Saturday, August 13, 2022

ONL: Classical Tale 3 - Outline

 1. Explanation by academic that the early years of Herod are lost. Speculations that these missing passages are about Cassius Longinus's enslavement of four Palestinian cities, the lessons in governorship which Herod Antipater imparted to his son, who would eventually be 'Herod the Great;' the younger Herod's trial before the Sanhedrin for which he appeared with armed escort, Herod's support from Caesar's uncle, Sextus Julius. Herod the Younger's betrothal to Mariam, granddaughter of yet another Hyrcanus Hasmonean, who had usurped Antipater, and Herod's subsequent poisoning and usurpation of said Hyrcanus after Hyrcanus poisoned his brother and mutilated his ears so that should he escape, he could not be Herod-the-younger's high priest. 

2. The author, Sharlappius, provides a brief disquisition on the philosemitism of Julius Caesar, how it fit in his general worldview, and how it benefited his rise, which was to the benefit of the entire Roman world (there should be great irony in his tone, as though he is flattering benefactors among subtle digs at Rome, which are beyond his patrons' comprehension). 

3. The narrative begins with Herod wandering through the desert, penniless and homeless, after fleeing yet another battle with the Hasmonean, while contemplating suicide, he has a vision of the 'God of Lot, Ishmael, and Esau' who speaks to him, tells him to go to Egypt, speak to Cleopatra, receive her benefaction, and 'avenge all brothers of disfavor.' In a soliloquy, Herod vows to wreak vengeance upon Israelites for all time in the name of all Palestinians. 

4. Cleopatra offers Herod a generalship in a war against the Partheans, who are supporting the latest Antigonus (Steve?). But Herod conjures a false argument to Cleopatra about the Parthean threat. And makes a rather bumbling empire seem like an empire of overwhelming might. "Roman legions only are required for their defeat. Cleopatra puts Herod on a ship to visit Antony in Rome. 

5. The ship is wrecked in a tempest, for which Herod was trying to repair the boat with hammer and nails. Herod, swallowed by a whale, is the only survivor. Inside the whale, he by chance still has the hammer and nail, and hammers a nail into the whale's stomach, whereupon the whale vomits him and Herod finds himself on the Italian coastline in Cosenza, and begins the journey by foot to Rome. 

6. Herod comes to Rome, dirty and penniless, but is immediately recognized by a rich Roman Jew named Flavius Jacobus, who immediately recognizes a lucrative partnership. Jacobus immediately presents Herod to the court of the Second Triumvirate, where Herod and Jacobus concoct false evidence to exaggerate the  Parthean threat to even broader proportions. Antony immediately creates Herod as the new King of Judea, but Octavian objects strenuously to sending Roman troops to Judea, fearing a long quagmire. So rather than sending Herod back with Roman legions, he sends him back with a mercenary army of Gauls, to be financed, of course, by Flavius Jacobus and his partner in Antioch, thereby losing money through his partnership with Herod rather than making it. 

Antony's nickname for Herod will be 'The Philistine', which sticks and is used against Herod as great provocation. 

7. A year and a half later, Herod is still fighting the Hasmoneans, and is losing. Herod comes to Antony's current base camp in the Turkish region of Samosata. Herod persuades Antony that a long war without Roman involvement is in fact in Octavian's interests, not Antony's or Rome's (implying the threat of the Triumvirate coming undone), and because Antony's strength lies clearly in the East, Octavian is clearly creating a stalemate in Judea to undermine Antony's position. Antony becomes convinced, and endows Herod the help of two Roman legions, thousands of Syrian conscripts, mercenaries and slaves from all around the empire. All under an experienced commander named Sosius. 

8. Herod marches his legions to Jericho, torches five settlements and kills all their inhabitants. He then marches on Jerusalem which he puts under siege. They build ramparts, He has Mariam abducted by mercenaries and bring her to his base camp, un-mishandled, where she will finally be taken to wife. An immediate marriage ceremony he's prepared takes place at which all the guests laugh at her protestations and fear, and immediately takes her to the marriage bed in his tent to rape her. 

9. The Romans have not progressed for more than a month. The Jerusalemites, many starving, make night attack after night attack. Picking at various points in the camp,  killing off more than a hundred of Herod's troops, bribing many others, stealing food and weaponry, building higher walls than the official city walls a bit within the city. But every attack results in Romans crucifying many more Judeans from surrounding townships in view of the Jerusalem walls than were killed in the attacks. 

10. Forty days into the siege. Two members of the Sanhedrin, Shemaya and Abtalion, advocate to let the Romans into the gates and surrender to Herod. Through their convincing, they manage to convince the soldiers among their children to at least stay back from tonight's night raid. Therefore are not enough soldiers to carry all the newest Roman boulders away, and these boulders are hoisted upon catapult the next morning and breach the northern wall. The soldiers invade the northern part of the city and kill everyone in the streets, including those who show documents that they're Herod loyalists. They immediately go to the temple, loot the new treasures, slaughter all the priests and animals, and rape the women. All of Jerusalem looks as though it may be slaughetered. Herod debates whether to announce he will remunerate every soldier if they stop the slaughter, but hesitates about whether to do so. 

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Brief Hot Take About Originalism

 

The point of what Republicans always called 'originalism' was never to hew to the original vision of constitution, the point was to update the repression of the past for the conditions of the present, just as the right-wing authoritarians of the 20th century tried to do. One historian I used to be in touch with called it 'reactionary modernism', take the opportunities for class warfare of the 20th century, and clear the way to assure the conservative lower-middle-class that they will stay middle class - even (especially) if it means creating a prison-like state for both the lower class and the liberal upper-middle class. This is the world we live in now, and the sooner we realize what's going on, the sooner we can fight against it.
The point I've been trying to make here.... forever.... is not that 'both sides' do this, or that the American far left (left...) is morally equivalent to the American far right; but there's no way to convince the larger public that the two sides are not morally equivalent. You may know it, but they don't, precisely because your ideas are new, and the new ideas that are true take literally a lifetime to be accepted by a wider public. The point is that the progressive insistence on dragging the Democrats into democratic socialism and intersectionality is stripping our political institutions of the ability to fight against the far right. There's no point in insisting on social democracy and all the values associated with it if the end result is that everybody and everything you value is either exiled, in prison, or dead.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Tales from the Old New Land - some old stories with minor edits



What is the Old New Land? Where is the Old New Land? We have no idea what it is or where to look or where we'll find it, but the material who, the how and the whither, the warp and weft, the length width depth and time, the dwelling foundations splendor and even eternity, are mere surface on the face of the deep. 

The Old New Land is the space between space, where exists possibility, plane, history, law, condition, and infinity; glory, law, lovingkindness, the sources of wisdom, and the crown of creation itself. If it exists at all, and of that existence there shall always be doubt, then it abides in that apogee of maximal cosmic tension to which we all arrive in the instant before the great celestial snap, a place of the world of no end that by wrestling to realize, we seem to bring tiny emanations down to our own, if only for a specific and small indeed finite time, if only in a specific and small indeed definite place. It is that land that within all actions seem motivated by greatness, and much in that brief instant even by goodness, for from that unboundedness of spheres above, we carry those best selves which comprise our share of the divine creation. Once we see it, we work, and we work, and we work, and we wait, and we wait, and we wait, but we're always thrown out of the Old New Land. 

The Dreams of Yitzhak Maier:  

One night as Yitzhak Maier awoke from uneasy dreams in Jerusalem he found himself transformed into a searing prophet. 

Yitzhak Maier grew up in Tel Rumeida, a disputed Israeli settlement outside Hebron, oldest of all Jewish settlements, eternally disputed, now and forever. "Then Abram came and built his tent in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar to the Lord." Genesis 13:18, and from that verse came 3000 year disputation.

In his dreams Yitzhak was six or seven, playing alone in the public playground 200 feet from his childhood home abbetting a concrete wall against which dozens of nephews and nieces and cousins bounced balls every day. 

The earth shook. The wall crashed upward. And there emerged a cave, out from which grew a mouth, and out from the mouth emerged not Palestinians but Patriarchs. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all green from decomposition but otherwise perfectly preserved in bearded biblical majesty. Then the matriarchs, beaded and perfumed in bright wears, with their husbands' concubines to carry their earthenware, unbeaded and dirty with torn brown clothes on the verge of slipping. Joseph appeard next in his Egyptian head dress, carried aloft by four servants in his golden tomb, sitting upright and covered by his many colored cloak. Then King David, wearing nothing but a lute, a loincloth, and oil. Then Herod the Great, similarly nude as hundreds of maggots ate at him from every side even as he walked. Behind these two kings, a Sultan. Saladin the Great atop a horse, wearing his five-crowned turban. 

Then flew the child Yitzhak Maier among the patriarchs and kings over the concrete wall and they all landed invisibly amid Palestinian Hebron at night where Palestinians slept as peacably in their beds as did Yitzhak Maier. A distant smell of hookah pet the nose and the bassline of Arab disco the ear. 

And Abraham did point to a building, and there saw Yitzhak Maier the building, and the building was a tenement highrise. And into the building charged a pack of zealots, lead by Judah of Galilee, and the zealots did barge the doors down, the screams of the murdered in bed unmistakable. No guns, merely Arabic shrieks and the all too distinct timbre of blades piercing flesh.

And suddenly Yitzhak Maier was back in his old playground, watching modern Israeli university students reclined upon sofas ornately draped as naked Persian women fed the grapes by hand. And as the Greek Philosophers asked them questions, Yitzhak Maier's early Yeshiva classmates fed the philosophers grapes. And after every question, another Yeshiva child of Yitzhak Maier's early years would begin to cry inconsolably, thereby catching the attention of a Roman centurion, who one by one would take the child to the other side of the playground, where his legionnaires would impale Yitzhak Maier's classmates on a pike. 

Through the mouth of the cave ran the zealots as though driven by chariot. The zealots killed the philosophers, then killed the modern Israelis, then the Roman legionnaires and centurians. Then the zealots killed Yitzhak Maier's remaining classmates, then even the naked Persians. 
And even before the zealots killed a second legionnaire there arrived more roman soldiers: 8, 80, 480, eventually 5000 of them watching the massacre in passive formation. 

The zealots finished their killing, and frezied but moments ago, they stood as quietly as a Christian awaiting their turn with a lion. Eight legionnaires went about the duty of mounting the Zealots on crosses. The Zealots dutifully screamed as the nails slid through their wrists and ankles and groaned their weight upon the mounted wood. 

The legion mounted their own dead atop a pyre of wood and oil, and amid the sticks were all the Greeks, Israelis, Palestinians, Persians of all ages already seen, and many other corpses besides. And with a jar of oil they set the playground alight. 

And then, of course, charged a group of ten thousand Muslims through the cave led by a general with no face. Yitzhak knew the no-faced general without instruction to be the prophet Muhammed. They fought every Roman soldier to the ground, then lined them up and beheaded them one by one. 

And then charged through the gate Britons, Germans, French, each with chained armor and each of the three with a different colored cross on their shield. The charge each of each army led by a separate king, each with a jeweled crown which never left his head even as every jewel ever more heavily enwrapped splashes by blood. Through the gate marched all the wives and children of the Islamic soldiers. The vanquished Muslims were forced to watch as Christians beheaded every family member, and only then sent the soldiers headless to the devil. When everyone else was dead, the three kings took turns stabbing and slicing Muhammed through every extremity, and as the Christians cheered, the Crusader kings carved a face into Muhammad's head. 

But Mamluks of ever greater ferocity charged next through the mouth, the bejeweled Turkic elegance of their uniforms betokening artistic cruelty. And as the Mamluks fought, their sickles expertly stripped through the chains of crusader uniforms, then through their clothes, and then their skin - not just small appendages but entire bodies, sliced through like skin on a sunfish. Many Christians fought the rest of the battle as jellies of meat. Those Christians left artisanally unbutchered before surrender were butchered in the execution, vivisected through the waist, their top halves then impaled on the remaining Roman spikes unused to impale Yeshiva children. The Christian bottom halves were crucified on the old Roman crosses like zealot soldiers. 

