Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chapter Forty-two thru Epilogue


Mount Quarnat as Asawda
Friday, November 27
6:00 a.m.

General Telnikov felt the heavy thump given off by the rotors of a gunship just seconds before he heard the whine of the engine. He did not have to guess the purpose of the visit. The reaction of his leaders had been quicker than he’d thought.
Telnikov removed the pistol from his belt, dropped the clip from the butt, and ejected the chambered round. At this stage in the situation, there was little point in resisting the inevitable. He laid the gun on his desk, donned his field jacket, and stepped out to meet his fate.
Four Russian military policemen jumped from the large, M-8 Hip transport helicopter and stepped to the side. Lieutenant General, Evgeni Malkin, Telnikov’s immediate subordinate in the 7th Armored Division, exited the transport.
There was no salute, no greeting. The MPs moved alongside Telnikov as Malkin smirked at him. “Anatoly, what have you done?”
No answer was required nor offered.
“General Telnikov, I relieve you of your command. You are under arrest,” Malkin stated with no emotion. “Follow me! We must put an end to this catastrophe.”
As Malkin led Telnikov into the communications trailer, the general confusion register on his men’s faces.
“Report!” Malkin shouted.
Yuri Ovanskaya stepped forward and saluted General Malkin, but his eyes were fixed on his commander. “Sir, our forces are currently in moderate to heavy firefights with the Libyans to the west and the Turkish Army to the east. So far, casualties are light.”
“What about the Iranians?” Malkin fumed.
“Sir, the Iranians are fully engaged with the Israeli’s fifteen kilometers west of the Euphrates River. We just administered our fourth salvo of SS-21 missiles, and our MiG 29s and 31s continue to target their command and communications.”
“Issue the order to cease all operations against our allies!”
“Sir, we are in secured communications mode. Our battalion commanders will require the code,” Yuri explained.
Malkin turned to Telnikov and pointed him toward the radio.
Telnikov smiled but stood firm.

Jewish Quarter
6:15 a.m.

The plume of a large explosion lit up the northern section of the Temple Mound. Ben had no idea who’d set it off, but the blast emanated from somewhere near the Qubbet Suleiman Mosque. Most likely, the Arab mob was formed somewhere in mosque’s vicinity and was destroying the remaining remnants of everything Jewish.
A string of grunts came from the stairwell. Ben turned and saw Gilad step out. Next, Ari Goins stuck his head through the opening. His face reflected an extreme level of exertion as he strained to haul up one end of the Ark. Both Gilad and Ben rushed to relieve the big man of his burden and pull the Ark from the well.
“Be careful with the figures. They will barely fit through the door,” Ari puffed as he fought to regain his breath.
Ben reached down with one hand and placed it over the head of the closest Cherubim. “Go, Zev, we’ve got it. Push the Ark up gently.”
Inch by inch, the three men maneuvered the Ark of the Covenant through the opening and into the room. They sat it on the rug that had covered the door and then began to receive the packs of equipment. The other members of the group soon followed carrying the weapons.
“Okay, here’s the situation,” said Ben once they were all gathered. “I believe a large crowd has formed near the Suleiman Mosque. They seem to be intent on destroying whatever they can find at that end of the Mount. If we are going to get the Ark up the Bab en-Nahdir gate, we are going to need a diversion.”
“What do you suggest,” asked Ari.
“We still have plenty of C-4. Gilad and I can make our way to the minaret at the northwest corner of the Mount and place the explosives. We’ll do it with timers and make our way back before we set off the bomb. The rest of you should do your best to get the Ark to the top while it is still dark. There are cedar trees all along the plateau where you can hide.”
Ari looked at Zev. “Sounds like a plan.”
“Let’s do it,” Hannah agreed.
“One thing,” Ben paused. “I want the professor and the pomen to stay here in this room. We can leave weapons and ammo with Ty and Moshe. The guys can protect them until we return.” Ben glanced at Ty. He then opened his arm for his wife who was already making her way toward him.
“Do you know how to use one of these?” Moshe asked Ty.
“Yes, just have someone give me a quick lesson in its operation and I’ll be fine.”
Ben and Ingrid moved away from the group to a corner.
“I am so afraid,” she tucked her head into Ben’s chest.
“Listen, I’m afraid too. So is everyone else, but everything is going to be okay.”
“O Ben, I can’t lose you.”
“Sweet heart, you won’t.” Ben wrapped his arms tightly around his wife and quietly prayed for peace and protection. “Honey, it’s time I get to work. Stay close to Moshe and Ty, okay?”
“I love you,” she cried.
“And I love you.”
Ben moved over to Gilad and helped him gather the remaining blocks of C-4, a timer, and a detonator.
Gilad looked at his partner, but said nothing. He understood the pain coursing through Ben’s heart. With a nod, the two headed out the door and into the shadows.
In the meantime, Moshe gave Ty instructions on how to use the Tavor and the grenades. He then fitted Ty with an earpiece and microphone given to him by Ari. A pistol was also handed to Professor Aveneri. As a natural born Israeli, he too had served time in the IDF and could still use a gun.

Mount Quarnat as Asawda
Same Time

The standoff continued. General Malkin stood holding his pistol to Telnikov’s temple, and Telnikov remained silent.
“You do not believe I will pull this trigger, do you Anatoly?”
“Nyet,” chuckled Telnikov. “Evgeni, you know my commanders need to hear the pass code. You will not shoot.”
Malkin spit at the floor in anger. He then lowered the weapon and held it to Telnikov’s kneecap. Telnikov closed his eyes and pictured his grandmother’s face as Malkin pulled the trigger.
General Telnikov fell to the floor in anguish. Yuri Ovanskaya, thinking to offer aide to his commander, was stopped dead in his tracks as Malkin aimed the gun at his face. “Step back or you will die where you stand.”
Ovanskaya complied.
Telnikov held his knee tightly with both hands, not only to succor the pain, but to staunch the flow of blood. A gaping wound was all that evidenced any existence of a patella. Malkin bent and placed the tip of the gun’s barrel beside the general’s elbow.
“Do you wish me to continue, or shall I slowly dismember you with 40 caliber bullets?”
There was a day when Telnikov would have responded in the most venomous hatred possible, but something in him had been transformed. No ill will existed, only peace.

Temple Mount
6:45 a.m.

Darkness still covered the Ben en-Nadhir gates as Ben climbed the steps and passed through its arch. The faint glow of dawn was becoming noticeable in the east as he spotted the team among a stand of cedars. He noticed the Ark, now uncovered, and how even the fading light of the stars reflected off the polished gold. The two long poles had been slid through the Ark’s rings making the object appear truly Biblical in glory. In just a few strides he was back with the commandos.
Gilad came quietly to a stop beside him and pulled out the detonator. “Are we ready?” he whispered.
“Do it,” Ari nodded.
The blast was deafening. The outline that had been an ancient minaret, built by the Suleiman of Syria hundreds of year ago, crumbled into a pile of dust and debris at the north end of the Mount. The crowd, still circling around the Qubbet, screamed its outrage in a united voice. The entire mob moved swiftly toward the fallen tower and further away from the Israelis.
“Now,” Zev commanded.
Ben and Gilad manned the poles in the rear while Zev and Ari took the front. They lifted the Ark together and began the last push to compete the mission. Hannah, with her Tavor assault rifle sweeping from side to side, led them south toward the Dome of the Spirits.
Moshe and Ty stood beside the window watching and listening through their earpieces. They listened to the order for the team to move across the plateau, but had heard nothing for several seconds.
“Oh no,” Moshe said as he pointed up the street.
Ty looked in that direction. What he saw sent a chill down his spine. The group of armed Arabs that had passed by earlier was now returning. They were headed for the stairway of the Ben en-Nadhir Gate.
“Our guys will be caught from behind,” said Ty. “We’ve got to do something!”
Moshe reached up and touched the activator to the front of his earpiece. “Ben, you are about to have company at your six. An armed group is almost to the gate.”
Ty didn’t know what made him do it, but he cocked his weapon and readied a spare clip in his pocket.
Blake saw the move and immediately understood what he was thinking. “No, Ty!’ she said as she reached for him. “Don’t!”
Ty ran his hand down her long hair and bent to kiss her. “I have to, babe.” He gave her a wink and smile, and then headed out the door before Moshe could stop him.
Ingrid and Tasha held tightly to Blake to keep her from following her husband.
“Moshe, help him!” Ingrid shouted through her tears.
They had all received Moshe’s transmission over the radio. Without a word, and in a single motion, the team lowered the Ark of the Covenant. They quickly formed a fire-line between it and the doorway of the Ben en-Nadhir Gate. Sporadic stands of Cedar trees offered cover, but none of them wanted to leave the Ark in danger of being taken, so they remained out in the open and in great danger.
Moshe caught Ty just before he bounded up the stairs. “Slow down a bit. I have only one good arm, remember?
“Sorry. We can’t let these goons trap our people.”
“We won’t, but we can’t be crazy about this either. Now, let’s do this together. Ready?”
The two men began to climb, creating as little noise as possible. Looking upward, they saw the last of the mob as it passed through the gate.

A dozen Arabs, armed with Uzi machine pistols, moved onto the Temple Mount. But their gaze was fixed toward the northern sector where the minaret had been destroyed. It was only the last man of the group that happened to scan towards the fallen Dome of the Rock. He immediately saw the shinning gold of the Ark. And then he recognized five people, dressed in commando black, pointing weapons directly at him.
A shout brought the entire gang back toward the Israelis. Once they understood who was facing them, a non-stop barrage of gunfire was released.
Ben’s Kevlar vest stopped the first bullet, but another penetrated his jacket and passed through the flesh of his left shoulder. The impact dropped him to his side on the ground. Ari grunted as a round struck him in the thigh. His femur was shattered. But it was the sharp intake of breath from Hannah that made the world stand still.

Ty dove to the hard surface of the mount after he passed through the gate. Moshe took a kneeling position behind the first Cedar he came to. Spread out in front of them, firing their weapons with abandon, were a dozen Arabs. Ty spotted the Ark and the black figures protecting it, but three of those figures were laid out on the ground. He recognized one of prone figures as Pastor Ben.
Raising his weapon to eye level, Ty began to methodically drill the attackers from behind. Four dropped almost immediately. Moshe peppered another two before the Arabs realized they were caught in a crossfire.
Once the Arabs turned to face the new threat, Zev and Gilad let loose a string of staccato gunfire and finished off attackers.
Moshe ran to Ben and examined the wound. Ty dropped down beside Ari only to see that the big man was bleeding profusely and beginning to lose consciousness.
Zev and Gilad knelt by the lifeless body of Hannah Lira. She had been killed instantly by a bullet to her forehead.

Mount Quarnat as Asawda
6:55 a.m.

Telnikov had won, at least the battle of wills with General Malkin. The man would eventually gain control of Russian forces, but the damage was done. Not only was Israel the enemy of Islam, so now were the Russians. Malkin would be foolish to order a unilateral ceasefire, for neither the Iranians, Turks, or the Libyans would turn from their new jihad. The coalition was now bent on destroying itself.
The general, his wound wrapped tightly in a blood-soaked bandage, was wedged between two military policemen in an M-8 transport helicopter. The machine lifted off the rocky surface of the mountain and into the air over the Bekaa Valley as the first rays of the sun highlighted the peaks of the eastern horizon. The site distracted him from his pain and his fate. Though he knew an executioner’s bullet would be waiting when he landed, for him this would be a glorious day. He felt it in his heart.

