts nearly 37 thousand troops, but 1,200 have already been killed in combat. Britain opens the detention camps on Cyprus and thousands stream into Israel by ship, many having already been trained in the camps by the Haganah.
On the first full day after Independence is declared, Iraqi troops cross over the Jordan River. Simultaneously, Israeli troops raid Lebanon to delay their entrance into the war. Syria comes down from the Golan heights with thirty tanks and advances to the sea of Galilee. Two 65mm artillery pieces check the Syrians at the kibbutz known as Deganya, then the guns are rushed south to attack the Iraqis besieging the old British fort overlooking Gesher on the Jordan River, who then flee.
On the second day Transjordanian and Egyptian troops join the assault. Saudi Arabia sends a company of troops who fought with Egypt. And Egypt even lands troops on the beach at Majdal between Gaza and Tel Aviv. The first Egyptian attack is against the kibbutz of Kfar Darom, seven miles south of Gaza, where thirty settlers hold off elements of the Muslim Brotherhood with grenades. When their grenades ran out, they put explosives in bags and hurl them at the attackers. When Egypt rolls in tanks, the settlers fire anti-tank weapons at the lead tanks, destroying them, and causing the other tanks to withdraw.
Egypt bypasses Kfar Darom and moves to kibbutz Nirim, five miles away. Twenty defenders are killed there but the rest hold on. Not even an air attack the next day broke their will.
In January 1948, the first state-sponsored forces from Syria began to make raids, and in this instance, the Jews are aided by counter-attacks from the Royal Air Force, for the British still considered themselves the rulers of Palestine, on paper.
When the Haganah completely abandons the coastal highway running south from Tel Aviv, Lilith’s kibbutz at Yad Mordechai is completely cut off. Only two private aircraft maintained contact between north and south, carrying basic supplies and newspapers.
Lilith is part of the Gahal, or immigrant soldiers. Most of the children in the kibbutz are called Sabra. That is, they had been born in Palestine and knew no other home. Lilith is their guardian when their parents work the fields, both before and during the war.
Lilith’s kibbutz lies just west of the road that links Gaza to the Egyptian beachhead at Majdal. Egypt hurls two infantry battalions, one armored battalion, and an artillery battalion against them one dawn for an attack that lasts five days. It is Lilith’s baptism by fire, the battle that forges her into a fierce warrior. She would go on to fight in every one of her country’s conflicts until orthodox Jews prevailed to remove her from the front lines, and after that she would personally train Del, the daughter of Haziel, to become the even more legendary commander of Bravo Battalion. It is Lilith’s unwavering belief that the Yishuv, the People, always come first.
Much enemy armor is taken out with the PIAT (Projectile, Infantry, Anti- Tank). Those Arab tanks which manage to breach the Yad Mordechai perimeter are set alight at close range with Molotov cocktails or attacked with hand grenades whose fragments would enter the tank through the view slit, wounding the crew and forcing them to retire. Other tanks are taken out with mines, and still others break down and are dragged out of range by armored cars.
But there are just too many Egyptians, and the shelling never ceases. After five days the settler’s ammunition is spent. Lilith helps bury their dead, and then helps carry the wounded through the Egyptian lines under the cover of darkness, along with all the remaining settlers. Yad Mordechai is abandoned, and in the morning the Egyptians burn it to the ground. But during those five days of resistance Tel Aviv is saved from being overrun. The stubborn defense at Yad Mordechai gives Tel Aviv time to bring in reinforcements and firm up the defensive line on the road between the city and Gaza.
On June 11, a truce called by the United Nations goes into effect and lasted until July 9. In nearly one month of war Israel lost 900 soldiers and 300 civilians.
Between the first truce and a second one is ten more days of fighting. The IDF captures Nazareth, the home town of Yeshua, which has grown much larger than the original five hundred souls. The second truce lasts until October 15, and is followed by one solid week of fighting against Egypt. On the first day of that week Israeli warplanes bomb the Egyptian air base at El Arish on the Mediterranean coastline of Sinai, and also cut the railway from El Arish to Rafa.