But all through these horrors came a new, much more modern sort of Briton, not charging through the gate but ambling at a civilized pace. They did not kill, they merely looked on, striken with horror, whispering affront and scandal as the women fainted. Eventually they stopped the butchery with single gunshot. A well dressed spokesperson with a dandyish goatee made a speech about how senseless this bloodshed and tyranny. The formerly victorious soldiers threw down their swords, won over instantly. Other Britons, more silent ones, collected the surrendered weaponry. The spokesman told them that in exchange for these swords they would have ploughs and prosperity. The spokesman walked back through the gate, saying he would return with all the provisions needed for peace. These drab British soldiers sat amid their colorful and newly peaceful brothers. A few minutes of silent waiting passed, and these newly peaceable brothers in humanity began to shrivel and crumble: their uniforms, their strength, their very bodies turned to rot. They no longer could stand, nor breathe, turned quickly to skin, then bone, then dust. 
And onto what was once the playground err\upted a giant tank, exploding not through the cave but through the wall, which immediately road over all at once there the bodily remnants, the playground, the cave, the mouth, all ground into something flat, and there was no remnant that anything happened at all except a wall with a hole in it. And through that tank's exploded hole emerged thousands of Palestinians pouring out like water from a blown dam - some exclaiming joy, some exclaiming rage. 

And then Yitzhak Maier woke up with a scream, waking up his Yeshiva roommate, Benny.

"Yitzhak, come on, it's five thirty in the morning!"

"I'm sorry Benny, I just had the most incredible dream!" 

"So did I."

"What was your dream?"

"That I'd get a new roommate who'd shut the fuck up for another hour. GO BACK TO SLEEP!"
 
The Man Plans

In the fall of 1891 I met Doktor Stumper at his villa in Jerusalem's German Colony. Unaccustomed to being interrupted, he lectured me on his own veranda on why his trips in search of the Grail reached no findings as a Syrian girl served me tea who couldn't be more than thirteen.

For the 150 minutes thereafter, he recited by memory the story of Christ's last supper in all four Gospels, then in the six gospels of the Apocrypha - reciting them all in Greek, Hebrew, German, Latin, Turkish and Arabic.

His wife and five children sat in rapt attention, and therefore I had a distinct feeling that indicating any sign of boredom would result in the possibility of scandal, and more significantly, not getting the job.

After concluding the Gospel of Bardesanes in Arabic, he announced in German a conclusion from readings of the Gospel of Pseudo Matthew that the Holy Grail was placed by the Knights Templar within the bowels of the Temple Mount, digging a tunnel from the crusaders' church upon the Temple Mount, the Templum Domini, placing it all the way down in the ruins of King Solomon's temple. It obviously would take an enormous amount of time to dig all the way down to the Solomonic temple, during which the objections of Muslims would be overwhelming.
Herr Doktor then announced that to find the Holy Grail, we shall blow up the Temple Mount with dynamite.

Doktor Stumper explained his conclusion that the ruins of the Solomonic temple were 250 meters beneath the "Dome of the Rock", the al-Aqsa Mosque. Beneath the Dome lies the Bir al-Arwah, the 'Well of Souls,' where the spirits of the dead await their final judgement. He recalled what the 11th century Persian poet Nasir Khusraw wrote of it:

"They say that on the night of his Ascension into heaven, the Prophet, prayed first at the Dome of the Rock, laying his hand upon the Rock. As he went out, the Rock, to do him honour, rose up, but he laid his hand on it to keep it in its place and firmly fixed it there. But by reason of this rising up, it is even to this present day partly detached from the ground beneath."

It was Doktor Stumper's view that the dynamite must be placed in the Well of Souls and exploded from there. Since we could not risk damaging the ruins of Solomon's temple, we would have to blast down merely to the ruins of King Herod. And since Doktor Stumper concluded that the blast would collapse the Knights Templar tunnel, we must then dig a tunnel of our own, past potential ruins of the Maccabian and Nehamian eras to finally arrive at the Solomonic Temple, where which the Templars placed the Grail.

As an engineer with expertise in the transport of weapons, Doktor Stumper wanted my professional opinion on how much TNT was necessary to blast a roughly 185 meter hole in the mountain that would lodge us directly at the Herodian temple ruins.

I told him frankly that this plan's success was extraordinarily unlikely. I had been to Jerusalem six times, and on four of them had walked the Temple Mount - once even permitted to see the Well of Souls. The Well is six meters on each side, and for a blast to create such a hole, he would require 10000 killograms of nitroglycerine explosives, which could not possibly fit within the well. There are, furthermore, no safe means to transport this volatile cargo either by land or sea; nor would customs inspectors ever look kindly on allowing explosives of this magnitude within their borders. Lastly, as Jerusalem's Old City is nearly impossible to travel but by foot, the Old City would require an entirely new system of roads and ramps for vehicles with wheels over relatively long distances, which would further result in the extreme provocation of the Jerusalemite population and perhaps even every monotheistic believer in the world.

Doktor Stumper listened to my objections stonefacedly and silent. Upon my concluded remarks he referred to my objections as mere trivialities. 1. He would hire the necessary technicians to expand the Well of Souls to whatever dimensions I stipulated, along with workers for every foreseen requirement. 2. For this project, he had the full backing of the Kaiser's treasury and diplomatic corps. Whatever money and connections required were at my disposal's fullest measure. All necessary Ottoman and Palestinian authorities could be bribed, cajoled, persuaded, and threatened into compliance, as could authorities in any countries traversed en route to destination. 3. Herr Doktor Stumper had a cousin by marriage, one Herr Daimler, at work on just such a transit vehicle, called a 'truck', which provides exactly the safe transit of weapons we require. 4. When the world beholds the properties of the Holy Grail, all further objections are irrelevant.

I told him success was unlikely for a hundred more variables, but would venture any design for smoothly ramped roads he required for the Old City. To my offer Herr Doktor swiftly agreed and told me my full-time services would be unnecessary for some years, but he shall keep me on retainer. The German Reich would deposit one-hundred-fifty thousand gold marks every year in a bank of my choosing until such time as my expertise was required, at which point I would be required to relinquish any other project to work exclusively for him in Palestine. The gold marks would arrive for me in New York every year on exactly January 1st, and every year I must send him a new schematic at this address for just such a road based on whatever new technology evolved in the intervening year.

It was the last I was to hear from the Doktor for nineteen years.

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On Easter Sunday 1910 I received a telegram ordering me to Jerusalem with immediate haste. An ocean liner had been booked arriving in Normandy, along with passage through transcontinental passage along the Mediterranean railroads. I would arrive sometime in June provided with all necessary accommodations. I had one night to say goodbye to my family, from whom I'd be parted less than one year.

Upon my Jerusalem arrival a chauffeur took me with immediate haste to Herr Doktor Stumper's residence rather than my own. Upon arrival the chauffeur lead me to a drawing room with walls decorated floor to ceiling: framed medieval maps of Jerusalem, medieval and Byzantine paintings of Christ at the Last Supper, at the Garden of Gesthamene, and every station of the cross, along with speculative drawings of the Temple Mount in every historical period. Doktor Stumper was no longer dressed in a bourgeois suit but in the dress of an Arabic knight - white qaffia and galabea. I was soon to discover that months after our last meeting, he'd left his family for the Syrian Orthodox girl who served me tea, with whom he now had four more children. The two older sons were staring at my schematics with their father, speaking to each other in ancient Greek.

He greeted me with a hasty "Gruss gott." and switched immediately to his accented but correct in every particular English.

"I regret we have much work. I have elected to use your Road Plan C to construct limestone pavement leading us directly to Jewish Quarter's southern Mughrabi Gate, where we shall use Ramp Plan E to construct a ramped boulevard leading us from Mughrabi Gate to Temple Mount, and then we shall depart via an eastern elevated thoroughfare leading us to St. Stephen's Gate at the Muslim Quarter's edge. It is regrettable that Muslims will find objectionable a small encroachment upon their quarter, but we have compensated sufficiently the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Ottoman Consul in Nablus to depopulate the old city for one hundred hours and imprison any potential subversives."

"Has the Jewish population been consulted about what we mean to do?"

"An immaterial obstacle. The Jewish Quarter is barely occupied, we shall give them access to their two historic temples, and they quite obviously may rebuild their quarter as they see appropriate. Though I highly suspect the current Jewish increase in Palestinian presence to be a temporary affair."

"Please forgive me for inquiring but how will the Islamic population respond to your demolition of their third most sacred relic?"

"I shall explain more fully later, but will very briefly confide in you that if we are correct about the Holy Grail's properties, opposition from the Islamic community will thereafter be absolutely irrelevant."

-----------------------

Schliemann needed his own fortune to discover Troy, but the second Reich provided all the money we needed.

It was elected that dynamite be transmitted via 19 six-masted wooden schooners departing from Hamburg - each measured at over 100 meter length; the movement of trains being far too volatile for dynamite, combustion on frigates much too incendiary, and transmission via trucks far too public. If a wooden sailboat explodes from nitroglycerine, the ship burns so quickly that any identifiable remnants would sink in ninety seconds. The explosion would have to be seen by the naked eye to even know of its occurrence. Transmitted in the schooner's lower decks along with the explosive cargo would be forty-three elite German soldiers in each boat - 817 in total. A further 5183 soldiers had gradually traveled to Palestine by train and frigate over the last eight years, all trained to pose themselves as Austro-Hungarian Jews - all of them trained in a second language: some Yiddish, some modern Hebrew, some Hungarian or Czech. all of them trained to chant Jewish prayers, and each trained to adopt a specific rural accent of townspeople in the Austro-Hungarian hinterland so no one could properly identify their town of origin. They were instructed to fight for the Jews against native populations if necessary, marry if necessary, have children if necessary, then abandon their families after the operation's completion. These undercover Germans comprised roughly 13% of Palestine's Jewish population.

The weapons would arrive not in Jaffa but a soon to be incorporated sea settlement called Tel Aviv, where few people lived and transfer of goods likely passes without notice. The explosives would load onto two hundred Daimler Paukbauerei Zweibrucken trucks designed for smooth transit and connected by intercom. The explosives would travel to Jerusalem by convoy at extremely slow speeds.

The 817 weapons experts who traveled in the schooners with the dynamite would sit roughly 4 to each of the two-hundred trucks. One to drive, one to sit passenger side and watch for any counter-operations, and two to preserve the condition of the cargo. Thirteen hundred forty-two soldiers would post themselves within easy running distance of the road every fifty meters between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem carrying knife and pistol. With desert conditions allowing for easy visibility, a further sixty-nine sharpshooters were placed every kilometre between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem at a distance from the road greater than a kilometre, each sniper outfitted both with the latest Gwehr rifles. Three thousand thirty-three plain clothes soldiers placed themselves around Jerusalem streets and public spaces, looking for potential subversives who might get wind of the operation and look to subvert it - all soldiers were instructed to shoot immediately upon suspicion. A further 467 soldiers would stand armed guard around the gates of the Old City. 203 would guard inside the Temple Mount. 78 would guard inside the Mosque. The German army's six best engineers would venture into the Well of Souls and within six hours will have expanded the Well of Souls to 36 meters by 36, six times its size. Once in place, the eight hundred weapons experts would load the explosives into the six-by-six-by-six enlarged Well of Souls within a half-hour. All the soldiers standing within the blast radius would explode along with the Temple Mount. Our estimated death toll was 373 soldiers, whom the Kaiserreich would memorialize for all time.