Temple Mount
7:00 a.m.

Leaving Ari Goins alone and dying beside the dead body of Hannah Lira was the hardest thing Ben had ever done, but divine urgency had overcome him. The mission had to be completed, even if it meant his death. Moshe had taken Ari’s place in carrying the Ark. Ty had taken his. Now cradling his weapon in his one good arm, Ben led the team across the hard surface of Temple Mount. As the light of the sun illuminated the plateau, he could make out the rectangular depression called the Dome of the Spirits.
“Hurry,” Zev urged from behind. He’d caught site of a writhing mass of people to the north. The throng was moving again after hearing the gun battle. They had spotted the Ark and were coming for it with hatred filling their cries of battle.
Ben turned and leveled his gun at the crowd. “I’ll hold them off,” he shouted as he knelt and took aim. “Get that Ark into place!”
The four men quickened the pace until they were running in perfect step toward their goal.
Ben opened fire on the mob just as his team reached the depression.
Zev and Moshe pivoted first bringing the front of the Ark around to face the eastern sky. Slowly, carefully, the men lowered Israel’s most precious icon onto its rightful pedestal.
With no warning, the men were stricken by a violent wave of compressed air, followed by an incredible flash of light. And then, everything slowed.
Ty knew he was flying backward through the air, but as he flew, the golden Ark of the Covenant held his gaze. From between the bowing Cherubim, a thick shard of lightning materialized and shot high into the sky. Small bolts of lightning separated themselves from the shard and flashed out from Jerusalem in all direction. It was as if each splinter of light was obeying some command. The atmosphere appeared to split in the violence of God’s wrath. Everything seemed to roll back as if huge hands were opening a scroll.
Ty couldn’t tell when or how he’d landed, but he suddenly felt the ground beneath him. The Earth was trembling. He struggled to turn toward the others, but the glory of the Ark would not release his gaze. In his periphery he caught the images of Ben and Moshe doing the same as he. Their mouths were open in awe at what was happening, not understanding any of it. The rioters were also splayed out flat on their backs.
At first, the shock wave from the Ark completely overwhelmed Ty and the men, including their ability to distinguish all other sounds. But strangely, the steady note of a distant trumpet penetrated the fog in their hearing. The more it sounded, the louder and more joyful it became, as if a trumpeter was flying over the eastern hills and drawing ever closer. Then, over the trumpet’s quickening note came the shout of a strong voice. The sound removed every vestige of fear, and their hearts were filled with hope.
Ty was finally able to lower his gaze. The shard of lightning was now a thick column of fire shooting upward into the sky. As he looked around he was astonished to see Ari in the Cedars with his hands raised in the air. His clothes were bloody, but he was standing as if nothing had happened. Beside him, Hannah Lira was also standing upright, completely whole, and weeping with joy. Ty did not understand.
Then, echoes of his mother’s voice filled his mind. “You will live to see the coming of the Lord.” Tears filled his eyes as he realized what was taking place.
Then, without warning, Ty was flying through cloudless skies. Blake was at his side and holding tightly to his hand. She giggled and cried at the same time. Tasha had joined Moshe. Ingrid was wrapped in Ben’s strong arms. And then, high in the stratosphere, they all saw the King of Kings for the very first time.

Over Lebanon
Same Time

The helicopter bucked and jerked causing one Russian MP to look with alarm at the other. Their eyes spoke what their lips could not. What happened to their prisoner? One second he was there, and then he was gone. But then something else stole their attention.
The mountains along the Bekaa Valley began to belch steam and burning ash. Even from their current altitude, the occupants of the helicopter could see the earth shaking with violence.
They heard the scream of the pilot and felt the force of the sharp turn he was attempting. They all looked through the windshield in time to see a molten chunk of earth just before it sent them to a fiery death.

Three Weeks After the Firestorm

Andre D’Tiene peered through the window at destruction so vast it was indescribable. The mountaintops surrounding Israel had exploded. Everywhere he looked earthen rubble co-mingled with the tools of war, most of which continued to smolder and burn. Worse, everything was painted in blood. Even from this altitude, mass accumulations of bodies were visible. Horror so marred the scene that neither he, nor his companions could utter a word. The inexplicable disappearance of millions across the globe only added to the urgency of the moment. The world was in need of a savior, and the title would fall to him. He was ready.
D’Tiene leaned back in his seat as he felt the sharp turn of the large Sikorsky helicopter. They were on the final approach into Jerusalem, but the huge aircraft was not flying towards an airport. Their destination was the Temple Mount, the famous Zion of old. A historic event awaited him, one that would pull the world away from the brink of annihilation.
Again, the leader of the Mediterranean Union glanced out the window as the helicopter flared over the rubble of the Dome of the Rock, its golden splendor gone forever. He leaned forward to improve his view of the northern side of the plateau that once held the first two Jewish Temples.
Dozens of men stood a few yards to the east of a small, rectangular tent. D’Tiene knew what was housed inside. Resting on the Even Shetiyah, the ancient foundation stone of the original Temple was the Ark of the Covenant. A shiver ran down his spine at the thought of the massive power inside that tent. That golden symbol, along with all its power and glory, would soon be his to protect and command.
The wheels of the Sikorsky gently kissed the ground as the pilot spooled down the engines. A uniformed Israeli soldier opened the door, lowered the steps, and saluted. Andre D’Tiene emerged, followed by the nine remaining ambassadors of the Mediterranean Union.
The newly elected Israeli prime minister was there with extended hand and a wide smile to greet the one on whom the hopes of the world would soon be placed. D’Tiene acknowledged the Israeli with a nod, but his eyes were as serious as the enormity of the moment.
No words were exchanged as the two men approached a dais. Upon it were two chairs and a table. On the table was a document, the provisions of which would insure a rebuilt Temple for Israel. The other members of the Union would serve as witnesses.
A wisp of wind floated across the Mount, as if an unseen presence was adding blessing to the new state of peace that was about to sweep the planet.

© Copyright, Jimmy Root, Jr., 2011
Jimmy Root Jr
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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chapter Thirty-six thru Thirty-eight


Tunis, Tunisia
Wednesday, November 25
11:00 p.m. Local Time

D’Tiene took in his surroundings. A gaudy chandelier hanged from the center of the room, its light was just enough to make his eyes ache. The walls, adorned with Persian Rugs draped over mosaic tile, depicted the historic high points of the Muslim culture of Tunis. The walls amplified every word that was uttered, converting it into something harsh and painful to the ears. At the moment, D’Tiene’s ears were practically bleeding. Algeria’s ambassador to the Mediterranean Union was droning on and doing it way too loudly.
“Why should we not demand blood for blood?” the turban-headed Algerian shouted while shaking his fist into the air. “The Jews deserve a swift and deadly answer to their atrocities!”
Immediately, the room fell into chaos as every Muslim ambassador joined to decry Israel.
D’Tiene allowed the cacophony to continue for several minutes. After all, these men represented countries that had no real military prowess with which to confront the Jews. The only outlet left them was to yell and scream.
His eye caught that of the Italian Ambassador’s, and the two shared a barely perceptible smile. When it came down to interjecting any force whatsoever into the situation, the European representatives to the Union would be the ones to accomplish it. Everyone knew it.
He had seen the fall of the European Union coming for the last few years. Too many hands were in the proverbial pot, dividing the power of the EU beyond any ability to make a firm place in the global economy. Only the NATO alliance had actually held Europe together, that with the majority of the input coming from the United States. But now, America had run its course at being the world’s policeman. She had decided to go inward, and in so doing, she was crumbling. Her politics had become so steeped in liberal guilt that she naturally stepped aside in her leadership. Then, the catastrophic detonations of five nuclear warheads in American cities sent the United States down the road of irrelevance, if not chaos.
The game of world monopoly was moving toward a swift and final confrontation. Russia was exerting itself into the Middle East with the clear intent of controlling the world’s energy. But Russia was about to encounter a buzz saw; something Grigory Polkov could never fathom. Israel was no pushover. The size of the country had nothing to do with its will to survive, nor its ability to turn vicious when needed. The Russian Bear was about to step into a bear trap. Once that happened, the world would find itself void of leadership. He planned to step in and save the day.
As the vitriolic shouting continued, D’Tiene’s only doubt centered around the Chinese. So far, they had not reacted to the world’s current turmoil. Would they? He didn’t see how they could avoid stepping in to force their influence, especially since they owned most of the world’s monetary debt. Unless they were willing to watch their long-sought assets washed away in a tide of global warmongering, some entrance into the fray was inevitable. But when? That was the question.
For these reasons, D’Tiene had called this emergency meeting of the Mediterranean Union. With America sidetracked, Europe failing, and the Russian’s about to have a rude awakening, the time for the remnants of the old Roman Empire to rise had finally come.
D’Tiene noticed the level of sound beginning to diminish and held up his hands, palms outward. The shouting stopped.
“I agree,” he spoke respectfully, but with authority, “Israel must be dealt with. But, my friends, it will not be with anger or military force. In the midst of everything that has happened, the Israeli’s are undergoing a transformation.”
“How so?” shouted the Greek Ambassador. “They thumb their noses in arrogance, even at the peacekeeping force.”
“Yes, but you must understand, the tide is changing. Prime Minister Naftali is dead. The nation is about to sigh and relax, thinking it has achieved some modicum of peace. Israel has dealt with its nearest enemies and has captured their land. The Jews now believe they are safe. Their military will form a wall of defense that will keep the homeland secure. The Palestinian political machine is gone. There is nothing left to fear.”
“They have us to fear. We must avenge our brethren,” interjected the Algerian ambassador.
D’Tiene nodded. “You shall, but patience must be the plan of the day, not hotheaded vengeance.”
“What do you propose; to sit by and let the Jews take over the entire region?” the Algerian persisted.
“My friend, unless I am mistaken, they already have.” D’Tiene pointed out. The room was quiet as the truth finally sank in. Everyone looked at him for an answer, exactly as he’d designed all along. “Our actions must be calculated, as mine have been from the beginning. I will now share with you what has transpired in secret.
D’Tiene carefully, and in great detail, laid out for the ambassadors every move, every agreement he had made. The Israeli’s would soon look at the Mediterranean Union as its keeper while the rest of the world would look at the MU as its protector.
What is demanded is a little more patience,” D’Tiene lectured. “If we will simply wait, the Israeli’s will come to us.”
“Why would they do this?” challenged the ambassador from Spain.
“Because,” D’Tiene grinned smugly, “the supreme bargaining chip is in my hands.”
“And that is?”
D’Tiene brought his hands together and laid them on the table. “A new Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.”
As the delegates turned the place into another uproar, D’Tiene motioned for Reginald Tipry to approach.
The man lowered his ear close to the president’s mouth so he could hear above the ruckus.
“Alert both teams.”
“Our men in Jerusalem are already in place and awaiting the word.”
“Good. Tell them to initiate the plan then get the other team moving toward Aksum by no later than Friday before dawn!”
Tipry quickly left the room to make the calls.