After the third cease-fire takes effect on October 22, Lilith and the Polish settlers who had taken her in move back into the ruins of Yad Mordechai and begin to rebuild. There would be renewed fighting in the winter, and a fourth and final cease fire, but Lilith judges that the continued existence of her new nation is no longer in doubt.
On her collective farm after the War of Independence Lilith Gervasi immerses herself in honest toil cultivating the fields and garden crops and occasionally defends the settlement from gunmen who infiltrate from the nearby Gaza Strip to kill Jews simply for being Jews. Sometimes these attacks on Yad Mordechai are followed up by fierce IDF reprisal raids. Lilith is mobilized as a sergeant in the IDF reserves to help guide the counterattacks.
Apart from her trusty British-made rifle Lilith owns very little in the way of personal possessions. She has only her clothing, a radio she shares with the others in the Women’s House, and other such modest things. There are tractors and jeeps, but they belong to the whole community. All the profits of the kibbutz are pooled together for the needs of the laborers. The children eat and sleep apart from their parents, and Lilith, who is attending university part of the time, helps to educate them.
On July 23, 1952 there is a coup in Egypt deposing King Farouk, who has ruled his country since 1936. One of the coup plotters named Colonel Gamal Nasser steadily rises in influence to become the usual President-for-life.
Lilith graduates from Hebrew University in 1953 and is commissioned a second lieutenant in the IDF. During her physical examination the IDF doctors noted the mass of keloid whip scars on her back, which limits her range of motion somewhat. They also note the six numbers tattooed on her arm and know exactly how she had been disfigured.
In the fall, Lilith returns to Hebrew University to begin her academic work for a Master’s degree. She is interested in the newly-revived Hebrew language, which had been essentially a dead tongue (like Latin) for more than two thousand five hundred years. After the Babylonian Vacation it fell out of everyday use by the Jewish people, and this was true even in the time of Yeshua, who had spoken the Syrian tongue called Aramaic. Over those twenty-five centuries Hebrew became a rather specialized language spoken only by the scribes and elders in synagogues, and in the Diaspora, when many Jewish communities lost contact with each other, the pronunciation of Hebrew naturally drifted somewhat.
There were marked differences between the way the Shephardi Jews and Ashkenazi Jews spoke Hebrew, and there had been some infiltration of influences from both Russian and Yiddish. When the Zion project was conceived, and European immigrants began to settle in the Levant with the aim of creating a Jewish homeland, the “official” pronunciation of Hebrew was decided by a committee. But it was wrong at many points, and Lilith knew this because from time to time she speaks to Haziel, who remembers how “biblical” Hebrew had really been spoken. It only remained for Lilith to prove it. This was the challenge that formed the heart of her Masters’ Thesis.
Soon after obtaining her advanced degree she received an elevation in rank to seren, which corresponds to captain.
On July 26, 1956 Nasser nationalizes the Suez Canal, seizing control from the British. He closes the Straits of Tirin in the Red Sea, which effectively puts the southernmost Israeli port of Eilat under a blockade. At the same time he refuses to allow any ships bound for Tel Aviv or Haifa to transit the canal. The United Kingdom and France lay plans to take the canal back by force, and they are interested in getting Israel involved in this operation. Israel was already leaning toward a tussle with Egypt, the question was not if but when. Cross-border fedayeen raids from the Gaza strip had never ceased over the eight years Egypt had occupied it.
The French begin to arm the IDF, especially the air force. And in the third week of October Nasser moves part of his army into Gaza, including a number of artillery pieces, which are used to shell the Israeli settlements near the border, of which Lilith’s kibbutz of Yad Mordechai is the closest. Nasser also moves troops into the Sinai Peninsula, supplied with the latest Soviet military equipment.
On October 29 four Israeli World War II vintage P-51 Mustang fighter planes fly into the Sinai and cut, with their propellers, all the telephone lines connecting the Egyptian forces in Sinai to their home office in Cairo. On the same afternoon, 395 IDF paratroopers are dropped at Mitla Pass, only fifty miles from the Suez Canal. Meanwhile, a force commanded by Colonel Ariel Sharon crosses the border and seizes (after very hard fighting) three Egyptian positions along the 150 miles from Israel to the pass. Sharon then disobeys orders to halt and proceeds to take Mitla Pass, at a cost of 38 Israeli lives.