There was not a single Arab or Jewish construction worker. They were thousands of Turkish, Greek, Persian, and Afghan workers, imported from their countries' smallest towns so there would be no likelihood of any worker speaking Arabic. Their mission was simply to demolish half the comparatively small Jewish quarter and 10% of the comparatively enormous Muslim quarter, then rebuild that 15% of the Old City on a series of inclines leading up to the Temple Mount, and do it all in three days. Their sleeping quarters were not near in Jerusalem but the Judean desert where they slept in tents and were shuttled every day to the worksite by truck convoy. There was much discussion of what to do with the workers after they completed their assignment.

The Old City's entire residential population was ordered to leave their homes temporarily and resettle, on the excuse that Jerusalem had a terrorism threat so sinister that the Old City itself may be blown up, and every resident of the Old City must be treated as a suspect. Further residents near the old city were required to evacuate their homes in the neighborhoods of Yemin Moshe, Mamilla, Nahalat Shiv'a and Musara - all sealed off with the severest penalties imposed for intrusion. A further two-thousand soldiers were placed undercover around the remaining neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The nearest place to the Old City to remain open was the Train Station, which we required to remain open so that the majority of undercover soldiers can get into place.

For the duration of the operation, Christians were relocated to Bethlehem, Jews to Jericho, and Muslims to Ramallah with constructed temporary housing for all. Most of the Old City would remain untouched and within a week's time, residents would return to their homes; almost all finding them exactly as they'd been left. Those in the Jewish Quarter who'd lost their homes would receive handsome compensation from the German government in the disguised form of relief organizations. By the time suspicion truly fermented, the operation would long since be complete and all objections to it irrelevant.

It was decided that the entire operation should take four days at most. Two days' journey is the amount of time it would take an above average suspicious person to reach Jaffa by foot. All telecommunications from Jerusalem would be cut, and remaining Jerusalemites would be told it was for their own safety. If a suspicious Jerusalemite near the Old City had bypassed the order to leave, they'd likely be seen by the thousands of undercover German soldiers patrolling Jerusalem. Were they missed by those soldiers, they'd be apprehended by the undercover soldiers who'd been secretly policing every car of Palestinian trains for three years - on lookout for any persons of interest who may have reason to profit from learning our German secret. The only authorities such eavesdroppers would be able to notify are people brought to the Old City of Jerusalem from the Mediterranean by foot. The Ottoman police departments in Jaffa and Haifa were instructed to remain strictly uninterested in any reports of suspicious activity in Jerusalem. Let's just posit, on happenstance, that such a busybody saw what we're doing to Jerusalem.. They would immediately be arrested. Were they not arrested in Jerusalem and boarded a train, they would immediately be apprehended on the train through psychological profiling of the anxious. The only transit they could travel with any hope of success was by foot, and any person of authority they could interest in Jerusalem happenings would not be immediately convinced. Perhaps the strongest walker could do the walk to Jaffa in a single day and the walk back in another, it still would take him day at very least to convince any policeman to return with him back to Jerusalem, and two more days to bring any other authorities with them. The likelihood of any of this was astronomically small. With all these variables in place, four days was the amount of time it would take for absolutely no variables to be out of place.

The Mughrabi Gate, also referred to as the Dung Gate, would be expanded from the size built by the glorious architects of Suleiman the Magnificent, who never had to countenance transit larger than a caravan. A road of pure Jerusalem limestone would gradually incline the trucks from the Dung Gate to the heights of the Temple Mount, and a second limestone ramp would descend the trucks from the Temple Mount to St. Stephen's Gate in the East, just over the end of the Muslim quarter. Regrettably, the Western Wall, so holy to the Jews, would be sealed off by the road to near-completion.

Whispers among the Stumper household held that the Kaiser telegraphed every day himself for information on progress.

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We chose October 20th to begin the operation. To my astonishment and Doktor Stumper's prediction, the plan went off as if in a dream in September. Two hundred trucks formed a convoy of explosives from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in perfect formation at exactly 17 kilometers per hour with a precise 19.6 meter distance between each truck.

On the morning of October 23rd, Herr Doktor and I arrived at our temporary perch atop the Dung Gate where we would witness two hundred trucks enter the Old City from the south. Herr Doktor was dressed again in his regalia of an Arab knight and of atypically warm disposition. For the only time, he spoke unguardedly of his aims: "Mein Freund, you will soon drink from the juices of your heroic contributions to our quest. He who drinks from the Grail will receive the blessing of eternal life from Christ. All Germany and its peoples shall gain eternity, and the German soldier can fight a war of conquest invincibly against the very Ottomans with whom we collaborated. Please understand, mein weisser bruder, the Kaiserreich in no way means to conquer the world, we wish merely to compare our empire unashamedly to our Saxon and Frankish brethren to the West. We mean to share in this conquest with all of Germanic bloodlines. We shall offer drink from the Grail to Britons, Scandinavian, the Niederlanders, and even Northern Europeans in the United States. All from pure Germanic and Northern European bloodlines are welcome to the Cup of Christ, and all all other peoples will be bred under us to live at our service.

"Excuse me Herr Doktor, but I might inquire, as my parents were German Jews, would I qualify for this great service?"

"Herr Miller..." The Doktor hesitated before giving answer and for the first time seemed genuinely flummoxed.

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It was a mere ten seconds later when when our unblemished road was permeated by the bleat of a sheep. The first truck was a mere half-kilometre away. With every honk of the first truck's newly invented car horn, the sheep would bleat back, unmoved. This interchange between carhorn and sheep continued a dozen and a half times, yet as the trucks advanced, and the sheep was intractable from its place. For the first time in my experience, the Doktor grew flummoxed and visibly sweat amid the Jerusalem heat.

It was at this moment that a very dirty windswept man of unshaven countenance ran up to collect the sheep.

As the Doktor was a speaker of Aramaic and I merely of Hebrew, I managed to basically peace together the conversation between the shepherd and the Doktor:

"I'm so sorry. This sheep's a tough one who doesn't respond to loud noises. He must be hard of hearing."

"How are you in this area?"

"What's your name?"

"What?"

"What's your name?!"

"My name is of no consequence!"

"My name is Shalom Shalom, and I live just over this gate."

"Why did you come back here?"

"Why did I come back here? This is my home! Jews have always lived here! I've lived next to Mughrabi Gate all my life, my father lived next to Mughrabi Gate, his father lived next to Mughrabi Gate, his father lived next to Mughrabi Gate, hi...

"Why are you here?"

"Why shouldn't I be here? I went to the desert for a month so that I wouldn't have to spend the high holidays with my in-laws."

"Have you heard nothing of what's going to happen?"

"What's going to happen?"

"I demand you to leave right now."

"What's the rush?"

"You must leave immediately."

"Why are you white and dressed like an Arab?"

"What?"

"Why are you wearing an Arab dress?"

"My Emir's clothing is no concern of yours."

"I'm just saying it looks weird."

"Leave this place immediately!"

"Why should I leave? Do you know how much trouble it was to get here? I took my brothers' sheep too and you see how hard some of them are to keep together."

"You have more sheep?"

"I have a hundred sheep." The shepherd Shalom turned around to call "Eretz!"

And there appeared on the other side of the road a boy who was clearly Herr Shalom's son, and crossing the road with him a flock of 99 more sheep just 75 meters behind him.

Dr. Stumper immediately put his intercom to his mouth and six times shouted "HALT UND ALLE RAUS!" but no one heard his run with all his might to the nearest stairwell, but realizing he would not have enough time to halt the passage, he sustained the 12 meter drop. One could hear the snap of his leg through any number of carhorns and sheep; and through what must have been unendurable pain he walked his way to the middle of the road and shouted "HALT UND ALLE RAUS!" literally eight times before the front driver understood and shouted "HALT UND ALLE RAUS" into his intercom. Hueing to our drilled automotive contingency plans, each of the drivers decelerated the slow-going trucks at exactly one kilometre per hour per second, and each came to a stop in exactly nineteen seconds, at which point each truck was put into park and every soldier evacuated and ran to a safe distance.

The Doktor had collapsed on the road itself and seemed unable to get up.

"Here, let me help you up Mr. Emir."

"I can help myself up."

"Your leg is broken there's no way for you to walk anywhere."

"Yes it is broken but it is a minor inconvenience."

"Eretz, watch the flock!"

Herr Shalom carried Doktor Stumper through the Dung Gate to his apartment which seemed to be one of the few unaffected by the rebuilding; carried the Doktor up his three flights to the presence of an attic door, which when opened led to the top of the wall, directly next to where we both had stood and I still was. Herr Shalom set the good Doktor leaning against the wall.

"Here, let me set the bone for you."

"I can set my own bone."

"I can help." and Herr Shalom set the bone before Doktor Stumper could object, instead Doktor Stumper replied with a curt

"Very well, you've helped us and we thank you, now go about any business you like but leave the city."

"I don't understand why you want me to leave the city so much."

"It is not your concern, this city belongs to us now."

"Did somebody invade it again?"

Finally Doktor Stumper switched to English: "I do not have time for this! Where are my sharpshooters?"

"I'm just saying that if somebody invaded the city again the least my brother could have done is go to the desert and warn me about it!"

"Herr Miller, do you have a gun?"

"Wait. Why does the city look so different?"

"ICH BRAUCHE EINE WAFFE" the Doktor shouted off the rampart.

"Where are all the people?"

"Herr Miller I require your help."

"Yes?"

"Please lead this man to any German soldier and they can escort him to the proper place to deposit of such agitators."

"Don't worry. I never learned Arabic but I can tell when I'm not wanted. I'll leave, and you'll never hear from Shalom Shalom ever again."

"Leave immediately if you wish to live a moment longer."

"It's because of the mess in my house, isn't it? I told my brother to clean up the hay and manure after I was gone but of course after a whole seven weeks he doesn't pick up anything at all."

Finally I venture my opinion, in English: "Herr Doktor, I don't think we need to eliminate this intruder. I think we can explain certain aspects of this project in a somewhat falsified view and he is not intelligent enough to sort truth from falsehood."

"Very well, you may proceed with an attempt."

I switched to biblical Hebrew, which he seemed to understand about as well as I understood Aramaic. "We are rebuilding the Jewish Quarter so that everyone may have better access to the Temple Mount. We've built ramps to get in and out and those trucks on the road are carrying more building materials into the city."

"Where are the apartments that used to be near mine?"

"They were regrettably demolished, and the residents will be resettled elsewhere."

"You mean, all my neighbors are gone?"

"I'm afraid so.

..."This is the greatest news of my life! You have no idea how bad Benvenuto Bendit is. He's a pig who thinks he runs the neighborhood because his family's been here since 1609. Well, the Shaloms and the Aravs have lived next to Mughrabi Gate since before they were Shaloms and Aravs! And then there are those German Jews across the street, they think they're so fancy with their western jackets and that scratchy opera music..."

"Mr. Shalom, if you went back into the desert for just one more day, I think you would be very happy with the results but we need the Old City to ourselves for just 24 more hours to finish the project."

Mr. Shalom was immediately convinced, came down to his son and their sheep, but saw that the sheep who'd caused the first commotion had not moved. "I'm so glad to hear about Benvenuto leaving, that pig may he rot. I'd leave for a month if you got rid of more enemies of mine.
"I regret we can't do that for you Mr. Shalom. Can you please take care of that sheep?"
"Eretz, call the sheep back with your pipes."

While the sheep stood perfectly still, Mr. Shalom's son produced a set of shepherd pipes and played melody so lulling it seemed utterly at one with this mysterious city, its people, and the very land which produced them.

"BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH" the sheep squawked and ran headlong into the front truck whose explosion sent sheep and carparts flying, some of which landed on the second car which landed on the third, then the fourth, causing a chain reaction that caused the sheep themselves to stampeed in the direction of the explosions. First one sheep flying, then two, then four, then eight. In ninety seconds, there were no cars and no sheep.

