I was baptized (without my consent) and they said – you will be a Christian. But this act did not in any way guarantee that I would be a good person. From the point in time when I discovered I had a mind of my own I decided to try to become a good person, because for me being a Christian meant being a good person. I set out on a most difficult path – the path of finding truth. I understood that if I want to find it I would have to return to that Man who the false prophets took from us and whose wonderful teachings on love turned the whole world upside down.
There are two ways to achieve happiness– through the mind and through the heart. Most of us tread the path of reason, take the way of words. He walked the path of the heart, the route of love, the way of acts. In order to be able to seek you must act. That’s why I understand that the majority of Christians do not seek but rather accept at face value dogma of which Jesus had no idea. Dogma after all is nothing more than the proof of the lack of proof. Someone who claims to be the owner of truth is in all likelihood the owner of lies. Insisting on dogma is a rejection of reason, and an insult to God. Why indeed did God give us reason if he did not intend for us to use it? In the novel Code 9, I wrote: “We become free only when we know truth. And we know it only when we think for ourselves. He who stands by dogma and does not think, or even worse stops others from thinking, is against God, and is therefore an unbeliever. Faith without reason is not faith but a submission to violence.”
The Epistles differ in many basic affirmations. If two affirmations differ, it means that at least one of them must be wrong. This is not good news for those who maintain that the Epistles are from God, or are at least inspired by God. God however cannot be wrong. Along with the other truths which are in the Epistles it follows from them that Jesus was perfectly prepared for his mission of preaching. Where did he obtain his miraculous healing abilities from? Where was he from the ages of twelve to thirty? If we add to these a whole series of hints from the Epistles suggesting he did not die on the cross but was taken down, healed and forced to flee the Roman Empire, justified interest in his actual life is sure to arise.
I do not think that my own version of the most secret story in the world is true, but neither do those who claim their story of Jesus is the true one have any proofs. In contrast to them however I don’t force my version on anyone. People are going to search for truth even though they know they won’t find it, because the goal is the search. In spite of this – or because of this – I have taken the path of searching for truth. I am searching for it not because I wish to weaken faith but rather because I wish to strengthen it. In its search I started from international literature and a visit to Jerusalem, Betlehem, Tiberias, Nazareth, Kashmir, Srinagar, Leh, Hemis, Sonamarg. Mylapore, Kochin, Kerala, Malabar and other places in Israel and mainly in India, where, according to many direct and indirect proofs Jesus and Thomas the Apostle had been. Up to today Jews and Christians live there and in peace practice their faiths.
My ambition was to write a story and not a history book, to provoke thought but not to convince, to search for truth but not to own it. If a miracle occurred and I received from God the gift of truth I would refuse this gift, but would give precedence to seeking for it. If through this book I have helped even one seeker, the writing of it would achieve its purpose.
The figure in the tomb
It was three o´clock in the morning on May 21st, 2010. Marika couldn’t sleep. On her hard mat she tossed from side to side; she tried to bring to mind the peaceful surface of a lake – just as she always did when she couldn’t get to sleep, but nothing helped. It was a dark night with the stars obscured by clouds. She got up, went over to the window, pulled back the curtains and looked out at the shrine. From below the windows could be heard the bark of the stray dogs, along with the occasional crack of pistols or rifles. In her few hours in Srinigar she had already learned to discern the sounds of such weapons. The dark green roof of Rosabal in the light of the blinking lamp mounted on a column next to the entrance made a mysterious impression on her. Basrat, Eli and Michal watched her discretely; they too could not sleep. At three-thirty she again lay down, her eyes closing from fatigue. In her drowsiness she made out a female figure near the curtains. The white-haired woman was smoking, looking out at the crypt, and with a smile on her face said something. Marika strained her ears: “Cancer is bad, Cancer is bad... Serves you right, Solomon.”