On October 31 an Egyptian frigate fires two hundred shells into Haifa from the sea, but a French destroyer drives it off. Two Israeli destroyers then chase it down and open fire, and later two Israeli warplanes damage it with rockets. The Egyptian ship surrenders, and it is boarded and towed into Haifa.
Israel fights a fierce series of tank battles for Abu Ageila, and after two days the Egyptians withdraw. From this position, Israel can supply its troops in the central Sinai without an attack from the rear.
On November 2 the IDF seizes El Arish on the Sinai Mediterranean coast, which completely isolates the Gaza Strip. By that same evening, the Egyptian governor in Gaza surrenders. The Israelis penetrate to within ten miles of the Suez Canal and take possession of forty Soviet-made T-34 tanks and sixty armored vehicles which had been left behind there.
Seren Lilith Gervasi’s part in the war begins at Eilat and runs down the western shore of the Gulf of Aqaba. The objective is to seize the guns at Sharm el-Sheikh and lift the closure of the Straits of Tiran. Her commander is Colonel Avraham Yoffe, and she is part of a motorized infantry brigade of 1,800 soldiers and 200 vehicles. Their route is along a camel track that was never designed to be used by wheeled vehicles. At one point at Wadi Zaala they all break out their spades, dig their vehicles out of deep sand, and push them uphill.
At Dahab Oasis they have their first firefight against the camel-mounted troops of the Egyptian Frontier Force. They also are supplied with fuel from boats sent down the Gulf of Aqaba from Eilat. Meanwhile, a detachment of Ariel Sharon’s paratroopers advanced in a pincer movement down the Gulf of Suez, nearly doubles the size of the Israeli assault force.
At Sharm el-Sheikh a huge battery of naval guns are positioned to block all shipping to Eilat. There, 1,500 Egyptian troops with their mortars and artillery hold off the Israelis for four hours of intense fighting, and it is over the course of those four hours that Lilith puts forth her supreme fighting effort in this war. The big guns of the fort are disarmed by 9 AM that morning. The water route to Eilat is open once more. Israel achieved all of her war objectives in just one week, which is fortuitous, because the American President Dwight D. Eisenhower threatens to essentially bankrupt France and Britain if they do not wrap things up. IDF losses are 172 killed and 817 wounded.
Having lost the war, Egypt is compelled by the terms of the cease-fire to allow Israeli shipping to pass through the Suez Canal once more. Immediately, an Israeli destroyer squadron passes from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea to support Yoffe, his battalion commanders, Seren Lilith Gervasi, and all their infantry at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula.
Not by word, correspondence, telegram, or phone call does Lilith Gervasi appraise her father in England of any of the things that she had achieved since she parted from him, nor any of the historic events that transpire daily around her. But after the war, when the reserves were being demobilized Haziel came calling to visit before Lilith had exchanged her Seren’s uniform for the clothing appropriate for a collective farm. And Lilith marvels once more that Haziel appears to be precisely the same age as when they first met on the beach at Underhill on the Isle of Wight in 1946.
Haziel embraces Lilith, then stands back a bit to regard the woman with a friendly but appraising gaze. She says, “Your father Benjamin will not live forever.”
Lilith loses her smile, for she knows what Haziel is asking her to do. It is something Lilith has dreaded for years. “I’m not ready to tell him everything,” she says soberly.
“No, but you are, I think, ready to tell him something, and that is a vast improvement.” Sha holds out her hand. “Come. Please.”
Then Haziel whisks Lilith back to St. Catherine’s lighthouse on the Isle of Wight in the same manner she had once whisked the girl to Yad Mordechai twenty-one years prior. So it had not been a dream or a hallucination after all.
“Will you tell me who and what you really are, Haziel?” Lilith asks as they walked toward the lighthouse that was so familiar to her.
“I will tell you everything,” Haziel assures her. “Everything! But only after you have also told your father everything.”
Lilith stops in her tracks. “Why Haziel? Why must it be so?”
“Have you not discerned by now that I am healing your soul?”
After a long pause, Lilith nods her head, then resumes her walk.
“Good!” Haziel tells her. “That too is a sign that what I have been doing is working.”