Mount Quarnat as Sawda
Same Time Local

“We must establish blocking actions here, here, and here.”
Telnikov pointed out his wishes to the commanding officers of the combine peacekeeping force, excluding the Iranians. The exclusion was intentional, though not something that would have been approved by Moscow. Telnikov had simply come to the conclusion that the fool who was leading the Iranians was about to purposefully engage Israel on his own.
“General,” the commander of Russia’s 3rd Guards Army interjected. His force of eight thousand men was positioned along the eastern border of Lebanon just into Syria. “These positions gain us no ground.”
“I am well aware of this,” Telnikov said with a hint of irritation. “By forming our lines in these locations we will stretch Israel’s northern command to its limit.”
“Yes, but they will entrench and become immovable,” challenged the general in charge of Turkish forces. “It is not our intention to sacrifice needless blood by flying headlong into Israeli fire. We must move forward before Israel and establish clear lines of supply and communications.”
The other generals agreed a bit too vocally.
Telnikov slammed a balled fist on the table and immediately regained the attention of his strong-willed subordinates.
“Comrades,” he lowered his voice, “you do not have an understanding of the larger picture.”
“And what would that be,” smirked the Turk.
Telnikov’s first instinct was to reach across the table and slap the man across the face, but he overcame the urge. Instead, he took on the attitude of a wise professor lecturing a pimply-faced student on his first day of class.
“You do not see the true face of your enemy. The man your government embraced months ago, my Turkish friend, is the one who is about to betray you.”
“What are you saying?” growled the Turk.
“You have kissed the cheek of the one who will bring about your destruction. You have been deceived.”
“Ah,” said the commander from Sudan, “you speak of Iran, do you not? Why are they not represented at this table?”
“Yes, why are they not here?” questioned Libya’s military leader.
Telnikov again placed a finger on the map splayed out before them. “The Iranian’s were supposed to be moving in support of the Russian 3rd Army. Their area of concern was distinctly west of Damascus. I ask you, have they complied with the plan? And if not, the question is why? Tell me!”
No one answered.
“The reason is simple,” Telnikov explained. “The President of Iran, who is leading Iranian forces himself, has a design that does not conform to ours. That is why he has taken up a position that will allow Israel to trap him.”
“Does this not demonstrate only his foolishness?” asked the Russian. “He is a civilian attempting to lead beyond his capacity.”
“This may be the appearance, but his actions are purposeful.”
“You are saying Kazimi’s intention is to be obliterated?”
Telnikov shook his head in the affirmative.
“That is madness!” exclaimed the Turk.
He is hiding something. I see it in his expression, thought Telnikov. The statement was for show.
Only a second or two passed before he continued. “Nyet, it is religious, and we are going to allow his intention to come to pass. Do you not see? Israel will soon be forced to deal with Kazimi. I do not believe they will use tactical nuclear weapons. The prevailing winds would bring radioactive contamination upon their own people.”
“Ah, yes,” grinned the Turk, “I see it now. Israel will have no choice but to engage conventionally with the Iranians. They do not have the ability to sustain a multi-front campaign.”
“Finally, you see the truth!”
“If we demonstrate no aggressive action,” the Libyan surmised, “they will see no threat. They will concentrate their forces and supply lines into Syria to confront Kazimi.”
“Da,” Telnikov laughed, “leaving our armies nothing but a peaceful march all the way to Jerusalme. Now, begin moving into the positions I have indicated. Be in your designated location by sunrise tomorrow morning, midday at the latest. Then, we will sit back and let the Iranian tie his own noose and hang himself.”
The commanders got up and left the room, but Telnikov had a strange feeling that each had his own agenda. The coalition had no real unity.


Thursday, November 26

This was not at all how Ty had imagined he would spend his first Thanksgiving as a married man, but it was awesome none-the-less. Because of his inability to drive, due to the heavy cast on his left arm, Moshe had given the keys to Ty and he was having a blast driving like an Israeli.
Moshe grinned from the passenger seat as he noticed the expression on his friend’s face. They had just topped the hill moving eastward on Sderot Shazar and the full view of a curving, elevated roadway came into view. It was called the String Bridge. Passing beneath the structure, the width and breadth of Jerusalem opened up before them. The panorama was breathtaking.
“Wow,” Blake gasped from the back seat where she, Tasha, and Ingrid had been conversing. “It’s so beautiful!”
Moshe directed Ty to blend into the traffic moving onto the Sderot Sarel Israel. After that they moved onto Hatyvat Yerushalaym, the Jerusalem Highway. They were following the same route that Ben had taken to the University nearly a week earlier.
“Will we see the Temple Mount?” Blake asked. “I can’t wait to see it.”
“Not on this highway,” Moshe explained. “The Hatyvat will soon take us south toward the University. Temple Mount is close though. It is on the other side of this ridge.” He pointed up the tree-covered hill that came into view on their left. Interspersed on the hillside were various residences tucked into stands of tall pine trees. “These compounds are residences to foreign embassies located here in Jerusalem. Of course, not every nation has recognized the city as Israel’s capitol. But, according to what you have been teaching me, that will change at some point.”
Ty smiled and nodded. “True! The whole world will be required to report on a regular basis to his office.”
Moshe chuckled. “I would have never thought of the rule of Messiah as coming from an office suite.”
“You have to use your imagination,” laughed Ty.
“Moshe, let me rephrase my question,” Blake spoke up again as she leaned close to the window’s glass and looked upward. “Will we see the Temple Mount today? And what’s that black smoke rising above the crest of the hill?”
“Ah yes, I understand now,” Moshe answered as he gazed at the sky through his side of the windshield. “I have no idea what is causing that smoke.”
“There sure is a lot of it,” Blake said. She spoke more to herself than to the others.
Moshe continued his answer as he pondered the reason for the smoke. “Anyway, we will not have that privilege today. Professor Aveneri specifically requested that we arrive at the University as soon as possible. Plus, from what I heard this morning on the radio, there is substantial Arab unrest. The Mount may be inaccessible for a few days.”
Just then, as they swept around a sharp curve at the bottom of the hill, Ty was forced to stand on the brakes. The rear tires locked, emitting a loud shriek while burning rubber. All three women screamed.
The sedan turned sideways and came to a rest just feet from a black van that was blocking the road.
“What in the world?” Ty blurted as a fist-sized rock dented the car’s hood.
Beyond a makeshift roadblock a dozen policemen clashed with at least ten times their number of protestors. Billy clubs were swinging, but the protestors were not only resisting, they appeared to have the upper hand.
“Arabs,” Ingrid moaned from the back seat. “We must get out of here now.”
“Go!” Moshe shouted.
Ty craned his neck to make sure no other vehicles had pulled in behind them then threw the car into reverse. The tires screeched again as he backed away from the van. One car after another came flying by. Ty was barely able to avoid them as he spun around to head the other way. They all heard the sound of crumpling metal as one of the vehicles crushed the back of another.
“This is not good,” Moshe stated. He reached in his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. “Ty, do you still have Professor Aveneri’s card?
“Yes, I’ve got it right here.”
Moshe handed the phone to his wife. He motioned for Ty to do the same with the business card. “Tasha, I cannot dial. Punch in the number and hand it back.”
Tasha input the numbers then handed the phone back to Moshe. They all listened in to the one-sided conversation as Moshe talked with the professor.
“We have a major problem. The east side of Mount Moriah is in turmoil,” Moshe said as he slapped the phone shut in his hand.
“What is happening Moshe?” asked Tasha in a fearful voice.
“It’s worse than I thought. The entire Arab East Quarter has gone mad and has overflowed into this area. Aveneri said the campus of the University has been overrun. Some of the buildings are being looted as we speak. That is also the source of the smoke. They are burning as they move through.”
Blake placed her hands over her mouth. “Oh my Lord!”
Tasha reached forward and laid her hand on Moshe’s shoulder. “Where are we going?”
“He’s sending us into the Jewish Quarter near the Hurva Synagogue. He has a home within a hundred meters of it.” Moshe turned and smiled weakly at Blake. “You are going to get your wish. From where we are going, the Temple Mount will be in plain sight, but you may also see a full-blown Arab riot.”
“Shouldn’t we be heading back to Haifa?” Tasha asked.
“No. The Professor said they are closing all highways leading into Jerusalem to prevent the entrance of suicide bombers. The police are trying to keep this thing from spreading until military units can be engaged. The problem is most of the local battalions are elsewhere fighting a war.”
Ty glanced momentarily at Moshe while he navigated the roadway. “I guess there won’t be any preaching going on today.” A string of three armored personnel carriers filled with riot police flew past them down the highway.
Moshe grunted and frowned. “Not at the University.”
Thirty minutes later Ty was following the movements of Ehud Aveneri as he directed them off the street and into a garage. Navigating a roadway built for foot traffic was difficult. Having the street fill with people running to and fro made it worse. But trying to crank the car around and through the narrow door was nearly impossible. There was barely enough room to exit the vehicle. After he’d parked, they all had to ease between half-opened doors and solid stone walls. Moshe had the worst of it trying to squeeze through a narrow opening while wearing a cast.
The Professor ushered them through a long, dimly lit passageway apologizing the entire time.
“I should have never had you come. I am so sorry. Please forgive me.”
Blake stepped ahead of Ty and eased up alongside the man. When she slipped her hand under his arm he halted. Her voice was barely above a whisper when she spoke. “There is nothing to forgive, Professor. Anyway, we’re not here of our own accord.”
“What do you mean to say?” asked Aveneri, surprised but obviously pleased by her show affection.
She gently patted his arm. “The Torah says ‘the steps of a righteous man are ordered of the Lord,’ do they not?”
He grinned widely. “Ah, a student of the Torah! Yes, that is what was spoken by the prophet David.”
“Then we are here because the Lord brought us here. Don’t worry. This is a great adventure.”
Aveneri lifted his head back and laughed. “Well then, come along. We shall begin this adventure together.”
The passage way took several turns before they finally reached a door that stood ajar.
“Welcome to my home. Please, be comfortable,” said the Professor as he allowed each of the five to pass into his modest living quarters. “May I prepare you each a cup of tea while you rest?”
They all agreed and stepped into the main seating area. The walls were constructed of what appeared to be painted sandstone, but the paint could not hide the pits and marks that belied the home’s age. Beautifully stained cedar molding framed the doorways and windows, and a seven candled light fixture hung from the center of the room. Two pillowed sofas and three chairs were available for seating. Pictures of various archeological digs lined the room. But what took the visitor’s breath away was the large picture window on what was easily determined to be the eastern wall.
In clear sight, not three hundred meters away, the cover of the Dome of the Rock peaked above the houses and trees of the Jewish quarter. Rays of sunlight reflected off what looked to be pure gold, causing all four to shield their eyes as they adapted to the brightness.
What they could not see was a mass of thousands of Arab Muslims marching together in a wide counterclockwise circle around the shrine. They could, however, hear the low roar of an angry multitude.

The Fields of Nazir Training Facility
Thursday, November 26
4:30 p.m.