“Mama, please be quiet, the others can’t sleep!” she shouted at the figure, but she couldn’t stop her smiling or the words she repeated over and over. “Go away, go away!” she tried to drive her off, but she only disturbed Michal, who had just managed to get a moment’s sleep. To calm her down he took her hand. The unintelligible croaky noises that came from her throat stopped. She sunk into a deep peaceful sleep which was interrupted a moment later by Sahib. “Wake up, it’s four-thirty.” The men dressed right in the room while Marika went behind a curtain to change.
“You won’t need perfume,” Sahib teased her sarcastically.
“I’m not putting any on.”
“So who is then?” Sahib looked at the men in surprise. They looked at each other. “There’s such a strange aroma here.” He took a deep breath. “Smells like lavender.”
“More like rose,” remarked Eli, who also breathed the air in puzzlement.
Marika and Michal looked at each other in surprise. Marika just shrugged her shoulders, but Michal understood.
“Would you open the window?” Basrat asked Eli.
Sahib gave torches to Eli and Basrat. “We’ll eat later. Can we go?” The men nodded. They went down the wooden staircase to the main floor. Sahib’s wife had a room opposite and it seemed she and the children were fast asleep. Sahib opened the old gate and looked out into the street. It was deserted, with only a cat’s meowing coming from somewhere. He gave an instruction and darted for the other side of the road, the men running after him. The fence gate was open, as were the doors to the forecourt. Marika made out the line of tombs which stood behind the building. “This is the Muslim cemetery,” Sahib said in a low voice. “I’m staying here, Eli will lead you.” Eli went into the gallery first, then his father, Marika and last came Michal. Everything inside was just as Sahib had described the day before. Eli’s torch revealed a glassed-in wooden funeral chamber. He pressed a handle on the narrow door leading to the chamber interior. They almost stumbled on the gravestone of a Muslim holy-man. They went on a few steps and stood by the tomb, which had no inscription or marking. It seemed to be composed of three parts; the lowest was the widest, the middle was thinner and on top was a stone beveled into the shape of a roof of some kind. It was in fact a stone monolith.
“This is the one,” whispered Eli. “But according to the custom in Muslim tombs, it is just a replica. The real tomb is in the cellar.”
“What is this?” Michal pointed to a plain piece of pipe which stuck out of the floor.
“Hang on... this is strange, I never noticed it before. It looks like here they remembered the “nefesh” of the soul. In the Jewish tradition tombs are equipped with a pipe for the soul or a shaft for spirits. This is to allow the spirit that is in the tomb free movement and contact with the outside world,” Doctor Basrat explained.
“That means down there... ah... is the real crypt,” Marika whispered.
“Yes but we can’t get down there.”
Seeing that Marika looked disappointed, Eli led her to the crypt and shone his light on a stone on which in the bright torchlight were clearly visible the outlines of two feet. “We’ll wait outside in the corridor and if you want you can meditate here. How much time will you need?” He looked at his watch: “It’s exactly five o’clock.”
“That’s interesting,” Basrat’s voice came out of the dark. “It’s five o’clock, the time when the muezzin calls for morning prayers, but it’s completely quiet. The muezzins are well-informed, something must be going on. This silence is suspicious.” No sooner had he finished than a sharp shot rang out. From the street came the sounds of noise and men shouting. The voices fell away, to be replaced by the sound of a motor. A few seconds later a vehicle came to a halt and soldiers jumped down from it. Michal, Marika, Eli and Basrat followed the scene on the street through the small windows. About a dozen soldiers armed with long sticks set into beating unarmed men, who were trying in vain to defend themselves. The soldiers broke their sticks on their victims then like bags of potatoes thrust the bleeding men into a jeep and sped away. Sahib ran inside to the tombs with three large keys in his hand. “To be on the safe side I locked all three doors. Those madmen are capable of coming in here and shooting the place up!” He sat down and wiped his sweaty face. A moment later, marching feet were again heard from the road, this time accompanied by volleys of shooting. Along with the crack of the handguns and the rattle of automatics now came the dull thump of grenades. Marika and the men shook with fear. The soldiers disappeared from in front of the windows but a few minutes later came the noise of motors returning, and the shooting around the temple became fiercer.