The Germans paid the Ottoman administration to rebuild the old city exactly as it was. 

--------------------------------

An, Enlil & Enki Be Praised

To Whom it May Concern,

I hope this letter comes to Haran, may he be blessed with bulls potent and cows fecund, and if not Haran then Bethuel, may he be blessed with dirt and not sand, and if not Bethuel then Lavan, whom I remember only as a little pischer but I’m sure has grown into a righteous and honest man - may he too be blessed with cows and dirt and slaves cooperative. 

As Avraham’s healer, chamberlain, taskmaster, and scribe, tidings of the evil eye fall to me. I’m sorry to say that the cursed fate Abba Terakh predicted for Brider Avraham rose to the breath of life. You always knew his inclination to see invisible things, and perhaps wisely, you exiled Brider Avraham away to carry on his meshuggas in a far off land. I’ve done everything I can to lead him back to the better yetzers of our nature, but his vision of an invisible, silent god is long since more vivid to him than dwellers of his house. Year by year, the god gets less silent, and he’s conversed with it all day for fifty years. 

We told ourselves it seemed benign, and as his faithful bondsmen pretended to believe everything he saw. We sacrificed three times a year to Avraham’s god whom we don’t believe in, we prayed to this god we can’t see every Saturday morning, we give money for some place Avraham screams about called the State of Israel, and send our children to Hebrew school every Sunday - where all they do is play sports. 

It’s all well and good until last week when the invisible god commanded Avraham to kill little Yitzhak, burn him, and eat him. Such a shandeh! Everybody loved little “Tzakhi”, though he was 37 and almost four cubits tall so really he wasn’t so little anymore. And look, I know that this isn’t actually weird. Everybody sacrifices their children, but for Avraham, this is really weird because, as I’m sure you remember, he was the bokher who made enemies by screaming that nobody should sacrifice their children. And it’s one thing when you get rid of them when they’re two or three, but by the time they’re 37 they should probably be left alone. Anyway, everybody liked “Tzachi”, and even Avraham must have known we would stop him if we’d ever heard about what the voice commanded, but everybody saw that Avraham was peculiarly verklempt that week, even for our beloved meshuggener may he be blessed with a hole in the head that balances against the one which is already there. 

I trust Haran and Bethuel you are as alright with my saying all this about Avraham as you were when we left, since Brider Nahor promised that it was imperative I speak my mind to Avraham to make him remember which world is the real world. For sixty-two years, I’ve been Avraham’s most faithful bondsman, exactly as I swore in blood to you both and Nahor Z’’L. I’ve taken every eruption from the god of anger, every attack from the god of fear, every fistblow and whiplash from that amoretz with smiles. Every time he heard the voice I pretended the voice was real as though he were still the 13 year old who broke Abba Terakh’s idol. 

The problem though is that Tzachi’s mother really loved him. After we left Ur: An & Enlil and Enki be praised, she spent the next twenty-five years trying to have a child and had to watch as all those concubines Avraham geshtupped got pregnant - and in all fairness, most of them were the maidlakh you introduced him to before we left and his children are all still alive and have kinder and grandchildren of their own by now that Sarah watched every day. So Sarah knew that the problem was her rather than Avraham and understandably loved her only son. Well, when Sarah heard that Avraham killed their son, she died on the spot. Who can blame her? That son was a lot of work and not just for her! 

It’s probably about thirty-eight years ago that you got that letter from Avraham, saying that three angels came to him to announce Sarah would have a child. Let me tell you, they were no angels. They were Canaanite healers that I sent for to examine Sarah. Sure enough, it was exactly what I thought it was. The problem was that special diet Avraham was always such a fanatic about where nobody eats shellfish or pork or most parts of the animal. The healers came for six weeks, I explained to them that Avraham was a little fertummelt and just go along with it. So Avraham almost immediately asked if they were angels. They looked at me and I just shrugged so they said yes, so they were angels! And when they wanted a little butter to go with their meat, would Avraham really say no?

Two of them would distract Avraham during the day and every day they made sure Avraham ate plenty of oranges and pomegranates, and they served him some tea from the East they called ‘ginseng.’ while the other one would cook Sarah a special meal. They didn’t know which meal would work but they promised me that one of them would. They fed her boiled octopus and fish eggs, they fed her pig liver and testicles, and at first, when Sarah got disgusted with the idea of eating testicles, they ground it into a powder and served it to her in a potion. And while Avraham ate the good cuts of the veal and lamb, they gave her the heart and the kidney. They sawed the bones of the animals to get the blood inside and and put that special blood into a stew, they even made a broth out of shellfish. Every night they told Sarah to go to Avraham so he could schtup her while wearing damp wool boiled in ass’s milk. I’m sure you remember, Sarah was always very pretty but for years and years she barely ate a thing. She told me she hadn’t eaten for years because she hated Avraham’s diet, but this was the best food she’d eaten in forty years! Suddenly she looked much healthier and wouldn’t you know it, she was pregnant. 

Anyway, that was all almost forty years ago, and it’s been more than sixty years since Avraham was banished from Ur, An & Enlil and Enki be praised, and we his servants laid eyes upon our beloved mudbricks and tombs and cuneiform documents. We all long to return and eagerly await the day Brider Avraham comes back to his senses. ‘Next year in Ur’ we all chant in secret, and now more than ever await the second coming of Brider Avraham’s sanity, An & Enlil and Enki be praised. 

But Brider Avraham’s good senses seem farther away than ever. After Sarah dropped dead, he too dropped to the ground, and we thought he was also dead. I’m slightly ashamed to say we secretly rejoiced as we believed the time of our deliverance was at hand, but Avraham came back to us, yet when he returned, he was even less Avraham. Divine Nergal seems to have taken from him use of an entire side of his body. He can’t walk or ride anymore, and he can only speak out of the side of his mouth. Avraham now barely speaks, believing that he misheard the invisible god and was justly punished by him for killing and eating his son. 

Anyway, I’m sorry this letter is so long but the reason this letter is necessary is that I have an idea and an urgent plea to secure things for everybody. In addition to the physical maladies Nergal inflicted upon him, Nergal took from Avraham his short-term memory, and it is only a matter of time before all memory of the sacrifice is no more. In a few months, even were we to tell him that he killed Yitzhak, he would forget after ten minutes and ask ‘Where’s Tzachi?’

So it is only a matter of time before the Canaanites were to discover that Avraham is demented and Yitzhak is dead, and we’re now leaderless. We long to return to Ur, but we know that so long as Avraham is alive, we are banished; and therefore whether we stay or go, we are dead men, sitting and squabbling in the Judean Desert, unable to elect a leader for war or even organize for proper battle training. 

It’s been roughly twenty-five years since Sarah entreated Brider Avraham to banish Yishmael and Hagar and we sent him to Ur to live as a servant in the House of Terah. But at the time Yishmael was near his thirteenth birthday, and a spitting image of his father, just as Yitzhak was until our divinely inspired nudnik put him to death. The seed of Avraham is obviously strong even if the brain is feeble, and if the physical resemblance continues, then Yishmael must still look exactly the image of both Avraham and Yitzhak.

Please. I ask, I beg, the House of Terah to send Yishmael and Hagar back to Hevron, where I believe Avraham will immediately recognize Yishmael not as Yishmael, whom he has not seen in a generation, but as Yitzhak. We then may marry Hagar to Avraham as perhaps she always should have been, and while everyone here will recognize Yishmael and Hagar, they will become known to people all around Canaan as Yitzhak and Brider Avraham’s second wife. She can even live under an assumed name and continue to take care of her son who will pass as Yitzhak, and our enemies shall be none the wiser. 

Your most devoted servant who prays every day to the East for his return, 

Eliezer

PS: The two servants with Avraham at the sacrifice, Paebel and Keret, ran away from the site the moment they bound “Tzachi” and told me everything. They are the ones coming to you with this letter, and they’re both as illiterate as a pillar of salt. They do not know its contents, but it is vitally important you kill them both as soon as you finish this letter. They’ll understand.

-----------------------------------------------------

Laban son of Bethuel son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor
House of Terah Global Partnerships 
10 Gilgamesh Dr. 
Ur, Sumeria, 324
9th of Eleventh Month, Iddin-Dagan Year 8

Eliezer Master Slave Representative
Cc. Avram son of Terah
House of Avraham
18 Noah Way
Hebron, Canaan, 613

Dear Eliezer:

It has been a long time since we have received any news about the House of Avraham, and while we regret the nature of the tidings we thank you for the update. We here at House Terah are a bit confused by your insistence on having Hagar and Yishmael back considering that you once were so eager for us to take them, but seeing the urgent necessity of the matter, we here at House Terah agree to this proposition and hereby grant you use of Yishmael and Hagar immediately. Nevertheless, for any further business ventures with House Avraham we require remuneration of ten camels, and a basket each’s worth of silver, gold, and raiment. Included here is an outstanding bill of payment, which we will send via Paebel and Keret. We regret that we cannot comply with your request to kill them, because were we to kill bondsmen of House Avraham, it would prove in Hammurabian court that we have knowledge of Avram’s whereabouts. You may of course do with your own bondsmen as you like, but we demand upon pain of further exile that you burn this message immediately upon receipt. 

Though as it happens, we here at House Terah regret that due to the nature of Avram’s malady and recent actions, the matter of his bondsmen’s return to Ur and Sumer must be delayed for a further generation, because House Terah feels it imperative that we all establish plausibility that Yishmael is in face Yitzhak, birthrighted son of House Avraham and that the return of Avram’s bondsmen do not portend the return of Avram himself. 

Regards,

Laban son of Bethuel son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor

-------------------------------------------------------

Dear Lavan,

Many thanks for the return of Yishmael and Hagar, they have been received by Avraham just as we’d hoped. Since Avraham’s god prohibits Saturday weddings, the wedding of Avraham to Hagar, whom we’ve renamed Keturah, began last Sunday and will, as usual, continue until the end of the month. It’s a Hittite neighborhood and half the guests will be our neighbors, all of whom RSVP’d yes. The Amorites on the other hand still haven’t responded and the Amalekites sent a very blunt response which I thought was rather rude. On the other hand the Jevusites sent a very nice note explaining why they couldn’t come and even included a present from Melkizedek their king. And if that weren’t enough, the Egyptian Pharaoh Nekho said he’d like make a trip to Avraham on his wedding, but I thought showing Avraham to a great king in his current state is a terrible idea. The Hittites know entirely of Avraham’s condition. There’s no way to hide it, but since we're currently allies with them, their leaders and bondsmen have all pledged on blood oath to keep our secret. No doubt some Hittite will eventually break it, but by then I trust Avraham will have passed on. 

I should, however, mention that since you’ve simultaneously informed us that our return to Ur: An & Enlil and Enki be praised, is as we feared, postponed yet another generation, and that you not only mandated payment of ten camels for Yishmael and Hagar but also full baskets of gold, silver, and raiment, which I must regretfully journey with Paebel and Keret to deliver personally after the wedding. I’m sure you understand that no other bondsman can be trusted to supervise so large a payment, and this is surely sufficient reason to grant brief clemency to violation of the terms of exile. 

Nevertheless, you must please forgive me for such chutzpah, but in spite of the righteous favor you’ve done, that is really too expensive. Our positions would never be reversed, but I’m sure you’d agree that in the impossible occurrence they were, you’d find that price an unacceptably high rate for a bondmistress and bastard; particularly if the mamser is about to be raised to legitimacy whom you can be assured will be an extremely solicitous and remunerative business partner for his former guardians.

We the House of Avraham realize that you have truly done us a mitzvah to which our very lives are in debt. However, I have another idea which may be to your liking and justify this purchase to our finances. 