Ben pulled the strap tight and latched it on his pack. He then examined, for the third time, each item before securing them in specific compartments. Five fully-loaded clips of fifteen bullets each were for the 40 caliber S&P handgun he’d been issued. A composite-handled knife, with five inch blade and sheath, was provided for hand-to-hand fighting. Four fragmentation and flash-bang grenades were in place. A med-kit, small flashlight, gun-kit, face paint, and more were all stowed and ready. Inside the pack was a day’s supply of MRE’s, meals-ready-to-eat, two containers carrying dozens of loaded clips for the 5.56 mm IMI Tavor assault weapon he’d be toting. He also had night vision equipment, and various sundry items he would need in the coming fight.
Once he was done, Ben turned to his combat buddy and checked the man’s pack and equipment. Gilad Belfer did the same for him while Zev Tolberg and Ari Goins stood alongside and watched. The four were designated as a single fire team. The last few training sessions had been done together as they learned to read each other’s movements. Ari was not only biggest and most rugged of the four, he was their leader. His team was ready.
Ben slipped his arms through his Kevlar vest, but left it unzipped and hanging loose off his shoulders. The day was slightly warmer than it had been of late. The sun was shining brightly, though it was well into its descent in the eastern sky. The last thing he donned was his helmet. He would wait until deep into the flight before putting on the communications equipment, which consisted of an earpiece with a thin, directional microphone.
The entire ARC team stood casually beside a C-130 military transport aircraft as they awaited the arrival of their leader, Hannah Lira. While they loitered in anticipation of the mission, Ty heard the engine of a smaller, propped aircraft as it lined up its approach to the facility’s runway.
“And who could that be?” Gilad asked as he shielded his eyes. The plane was coming in from the southeast with the obscuring the men’s ability to identify it.
A twin-engine Cessna 310, painted in camouflage tones, came into view and touched down. It then traversed the runway and taxied to their position. No one noticed that Hannah had pulled up and dismounted from one of the base’s Humvees. She was in full combat dress.
The Cessna’s engines shut down and the door was opened. A short, silver-haired man, wearing a kaki jacket and wire-rimmed glasses stepped out and made his way toward the commandos. He was followed by Ehud Katz, Commanding General of the Israeli Defense Force, whom everyone identified immediately. No one recognized Chaim Bloomberg, the new Prime Minister of Israel.
Hannah pushed through the group of men and made her way to Bloomberg.
“Welcome Mister Prime Minister,” she greeted as she shook the stately man’s hand.
Bloomberg and Katz stood before the men and took a moment with each one before the general indicated he had something to say.
“Men, I want you to understand that although few in Eretz Israel even know of it, your mission could be the instrument that finally provides hope to our people. With the recovery of the ancient Ark of the Covenant, the greatest unifying icon in all our history will take its place in Jerusalem. I am proud of every one of you. I am praying for your safety and success, though I am quite sure you are prepared for any contingency. And now, the prime minister wishes to address you.”
Chaim Bloomberg clasped his hands together as if in prayer and put his fingertips to his lips. Several long seconds passed. When he spoke, his voice was barely audible, causing the men to strain in order to hear.
“As you know, terrible things have happened during the last twenty-four hours. Prime Minister Naftali was given no joy in doing what he did, and the toll was almost too great for him to bear. But what is done, is done. We cannot go back and change the course we have taken. What we can do is succeed with the help of the Lord.”
The commandos shot quick looks at their companions. The way the prime minister spoke the name of the Lord was different. He saw the exchange.
“Yes, what you are thinking is so,” he acknowledge with a weary smile. “I am a believer. General Katz calls on the name of Yeshua as well. We are all brothers, not only in blood, but in Messiah.”
Ben could hardly believe what he was hearing. Few knew of Chaim Bloomberg as anything other than a secretive advisor to the former Prime Minister. But everyone knew of General Katz. He was in the headlines nearly every day in his ministrations over the IDF. To find out he was believer in Yeshua was a complete shock.
Bloomberg continued. “There are other actions taking place that you need to know about.” He lowered his head and began to pace in front of the men as if teaching a class. “The mission, direction, and make-up of this team has been leaked.”
“What?” questioned Zev Tolberg.
“It is true,” said Katz. “We have been alerted by our sources that you will come face-to-face with another special operations team sent to recover the Ark.”
“Before you become too upset, understand that the information was purposely leaked by Mos’sad operatives to elements within the French government. We suspected that the former President of France, the current leader of the Mediterranean Union, has been watching our movements since this plan was first conceived. That has now been proven. The MU has dispatched a highly skilled black-ops team to Ethiopia. Their mission is to intercept the Ark once you have taken if from its hiding place in Aksum.”
“Why was this information leaked,” Zev continued to fume.
“The answer is not important. What is important is that you are prepared to meet whatever danger presents itself, yes?”
Zev kicked at the asphalt surface of the tarmac in disgust, but said nothing.
“I am confident you will handle the situation,” Bloomberg continued. “Now, if your anger has sufficiently subsided, I would like to offer a prayer for success.”
The men gathered in close. Ben thought it strange that Hannah had yet to say anything at all. In fact, she had not reacted to Bloomberg’s news. He kept his eye on her through Bloomberg’s prayer and wondered what was going on.

Thursday, November 26
5:30 p.m.

The sun was setting in the east, and the air was beginning to chill. Ty and Blake were standing in front of Professor Aveneri’s home wondering if this experience was part of a dream come true, or the beginning of a nightmare. They were in Jerusalem within sight of the Temple Mount, but the moment was marred by the roar of voices and an occasional scream emanating from the grounds of the famous site. A full blown riot was in progress.
Aveneri’s neighbors along the street were also milling about in low conversation. Years had passed since the last great Arab uprising. Only the older Jews living in the neighborhood remembered the anger that precipitated the Yom Kippur attack on Israel. Those memories caused them to fear what might happen next, for there were few things more volatile than Arab populations bent on vengeance.
The huge mob encircling the Dome of the Rock had revenge on its mind. With Israel’s action to eliminate every Arab country along its borders, both Palestinians and Muslims in the Arab Quarter had arisen with deadly intent, martyrdom if necessary. In their minds, world opinion must turn their way in the face of Israeli aggression. The huge forces arrayed under the flag of the Russian Peacekeeping Coalition were the desired saviors. If the rioters and their leaders could somehow force the Israelis to react to protests with violence, then the Peacekeepers would be coerced to intervene and take control of Jerusalem.
Professor Aveneri had spent the afternoon explaining the situation and mindset of the Arabs to his five guests. They took the opportunity to understand as best they could by asking many questions. He was quite pleased as they absorbed his instruction as studiously as his prized university pupils.
Now, as Ty and Blake held hands, they couldn’t help but wonder why God had positioned them in Jerusalem when things had started so well in Haifa.
“I wish I knew,” Ty responded to Blake when she asked him point blank why they were there. “I think he gets a kick out of confusing me. Plus, if I knew why he was doing what he’s doing, I would know what was going to happen next.”
“Don’t you?” she teased. “Isn’t that how we ended up in Israel in the first place?”
“How so?”
“Well, you preached about the prophecy against Damascus, and that Israel and the United States would suffer a bunch of new terrorist strikes. Isn’t that what happened?”
“Yeah, I suppose so.”
“Okay. So then you convinced your people to be ready to help out when the bad stuff happened, and because of that, you ended up having your face broadcast on international television, and so on and so forth.”
Ty laughed for the first time in a very long while. “Alright, alright, you got me. It’s all my fault.”
“No, silly,” she slugged him on the arm, “it’s God’s fault.”
He bent down and kissed her on the forehead. “You just answered your own question, sweetie.”
Her smile was wide.
Ehud Aveneri stepped through the door followed by Moshe. The two had been in the Professor’s office listening to the radio and talking things through. “I hope we are not interrupting,” he said apologetically.
“Of course not, Professor,” Ty assured him.
“Good. My goodness, we have some favorable news.”
“What’s that?”
“I have been able to contact many of my fellow instructors from the University, and although it will be impossible to meet on the campus, we have secured a rather large room right near here.”
“Wonderful!” Blake exclaimed.
“Yes, it is. We will soon have a small bite to eat, and then we will make our way to the synagogue.”
“Will that be okay?” Ty asked. “I mean, wouldn’t that cause offense to the Jews?”
“Normally, I would say this is true. But you must understand that even the Jews are desirous of discussing the ancient prophecies. You will have a stupendous opportunity to share what you have learned, and along the way, reveal the truth of Messiah.”
Ty and Moshe locked eyes for a moment. Moshe grinned. “What were you telling me recently about the Apostle Paul?”
Ty shook his head in awe until he remembered how many times Paul was thrown out of synagogues, stoned, and left for dead.

Israeli Air Space
Same Time

Hannah Lira unbuckled her harness and stood at the front of the cargo hold. She faced the men. They were surprised to see her movements. The hum of the C-130’s large jet engines caused her to raise her voice and shout. Most of the team members were forced to pull protective plugs from their ears so they could hear.
Hannah pointed as she called to four men in particular. “Zev, Ari, Ben, and Gilad, please come forward so we can speak.”
The four men complied.
Hannah entered the aft door of the pilot’s cabin and motioned the men into an area occupied by the C-130’s navigator. When she closed the door the engine noise was decreased by half.
“What’s up, Hannah?” Ari asked.
“There’s no way I could tell you this before, but you are about to exit the aircraft.”
“Pardon me?” said Ben incredulously.
“That’s right. This will be a shock, but the real mission is not to Aksum, Ethiopia.”
“Why is this the first time we’ve heard of it?” Ari blurted.
“Because,” Hannah crossed her arms, “we’ve had a mole in camp.”
“One of our team?” Ben asked.
“No, it was one of the support personnel. He was a Russian informant. We had to play the game out and wait until we were in the air to tell you the truth.”
“So, what’s the truth?” Zev challenged. “Where is the team going?”
“Not the team, just us five! The rest will continue on to Aksum and carry the ruse to the end. We will now form a five-person team, and we will be going to the actual location of the Ark.”
“Where?” All four said at the same time.
Hannah looked at her watch and then the navigator. He held up his hands and extended seven fingers. “We are about to go over the Judean Hills,” he shouted.
“In seven minutes, we will parachute off the ramp and into the desert. A military transport is waiting to take us to Jerusalem. You will receive the rest of your instructions and the location of the Ark once we are in the vehicle and in route.”
“Holy cow!” Ben reverted to English, quoting a saying from his younger days. They hadn’t trained for individual jumps from an aircraft.
Hannah understood and smiled. “Don’t worry Ben. You got plenty of practice jumping off the tower. This will be no different. The parachutes are stowed in a container next to the ramp controls. Go now. Get your equipment together, your packs on, and strap on your chute.”
A few minutes later, the ramp had lowered and Ben was feeling the crisp night air push his cheeks back nearly to his earlobes as he fell through the air. His body had ceased its shaking the second he had jumped off the end of the ramp. Only the fading light of what must have been a gorgeous sunset offered him the ability to see anything on the ground below. Dear God, don’t let anything get broken, he thought.


Near Be’er Sheva, Israel
Thursday, November 26
6:30 p.m.

