Written February 2012
I am spending time in the old city of Jerusalem. If I stay here any longer I’ll probably have to apply for a resident’s permit. And as I am staying in East Jerusalem that may be tricky.
My reason for being here, aside from the welcome sun, is to research the next stage of Sean and Isabel’s adventures. If you read The Istanbul Puzzle you’ll probably know that there are a few questions at the end still hanging.
The Jerusalem Puzzle will move the story forward and answer some key questions.
As part of my research in old Jerusalem, where the book is mainly set, I have spent a lot of time in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the legendary site of Jesus’ crucifiction, his tomb and the burial place of Adam’s skull, according to some 2nd century sources. Whatever your beliefs, this place is an extraordinary building, a mix of mainly Crusader and 19th century, Armenian, Catholic and Orthodoxy all rolled into one. This was the place a lot of people died for before the crusades, during the crusades, and ever afterwards. Richard the Lion Heart and Saladin fought over this place and almost every other Empire since has had plans to capture it.
Here is what the entrance to the legendary tomb of Jesus looks like now (click each image to see it in all its glory):
This church is the most important place of pilgrimage in the Christian world. Bar none.
What I found though, at the end of my last visit, was a less than spiritual place. I had queued to get in to the small chapel where Jesus’ tomb is supposed to be with cries of “hurry, hurry, we are closing,” echoing in my ears. I’d visited where Mary, Mother of Jesus fell into an eternal sleep (legend says), on Mount Zion the day before and I was lucky that I went down into that underground tomb with the sound of a Polish group singing hymns echoing in my ears. That place was spiritual.
Much of the rest of the old city is a heady mix of the Arab souk, with plastic toys and wooden crosses for tourists, and a wedge of Abercrombie and coffee shop Westerness pushing up close to the city from the Jewish and modern western side.
To me Jerusalem is where three great faiths, Christianity, the Jewish faith and Islam all overlap with their bits fraying.
The Islamic faith is well represented here in the famous Golden Dome and mosques and the regular call to prayer filling the air.
The Jewish faith is evident in the devotion at the Western Wall, the Orthodox faithful almost everywhere, and through the joy of young men being escorted with drums and horns through the crowds.
The Christian faith is evident in the extraordinary churches and the pilgrims from all parts of the Christian world walking the Via Dolorosa carrying crosses and following the legendary route of Jesus to his death.
This city is an ancient fraying tapestry of faith and colour, tradition and prayer, belief and culture, the old and the modern mixed and interwoven.
I know there are many things in serious dispute here, but I hope to God compassion comes into play for a unique people and a unique place when this city’s future is decided.
The Jerusalem Puzzle, my next novel, will take readers to the heart of Jerusalem. It will expose some of the very real puzzles that are at the core of this truly amazing city. I hope you’ll like it as much as you liked The Istanbul Puzzle.