Your grandfather recalls, no doubt, that horrific moment in Avraham’s adolescence when he cut the foreskin from his own person. He has, in fact, long since performed this barbaric ‘ritual’ upon all his bondsmen which he claims to be a sign of commitment to his god, and has even performed this ritual upon all our baby boys when they reach eight days of age. I suppose we would rather our children have this horror performed on them while they’re too young to remember, but the one person in the entirety of Avraham’s house who did not undergo the ritual is myself, who had deemed himself so essential and loyal to Avraham that Avraham did not feel the need to bond me through the ritual he calls a ‘covenant.’ Nevertheless, I prefer the more scientific, latinate term that implies the brutality of the procedure: ‘circumcision.’ 

Unfortunately, one of his last ‘visions’ before the sacrifice of Isaac was that I too must be ‘covenanted’ because he otherwise did not trust me when it came time to finally pick a wife for Yitzhak. Avraham made me swear on the pain of his bizarre and painful procedure that I would not procure a Canaanite bride for "Yitzhak" and only allow him a bride from Avraham’s own family. This matter was expedited by the fact that like his father, "Yitzhak" has a taste for concubines, many of whom, like Hagar, had ambitions to marry up. 

By the second marriage of Avraham, this matter attains further significance, as there has already been much talk among the Hittites about how "Yitzhak" suddenly looks a bit aged prematurely from his 'former' appearance. My fellow bondsmen have heard it suspected that Yitzhak may be ill and yet has not been married nor produced an heir. 

I told Avraham many times to forestall procurement of a wife for "Yitzhak" in the hope that either I could eventually convince Avraham to allow "Yitzhak" a Canaanite wife or that our financial portfolio would make "Yitzhak" a more attractive prospect to you. But now that Avraham is eber buttal, it doesn’t matter that much to whom he is married. 

Nevertheless, if we are already sending you ten camels along with baskets of gold, silver, and raiment, I have an idea that may be to everyone's benefit. "Yitzhak" told me that you have a daughter, Rivka, who was a rough contemporary of the former Yitzhak, may his memory be a blessing, and though she is forty still isn’t married. It is not my business to know why she never married, but "Yitzhak" is very eager to do whatever I tell him to prove himself a worthy heir to the House of Avraham, but it strikes me that after ten years living in House Terah together, she and "Yitzhak" must know each other reasonably well. Since we are already paying well over the equivalent of a marriage dowry between financial houses, surely it would not be too much to ask that we include a marriage between our houses. As Rivka would come live with us, it would in no way violate the terms of the stipulated exile.

Please just think the matter over before I arrive in six months’ time and no matter what your decision I hope you will forgive me to mention the matter at our meeting for further discussion.

Looking forward to our visit to sacred Ur with the greatest possible anticipation: An & Enlil and Enki be praised,

Eliezer

-------------------------------------------------------

Dear Lavan, 

So many thanks, all due gratitude, and no praise high enough unto you and the House of Terah for the most wonderful visit to Ur: An & Enlil and Enki be praised. There is no higher happiness than to lay eyes once again upon our beloved hieroglyphics, wheels, calendars, and soap, and I can only wish my fellow bondsmen in the House of Avraham can derive the same nakhes. 

We are so grateful to you for every service rendered, and in sending this letter, we want to repay the debt by doing you a small favor. When meeting Rivka for the first time at your well, we knew her character was sterling when Rivka generously gave her daily water allotment for us and also for our camels, but Paebel and Keret could not help but notice that there were a number of holes in your well that allow the water to leak out into the sand. I hope you forgive us for meddling but all it took was a little bit of mud, grass, and reeds to apply some caulk to the holes and they finished the job in less than an hour. They did such a good job on it that you should find your water retention rate much higher in the future and it is therefore all the more regretful that I had to put them to death at the end of our trip to Ur: An & Enlil and Enki be praised. 

Your most devoted servant who will give thanks every day to the East for his return to Ur: An & Enlil and Enki be praised,

Eliezer

--------

Dear Lavan, 

So many thanks, all due gratitude, and no praise high enough unto you and the House of Terakh for the most wonderful visit to Ur: An & Enlil and Enki be praised. There is no higher happiness than to lay eyes once again upon our beloved hieroglyphics, wheels, calendars, and soap. I can only wish my fellow bondsmen in the House of Avraham derive the same nakhes. 

We’re so grateful to you for every service rendered, and in sending this letter, we want to repay the debt by notifying you of a small favor we performed. When meeting Rivka for the first time at your well, we knew her character was sterling when Rivka generously gave up her daily water allotment to us and also to our camels, but Paebel and Keret could not help but notice that there were a number of holes in your well that allow water to leak out into the sand. I hope you forgive us for meddling but all it took was a little bit of mud, grass, and reeds to apply some caulk to the holes. They finished the job in less than an hour. You should find your water retention rate much higher in the future and it is therefore all the more regretful that I had to put them to death at the end of our trip. 

Your most devoted servant who will give thanks every day to the East for his brief return: An & Enlil and Enki be praised,

Eliezer


---------------------------------

The Price of Ham 

Dear Noah-Ham, 

Some days you think you understand your customers the moment they walk in your store. Well, I thought I got what was going on when this guy Abraham walks in speaking with a Mesopotamian accent and looking older than the hills. He walks in with his son, who looked about a hundred years younger, and they're screaming at each other because... well, I dunno, something about a mountain and a ram, I wasn't getting in the middle of that. Once they were done I immediately tried to butter them up and told the old guy he was obviously spry and vibrant for his age to get that animated, and this guy Abraham boasts that he's a hundred thirty-seven and it's all in the genes because he has relatives in his family who live a lot longer. So I'm thinking this guy's senile and getting these guys to pay up was gonna be even easier than I thought. What's the oldest person you ever heard about? Forty- seven? 

Anyway, the son explains to me that the carcass of the old guy's wife is parked out back and they need a cave to bury her. Well, did he come to the right place! I explain we have a great sale this week on caves and ask where they heard about Ephron's low low prices. The son says they didn't hear anything about it. They were just wandering through Canaan like hobos, trying to find a place to dump the body and they saw that billboard you told me not to get. They don't look like much, just a regular middle class family and considering the way they fought, I figured they were lower middle class and the stress of money worries made them fight. Still, I bet myself I could squeeze them for a couple hundred shekels. 

Apparently in the last sixty years this old guy's tried to live in Shechem, East Bethel, Mamre, and Gerar, plus extended stays in towns all around the region. So I know what kind of difficult guy I'm dealing with - guy makes a stink everywhere he goes and the homeowners association throws him out. But if he's even a third the age he claims he can't have more than a year left, can he? So I figure I have him exactly where I want him. A guy like that is probably sonofabitch enough that he deserves whatever he gets, right? 

But at the same time, I'm feeling kinda sorry for the guy. He's just lost his wife and he's got tears in his eyes while he explains he just wants a place he can bury his wife in that he won't live close enough to be tempted all the time to visit her, and eventually his son will come back to bury him along with her. Who wouldn't respond to a story like that? And it's not like a guy that old would ever live on the land that long. 

So I tell him a guy who has intentions as noble as his must a prince. We'll let him look at a catalogue of all our caves and he can have his pick. I should have known something was up when he gave me the Heth ceremonial bow, and then even asked me to bring my kids in so he could bow to them too. 

Anyway, he chose Machpela, you remember that out of the way piece of crap on the outskirts of town closest to the Jebusite border. And I told him I would give him the Machpela cave for four hundred shekels, even though it was worth half that. What was the big deal? I told him I had nothing to conceal from him, and he didn't even haggle. He made the whole downpayment site unseen. The only thing I was concealing was that compared to the deals I had on some caves I didn't show him, Machpela's a piece of shit. 

Anyway, what I didn't realize, or at least I forgot, was that under Heth law, if I give the cave in the presence of my children, I can never take it back. I was going to have him and his wife moved to a corner and use the other wings for storage. But this guy now has a binding deed on Heth land in perpetuity and the Heth HOA sued me. The elders have to decide if I deliberately gave this guy a permanent piece of our territory, which would mean I committed treason. My lawyer tells me they have no case and I'm sure you understand just from reading this that some busy Betsys are making a huge deal out of nothing. It's just a fucking cave, it's 350 cubits! Anyway, my lawyer thinks I can get a plea bargain on an ignorance claim, and I'll just get a hand chopped off.
Anyway, I went to the burial with them, just to make sure it was an actual burial and they weren't dumping evil spirits. And if I didn't realize anything fishy was happening, I absolutely should have known then. There were ten mourners, they all chanted some words to themselves, they sang a few songs, they bowed down a few times and swayed back and forth a bunch, but... where were the idols? All of their songs were addressed to the same god with an unpronouncable name, and one of their songs had the line "the lord is one". And still I didn't get what was happening....

It honestly was only when I got served papers that I found out who this guy was. I don't know how I didn't recognize him but it was Abram-bar-Terah, THAT Abraham! The guy with the invisible god who blesses whatever he does! I looked up his corporate portfolio and it has everything! Livestock, silver, gold, a staff of 300, most of them slaves! Not only is he the eighteenth-richest guy in Canaan, but his nephew, who used to be his business partner until they divided the company, was twice as rich as his uncle! Of course then all his investments in Sodom went belly up...

You know how many Abrahams there are in Canaan, he might as well be named Abraham Smith! How was I supposed to know it was the Abraham with the covenant? You'd think a guy like that would go around wearing golden raiment! If I had known who this was, I could have sold him the whole store and half the caves! I could have pitched him a hundred different business ideas! Apparently he insists that all his business partners get their schmucks pierced as collateral, but I wouldn't have cared. I'd be very happy to be a rich guy with half a dick! Now I'm going to have one hand and still be working as a small-time putz. 

Anyway, no matter what happens in court, the elders tell me this is not the last we've heard from Abraham With the Invisible God. Maybe next time he's down here I can pitch him my idea about breeding a horse with a donkey. 

May Teshub bless your crops, 

Ephron


----------------------------------------------------------------------

Nergal's Voice

Dearest Lavan,

Let me start with the deepest expression of gratitude for taking Yaakov into business. You can’t possibly know the nakhes I get in reading letters from Yaakov about his success. I know how much of a risk it was to bet on a free spirit who hadn’t found himself in his late seventies getting his act together; but even if no one else saw Yaakov’s promise, I knew you couldn’t have picked a better mensch. In case I didn’t make it clear at the wedding, you diffused a family predicament somewhat like what happened between Lot and Abba Betuel when we were kids, so I knew that when you saw Yaakov you could guess the general idea of what brought him to you before he even told you. I have nothing but gratitude for how you brought Yaakov into the House of Terakh as an untried associate. I’ve worried for years that you wouldn’t see what I see in him, and I worry that his father never has.
 
This makes it doubly unfortunate that I have to speak to you unpleasantly again, but the fact remains that you gave my son permission to marry Rokhel, you knew that Rokhel was the daughter he wanted to marry, and Yaakov swears that all the contracts he signed with you said ‘Rokhel’, not ‘Leyah’. So why then did you give him a different bride than the one he earned? I know I told you at the wedding how unfair a trick you pulled on Yaakov in front of his hundred-twenty year old mother - a mother who’d journeyed for six months just to kvell over her son marrying the love of his life; and I understand I’m an outsider to your situation, but I feel the need to re-emphasize how cruel it was. 

Yitzhak’s old and blind. We have no family member in Canaan of proper bloodline to run the corporation but Esav, a son with so much seykhel he sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. He put half our money into a huge investment hinging on getting a hunt-for-profit license which whose credit check may not even pass. I had Eliezer-ibn-Eliezer draw up a report. HIs projections showed that big game has a high short-term yield but that the hunting bubble could pop very soon. 