Ben was glad to finally be able to sit, even if it was in the back of a truck bumping its way along a rutted roadway. The team had parachuted into an uninhabited sector of the Negev far from curious eyes, but the landing zone ended up being several miles from where the truck and driver were waiting. That minor miscalculation precipitated a hike of over five miles through very rugged and rocky territory. Although he felt he had been trained into descent physical condition, the fast-paced jaunt over hills and wadis gave him a reminder him of his age.
After thirty more minutes the truck came to a halt and Hannah took the opportunity to pull a map and spread it before them.
“Now, we learn the truth,” Ari Goins said with a sly smile as he illuminated the map with a flashlight.
“I apologize for the ruse, but it had to be this way,” Hannah shrugged. “I think Yeshua understands. We’ll let Ben give us a Bible lesson on ethics when this is over. In the meantime, this is what our mission now looks like.”
She traced her finger over the map until she found a spot just south of Be’er Sheva. “We have about three hours to go in this truck before we get to Jerusalem. By then, things should be calm enough to move into position.”
“What do you mean by ‘calm enough’?” Ben asked.
“The Arab population is in an uproar as we speak. The Temple Mount is a cauldron of anger. But, I’m counting on that anger subsiding, at least for the evening.”
“So where is the Ark of the Covenant?” Gilad was growing impatient.
Hannah circled the Jewish Quarter of Old Jerusalem with her finger. “About one hundred meters directly east of the Wailing Wall there is a chamber deep beneath a street named HoSha’orim. Although the existing avenue does not reach the actual wall, the original street led directly to the Cotton Merchant’s Gate and into the Court of the Gentiles. The chamber I speak of is at a depth of ten meters below the original HoSha’orim road.”
“That depth puts it at least seventy feet beneath the surface,” said Zev Tolberg with a whistle.
“More like eighty,” Hannah corrected.
“How was it found?” asked Ben.
“A fellow archeological professor at the university decided to do a bit of renovation inside his home in the Jewish Quarter. At first he thought he’d simply broken through the floor and into a small cavity. But, being an archeologist, he knew that nothing under Jerusalem was solid. The city has been built, destroyed, and rebuilt multiple times. Cavities exist underneath today’s buildings, but the cave-in he created proved to be more than a cavity. The more he dug, the more the soil gave way beneath him until it had opened into what was probably a drainage ditch during the time of Solomon.
“Of course, my friend was aware that the Arabs in control the Temple Mount go ballistic whenever we find a place to dig in the area. They act like we are tarnishing the holiness of their site, but what they desire is to prevent archeological evidence that the Jews are the rightful owners of Mariah.”
“And I’m guessing your friend found the real proof.” Ben surmised.
“Not at first. He brought me in to see what he’d found, and we gathered some trustworthy students to begin a secret excavation. It took some time, but we finally opened up a long passage way that ran east to west beneath the ancient street. Moving westward, the tunnel ended in a hewn stairway that led up to a crumbling portion of the old Hurva Synagogue. Going east toward Temple Mount the passage hit a dead end of what appeared to be solid rock.”
“How can something appear to be solid and not actually be?” Gilad was evidently born a skeptic.
“That is because it was the face of cut stone, granite from Lebanon to be precise. The stone measured four feet in width, six feet in height, and was six inches thick. We dug our way around it and found another masonry wall that was nearly two feet in thickness. We drilled a hole and inserted a small camera into the chamber.” Hannah paused and took a sip from her water bottle.
Now Zev grew impatient. “And what was in the chamber?”
Hannah mouth opened into a wide grin and her eyes seemed to sparkle. “Every Temple artifact imaginable.”
“Including the Ark of the Covenant?” Gilad asked.
“We are certain it is there, though we did not actually see it. What we saw was a crate,” Hannah laughed. “Once we got ourselves under control, it was decided to circumvent the chamber by using another passage way. That continued toward the Temple to the east. I believe that is the start of another tunnel that will lead directly to the Cotton Merchant’s Gate.”
“Isn’t that where the Dome of the Rock is located?”
“Actually, the Cotton Merchant’s Gate no longer exists, but if it did, it would open east of the front door of the Dome.”
“That sounds like a dead end!” blurted Gilad.
“Not exactly,” Hannah clarified. “Other tunnels have been uncovered over the years, but the Arabs prevented us from exploring them to their fullest extent. However, one thing I know, a passageway runs along the western wall. It is about ten meters to the west of today’s foundation and runs north to south. I believe we can utilize that passage to get us as close to the Iron Gate as possible.”
Ben shook his head and snapped his finger as he began to see the whole picture in his mind. “The Iron Gate opened behind the Temple. Specifically, it opened up behind the Holy of Holies.”
“Exactly, Ben! In fact, the ancient pedestal of the Ark is still enshrined in its original position,” Hannah explained.
“The Dome of the Spirits,” Ben whispered.
“That’s right. It is called the Even Shetiyah, and it is a small rectangular depression a few hundred feet northwest of the Dome of the Rock. The slab is sunk below the surface by more than a foot.”
“So, how are we going to get to this thing and remove it?” Ari was ready to go.
“We have to get into the Jewish Quarter and into the Hurva Synagogue tonight. Once we broach the chamber, we will have only a few hours to break into the tunnels. There is a stash of C-4 waiting for us. We’ll probably have to use it several times in order to blast a hole back to the surface when we near the Iron Gate.”
Zev leaned back and took a deep breath. “This is going to take some work.”
“Yes it is,” Hannah agreed, “and we will have only this night to accomplish the feat. The fact that the Arabs have mobbed Temple Mount will only complicate things.”
“Not necessarily,” said Gilad. “The sound of rioting will mask our use of explosives.”
Just then the truck driver started the engine. The final leg of the mission had begun.

Abu Kamal, Eastern Syria
Thursday, November 26
7:00 p.m.

Tariq Kazimi was still bowed with his forehead to the floor when his aide cracked open the door. The young man waited until he saw the supreme commander flex and come upright on his knees. Kazimi had finished his required evening prayers. At the sound of the aide clearing his throat Kazimi stood and turned.
“What news, Ishtu?”
“The throngs are in full swing in Quds, Supreme Commander,” the aide informed the president using the Islamic term for Jerusalem.
“How many are involved? Has there been any violence?”
“Our sources estimates thirty thousand souls at the Holy Site, and yes, there has been violence. Fires are burning in the Arab and Armenian Quarters.”
“I mean by the Jews,” Kazimi said impatiently.
“As of now, only minor skirmishes have been reported. The Jews seem content to let the people demonstrate their anger.”
“That must change. Order our operatives to incite the mob against the police. Bring about a few deaths, especially from among the women. We will then have reason to react.”
“Yes, Supreme Commander. It will be done,” said the aide as he began to back out the door.
“Make it happen soon, Ishtu. Call General Tehrani to my quarters.”
“Yes, Supreme Commander.
Three minutes later the commander of the Pasdaran Army knocked on the president’s door.
“You called, Tari?” Tehrani and Kazimi had been friends and co-conspirators in the Islamic Republic for decades. The liberty he took in using Kazimi’s nickname was permitted.
“Abdullah, I want you to ready the 9th Artillery Battalion for engagement.”
“What do you have in mind?”
“At last report, the Jews were well within the range of our Howitzers. I believe the Golani Brigade would make a wonderful target.”
“You know the Jews will retaliate.”
Kazimi bent his head back and laughed. “My friend—that is the plan. Once the Jews begin returning fire, I want every armored unit on the line to attack. Send them all.”
“But Tari, this would be an act of suicide. How do you think the Russian infidels will react?”
“Abdullah, you should know by now that martyrdom is precious in the sight of Allah. It is not suicide, and I do not care how the Russian pigs react,” Kazimi declared as he sat at his desk and signed a document. Once he was done, he handed it to the general. “Here is your order. I want the artillery to commence firing by 0300 hours. Once Israel responds, I want wave after wave to move against the Jews. Then, just as the battle swells to its most violent moment, you will unleash the nuclear tipped Fateh missiles into the fray.”
As he held the document and reviewed the signed order the General failed to see Kazimi slip his hand into an open drawer and grip the handgun hidden in its confines.
“Tariq, this is madness. I will not…” The General stopped in mid-sentence as a 40 caliber weapon was pulled out and pointed at his face. He could see that the hammer had already been cocked. Kazimi used his thumb to switch the safety into the firing position.
“Abdullah my friend, I will send you to an eternity you do not want to face if you do not obey. Now, would you like to re-register your protest? Or, have you had a change of heart?”
Tehrani swallowed heard. Sweat appeared on his brow, and it took his full control to keep from releasing his bladder. Finally he answered. “Mr. President, I have had a complete change of heart. Your wise order will be followed to the letter.”
“Good,” Kazimi mocked. He began lowering the gun. “Never cross me again!” Then he fired the weapon, placing a bullet between the general’s feet.

10:00 p.m.

Ty was spent. For two hours he had presented one prophecy after another. Each one was discussed, debated, and analyzed to the inth degree. He was frustrated. He was exhausted. Discouragement was hovering around the edge of his heart, yet he persisted with as much patience as he could muster.
“Yes,” he countered the current argument, “but the passage specifically states, ‘My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd.’ We have to be very careful not to dissect the full text that Ezekiel gave. The context of the paragraph clearly demonstrates that the servant David would rise again to the throne after such time as the Jews were brought back to the land of Israel.”
The Rabbi who currently held the floor in the discussion was vehement in his position. “This cannot be speaking of today. It specifically mentions David, not this Yeshua you keep pointing to.”
“This is true. David died and was buried. You have his grave with you to this day. But did Jehovah not promise David that his seed would sit on the throne? My friend, why would Messiah not suffer as Isaiah chapter fifty-three states? You claim the passage represents the sufferings of Israel, but the figure that is presented is one who will save Israel from sin and impurity. Israel cannot do that for itself.”
The Rabbi fumed, but only threw up his hands as if his attempt to teach a wayward child were failing.
Ty waited, but as he did, he prayed. Father, if there was ever a time when blindness needed to be lifted, it is now. Open their eyes to the truth of your Son. Then a new tack entered into his mind. “Let’s go a bit further into Ezekiel’s words for a moment and look at it logically. Verse twenty-five states; ‘They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever.’ It goes on to say God would put his sanctuary among them forever. Notice how the generations pass, but the Prince of the line of David is singular. The portrayal is not of a lineage, but of one individual. That individual is equated with the eternal God in the very same verse.”
The room went completely silent. A chord had been struck. Even the expression on the Rabbi’s face changed from anger to consideration.
“The reason he is equated with God is because Messiah is God’s Son…known throughout rabbinical writings as the Son of Man. How can this be unless God brought about the miraculous entrance of his divinity into the human race? Messiah not only mediates between man and God, but between God and man. He had to represent both. That is the impact of Isaiah’s messianic figure. Ezekiel demonstrates the practical reality of the person. Yeshua, proven son of David, fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. He is about to fulfill Ezekiel’s as well.”
Suddenly, the sound of a large explosion startled the people. It was soon followed by the blast’s concussion. The building shook with the impact of the shock wave.
Everyone in the room stood at once. People moved toward the exit doors, not because of curiosity, but because the closest underground shelter was on the next street. With so many missiles having fallen over the previous days, the first reaction was to believe Israel was again under attack.
Ty reached for Blake’s hand as she ran to him from her position in the back of the room. Moshe, Tasha, and Ingrid were right behind her as they headed for the door. Ty saw the professor already heading for the street. That’s when the shouting died.
The five friends stepped out into the crowd. The people were no longer running, nor were any words uttered. Their eyes were fixed on the horizon to the northeast, directly at the Temple Mount.
Moshe came alongside Ty and followed the people’s gaze. “Something is missing,” he spoke softly.
Ty looked from Moshe to the Mount then back, not believing what his senses were telling him. The Dome of the Rock, the third greatest Islamic shrine in the world, was no longer standing. In its place was a cloud of dust.


