Israel Stories

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Grail Quest - Part 3

How the Opus Dei got my email I’ll never know, but the fact that they read my blog is quite flattering. The email said quite simply that while they respect my faith, as a Jew, they feel it is improper to speculate about a religion and a faith that I have no formal learning or training in, do not subscribe to and have no interest in proving anything except my unfounded theories and an unacceptable element of humour. And then I analysed the email address and saw it was

Even so, I accept the above, and while my personal theories don’t need to be aired again, this story is about a Christian searching for something and the Jew just hanging around trying to help, in a manner of speaking.

Roger’s revelation in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre sparked a bit of a theological tiff with his father, the parish priest.

Roger had moved to the Old City and was staying in some rundown hostel in the Christian quarter. I hadn’t heard from him in a few days and then one day I received a call from his father demanding to know where he was, what he was doing and what the hell am I going to do to get him back to their village in Somerset. I had the number of the hostel and left about forty messages asking him to call me. Eventually I went looking for him. I could, I suppose, have told his dad I had no clue where he was and that he was not really my responsibility, but I have kids too, and the guilt got to me.

I found the hostel and asked for Roger. No one had heard of him. I described him and waited while the receptionist went off to speak to another of the workers. The hostel was grim. Damp oozed through the walls, there were hundreds of insects on the ground and an unusual smell of something dead coming from a back room. The walls were littered with icons, crosses and posters for the Underground nightclub.

“I think you want John.” “No, I want Roger.” “Yes but he now calls himself John.”
Its happened, I thought, the good old Jerusalem Syndrome has claimed its next victim. “Where can I find John?” I asked. I was directed back to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where, sitting on the ground in rags was Roger or John, mumbling in English and schoolboy Latin something about the end of days.

“Roger, what’s going on?” I foolishly asked. “Call me John.” “John, what’s going on?” Stupid question number two. Roger then proceeded to explain that he was the incarnation of John the Baptist and that he was back to lay the way for the lord’s second coming. “It’s just that your dad is really worried and wants you to return to England.” “Did those feet in ancient times walk upon England’s pastures green…” Roger began to sing, very badly and causing two soldiers to look round and fidget with their riot sticks.

The words are from the English national hymn, “Jerusalem.” Look it up for yourselves and the meaning behind the words.

“Yes, John, and that’s why you must return in the path of Joseph or Aramathia, come let us make haste and prepare for the arduous journey ahead, and when we get to the airport, I’d wear trousers and not that dress.”

Roger is now a management consultant in the City of London, he has a Porsche, a wife, three daughters and the biggest house you have ever seen.

He claims the secret to his wealth was found that day in the Church.
I think it’s because he has a very wealthy father-in-law, but what do I know? I’m just a Jew.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Grail Quest Part 2

By now with all the Da Vinci madness the small village of Rennes-le-chateau has once again been in the spotlight. You’ll have to look up the remarkable story of abbé Bérenger Saunière and how his strange find of a few parchments earned him unbelievable wealth. Also how the whole area, the churches and local natural landmarks link up in a series of perfect geometrical shapes most importantly the pentacle.

It’s hard not to be drawn in by all this madness. There are elements I don’t believe in for example the Grail, the holy blood lines and all the mysticism associated with it. But the Knights Templar did have a very special knowledge of geometry that is a fact shown in thousands of cases, even by lining churches and other locations in perfect measured geometrical patterns. That, I think, was the knowledge, the Grail, they had. Just like the ancient Egyptians who created and built the Pyramids and placed them at exact angles etc, this incredible knowledge has been lost.

Try convincing Roger. Well you don’t have to but since this knowledge the Templars had was ultimately Jewish, Temple of Solomon and all that, I felt it was my mission to put the record straight. So I invited him to Israel. Where better than to continue his Grail quest than where it all began?

Israel is absolutely full of Templar buildings, monuments, and legends. In order to get into the mood I watched the essential Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Then I drove to airport to collect Roger. “Did you know,” he said, “that from the air, London airport takes the shape of the Star of David”. We hadn’t even left the car park, but Roger was already in the Grail zone.

Where to start? Well I needed to know what Roger wanted to get out of this trip. “I want to find the beginning of the Grail trail”. So off we went to Jerusalem. We had a tour of Davids Tower, saw the Crusader halls and heard about the battles for Jerusalem. Meanwhile Roger inspected every stone, apparently looking for something. Then he went outside and started drawing what he saw. There is a minaret which sits on top of many civilizations worth of building works. There is also an arch. Roger drew a line from the top of the minaret to the arch, then from the base of the arch back to the base of the building the minaret stood on and then back up to the top of the minaret. “A perfect triangle”, he announced in triumph. I hadn’t the heart to tell him that joining any three lines would give him a triangle and that the minaret was not crusader.

Roger took some rubbings off of one of the walls which he claimed was a lion, but like looking at the clouds; you see what you want to see. Roger had a lion and a triangle. A symbol of the crusaders and geometry, he was a happy man. Insane but happy. I could feel a touch of the Jerusalem Syndrome about him and decided just to agree with him and suddenly longed for his three day trip to be over.

Roger took out his map and drew a line from the Old City to Caesarea, up to the Crusader castle of Beauvoir, near Bet Shean and back again. With eyes alight with the flame of, OK I’ll use the word again, insanity, he exclaimed with much excitement “another triangle!”

Ok now this is where it gets a bit weird. We travelled north via Jaffa to Caesarea and then Nazareth and finally Beauvoir (great view). Roger took his map out linked all the places and nearly fainted. He had found a pentacle. Not very symmetrical one but that was enough for him. We were on the verge of discovering something. Then Roger started linking Crusader sites in the north, like Acco, Tiberias, etc and found more pentacles. “Absolute coincidence, the geometry is completely off, there is no symmetry and in more than one case you’ve started at the end of the place name and not the place marker”. Roger ignored me and in a frenzy demanded we go back to Jerusalem.

Finally day three had arrived and Roger was due to return to the UK. It had been a real experience but what on earth had he discovered from all of this? I arrived at Rogers’s hotel to pick him up. The hotel told me he had taken a taxi to the Old City and said to meet him by the Kotel.

Roger took me aside. “I have discovered that there are ancient tunnels under the Temple Mount. I was talking to a guy in the hotel bar who told me he could take me there. I am supposed to meet him here in ten minutes.” I pointed to a sign saying Tunnels tour, just above his head”.

I suppose despondent, disappointed and down right depressed doesn’t even come close to describing Rogers’s mood. I thought he would cry. He wasn’t allowed to climb to the Temple Mount, he had only found a few markers and codes in the Old City but they were on the usual tourist routs anyway. He had found his Templar pentacles but even they were a bit, how can I put it, manufactured.

So I took him to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, gave him a lecture about searching his heart for what he was looking for and shoved him inside. I sat outside chatting to a couple of soldiers and told them about Roger, Glastonbury Tor, pentacles, Rennes-le-chateau and Dan Brown. An hour later, Roger reappeared from the Church, dazzled by the sunlight, but unusually elated.

He refused to tell me why and no matter how much I pushed him he kept quiet. As I said farewell he took a step back and said to me “I found it, the Grail, I saw it. A monk in the Church showed it to me, said it was a holy cup, the holy cup. He offered me a drink and then asked for a donation. I asked him if I should renege on all my possessions as others had done before me, he said he needed just enough money for a taxi, so I gave him $50, I hope that was enough. I also know the secret of the Grail, but that I can’t tell you. Farewell old friend”. And with that he disappeared into the crowd.

But that’s not the end of the story…………………