I’m so happy Yaakov’s employment worked out as it has, but we need Yaakov to return as soon as possible to run our organization, and he won’t return without Rokhel as his wife. You obviously lied to Yaakov because you find him valuable, but please, I’m begging you, let him marry Rokhel so we can bring him and his family back to his old mother before she dies.

Barukh Hashem and much love, 

Rivka 

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Dearest Rivka...

It’s been nearly 90 years since you left for Canaan and I still have to remind you to stay out of my business. This is why you never got married until you were 40! I don’t know why you need Yaakov to return so badly. You proudly told me at the wedding how influential you are in House Avraham and your ideas to improve in their production, if this meshuggeh idea for two entries in the bookkeeping is so successful, why do you need Yaakov? 

So since you claim you’re an accomplished person of business, I’ll explain all this to you businessman to businessman, though I imagine this is a station you’ve earned completely by marriage. I’ll also explain this situation parent to parent, which you’ve clearly done an exemplary job at even if you obviously play favorites. 

I don’t know why you or Yaakov think an eighty-four year old man has any business marrying a girl who’s barely 19, let alone the twelve-year-old she was when Yaakov first kissed her at the well when he was high on hash. Yaakov swore he thought she was at least ten years older, but even if she were 22, what the hell is a seventy-seven year old doing proposing to someone more than half a century his junior? I thought I was doing the right thing by separating them and that you’d support me, but please understand, this compromise is win/win for everybody.

Maybe you haven’t read the tablets for the last half century but just in case you forgot, the Sumerian Empire just collapsed and it almost killed my whole family and millions more. Let’s also not forget that the whole mess started over that dispute Avraham got mixed up in over the Valley of Siddim. 

Yaakov and I just spent the last seven years moving the family out of Ur and re-establishing ourselves in Kharan, An & Enlil and Enki be praised. It’s a miracle we’re alive and we have entirely Yaakov to thank, but neither of us have made any profit by his years with the House of Terakh, and if he wants to make real money, he needs to stay another seven years. 

Without whatever angels bless your son, there’d be no Terakh House anymore, so in spite of his questionable taste in women, the House of Terakh loves Yaakov. He’s a sheep broker with skill by the terracubit, and has it in him to be a visionary in our fields. Maybe a mensch like Yaakov could have found himself sooner if his mother disciplined him more, but he’s exactly the kind of trail-smart entrepreneur that’s indispensable to Terakh House’s survival. 

What would Yaakov do in Canaan anyway? It took so much work to get him out of that desert where the only body of water is that dead sea which is more dehydrating than the sand. How long would Yaakov stay if he ever came back? Even a prodigy son like Yaakov would be as helpless as Esav against drought. I guarantee that either Yaakov or his kids will end up in Egypt where there are growth fields and jobs. 

And you don’t even need Yaakov! In spite of how badly you speak of him, Esav is thriving. I’ve seen your financial statements. Your endowment increases 18% every lunar year, even from what it was when “Yitzhak” was the boss. Your livestock dividend expands every quarter and Esav diversified a whole second arm of your securities by moving House Avraham into big game, where the real money is. There’s nothing that Yaakov can do in Khevron that Esav can’t, and what would Yaakov do for House Avraham that he doesn’t do here on a larger scale? 
Incidentally, it was very tactful of you to come to the wedding without your husband, since the whole party would have recognized your husband as Yishmael, who suspiciously disappeared from the House of Terakh eighty years ago, fifty years after he suspiciously came to us from the House of Avraham. It was clear from the way you spoke about “Yitzhak” that you two are having trouble.

As for Leyah, whenever you meet her again, you’ll understand. She’s lovely in every way, and will be such a better wife and mother than Rokhel. Yaakov is his grandfather’s grandson in so many ways who never stops dreaming extravagantly, but Leyah will talk him down from those heights he always sees. She’s pragmatic, she’s grounded, never makes a fuss, and OK, she has lots of pockmarks from when she had staphylococcus, but you didn’t see what she went through. Before the illness she was just as captivating as Rokhel, but she has scars on every parasa of her body for the rest of her life. When she was sick she was in excruciating pain from the boils and couldn’t leave bed for a year; but she never complained, never screamed, always apologized for the inconvenience, and always reminded Rokhel about her incomplete textile weaving - not that Rokhel ever finished... It’s a miracle Leyah’s alive. She always had the most beautiful eyes in the world and no boil could ever take them away. Not once has this daughter of mine ever had a suitor, but she has a right to a family as much as Rokhel, and deserves it much more. Even if Yaakov is not in love with her, they’ve always been friendly and she clearly has feelings for him. It will be a great marriage and she will create the best family for him. Who needs to love their spouse?

Rokhel, on the other hand, is unmistakably beautiful, but she’s troublesome and reckless, has a terrible temper, bears false witness all the time, and I honestly think she’s a kleptomaniac. She told me her suitors left because they saw how in love she was with Yaakov, but she bribed multiple suitors to leave by offering them a night with her handmaid, Bilhah, who to be perfectly honest is my illegitimate daughter. It will be a scandal if people ever found out that one daughter of mine is pimping another, even an illegitimate one. Let’s hope that Rokhel will calm down, but Yaakov has no idea the whirlwind he reaps if they marry. 

But here’s the real reason I had to prevent the marriage, which Yaakov doesn’t know. Hopefully my sharing this secret will convince you that I’m an honest marriage broker, because if I didn’t tell the truth until now it was best for everyone. This secret must stay between us on the pain of enmity between our houses. I’m sorry to threaten something extreme, but this secret is just that horrible. 

Of course, the official record is that Rokhel is still pure, but the truth is that my furrier bondsman got her pregnant. He seduced her by making her a really tacky coat. Rokhel, thinking of no consequence, surrendered her virginity and brought shame on our house. I had no choice but to order our healer to abort the baby. He warned me that after taking the potion Rokhel wouldn’t have children for another thirty-three years. Rokhel doesn’t know, Yaakov doesn’t know, I don’t want them to ever find out, and on pain of war between our houses you can never tell them. 
So instead I put Yaakov on a second, more lucrative contract. Let’s all give this another seven years. Yaakov will calm down when he has kids and realizes what a great wife Leyah is and hopefully her younger sister will stop being a korveh. If Yaakov still wants Rokhel, Rokhel will, An-willing, calm down and they can attempt that kind of romantic marriage the Jubalians always sing about. Meanwhile, Leyah will be the real wife. 

Aside from everything else, the coat was a monstrosity, it has… well… it has a lot of colors.... I can’t even give it to another tribe as a gift. 

An & Enlil and Enki be praised and all my love,

Lavan
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Dearest Lavan.......

Thank you so much for inviting me to the wedding of Yaakov and Rokhel, for as long ago as it should have happened, it really was lovely. The Arabian caterer couldn’t have been more understanding about my dietary restrictions, and I could not believe how beautiful the Babylonian floral arrangements were, but nothing could have been more beautiful than Rokhel. Was her dress Trojan?

I wish I could write seven letters to you kvelling about the wedding but unfortunately i have to speak to you again because of something Yaakov showed me while I was at the wedding. My son showed me ten cuneiform invoices demonstrating you’ve paid him one-third his full earnings. He tells me that every time he raises a new cattle herd, he creates much better herds than yours, only for you to pull rank and commandeer his better-fed herd just before the harvest in exchange for the drek herds you raise. Whatever the state of the herds you give Yaakov, he always creates more good herds only for you to steal his herds again. Please understand, none of this is meant as a criticism of your skill as a cattle trader, Yaakov just thinks you’re saving money by starving the animals - what shepherds do to their animals in private is their own affair. 

Lavan, it’s bad enough you cheated Yaakov on his wedding, but you begged Yaakov to stay with your firm because of the better professional opportunities, only for you to steal his business. Every time you steal merchandise from him, he creates better profits out of the bopkes you hand him, only for you to leave him with bopkes again. 

All Yaakov wants is to return with his family to Canaan and make an honest living. I know we’ve always had occasional trouble Lavan, but I honestly never thought you were a liar or a gonif. Please show me you’re the righteous person I always knew was in you. 

Baruch Hashem and Love….

Rivka

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Dearest Rivka..........

I deserve better from you. You know perfectly well that on the morning Rokhel found Yaakov he’d smoked so much hash that he was literally seeing angels walking up and down a ladder. Now, when he’s nearly ninety, he finally gets his act together and absorbs invaluable corporate experience, and that’s not enough? You remember Dad, do you really think Abba Betuel was any different with me than I am with Yaakov? 

I know you love your son, but you have another son whose scribe keeps writing me about how you treat him. Esav is doing better than ever for House Avraham, but after what they wrote me it’s a little tiresome to read you accuse me again of dishonesty. That birthright story was really shocking. Esav offered Yaakov his birthright in exchange for a bowl of soup as a joke, and once Yaakov jokingly took it, he threatened to burn it rather than give it back; and when you heard about it, you not only didn’t demand Yaakov return it to its rightful owner, you deliberately tricked ‘Yitzhak’ into giving Yaakov the Blessing too.

Do I really have to remind you that our firm’s ‘tricks’ are the reason you have any sons at all? You’re the one who wanted to marry that crazy side of the family which claims they’re ‘chosen’ by a god they never see, cuts the foreskin off its babies but doesn’t sacrifice them, and thinks themselves so morally superior to the rest of the world that they whore out their wives and expel their concubines (and don’t think all that ‘explulsion’ in the House of Avraham is over just because your meshuggeh father-in-law is dead). How many of your grandchildren will even be able to stay in Canaan? Your side of the family is so fucked up that your favorite son had to run away to save his life. Fortunately he had a rich uncle to employ him, though apparently if he’s rich he has no problems at all… 

Please understand, the head of the house always gets the plumb herds, that’s the way it’s always been; you know that very well, but what you might not understand is how difficult things still are. Whatever luxury we knew in the old days of Ur, An & Enlil and Enki be praised, that’s over now. We came to this new country with nothing, and over fifteen years we built a successful multi-empire syndicate that still isn’t half the organization we had in Sumeria, which I shouldn’t need to remind you was liquidated due to anti-semitic discrimination. 

I’m just trying to keep expenses low, and as head of Terakh House, if I didn’t take the best shares, Yaakov’s life would be threatened. You never met my son, I discipline him as best you can a schnorrer, but he runs with a very bad crowd of Assyrians. If I let Yaakov keep the best herds, what defense would Yaakov have if my son decides Yaakov’s a threat to the inheritance Boer refuses to work for? Yaakov isn’t a hunter-gatherer like his brother, and even if Boer is as unathletic as the rest of us, his friends are not, and any one of them would make quick work of your son. So please understand, if we made business decisions on the basis of all your womanish worries, we’d all have died a hundred years ago.

Rivka, please understand, I love you, I love Yaakov, I love Leyah and Rokhel, even if Rokhel is a hur… and I want to see them all thrive. I’m doing what I think is best for us all, especially Yaakov, and very soon he can choose whether to be head of House Terakh or House Avraham. 


So as a show of good faith, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. Kharan’s annual livestock fair is in half a year. In six months we’ll have more goats and sheep than any of us know what to do with. Yaakov will get all the black ones, all the spotted and speckled ones, and I’ll just take the pure white. 

Your unappreciated brother who loves you, An & Enlil and Enki be praised,

Lavan

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Dearest Lavan.............

I really can’t believe I have to do this yet again. I read this new promise to Yaakov with great happiness, it was really was amazingly generous, but I just got a letter from Yaakov saying that you removed all the non-white livestock and herded it a three days journey away so Yaakov couldn’t find it. If your word was a stick you couldn’t lean on it. 

Is Esav paying you to fercockt all this? 

Rivka

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Dearest Rivka..................

I’d say I’m shocked by your tone but that’s obviously untrue. As I said, if my son ever saw that Yaakov keeps the best herds, what defense would Yaakov have if Boer decides I gave Yaakov the inheritance Boer believes is his by natural right? 