“It seems like the rebels have begun their offensive,” reckoned Basrat. “How could you manage to meditate in such an atmosphere?” he continued, turning to Marika, who was standing next to the tomb with tears of impotence and anger welling up in her eyes.
“I’m truly sorry I got you into this situation,” she apologized.
“Maybe it’s lucky for us that this is where we ended up,” Sahib commented. “Even Indian troops wouldn’t dare break down the doors to a Muslim temple. When a few years back someone allegedly stole a hair from Muhammad’s head from the local Hazratbal mosque, a civil uprising broke out in Kashmir. They wouldn’t allow that to happen again,” he said in an effort to calm her down.
“I’m afraid it’s all the same to them” retorted Basrat, giving a signal to the others to return to the gallery and leave Marika alone. The shots, the explosions, the cries of the people and the noise of the army jeeps all intensified. More and more shots were being fired from the heavy anti-tank guns, which implied that tanks were moving in the streets. The air was full of smoke, helicopters passed overhead. The men joined Marika and they all prayed together, still shivering. Marika alone maintained a surprising calm. Now the heavy detonations of artillery grenades added to the fray, and with each explosion the building shook. Daring a glance through the small window, Sahib saw that across the road his home was still untouched although its neighbor, with the sign Easy rechargeable on it, was engulfed in fire.
“Maybe it’s time for us to get out of here,” Sahib suggested, and now his voice too was trembling. “Should the Muslims catch us here…in Islam desecrating a tomb is one of the worst offences. And a visit by non-Muslims is a true desecration!”
“I’m don’t know about that, but outside there’s fighting, in here there’s safety” was Marika’s opinion.
Sahib looked at his watch: “It’s half past five, the dawn is coming - okay, we’ll stay here.” A deafening explosion reverberated from the street into the mosque. Rozabal shook and the shock wave forced them back towards the Muslim tomb, where they all landed in a pile.
Marika squeezed Michal’s hand tightly; it was covered in sweat. “Aren’t you afraid?” he asked her.
“You taught me to make friends with death.”
The rear of the building collapsed but luckily no-one was injured. They sat huddled together in a cloud of dust, which was now added to by acrid smoke – something in the back of the temple had caught fire. They sat as if paralyzed, waiting to see what would happen next. After the dust settled somewhat, Basrat pointed to a band of light that had not been there previously. “Look, it seems to be coming up from the cellar!” Now the others looked in that direction. “My God! That shot must have knocked down the wall that was blocking the way into the cellar!” They looked into a huge hole which revealed an ancient wooden ladder leading to the underground, lit up by the light from the street. They looked at each other out of faces dirtied by sweat, smoke and dust.
“Everyone all right?” Basrat” asked. They all nodded. The shooting went on in the street, grenades going off in ever closer proximity to the temple. “Looks like the fighting is moving up from the river into the old town.” They wondered whether to try to get back to Sahib’s house or to remain in a degree of safety in the holy place, which gave at least some certainty that the battle would remain at bay. In curiosity and fear they pondered the opening to the underground. Marika impatiently moved towards its edge but Eli pulled her back. Then he knelt down and shone his torch into the hole. This was the first time in four decades that someone had had a look at the actual tomb of the man buried there. The light wandered around a dark stale space. Through the clouds of dust, Eli spied an alcove cut into the rock with a stone sarcophagus sticking out of the deposits of mud and clay. In contrast to the tomb on the main floor, this one had been laid on a diagonal.
“It’s lying east-west” Eli almost yelled. Suddenly he jumped up and with his face white from dust he faced the others, who had been standing just behind him for a peep into the depths. “Someone’s moving down there. I saw a figure!”
His voice was shaking in trepidation.