3rd May 2019
Over the next week I will be in Israel finishing off some research before I take a final stab at the novel I have been writing this last year. After thinking of first century Israel for so long, it's an odd time-warp to be walking the streets of Jerusalem, or setting my pink toes in the sand along the shores of Galilee.
You need X-ray goggles to see past the the New Israel, the Muslim Israel, the Christian Israel. Never has such a small plot of land been overtaken by so many religious plots. I don't have X-ray vision, though. I have to just join the throngs of mostly scholarly writers trying to peal back the super structure and delve into what could possibly have been there before.
It seems like it was never very far from conflict. The Israelites under the leadership King David threw out the Jebusites, and then after exile in Egypt and under Joshua, took it from the Canaanites. The Romans moved into Israel in 63 BCE, and set up a puppet government which is what empires always do. And then after about 140 years, we enter into another period of exile for the Jewish people while the Christian era took off. Once Christianity expanded out of the Middle East, the vacuum was filled by the new religion of Islam. And then came the Crusaders, who took it upon themselves to giddy off to the Holy Land and defend it against the Infidels. Israel, past and present, is an unholy mess, made messier by the clumsy tromping around of US president Trump. The last thing Israel needed was the rise of the religious nutcase evangelical right in America.
So it is a lot of noise, a lot of voices from the past, all clamouring for their bully pulpit. All you can do is put your head down, eat your hummus, ignore the fearful patriarchy that finds a seat there, peal off the layers of lamb on your shwarma. and hope your ear plugs will hold out.
I'm taking another shot at telling the history of this place through the lens of a man who was supposed to be a Messiah, but who got himself crucified instead. In the Jewish mind, dying naked in the most humiliating of Roman executions disqualified the man from being "Mashiach," and the next two thousand years of human history has been Christianity's attempt to prove them wrong. The church that grew up in Europe under the aegis of the Apostle Paul came at it from one angle; the church in Jerusalem, led by this man's brother, had a quite different interpretation. Relatively recently modern scholars have been trying to push back the undergrowth to get a glimpse at what this all could have meant.
Me, I'm a novelist. The swirl of my thoughts falls into patterns like a spider filling in the corner of a doorway. I'm not interested in icons and certainly not in the spread of any religion based on fear and shame.
The historical thread is pretty thin: there was a man once who started a movement around the Sea of Galilee, and he was executed by the Roman authorities for sedition. Historically, that's it. But let me fit this Yeshua Ben Yosef into the web I am weaving. Let's take another shot at this.
My book is called The Second Coming.