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Authors: Noah Gordon

The Jerusalem Diamond

BOOK: The Jerusalem Diamond
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THE JERUSALEM DIAMOND

NOAH GORDON

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this eBook onscreen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 1979 by Lise Gordon, Michael Seay Gordon and
The Jamie Gordon Trust

Cover design by Random House Mondadori
Image
©
Corbis

ISBN: 978-1-4532-6379-2

This 2012 eBook published by:

Barcelona Digital Editions, S.L.
Av. Marquès de l'Argentera, 17 pral.
08003 Barcelona
www.barcelonaebooks.com

This 2012 edition distributed by Open Road Integrated Media
180 Varick Street
New York, NY 10014
www.openroadmedia.com

This is for
LISE, JAMIE AND MICHAEL
,
and for
LORRAINE

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Dozens of people have helped me with this book. I shall not try to name them, but I must thank my agent, Pat Schartle Myrer, and my editor, Charlotte Leon Mayerson, as well as Lise Gordon and Lorraine Gordon, for their editorial advice. I am grateful to Albert Lubin, Executive Director of the Diamond Dealers Club of New York, for guiding me into the world of diamonds; to Dr. Cyrus H. Gordon, Gottesman Professor of Hebraic Studies at New York University, for his help in the area of archeology; to Lousia and Emanuel W. Munzer for recalling some of Europe's darkest hours; and to Dr. Yigael Yadin of Jerusalem for discussing Masada with me.

I owe a special debt of gratitude to Yisrael Lazar, teacher and friend, for his good humor and patience in answering interminable questions about the land of his birth, Israel.

All mistakes which occur in any of these areas are my own.

—N
OAH
G
ORDON

Part I
LOSING

1

GENIZAH

Baruch awoke each morning expecting arrest
.

The blank scroll was good copper that had been beaten thin and smooth as a skin. They put it in a sack and carried it secretively, like the thieves they were, to a small lair on the edge of a deserted stubble field. Inside the cave it was dark despite the hard blue sky beyond the opening, and he filled and lighted the lamp and set it on the flat rock
.

Three of the younger conspirators sat outside with watchful eyes and a skin of
shekar
and pretended to be drunk. The older man scarcely heard them. The pain was in his chest again and his hands trembled as he forced himself to take up the mallet and the awl
.

The words of Baruch, the son of Neriah ben Maasiah of the priests that were in Anatoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the commandment to put away the treasures of the Lord has come through Jeremiah the son of Hilkiahu the Kohen, in the days of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, in the ninth year of his reign.

That was all Baruch enscribed on the first day. When the document was finished, these opening words would be a confession that would mean his death if the scroll was discovered before the invaders came
.

But he felt impelled to record that they were not ordinary criminals
.

Jeremiah had told him what the Lord had instructed them to do. At length, Baruch had realized his friend was saying that they would steal from the Temple, consecrated things from the sacred place. “Nebuchadnezzar is toying with Pharoah-necoh. When his hordes finish sacking Egypt they will be here. The temple will be burned and the objects will be carried off or destroyed. The Lord has commanded us to hide the holy things against the time when they can be used again in His worship
.”


Tell the priests
.”


I have. When does the house of Bukki listen to the Lord
?”

Baruch limped away as fast as his bad leg would allow
.

He was dying, but that made even more precious the days he had left. The risks filled him with terror
.

He managed to shove them from his mind until a day when half-savage nomads, who ordinarily traveled a wide path around the city, came to the gates and begged protection. A few hours later, the roads to Jerusalem were choked with refugees running from the world's most terrible army
.

Jeremiah found him. Baruch saw the light in the seer's eyes that some said was madness and others said was the illumination of the Lord. “I hear His voice now. All the time
.”


Is there no place to hide
?”


I have tried. It seeks me out
.”

Baruch reached out and touched the other's beard, as white as his own, and felt his heart break. “What does He want me to do?” he asked
.