Well, Boer heard about our arrangement just hours after I sent the letter. If I respect Yaakov’s safety and his children’s, if I appreciate my own, I had to send the cattle away and stop Yaakov from taking them. 

And even if that’s what I did, Yaakov has me to thank for no danger coming to him or his family. Neither of us would be in any danger had he trusted I’ll compensate him properly as soon as possible, but instead he stayed up all night painting spots on the remaining livestock and I legally had let him keep them. Ever since, my son yells at me every day about how I let Yaakov get richer than we are and how I’m cheating him out of his inheritance. Yaakov and I both live every day in fear that Boer will get Assyrians involved in our business dispute. The Mesopotamian police can only protect us so much. 

The Assyrian Empire gets closer and closer, and you have no idea what they’re like. We have to avoid getting involved with them. I’ve seen Assyrians slice off a man’s hands, feet, ears, nose, then make him watch as they throw his wife off a high tower. I’ve seen them behead a child, flay alive his brother, then roast a third brother over a fire. In wartime they burn cities to the ground. In peacetime Assyrian cities beat criminals and whip debtors to death, pull out their tongues, gouge out their eyes, impale, behead, make them drink poison, burn children in front of their parents, and not as a sacrifice! Maybe you don’t believe me, but one day they’ll come for Canaan too and you’ll understand. 

I don’t expect gratitude, but you owe me appreciation. Every decision I make is to protect the House of Terakh, in which Yaakov is the most important member. Yaakov no longer wants to be head of Terakh House, and that’s a shame for us all, but if he ever does again he’d immediately see that it’s no easier for him to honor vows and covenants than it was for me

All my love which you don’t currently deserve, but I miss the better times in Ur, An & Enlil and Enki be praised,

Lavan

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Dear Lavan.....................

How could you not tell me that my son was living in this kind of danger every day for twenty years? Are you exaggerating or have you deliberately kept secret what kind of neighborhood you live in? You had us believe you were running a respectable business, but now you tell me you’re associating with lowlives like the backgammon scum you hustled in Zaydie Nakhor’s barn! 
For our whole lives, you told me I have no mind for business because I’m a woman, and for our whole lives I’ve watched you senselessly put our family’s lives in danger just so you could make a profit. First I watched you manipulate your position as heir, your tenure as head of the house, and your maleness to get away with lie after lie. What the point of being President of the House of Terakh if you run the House just for the good of yourself? Even when we were thirteen, I knew this is how you would run things. Maybe you’re right, maybe a woman would run a business differently. Maybe one day, the House of Avraham will let a woman run the organization and do a superior job to men like you. 

The time has come and long since passed for Yaakov to come back to Canaan. Yitzhak dropped into a coma the day after Esav’s wedding and is unlikely to wake up; so with Yaakov gone and Yitzhak incapacitated, I’m Vice-President of the House of Avraham. As you know, I have the authority to order Yaakov’s return without Esav’s permission. By my authority, Yaakov must return to his real household immediately so he can take his Birthright and run the house of his grandfather, which he should have done twenty years ago. 

Rivka

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Dear Lavan.........................

As I’m sure you recognize by the time you read this letter, Yaakov and his family are well on their way to Canaan. Within seven days of sending my last letter I realized we had no alternative to escorting Yaakov home ourselves, even if it means Yaakov fleeing under cover of night with your daughters and grandchildren and all their worldly goods (such as you let them have any...). I knew you’d never show Yaakov my order and would bear false witness to keep his service forever, so I immediately sent Eliezer-ibn-Eliezer to deliver an official command of homecoming.
I’m deeply unhappy relations between our houses came to this. I wish there were another way, but you’ve become such a danger to the family’s security. There was no other choice, and once I told Esav everything, he agreed. 

I only wish you the best of luck, which I’m sure you’ll always have, and for your household to be fruitful and multiply. B’Ezrat Hashem such luck we all will have, whether in this world or the next. 
In the meantime, I reluctantly send you my deepest love,

Rivka

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Dear Rivka..............................

I discovered Yaakov left with his family about an hour after they abandoned us. No doubt you won’t believe me when I tell you that I’d already decided to let them go and would have given them my full blessing the next morning. You wouldn’t be able to accuse me of delaying them for a moment if Rokhel, whom Yaakov taught everything about your house’s god, hadn’t stockpiled hoards of gods from my own collection. Knowing the statues would easily be discovered and how much they would offend you and Yaakov, I immediately sent for my best horses to catch up with them, took my gods back and said a swift goodbye to my family that I love dearly in the best and most forgiving way. Rokhel is now your problem, a true Jewish Arabian Princess.

It’s made me unhappy to read you taking offense at my treatment of Yaakov so many times, but I repeat, all that I’ve done was for our family’s good. You have the luxury of viewing our situation from 650 miles’ distance. In my position, you’d make no decision differently and you can’t possibly tell me that I’ve withheld the dangers of our situation because I know I’ve sent decades of letters to you about it. Whether it was about our exodus from Ur to Kharan or the dangers of having Assyrian clients and tenants, there’s nothing I’ve kept from you. You just didn’t have eyes to see or ears to hear anything about it. Nothing here in Mesopotamia is more dangerous than Sumeria ever was, or Canaan is, An & Enlil and Enki be praised. If I spared you the explicit details, it’s because I know how you worry about Yaakov, but this is why I’ve constantly advised you you’re not a person of business. You never understood the risks, you never wanted to understand, and if you did, you’d never sleep. 

You’re absolutely right, I’ve dismissed you for being a woman for a century, and it wasn’t right of me. I swear before Divine An that I repent and plead both An’s mercy and yours; but I do know you Rivka, and whether it has anything to do with your womanhood, I know that even if you had the kishkes for running a business, being a woman would make running a family house much more labor for you than it ever was for me - and it’s always plenty. You were always smart, and being smart is helpful in business, but what you really need is chutzpah of steel - which hasn’t been invented yet, but you know what I mean. You wouldn’t just spend the last century avoiding fraud, you’d spend it avoiding assassins who know that a woman as a household head endangers every male power in the world. You’d have to kill every powerful man before they kill you, because your death would be the example to every woman who dreamed as passionately as you did for a world with justice. 

But to be perfectly honest, in recent years, my opinion of you changed drastically. What changed it was reading how you defrauded your own son, and I don’t know which I’d worry about more: whether you don’t have any killer instinct, or whether you have too much. Maybe you could have been the woman with the kishkes to succeed in a man’s world, but how can any person who kills that many people on the hope of creating a more just world be righteous?

And so, if “Yitzhak” is in a coma, there’s no sense in longer keeping from you my deepest secret. If I’d ever told you this information before now you’d have immediately told Yaakov, and he’d either leave or see through the lesson I tried so hard to teach.

Three days before Yaakov arrived at my well, high on hash if you recall, I got a letter from Yitzhak/Yishmael about which he clearly never told you. He ordered me to burn it immediately after reading, but I remember every word.

The original lie which gave Yitzhak/Yishmael his lifelong wealth was almost a century ago, but he felt shame at living Yitzhak’s life every day which only grew with every decade; and during your family’s more recent conflicts, so great was the shame that his head was stricken by a horrible voice; not a pleasant, blessed voice like An who kept company with his father, but a screeching, horrible voice like Nergal’s who every day pierced his skull and slit his flesh; a voice who never stopped telling Yitzhak/Yishmael that deception is built into the House of Avraham’s entire future; claiming your house’s idea of only one god who rules over all creation will always be tarnished with an original sin of dishonesty that will repeat itself from generation to generation for as long as the House of Avraham exists.

To be perfectly honest, I always thought the idea was a shandeh. Living is hard enough without convincing people they’ll live more honestly if they believe in a god who controls everything, reads all their thoughts, and follows them everywhere. I know he thinks the idea will redeem the world and make people act more decently, but it’s going to put every mind who believes it into a prison. It will only make them suffer more, tell more lies, be more violent, more covetous. If it ever caught on it could turn the whole world into meshuggeners like Avraham. 

When Yitzhak/Yishmael saw how easily you decided to lie when you second-guessed your husband’s judgement, and how quickly Yaakov agreed to conspire with you, your husband decided he had proof that the voice was absolutely right, and eventually the voice sent him to a permanent sleep.

Yitzhak/Yishmael saw that Esav was a slow learner, but was good natured and always did the right thing. When Esav handed Yaakov his Birthright, as a joke, Yaakov immediately claimed Esav’s joke was a serious exchange and threatened to throw the document into the fire rather than return it, then he hid it in a place which only he knew. When Yitzhak/Yishmael heard what Yaakov did, he saw that the voice’s suspicion was true; however shrewd and charming, Yaakov was dishonorable and false-hearted. 

And you not only believed Yaakov, you helped the son you love more steal the blessings and possessions of the son you love less! That was your plan, Rivka, not Yaakov’s. Thanks to you, Yaakov is the designated heir and there’s no way for Esav or Yitzhak/Yishmael to reverse the effects of your betrayal, but it was Esav, not Yaakov, who ran the House of Avraham brilliantly for twenty years, and the disasters you predicted for Esav’s period as household head never materialized. 

What Yaakov required, Yitzhak/Yishmael wrote to me, with underlining, was brutal discipline. According to your husband, Yaakov’s dishonesty was due to his mother spoiling him. You insisted that Yaakov was not cut out for challenging work, you made sure he got easy jobs shepherding the herds while Esav hunted large animals in the desert, going without food and sometimes water for days, endangering his survival against savage beasts. Whether Esav has any brains, he has the seykhel for business, he has the kishkes, and he has the… 

So if Esav was angry enough to say he wanted to murder Yaakov a few minutes after learning that his own brother and mother betrayed him, he soon realized he didn’t mean it; and even if he did mean it at the moment he said so, he long since repented his words and told me he regrets them every day. 

If you were paying attention, you’d see that Esav’s long since forgiven his brother and, more obviously, forgiven you. His scribe wrote me that Yaakov will be welcome at a surprise celebration with hundreds of Hittite guests. Esav forgave both you and Yaakov, but neither of you have forgiven me for my deceptions, deceptions that are obviously on a level more trivial than your own betrayal of your son and husband. 

And even so, when I heard everything that Yaakov did, I appreciated straight away that this is a guy with the chutzpah to be a great businessman, but he needed to learn business’s risks, he needed to accept the price of success, he needed to understand exactly what it means to be a cattle trader and endure all the humiliations of apprenticeship just like I did. Being a boss is no easier than being an associate. A good head of the house still carries the heavy stones by himself, still picks the weeds with the bondsmen, still gets on his knees to wash the sheds; he cleans sheep drek from the backside wool, his hands have bloody scabs from plucking the chickens, this is the way Abba learned, this is the way Zaydie learned, the way apprenticeship is always done and I guarantee it was much more ruthless in the past. 

I don’t expect to be thanked, but Esav assured me Yaakov will return a hero. Esav is nearly 100, claims he has enough savings and wants nothing more than to take a cruise down the Nile. Even if Esav stays in Canaan, you’ll have two sons near home who can run the House of Avraham brilliantly and make a living that keeps your descendents out of the slave house forever. 

Meanwhile, the House of Terakh has no capable heir yet, and even at the age of a hundred thirty, I can’t retire. You can’t possibly know what a burden it is to work as hard at one-hundred-thirty as you did at thirty and there are no words for my exhaustion. At times I even believe I’m hearing the voice Avraham heard all those years ago….

An & Enlil and Enki be praised, all my love, and your welcome, 

Lavan


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Drink:

Father warned me every day of the demonic fluid. It is drink which unleashes man's evil and obliterates barrier from beast. It is drink which eliminates health and happiness. Drink is danger, drink is trauma, drink is obscenity and humiliation, blasphemy in the eyes of God and excrement in the windows of memory. Drink is serenity's eternal expenditure: instants of bliss for eternity of violence. 