Five hundred meters to the north of Ty’s location, Hannah Lira and her team of commandos quickly dismounted from the back of the truck. They had just passed the Tower of David Museum, and had entered the Jewish Quarter when the blast caused the driver to bring the truck to a sudden halt. Their position in the widest part of the Omar Ben el-hatab road afforded a view of the Temple Mount from a higher altitude. All around them, people had exited their dwellings and were standing silently. Every eye was on the Mount. Most of the plateau was visible. Fires were burning from the al’Aqsa Mosque at the southern end, all the way to Stephen’s gate, called Sa’ar ha-Aroyot at the northeast corner. The din of the rioting crowd could be clearly heard at a distance of over half a mile.
“My God,” Zev Tolberg moaned.
“We did NOT do that,” Ari Goins exclaimed in disbelief.
“Of course we did not do that,” Hannah said calmly. “The last thing the government would want right now is to draw more attention to Mariah. This was done by the Arabs.”
Ben just stood with his hands on his hips and shook his head. Everything had suddenly become surreal.
“No,” Ari pointed toward the scene and growled, “but those nuts are going to blame it on Israel. I will lay odds that they’ll be rampaging through the Jewish Quarter before midnight.”
Hannah turned to Ari. He was right. Every aspect of her initial plan was now ruined. Doubt clouded her face, and they all witnessed it. The mission was in jeopardy.
Ben was unable to bring himself to believe everything he’d gone through in training had been a waste of time. He could have been with Ingrid, ministering to his people, offering hope and salvation to as many as would listen. But he was also sure he’d been led by God to join the team. God would not have brought them this far to leave them hanging in the wind.
“Listen,” Ben spoke up, “this is the last thing we wanted to happen, but it’s done. My guess is Ezekiel’s hook has just been set.”
They all turned to him.
“What did you say?” Gilad questioned.
“This has to be the hook God said he would set in the mouth of Magog.”
A realization of the truth struck them in the heart.
“I think he’s on to something,” Zev stated to the others.
Ben continued. “Look, let’s just change the plan. Do we all agree that God led us to this? He’ll lead us through it.”
Hannah thought for a moment then snapped her finger.
“Ben’s right. All we have to do is advance our schedule. Instead of waiting for the Quarter to shut down for the night, let’s head for the synagogue while everyone is out and moving about. It would only be natural to see IDF personnel arriving. In fact, they are probably on the way right now.”
“Let’s do it,” Ben said.
The decision was made. While the men piled into the back of the truck, Hannah gave the order for the driver to get them as close to the Hurva Synagogue as possible.
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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chapter Thirty-three thru Thirty-five


Friday, November 20
5:30 p.m.

Moshe was shocked but grateful for the embrace he received from Ty Dempsey. The American obviously counted him a dear friend even though they had only had two opportunities to get acquainted. Moshe knew, from Tasha’s story, that Ty and his wife had prayed earnestly for his protection for most of the night as he was in battle, but he hadn’t realized those prayers would provide a deep bonding between them. He was glad. So far, his only friends had come from the small pool of pilots; that is until he connected with Pastor Ben. Moshe was glad to have another mentor to walk him spiritually through the days ahead, whatever they held.
The day had been long for all of them. Ingrid had chauffeured Ty and Blake all around the unaffected parts of Haifa, gathering small groups of Celebration Center’s adherents everywhere she stopped. In each place, Ty was introduced and given the opportunity to encourage the believers. The Dempsey’s were welcomed with open arms as if they were long lost members of the family, but it was his passion-filled prayers that connected him with the suffering Israelis. This included both Jews and Arabs.
Ty had spent little time putting together his words. In fact, he was astonished at the scriptures that came to his mind as he shared. The flow of the Holy Spirit was undeniable. All Ty had done was to recount what had taken place in Kansas City, how people had flocked to hear a gospel of hope. He shared how the hurting had sought out the truth, and upon hearing it, they received the love that was being offered. He then shared how the same outreach could happen in Israel.
Now, the five friends were together again, and since Moshe was injured, they would stay together for the foreseeable future. Two hours were spent comparing stories, but it was the constant return to fulfilled Bible prophecies that that kept them all on the edge of their seats.
“The stunning part is when God said ‘And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel, and they shall do in Edom according to my wrath, and they shall know my vengeance, declares the Lord God.’” Ty referenced the passage in Ezekiel 25:14. “But look at the difference between that and verses sixteen and seventeen.”
Moshe was enthralled. “This says Jehovah would stretch out his hand against the Philistines on the coast and they would know he is the Lord.”
“No,” corrected Ty, “God says they will know that I am the Lord. I think he is indicating that the surviving Palestinians would come to the understanding of exactly who Jehovah is, and that they would know him intimately. Yeshua is the great, I Am of scripture.”
“You mean as Yeshua hamashiach?” Blake asked.
“I didn’t realize you knew any Hebrew,” Moshe laughed. “And you said it without a Yankee accent.” A feeling of joy permeated the room, providing deep spiritual rest to all of them.
Ty loved what was happening. He loved teaching the scripture, even as he continued to discover aspects he’d never seen before.
“Do you know what this speaks to me?” Ingrid asked. “I think it means we’re going to see people turn to Yehsua in huge numbers.”
“I think you are right, Ingrid,” Ty agreed. “In all likelihood, we’re going to be swamped with work.”
“Swamped,” Moshe looked at Ty, “what does that mean?”
“I’m sorry. It’s an American idiom that says we are about to be overwhelmed.”
“Ah. Better it is to be overwhelmed with people finding Yeshua than to be fighting for our lives,” Moshe exclaimed.
The statement was met with silence as each person glanced at the others.
“What?” Moshe asked in confusion.
“You forget that this was the first of two battles,” said Ty.
Just then, the cell phone in Ty’s shirt pocket sounded its tone. The call took him totally by surprise. He hadn’t used his phone since he arrived in Israel.
He flipped open the cover and answered. “Ty Dempsey here.”
“Pastor Ty,” said the voice, “its Josh.”
“Oh man, Josh, it’s good to hear your voice.” Ty had wondered several times how things were going back in Plattsville, how his deacons were faring in his absence.
“Wow! With what we’ve been seeing on the news, we were afraid you were a piece of glowing radiation. It’s great to hear your voice,” Josh exclaimed. “Blake’s all right too?”
“Yes, we’re fine. How are things with you and the guys?”
There was a pause on the line making Ty think things weren’t so good in Missouri.
“Well,” Josh continued, “things are getting bad.”
“How so?”
“I gotta tell ya, society is falling apart. People are turning crazy just trying to survive, especially in the cities. There’s hardly any food, and absolutely no civil services. Trash is piling up, and the only aide getting to the people is coming basically from local churches.”
“What about the government?”
“What government? Martial Law has been imposed to try to keep control, but all that has done is to free up the thugs.”
“Isn’t the National Guard deployed?”
“Yes, but they are experiencing mass desertions,” Josh explained. “It appears our citizen soldiers are more concerned with protecting their individual families than they are the country. Stands to reason if you ask me, but that’s not the crazy part.”
“How so?”
“The president is incognito. He’s nowhere to be seen. Rumors are flying that he may have skipped the country.”
“You’ve got to be kidding!” Ty was astonished. If America needed anything, she needed a calm, cool, and collected president to offer guidance. Ty glanced at Blake saw a look of deep concern. He knew exactly what she wanted him to ask.
“Hey Josh,” Ty asked. “How are Blake’s parents? She’s worried about them.”
“They’re okay. In fact, they’re about the best help we could’ve asked for here at the church. Tell her not to worry, her dad is packin’ heat. I taught him how to shoot your gun.” Josh was referring the handgun he’d placed in Ty’s hand to assist in his rescue of Blake’s mom and dad. “He is even doing some of the preaching.”
“Is that right? Blake’s going to love that,” Ty grinned as he thought of Blake’s father thumping on a Bible and sharing the Word. The man was small in stature, but obviously huge in heart. He covered the phone and shared with Blake what Josh had reported. The weight lifted off her shoulders and left a smile on her face.
“By the way, how is the church doing?” asked Ty.
“Better you should use the word churches,” Josh replied. “So many townspeople have found Christ we couldn’t figure out what to do with them. You wouldn’t believe it, but I’d estimate we have over a thousand people meeting in homes.”
“That’s incredible!”
“I’ll say! Not only that, Faith Community Church has been converted into a refugee facility. Every part of the building is now being used for processing, feeding, or providing medical help to stranded folks. FEMA has set up a tent city over on Jack Halford’s property, and there are a couple thousand people spread out across the acreage.”
A twinge of disgust rose in Ty’s throat at the mention of the name of the man who killed his mother. He thought he’d worked his way through the bitterness and had to silently rebuke what he knew was a wrong attitude.
“How is Jack, or have you heard?” Ty forced himself to inquire.
“That’s another thing you won’t believe,” Josh exclaimed. “Jack requested that the deacon board come visit him in the jail. I’ll tell you, we didn’t buy it at first, but the man has genuinely repented. Marty has been going over to the see him every couple of days for a Bible study. The man has rounded up over a dozen inmates to join in. He’s turning into a regular evangelist.”
“How did that happen?” Ty felt confused.
“Your visit is what happened. Remember, you went over and offered Jack your forgiveness before you flew off to Israel. It totally changed him!”
Ty had witnessed plenty of miracles of late, but this development was major. “Look Josh,” Ty had to choose his words carefully. “Tell Jack I’m glad God is blessing him.”
Josh paused knowing it must be a struggle for his pastor to offer his gratitude in that way. Once again, a spirit of forgiveness had trumped any justification for bitterness. “I will, Pastor. Hey, I’ve got to go. I just had to know that you were all right. Give Blake all our love. You can even kiss her for me.”
Ty laughed heartily. “Look, buddy, I’ll kiss her for me, not you! Greet the fellas for me. And listen, I have no idea when I’m going to be able to come home. You’re going to have to hold the fort.”
“Hold the fort? We’re taking territory, not holding the fort. Anyway, don’t worry about us. It would be impossible for you to get back now anyway, at least until things settle down.”
“Josh,” said Ty, “things are not going to settle down.”
“I think we realize that. You just do what God wants you to do, however long it takes. And keep your head down!”
“We’ll do, Josh. It’s great to hear from you.”
“Ditto! I’ll call you when I can,” Josh said. The call ended.
Ty shut the cover and slid the phone into his pocket.
Blake had her eyes locked onto him and her eyebrows raised. “Well?”
Ty slouched into the couch and took a deep breath. “Sweetie, I don’t think we’ll be heading home anytime soon.”
“That bad, is it?”
“I’m afraid so, but hey, I think we’ll have plenty to do here for a while,” he touched her hand.
“And you have friends to help you do it,” Moshe spoke up. Tasha and Ingrid quickly agreed.
The evening was spent sketching a plan to not only care for the members of Celebration Center, but to find ways to reach people throughout Israel who’d never heard the truth about Yeshua.


Fields of Nazir Training Facility
Sunday, November 22
10:00 p.m.