Others had been recruited. When they met, their number was twice seven and therefore perhaps doubly lucky, but Baruch was afraid it was too many. One informer could destroy them
.

He was astonished at some of his fellow conspirators against the house of Bukki, the priestly family that controlled the Temple. Shimor the Levite, head of the house of Adijah, was storekeeper over the treasury.
Hilak, his son, maintained the inventory and preservation of the hallowed things. Hezekiah controlled the Temple guards, Zecheraia commanded the doorkeepers and Haggai managed the herds of pack animals. Others had been brought in by Jeremiah because they were young, for strength and muscle
.

They were able to agree at once on a few things to be selected for hiding:

The tablets of law
.

The ark and its cover
.

The golden cherubim
.

But after that, they argued bitterly
.

Some of the best would have to be abandoned. Massive objects were doomed. The Menorah. The Altar of sacrifice. The Molten Sea with its marvelous brass bulls, and the brazen pillars ornamented with brass lilies and pomegranates
.

They agreed to hide the Tabernacle. It had been made to be transported, and it was stored broken down and ready to be moved
.

And the Tabernacle's latches and pegs, made all of gold nine hundred years before by the Lord's artisan, Bezalel ben Uri
.

The Breastplate of the High Priest, set with twelve gems, one donated by each of the tribes
.

Gold trumpets that had summoned the Israelites
.

The ancient tapestry, wondrously fashioned, that covered the Sun Gate
.

A pair of harps made and played by David
.

Tithe vessels and sprinkling basins of silver
.

Gold sacrificial bowls and libation vessels of beaten gold
.

Talents of silver and gold, accrued from the annual half-shekel poll tax paid by each Jew
.


Let us leave the talents and hide a greater number of holy objects,” Hilak said
.


We must include unsanctified treasures,” Jeremiah said. “Some day they may pay for a new house of the Lord
.”


There are gold bars worth many talents,” Hilak said, glancing at his father, the keeper of the treasury
.


What is the most precious of the unsanctified
?”


An enormous gem,” Shimor said at once
.

Hilak nodded. “A great yellow diamond
.”


Include it,” Jeremiah said
.

They sat and looked at one another bleakly, aware of all they could not hope to include
.

Three nights in a row, midway between evening and morning, Hezekiah withdrew the Temple guards from the New Gate
.

The main entrance of the Holy of Holies was used only by the High Priest, who entered it on
Yom Hakippurim
to intercede with the Almighty in behalf of the people. But there was an obscure entrance reached from the Temple's upper floor. From time to time priestly workers were lowered to clean and refurbish the sacred place
.

That was how the fourteen stole the Holy Ark and what it contained, the tablets of laws that on Sinai the Lord had given to Mosheh
.

A young priest named Berechia was lowered at the end of a rope
.

Baruch stood well away from the Holy of Holies. He was of a priestly family but he had been born with one leg shorter than the other, which made him a
haya nega,
a mistake of the Lord. He was not allowed to touch the sacred, an honor reserved for the unblemished
.

But Berechia's fear could not outweigh his own as the others paid out rope and the youth, spinning slowly, settled like a great spider into the shadowy fastness of the holy place
.

Dim light fell beyond the dangling man and was caught in a gleam of wings. Berechia sent up the cherubim first and Baruch averted his eyes, for the Unutterable Himself sat between these figures on the Most Solemn Day to hear the pleadings of the High Priest
.

Then the Ark cover. Solid gold, hard to raise
.

Finally the Ark. Containing the Tablets!

They raised Berechia, white and trembling. “I recall Uzzah,” he gasped
.

Baruch knew the story. When King David had sought to move the Ark to Jerusalem, one of the oxen bearing it had stumbled. Uzzah, walking nearby, had grasped the sacred chest lest it fall, and the Lord had become angered and struck him down
.


Uzzah did not die because he touched the Ark, but because he doubted the Lord's ability to protect it,” Jeremiah said
.

BOOK: The Jerusalem Diamond
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