Trauma is an all too common intrusion of another soul within your own that every day claims new sections of your mind, intrusion doubling upon intrusion, exhibiting with ever more mastery that he, not you, is the part of your mind that thinks. 

Perhaps this other soul is devil or dybbuk, or perhaps he's another person who deliberately lodged himself within you, or maybe he's another person burdened with his own dybbuk; but whomever he is, he, not you, masters the mind, and you become a spectator in your own consciousness. With every hour he determines more of your decisions, and with every new decision he makes, you wonder ever more if he was you all along.   

For centuries, father barely touched drink. He knew ecstasy and torment from it as as any man would, but he saw what drink made him and others, and its humiliations were repugnant. It caused a whole earth where man has neither self nor divinity; only sense - pleasures to drown pain, the pain of others to drown us in pleasure, a whole earth of trauma absorbed and trauma inflicted where man uses his divinity to inflict all the worse. 

Thus where the rest of Earth was wine, the House of Noah was water, fresh and pure in wells we cleaned every day along with blessings to a spirited drink in a second well; a spirit of drink whose name we never pronounced, perhaps we never knew. For an hundred years of our lives, Ham, Japeth and I knew no drink but water. 

All the while, as the temperature warmed and the Earth became fire and rain, Father communed with his holy spirit of the drink. Every day for hundreds of years, Father pulled a bowl from the well tied to a string, put a finger in the drink, touched its holy spirit to his lips and threw the bowl back. Every day he spoke with the drink's spirit, and the Drink spoke back. For seven hours every day, Father walked 'round the well, speaking questions and answers, and its pool told him all creation, of its trees and crowns, its spheres visible and hidden, and the Spirit of the Drink made Father the wisest of men. 

The spirit told Father to build an ark and gather every living thing that creepeth upon the earth, for the spirit was wroth with the world and would flood it. The flood would cleanse the world to begin anew amid a second Eden where would live none but the House of Noah's righteous offspring. 

And the Spirit was right, for lo, the sea level rose, and rose, and rose, until the planet itself rose up and murdered its unworthy caretakers. The whole earth became drink; not drink still and clear, but torrential and murderous, until again the world was without form and void, and all the Earth was but one large ocean, stewed in the iniquities of its drowned trillions and glazed with salt to parch any survivors. And within three days, all remaining life lodged within an ark of 300 cubits.

The invisible spirit told us of the flood, he told Father to build the ark, precisely how, and with what, and how large, and how many animals to gather, but he gave us no extra ration of fresh water. All we had was the water within our well, which when drawn must be fermented ere it turn to undrinkable slime. So there was only barley fermentation, and wine, and animals, and obscenity. There was not even water for the children. 

And yet the first thing we brought aboard the ark was Father's pool of drink, of which he made us carry pitcher by pitcher to a pool of stone he'd constructed without assistance.

Upon the ark it was only us and the wine. Father told us we had no extra rations of drink for the animals, but to allow ourselves twelve times an eleven month supply for four families - we asked why, he did not say. Surely father knew what was to come better than we.

It began not with agony but joy and camaraderie - days of merry work followed nights of fine wine and song and lying with our wives in tents at the Ark's corners. The children were so torpid they never wandered and fell to serene sleep after dinner. The House of Noah used our wealth to buy all the crops of nearby families to feed the ark's animals, and once aboard we pickled them within buckets of salt water procured from the outside deluge. 

Father had always been serene, but he was quiet and cryptic, and often warned us what sort of different man he was before encountering the holy Spirit. He took to wine immediately, and his serene self turned upside down to the most dreadful moroseness. None saw him eat and he said not a word as he fed the animals. Yet while Father submerged into drink, our work seemed as play. 

But at the cusp of manhood, no drink could torpor Canaan. In less than one year he'd have taken to wife, but what wife lived to take him? 

The noises began with sheep of course, then goats, then the dogs and cows, and then to the larger animals, and the smaller, until we wondered if any animal remained unsullied among the ark's 16,000. An animal would scream in that peculiar yawp, always the same in every species, and we knew what Canaan wrought, particularly as he'd return every morning bruised and scratched; but what mattered it were we all drink-soaked? The world was ending, boys will be boys, the animals too were drunk, and were we to believe Father, House Noah was the world's only family who did not enjoy livestock's company. 

Eventually the ark's loneliness grieved our wives, and so too we found it oppressive. As the drink increased,  revelries decreased. Never again would we see anyone but us, and the realization necessitated more drink. Every simple disagreement felt like a second deluge, which also necessitated more drink. Whenever the rain's humidity caused a sniffle, we feared the mortality outdoors would permeate inside, which necessitated still more drink. And whenever an animal fell ill, which was often, we were great with labor to minister them, which necessitated the most drink of all. 

All the while, father built a new cage; a large one. We wondered was there a flying animal we'd forgotten? Father would not say. 

Days grew to weeks, memory blurred day to day, until eventually there were no memories but wailing wives as dawned on them a world of loss, and mischief raging among children now tolerant to alcohol made us great with rage, which necessitated still more drink. We sent dove after raven to find and; but they only found drink until a dove finally emerged with an olive branch. The Lord spared us, and thus we survivors would multiply in a new era of favor and grace. 

But the very next day, a great human cry awoke us to find Ham murdered and Canaan locked in Father's cage.

"Canaan! What have you done?" 

Here follows the tortuous dialogue between father and grandson:

"I have done nothing! Ham was murdered by you Grandfather!"

"The Holy Spirit betided me something vile, but surely it would be less than this! Murder or defilement among us is what I expected. For crimes such as these the Spirit flooded the world! There is just punishment for such offenders, but what came to pass is so much worse!"

"Why have you murdered my father?"

"Your father tried to kill me before I laid my curse on you!" 

"Why would you curse me?"

"Gaze upon the chalky substance within the drink! The imagination of man's heart is evil from its youth! Canaan has gazed upon my spirit's nakedness and spilled into it his seed! He hath raped the holy spirit of the Earth! We shall never rebuild Eden! The whole flood has been for naught! Humanity shall now continue just as it has!" 

"But I did not...."

"Cursed be you Canaan! A curse you were upon Ham and this ark, and cursed shall you be upon dry land! A servant of servants shall ye be unto your bretheren! A blessing shall the Holy Spirit of mine be to Shem and Japeth, but the your house Canaan shall be a servant to the servants of Shem and Japeth all the days of their li..."

"Grandfather, that was milk." 

"What?"

"It WAS milk."

"Did Grandfather really think fermentation and salt would keep a kingdom of animals alive for a whole year?"

"It is not for you to question what the spirit in the drink tells me."

"There is no spirit in the drink."

"SILENCE!" 

"If it's a spirit, then the spirit told you what your mind already saw."

"Indeed, the spirit tells me the world is fornication and wickedness. Just like y..."

"No, grandfather, the world was already flooding, the spirit only told you what you knew." 

"We do not see but with the eyes of our spirit!"

"No, our spirit sees with our eyes." 

"Profanity! You deserve to be cursed all over again."

"Curses mean nothing."

"You dare doubt my curse?"

"I doubt there's any point to us living now when everybody else is dead."

"Your sacrilege is ignominy upon the entire House of Noah! Is it not enough that you desecrate every animal aboard the ark night by ni...?" 

"YOU THINK I FUCKED THE ANIMALS!?"

"You have done evil enough. Do not dishonor us further in the ark of the Holy Spir...."  

"I curse you too Grandfather."

"Abominable blasphemer! May you be known through all eterni..."

"May you endure your remaining centuries knowing nothing of life but this stupid spirit of the drink or whatever you call that liquid shit." 

"Outrageous infide...!"

"May your bullshit visions of the Eden we lost haunt all your days and creep all your nights. May you forever see in me your only impediment to paradise."

Noah immediately charged at Canaan to strike him down but the cage Noah built himself prevented it. He reached for the cage's key, but Canaan pulled Noah's key from his own tunic. 

"While you all spent your nights in a stupor I was milking the mammal females and feeding it to their children. I even fed the milk to your grandchildren and great-grandchildren and told them not to tell anyone, because children will never survive on just the alcohol you've spent your whole lifetime warning us against and then made us live on. Shem, do you really think Arphaxad could survive the whole first year of his life on nothing but alcoholic breastmilk?" 

Clearly in grief, Noah reached for his sword with a clear intention to fall on himself. But Canaan from out his tunic produced Noah's sword as well. 

"How can we allow you power of life and death? You murdered your own son because I drank some water from the pool and didn't wipe a little milk off my cheek!"

A great cry went up from Noah. 

"My father is now dead because his own father slew him, and you think the outside world was the iniquitous place? Fuck you!"

Noah exhaled a still greater moan.

"We have no idea why the world flooded, but you all kept saying the world was getting warmer every year of my childhood. Maybe it was from all those fires people light to worship their gods." 

Noah began to cry in earnest.

"And if the world was just a place of people killing and raping each other, maybe worshiping spirits by drinking and smoking made them act that way. Grandfather Noah is the same as all of them!"

The wailing and crying grew entwined. 

"And yes, when we were still on land I jerked off in your holy spirit dozens of times, but the whole ark is alive because of me. Me, not your crappy god. I hate the drink and everything it makes you all do. I hate the fact that we're still alive and everybody else is dead, and if there is a spirit who did this, I hate him more than anyone and I curse him forever."

"Execration! Astonishment! Reproach! We spit you out of the House of Noah for eternity!" 

"I was planning to run away from this pathetic house for years. Now I've got a whole new world I can start on my own!" 

---------------------------

We never saw Canaan again. Within two days he'd run away with Japeth's granddaughter Arsal. I've had half a millennium to think about that last horrible day on the Ark. There were details on which Canaan was clearly wrong: the animals were nearly as drink-soaked as we and so would be their milk. Doubtless he was wrong about other things, but it's hard not to wonder if Canaan's arguments were far more correct than Father's. 

Perhaps there are no spirits and the earth contains nothing but water, fire and air. Yet why did Father know to build the Ark? And why did we, out of all the world, survive when no one else did? Did the Drink's holy spirit know what was to come? And even if the drink has no spirit, did our belief in the Drink enable our survival when everyone else died? Even were there no drink to choose us for its terrific knowledge, could believing in the Spirit of the Drink let us survive through hardships no one else can endure? 

I had seen enough of the old world to know Father may have been right: drink may well be the cause for all  terrors which make the world fit for destruction, so many of which Father must have seen. Yet by abstaining from drink, did Father recreate all terrors from which he meant to free his children? Had he curtailed his drink intake to moderation, no spirit would speak to him, and he would have never known to build the ark; but is the House of Noah lucky for surviving when all others die, or are we cursed? 

We have no way to know what became of Canaan and Arsal. Were there truly no people on Earth but us, how would they survive without knowledge of where to find animals or arability? They have cut themselves utterly from their roots and all advantages therein. Were one of them to die, the other would be entirely alone upon the planet, with no way of knowing whither their family.  As current head of the House of Noah, surely I'd welcome them to return, but how can we ever find each other? 

Canaan and Arsal went alone into the world with no spirit to guide them and nothing to summon their willpower but a hot planet of death who washes away all things for no seeming reason. How could they summon will to life in the face of such indifference? Perhaps love of each other or children endows them succor, or perhaps they find sustenance in a vision of a more just world. Perhaps Canaan sees the world more clearly than his grandfather, and perhaps that clarity will heal the world, but surely he will commit errors as well, and when he does, what spirit shall comfort him? 

If Canaan and Arsal are still alive, they will one day die without belief in an eternal spirit to claim them. Can humans sustain themselves in a world where all things are flesh and dust, and even if they can, will they one day anger a spirit and cause another flood?