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
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
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?”
“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.”
“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
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
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
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.
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.
Jimmy Root Jr
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