The Shrine of The Book was a peculiar looking structure, the white dome resembling an onion, or a woman’s breast. It stood in the midst of a reflecting pool and a large sun baked terraced area. The dome was across from a black basalt wall, the two structures a stark contrast from each other, representing an eternal struggle between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness, as Sabra had explained. It was also the home of the Dead Sea Scrolls, among other ancient documents. The entrance itself mimicked that of a cave, beneath the basalt wall. It led to a first gallery, bright and airy, displays along the walls. A corridor lay directly ahead, up a short, wide staircase.
The cave motif seemed to repeat itself in the corridor, with displays marked both in Hebrew and English, soft lighting giving a view of precious artifacts. Devon noticed how caught up Stryker seemed to be as he examined the old writings beneath display cases. There was a reverence and silence about the place, as if the other visitors didn’t even dare to speak. Sabra walked alongside her, her eyes falling across documents of precious scripture and ancient documents of her people.
Devon knew the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls, found decades ago near Qumran. Most of it was parchment, with some papyrus, found first by Muslim boys. They were some of the earliest Hebrew biblical texts to survive to the current day, and their value to Israel was priceless. The writings were in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, Sabra had told them. She looked back at Stryker as she and Sabra moved on towards the inner chamber. He picked up his step, joining them.
The inner chamber, beneath the dome itself, was circular, built with a tile floor and walls of ancient rock, the displays behind glass in recessed areas of the walls. Once again, the cave motif asserted itself. Devon looked about, studying displays, her eyes drawn to the intricacies of the shrine’s design. It was strangely appealing. She looked at Stryker, who appeared to be reading a document encased in one display. She wondered absently if he was privately rueing never picking up ancient Greek or Hebrew.
Her eyes were drawn to a staircase leading up, neatly blended into the building. Sabra slightly nodded, led her into the upper area. Devon realized they were in the dome itself, the shape mimicked in the interior of the rotunda, horizontal lines weaving their way to the top. The room was centered on a large black sculpture, raised above the rest of the room. After a moment, she realized what it was meant to be: a replica of a scroll handle found in most synagogues. A nod to the past and tradition, she thought. Indeed, the ancient parchments themselves were displayed on the sculpture, just as if the Torah was being unrolled by a rabbi to be read at services. More documents could be seen under glass in the display cases around the walls of the room. The room was the heart of the collection, and of the museum itself.
“Well,” Devon softly whispered.
“Impressive?” Sabra asked her.
“Very much so,” Devon replied.
Sabra nodded to the sculpture. “We call that the ez hayyim. It’s the ceremonial rollers around which the Torah is placed.” She gazed up at the scrolls, reverence in her expression. Devon decided that though Sabra might well be secular, she at least held this place, and these artefacts, in great esteem. It was, she decided, something worth esteeming.
Stryker remained below, taking his time among the display cases. Voices drew his attention away, and he turned, his eyes falling on two men, one slightly older than the other. He immediately recognized the younger man, had seen him before. The first time had been three years ago, during his university days. The second had been in London, two weeks ago, on the night of the party at the Dorchester. The night President Touqan had been assassinated.
It was ***** ****** *
* What, did you expect me to name the guy?