Ben had been unable to keep his mind on the order of the day. Sunday morning had been special in a couple of ways. Hannah had given Ben the privilege of speaking to the team and leading them in worship. He’d chosen a passage from Ezekiel chapter thirty-six in which the Lord promised he would vindicate his great name, not only to the nations, but to his covenant people Israel. The passage, and therefore the message, was filled with hope and forgiveness, something Ben felt the team needed to hear before risking their lives. They received the word wholeheartedly.
The thing that brought a great sense of peace to Ben was seeing how the men had gelled as a spiritual unit. They were not only coming together as a dangerous team of covert operatives, but they were being built together in spirit by way of participating in concentrated prayer for one another. This was teamwork that was gratifying to see, and to be a part of.
But the biggest thrill, and therefore the distracting element, came when Hannah announced to the men that they would be given an opportunity to contact their families. After having agreed to a no-contact policy by signing onto the team, none of the men had entertained the possibility of such a gift. As gracious as it was, Hannah’s announcement removed any productivity from the day’s training. Everyone’s mind was emotionally invested in a conversation with wives and children, and although the instructors acted as if they were frustrated and angry, everyone understood what was happening. They’d experienced the same struggle over the course of their careers and knew the value of connecting with a loved one before going into battle.
Ben, however, suffered more than the others in his wait to make the call. With only one available phone, each man had taken his turn throughout the evening. Knowing the Ingrid would be spending the majority of the day shuttling the Dempsey’s all around Husifa and Haifa, there was no point in attempting to contact her until it was late. He found the wait quite difficult.
No one was present in the small lounge area when he entered. All the men had turned in for the night. He sat down, picked up the phone, and punched in the numbers. His heart was racing in anticipation of hearing Ingrid’s soft voice.
The tone sounded once, twice, a third and fourth time before Ingrid answered. Sleep was in her voice. “Yes.”
“Hello sweetheart, it’s me,” he grinned as he spoke. His smile widened when he heard a shriek erupt on her end of the line.
“What? Oh my goodness, is it you?”
“Sure it’s me.”
“But I wasn’t supposed to be hearing from you,” she said. Then fear took over. “Has something happened, honey? Are you hurt?”
“No, no, it’s okay, don’t worry,” he soothed. “They gave us a surprise this morning and said we could call home.”
He heard a bustling sound in the background. Ingrid was adjusting her position on her pillow. When she spoke again, he could tell that tears were accompanying the words.
“I was so worried about you. I miss you so.”
“Me too. When they told us how many rockets and missiles were hitting the cities, we nearly went ballistic. But then we learned the government was keeping an eye on you and there were no casualties among our families. I can’t tell you how thankful I am to the Lord.”
“Oh, Benjamin, it was terrible. There is damage everywhere, but you’re right. There were some injuries here and there, but very few. Yeshua has protected our people.”
“What about our new friends?” Ben asked.
He’d been particularly concerned about the Dempsey’s coming into a war zone and being harmed.
“They’re great!” Ingrid exclaimed. “Both of them are taking this all in stride.”
“Have you been able to get him plugged in?”
“My goodness, I hardly had to do anything. This man is a whirlwind.”
“What do you mean?” Ben was puzzled.
Ingrid shared with her husband how Moshe and his wingman intercepted a set of Turkish fighters that was attempting to destroy the jet carrying Ty and Blake, how miraculously God had protected them in their arrival. Ben laughed loudly when he heard how Ty had jumped into service at the feeding station on the day he was supposed to be celebrating his honeymoon.
“What did Blake say when he showed up so late?” he wiped his eyes, he’d laughed so hard.
“That’s the wildest part,” said Ingrid. “When he got back to the apartment she was in a full blown Bible study. You won’t believe what she found!”
“Try me.”
“She was reading her daily Psalm and…”
“Blake found Psalm eighty-three,” Ben interrupted.
“How did you know?” she whispered.
“We found it too, Ezekiel twenty-five, Jeremiah twelve, and Zephaniah two, among others.”
“Why didn’t we see this before? Those prophecies are exactly what happened,” Ingrid exclaimed. “Did you know our brigades have almost achieved the ancient boundaries of Solomon’s reign?”
“Yes, they keep us up-to-date.”
“It is unbelievable what’s happening! Anyway, since that night, we have been either ducking our heads for cover, or taking Ty and Blake around town.”
“How are the people receiving them?”
“That’s the great part. Everywhere he goes, people are asking for him to preach and for her to sing.”
“You mean in all our small groups from Celebration Center?”
“Partly, but it has gone way beyond our church people. Just today Ty preached in six different places. I suppose the numbers added up to around six or seven hundred people.”
“No way!”
Now Ingrid laughed at her husband. “It’s true. In fact, there were probably more. And, do you want to know the best part?”
“Of course I do.”
“Everywhere we went people gave their heart to Yeshua. It’s like the eyes of Israel are being opened, at least partly.”
Ben’s mouth dropped open. All he could do was shake his head in wonder.
“What’s wrong,” she asked.
“Nothing! I’m just astounded. Praise the Lord!” Ben shouted.
“I keep saying it, but that isn’t everything.”
“What more could there be?”
“Ty has a new helper.”
“Moshe,” she said softly.
“Shouldn’t he be out flying his jet?”
Ingrid explained what happened to Moshe on the night of the attack, how he’d survived but broke his arm. “He’s on leave for a couple of weeks. After that, he’ll go back to his duty but won’t be able to fly again until the arm is fully healed. So, he’s attached himself to Ty.”
“I’m so glad. I really felt bad about not being able to mentor him.”
“Honey, Yeshua took care of that. Ty is bringing him along incredibly fast. Moshe can’t get enough of the Scripture, and you won’t believe how easily he leads people into salvation.”
A lump formed in Ben’s throat at how God was blessing in his absence. Sure, he’d experienced moments of doubt about whether he should have attached himself to the ARC Project, but the Lord was proving his will in every aspect. But still, the most difficult part was being separated from the love of his life. The thoughts flowing through his heart created a long pause in the conversation, one in which Ingrid felt his emotional struggle.
“Are you okay, Benjamin?”
“Babe, I really miss you. I wish I could see your eyes lit up like your voice is doing.”
Ingrid sighed. She longed for the man she’d never been separated from in all the years of their marriage.
“When is this thing going to be over? When are you coming home?”
“I’m not sure, except to say I think the mission is about to happen soon.”
“I wish it was over!”
“Me too, babe.” He knew Ingrid’s floodgate of tears was about to open. A couple were pooling in his eyes as well. And then very softly he said, “I love you with all my heart.”
“I love you too,” she whispered. “We’re praying for you every moment. Please, honey, please be careful in your mission. Promise me!”
“I promise, sweetie.”
Ben sat for a very long time, processing the emotions that were pulling at his heart. So much could go wrong in the mission. He could die, he understood, but death was not an issue. He knew where he was going should that happen. What was bothering him was how either way, with a successful mission, or by his death, the odds were his life with Ingrid on this earth were probably limited. If what they believed was true, returning the Ark of the Covenant to the Temple Mount would set off a cataclysmic event, either at the hand of God, or by the hand of Israel’s enemies. In both cases, the Rapture of the Church, the great hope for which they’d longed for so many years, was imminent. But as much as he yearned for Jesus and eternity, his human heart was very attached to his wife. It was difficult to think that relationship might change, even if it was for the better.
He lowered his face into the palms of his hands and prayed.
Change is frightening, Lord. I admit part of me is afraid of the future. But I also know you said “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what you have in store for those who love you.” My soul knows this is true. Help the rest of me understand it too.

Mount Quarnat as Sawda
Tuesday, November 24
7:00 a.m.

General Anatoly Telnikov peered at the large map hanging on the wall as he perused the report he’d just been provided. He shook his head in awe as the full picture of Israel’s advance began to take shape.
These people are astonishing! Three IDF Brigades had ground their way through southern Lebanon with amazing speed. Lebanese Army and Hezbollah remnants had quickly given way to the Israelis in a hasty retreat up the Bekaa Valley, only to be met by Russian 7th Armored Division. The defeated Lebanese units threw down their weapons in surrender, effectively ending organized terrorism in the region forever.
In only four days, Israeli battalions had formed a defensive line from Jiyeh, on the west coast just south of Beirut, all the way across Lebanon to Lake Qaraoun at the mouth of the Bekaa Valley. IDF Northern Command pushed its way round the slopes of Mount Hermon and controlled the eastern border all the way to Mazraat Dier Al Aachayer. They were now face to face with the Libyans south of Beruit, the Russians in the Bekaa Valley, and the Turks on the eastern slopes of Lebanon.
Not only that, the Golani Brigade, with all its support and artillery battalions had overcome the Syrians and were within two days of staring Tariq Kazimi in the eye along the Euphrates River.
Telnikov scanned further into the report to see that a good portion of Jordan and western Saudi Arabia were now occupied by the Israelis. The Egyptians had either abandoned, or been beaten back all the way across the Suez Canal. In fact, the Sudanese Army was filtering into the lower Negev and Egyptian highlands in their place.
Israel’s progress in defeating its enemies was nothing short of stellar, even superior. Being a perfectionist in military tactics, Telnikov was impressed in the most vibrant way. The only problem was that the Israeli’s had not acted according to the plan. Rather than allowing themselves to be bottled up by the Russian-led coalition, they had bravely and confidently stepped out in full force to block the peacekeeping plan. The General knew full well that Prime Minister Polkov was swallowing down a steady stream of Valium to quell his anger. Things certainly had not gone according to his design.
Telnikov laughed. The little, beady-eyed tyrant had been out-foxed by a Jew. If that did not incite the man’s wrath, then there was nothing that could.
But now the growing dilemma struck him full in the face. His hesitance to slow Israel’s rush into Lebanon by not alerting his superiors would exert its price. He questioned what he was to do, especially since his recent experiences seemed to be steering his decisions.
He could no longer deny that those experiences were spiritual in nature. People simply did not see visions as a norm, that is, unless they were insane. But he knew he was not insane. The visions he’d seen, the dreams his mind had played during the night, had evoked memories he had repressed long ago. The oddity was how the dreams and the memories meshed into what looked like a divine purpose. The thought that this could be true challenged his loyalties.
Am I loyal to the Motherland, or to a being I have never met? Am I even certain he exists?
This was the conundrum he faced. From this point onward, his decisions would stem from that question. If he chose the loyalty to Russia that he had cultivated his entire life, the inevitable result would include a massive strike against the Israelis. If he chose to follow a something spiritual, something he could not pretend to understand, his actions would designate him a traitor and an outlaw, punishable by death.
Telnikov closed his eyes and tried to decide which direction he should choose.
Immediately, his grandmother’s face flooded his thoughts, a face he’d shoved far from his consciousness. It had resurfaced during his jump into Lebanon.
“Grandmother, my sweet Mamma, what shall I do?” he silently pleaded.
Just then the sat-phone on his desk vibrated, indicating an incoming call from the Kremlin.
“Da, Telnikov here.”
“Anatoly, I have orders for the 7th Armored,” growled Field Marshal Velniak. “We have been given the green light to initiate operations against Israel in three days.”
“We are not simply going to contain them?”
“Ay, Anatoly, you knew all along containment was not the plan. Have you become dull in the Middle Eastern air?”
“No, sir.”
“Then prepare your plan of action and get your officers up to speed or I will send you into your retirement.”
“What will be the hour of engagement?” Telnikov ignored the field marshal’s threat.
“Zero-four-hundred hours. Coordination with all coalition units will come through your command. All codes and protocols will be issued today. You may add your own levels of security to the codes. Be ready!” The call was terminated.
Anatoly closed his eyes again, but the face of Olga Breslev Telnikov was no longer visible.

Fields of Nazir Training Facility
Wednesday, November 25
6:30 a.m.

Ben had breezed through two days of intense training and could tell he was improving his endurance. His body was hardening again. He was also enjoying a deep peace in his heart, a peace he had been lacking before his conversation with Ingrid. Maybe it was the aftereffects of hearing her voice and touching her soul. Maybe the Lord was easing his concerns about the future. Whichever the case, he was ready to concentrate on the mission and be done with it.
The team gathered early and had finished a hearty breakfast by the time Hannah Lira entered. Ben noticed she made eye contact and chatted with each of the men as she prepared to address the group. That was a deviation from her normal get-to-the-point, task oriented way of doing business. Something was up.
“Not to brighten your day too much,” she began after standing behind the podium and the map, “but your training is nearly complete.”
Her news was greeted with applause, hoots, and whistles. Everyone was ready to move forward with the operation. She smiled widely and clenched her fists in the air as if she’d just won a race. But, looking at her eyes, Ben could detect she was masking a burden. Her enthusiasm was hiding something of life-or-death importance.
“Today, through midday tomorrow, your focus will be to perfect the precision of your four-man tactics. Friday you will prepare your gear and rest up as best you can. We launch the mission after sundown.”
“So it will be a Sabbath bathed in fire!” Gilad blurted out. More whistles and shouts resulted.
“Fire is the operative word,” Hannah smiled and waited for silence. “By Saturday evening, we will know for sure if the return of the Ark will any effect on Israel’s situation.”
Ben was puzzled by the apprehension he detected Hannah’s voice. “Are you having doubts?”
She shuffled the papers on the podium refusing to answer too quickly. Everyone felt a shallow wave of nerves flowing from their leader. “Ben, I have no doubt that this mission is ordained by God. But as I shared with you at the beginning, I do not know what will actually transpire once the objective has been achieved.”
“Are you worried nothing will happen?”
She looked him in the eye. “I am worried about the loss of valuable lives without having the assurance that what I hope will happen, will really happen. These are lives that I have come to respect and love as brothers.”
There it is, thought Ben. That is the weight she is carrying. “In other words, you’re afraid that any sacrifice we make will be in vain, correct?”
Hannah nodded in the affirmative.
“Well don’t’! We all understand the cost that may be exacted on this mission. We’ve come to terms with it.”
Hannah brought her hand up to cover her mouth. Her eyes filled with tears.
Ari Goins rose from is chair and stepped up to wrap his big arms around his longtime friend. She was dwarfed by his size, but the gesture seemed to give her the ability to release her burden. She cried freely until the rest of the group gathered around her and prayed. In the process, the unity of the team was sealed by the presence of the Holy Spirit of God.


Wednesday, November 25
7:30 p.m.

Ty stepped slowly to the lectern and allowed his eyes to absorb the ornamental beauty of the nave. Beams inlaid with gold, silver, and brass formed stately supports for the roof. The ceiling was graced with a breathtaking fresco. Tall marble statues of venerated saints lined the outer walls of the ancient Roman Orthodox Church. But what demonstrated to him that God was at work was a sanctuary filled with people. They all longed to hear the truth.
This was not a crowd made up of predominantly Catholic worshippers. Ty knew this not only by appearance, but by the fact that few had genuflected or had outlined the sign of the cross. The ones who had bowed and crossed were Israelis, but they were mostly of gentile ancestry. They had existed in a religious vacuum and had never assimilated into true Jewish culture. The rest were Jews, and the resident Catholics were uneasy at having so many non-converted people sitting in their church.
The disgusted look on some of the faces humored and saddened Ty at the same time. He was well versed in the hardness brought on by religiosity. People steeped in demonstrating their religion by a standard of good works always ended up creating exclusivity. They missed how God desired a relationship based on love, not religion.
Maybe that fallacy can be remedied some tonight, Ty thought to himself. After all, he’d been given an opportunity that no other protestant preacher had ever been afforded, especially an American protestant preacher. Some upper echelon members of the church’s hierarchy had heard him speak in a street rally. They’d been impressed, so much so that they’d convinced the Bishop to extend Ty an invitation. Their specific request was that he would share the reason he was in Israel, and expound on some of the ancient Biblical prophecies they had heard him reveal.
Seated in the hand-carved, wooden pew closest to him were Blake, Ingrid, Tasha, and Moshe. Ty winked at his wife and nodded at his new pal. Moshe Eldan had blown him away by his lack of fear, as well as his enthusiasm to learn as much as he could about Yeshua. What characterized him as a fighter pilot, the ability to face overwhelming odds while hardly breaking into a sweat, now defined him as a believer. In the last two days, this new convert had shared his faith without apprehension. People, both Jews and Arabs, had found Christ through his story. All Ty had done to help him along was clarify the points of the gospel, guide him through the scriptures, and let him go.
Now it was Ty’s turn to step out into something different. He began by greeting the people then walking the people step by step through the passages of the scripture. He pinpointed the prophecies that had just been fulfilled, including the destruction of Damascus, and the complete defeat of Israel’s enemies. He demonstrated how the events could not have happen until after such time as Israel was restored as a nation. He attached dates with events, and the people followed him in rapt attention.
“As with most prophecy, it is always easier to grasp an understanding of its meaning after the predicted event has been fulfilled. In the case of Israel, the simplest thing to comprehend is that Jehovah has done as he promised. He restored the Jewish people to their ancient land as a free people.” As he spoke he scanned the audience to make sure they understood. By the nods of heads and expressions of intensity on the faces, they were following along nicely.
“Now,” he continued, “all of us have an innate desire to know what is going to happen next. That is a part of how Jehovah made us. We are curious, and one of the reasons he gave us the prophetic scriptures was to keep us alert. But there is another reason. These prophecies are calls to repentance.”
“For instance, nearly every Israeli is aware of the prophet Ezekiel and his vision of a valley filled with dry bones, are you not?”
People shook their heads in the affirmative. Some even used their voices to agree.
“Good.” Ty then read entirety of Ezekiel chapter thirty-seven, including how God would break the dividing wall between the tribes. Then, “thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel.”
He then pointed out from chapters thirty-eight and thirty-nine that two distinct events from the passage had yet to be fulfilled, but were on the verge of coming to pass. He started with the names of the nations that God revealed to Ezekiel. Ty reminded them who those ancient nations were and where they settled, how the names had changed, but the nations they represented were now in existence. He let the scripture speak for itself as to how severely those nations would be judged and why God would do it.
“You see,” he challenged, “the next thing to happen is written clearly. The nations that will be involved are specifically named, and they are surrounding the mountains of Israel as we speak, just as prophesied by Ezekiel. The Russian-led coalition of Iran, Turkey, Libya, and Sudan are going to attack!”
A murmur began spreading through the crowd, but Ty was not done and held up his hand until the people became quiet.
“My friends, the wonderful portion of this passage says that we have nothing to fear. Jehovah himself is going to deal with these enemies, and Israel will be spared!”
People began to applaud. They understood. They took hold of what Ty was teaching.
“But that is not the full picture,” he shouted above the din. “Ezekiel said, ‘But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd.”
The moment of truth had arrived. All eyes were fixed on Ty. All ears were listening intently.
“My servant David shall be King.” The echo of his voice bounced off the marble and precious metals that covered the walls. Everyone heard the words clearly.
“Now listen to what God said. Let them sink into your heart. Believe!”
He flipped through the pages of his Bible to his final passage. He breathed a prayer that the Lord would remove the veil off the eyes of his hearers.
“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on this throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Yeshua, God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool. Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain, that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Yeshua, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
What happened next was almost an exact repeat of what happened two thousand years earlier. The people immediately stood, and a tumult of voices began. Many Jews were livid at hearing Ty’s words. Only a few moments passed before people began to leave in anger. But more people stayed than left. Those who remained had a look that said, “Tell us what we need to do.”
Ty gently shared the step of faith that was needed. The people responded. Over two hundred Israeli’s received God’s grace and decided to follow Yeshua. Lives were changed forever.
Thirty minutes later, after most of the attendees had finally filtered out the door, a distinguished, grey-haired gentleman approached Ty and Moshe. In his early seventies, sporting a suit jacked, immaculately tailored slacks, and a black fedora in his hands, the man exuded stateliness. His smile was infectious.
“Sir, may I have a moment of your time?” he requested as he extended his hand toward Ty.
“Certainly,” Ty responded as he shook the man’s hand.
“My name is Ehud Aveneri. I am a professor of archeology at Jerusalem University and am an avowed believer in Yeshua. I have a great favor to ask, if you do not mind.”
“How can we be of service?”
“As you know, Israel has been a hard shell to crack. Jews have been stubborn to the ways of Yeshua since that fateful day when we sent him to his death. But what I have seen tonight has renewed my hope that Israel’s true day of salvation is nearing.”
Ty nodded in agreement. “I pray that is so.”
“Thank you,” he bowed slightly at the waist, humbled by the American’s love for the Jewish people, and then he continued. “Jerusalem needs you.”
Ty was taken aback by the statement. It hadn’t entered his mind that he was needed by anyone, let alone the capitol city of Israel.
“I see I have made you ponder, but it is true. I have prayed many years for the opening of a door to Jerusalem’s people, both Jews and Arabs. Have you ever been to the city?”
“No sir, I have only been in Israel a few days, and this is my first trip.”
“By what you said tonight, it might be your last trip,” Aveneri declared. “But that is for the One to decide. Anyway, I digress. Would you receive an invitation to come and share this truth in Jerusalem? You can stay with me in my small home on the University’s campus, and I am sure we can use the auditorium as the meeting place of choice.”
Ty looked at Moshe who was grinning from ear to ear. “Look preacher,” Moshe encouraged, “if you’re right, you may not get another opportunity. I was hoping to take you there at some point.”
“I should probably talk this over with my wife, but I would love to come,” Ty acquiesced.
“Good,” Aveneri slapped Ty on the side of his shoulder, “it is settled!” He then turned to Moshe, “I will expect you to deliver him and his lovely wife no later than midday tomorrow.”
Ty was startled again. “Ehud,” he stammered, “may I call you Ehud?”
“You realize we have taken up responsibilities here on behalf of a fellow pastor?”
Aveneri smiled widely and leaned forward as if he harbored a secret. “Yes, I am aware. You are here to fill the shoes of Benjamin Sherett, am I correct? Well, be at ease. I know all about his mission.”
Moshe cocked an eyebrow at the man, suddenly suspicious that Ehud Aveneri might be a plant attempting to gather information he was not supposed to have. Aveneri saw the reaction.
“And you, my young friend, know exactly what I am talking about. Benjamin is on a mission of the utmost importance to our people, and he is with a very good friend of mine named Hannah Lira. That is all I will say. You must trust me. In fact, you may contact the University to verify I am who I say I am.” He never lost his smile, as if he were teaching a pair of recalcitrant students.
Ty placed hand on Moshe’s arm just before the fighter pilot fired back inappropriately to Aveneri’s challenge. “It’s alright pal. I have a feeling Mr. Aveneri is legitimate.”
“My thanks to you for such faith,” Aveneri bowed again. “Now, can I expect you tomorrow at the University? I assure you it will be a visit of no more than three days on this occasion. We can establish a date on the calendar for an extended stay and one-of-a-kind tour of the Holy City. What say you?”
Ty craned his neck until he spotted Blake standing in a circle of ladies. Ingrid was interpreting for her as she shared with another woman. Ideally, he should be consulting with his new bride, but something inside urged him to walk through this open door. After all, taking every opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus was the reason they were in Israel. His decision was made. He nodded in the affirmative at Moshe.
“We’ll be there,” Ty agreed, “but may I request that my friends also be invited?”
Aveneri clapped his hands together in exuberance. “Of course! Classes are not in session. Most of our students are now serving in the military during this time of crises. There are plenty of rooms. Come, bring them all.”
Ty took Ehud Aveneri’s business card and shook the man’s hand. As Aveneri passed through the outer door and into the night, Moshe looked at Ty and shrugged his shoulders. Whatever was about to happen, they were in it together.
Jimmy Root Jr
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