The Source

  The Source is a work of historical fiction. Apart from the well-known actual people, events, and locales that figure in the narrative all names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to current events or locales, or to living persons, is entirely coincidental.

  2013 Random House eBook Edition

  Copyright © 1965 by Marjay Productions, Inc.

  Copyright renewed © 1993 by James A. Michener and Random House, Inc.

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Random House, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.

  RANDOM HOUSE and the HOUSE colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.

  Originally published in hardcover in the United States by Random House, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, in 1965.

  Maps and diagrams by Jean Paul Tremblay

  eBook ISBN 978-0-8129-8624-2



  The translations of Psalm 6 on this page and of Proverbs 31 on this page are from Samuel Sandmel, The Hebrew Scriptures, An Introduction to Their Literature and Religious Ideas (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1963). Psalm 33 on this page was specially translated by Dr. Sandmel. The Psalms of Ascent on this page were translated for this book by scholars in Israel.

  Other Biblical quotations are from the King James Version, except the words of St. Paul on this page, which are taken from II Timothy 4:7-8 in the Revised Standard Version, and those passages from Deuteronomy specifically noted on this page, which are from The Torah, the Five Books of Moses. A new translation of The Holy Scriptures according to the Masoretic Text (Philadelphia, The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1962).

  The response which appears on this page has been adapted with permission from Rabbi Ephraim Oshry, Responsa from the Depths (Brooklyn, 1959).

  Archaelogical drawings used throughout the book are the work of Ruth Ovadia, research scholar in the Department of Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem. Four of these drawings were adapted from illustrations in The Guide to Israel, by Zev Vilnay (Jerusalem, 1963).

  Certain Jewish documents are cited from C. K. Barrett, The New Testament Background: Selected Documents (New York, Harper and Brothers, 1961).

  Direct quotations from the sayings of Rabbi Akiba have been adapted either from the tractate Pirke Abot of the Mishna or from the excellent life by Louis Finkelstein, Akiba, Saint, Scholar and Martyr (reprinted by arrangement with World Publishing Co., New York—A Meridian Book).

  Quotations from and references to the Pirke Abot tractate of the Mishna are taken principally from Judah Goldin, The Living Talmud (New York, The New American Library, 1957).

  Quotations from and references to the Babylonian Talmud are taken principally from Leo Auerbach, The Babylonian Talmud (New York, Philosophical Library, 1944).

  Quotations from and references to the Jerusalem Talmud are taken principally from Dagobert Runes, The Talmud of Jerusalem (New York, Philosophical Library, 1956).

  Quotations from Maimonides have been for the most part adapted from Leon Roth, The Guide for the Perplexed: Moses Maimonides (London, Hutchinson’s University Library, 1947).

  For the list which opens the second section of Level III, I am indebted to Professor Cecil Roth of Jerusalem, who drew my attention to the fact that a list like this originally appeared in a little-known work, Wolf’s Jews in the Canary Islands. Roth’s version of this list appears in his History of the Marranos, by Cecil Roth (reprinted by arrangement with World Publishing Co., New York—A Meridian Book).

  Details of Judenstrasse life appearing in the third part of Level III are verified principally by Marvin Lowenthal, The Jews of Germany (New York, Longmans, Green, 1936). By permission of David McKay Co., Inc.



  Title Page



  Author’s Note

  The Tell

  The Bee Eater

  Of Death and Life

  An Old Man and His God

  Psalm of the Hoopoe Bird

  The Voice of Gomer

  In the Gymnasium

  King of the Jews

  Yigal and His Three Generals

  The Law

  A Day in the Life of a Desert Rider


  The Fires of Ma Coeur

  The Saintly Men of Safed

  Twilight of an Empire

  Rebbe Itzik and the Sabra

  The Tell

  Other Books by This Author

  About the Author

  This is a novel. Its characters and scenes are imaginary except as noted. The hero, Rabbi Akiba, was a real man who died as described in 137 C.E. All quotations ascribed to him can be verified. King David and Abishag, Herod the Great and his family, General Petronius, Emperor Vespasian, General Josephus and Dr. Maimonides were also real persons and quotations ascribed to the last are also verifiable.

  Akko, Zefat and Tiberias are existing places in the Galilee and descriptions of these towns are accurate, but Makor, its site, its history and its excavation are wholly imaginary.

  The Tell

  The tell of Makor at site 17072584 in western Galilee as seen by archaeologists on Sunday morning, May 3, 1964, while standing in the olive grove to the south. From the visual appearance of the tell nothing could be deduced as to its genesis, construction or history, except that the uniformly smooth surface of the slope would suggest that at some time around the year 1700 B.C.E. it could have been paved with heavy stone blocks by Hyksos invaders moving against Egypt from the north; and the slight rise toward the eastern side of the tell might indicate that there had once been a building of some size standing at that point.

  On Tuesday the freighter steamed through the Straits of Gibraltar and for five days plowed eastward through the Mediterranean, past islands and peninsulas rich in history, so that on Saturday night the steward advised Dr. Cullinane, “If you wish an early sight of the Holy Land you must be up at dawn.” The steward was Italian and was reluctant to use the name Israel. For him, good Catholic that he was, it would always be the Holy Land.

  Some time before dawn Cullinane heard a rapping on his door and went on deck while the stars were still bright, but as the moon fell away toward areas he had left, the sun began to rise over the land he was seeking, and the crown of stars that hung over Israel glimmered fitfully and faded. The shoreline became visible, mauve hills in the gray dawn, and he saw three things he knew: to the left the white Muslim mosque of Akko, in the center the golden dome of the Bahai temple, and to the right, high on a hill, the brown battlements of the Catholic Carmelites.

  “Just like the Jews,” he said. “Denied religious liberty by all, they extend it to everyone.” He thought that might be a good motto for the new state, but as the freighter approached land he added, “I’d feel more like a traveler to Israel if they’d let me see one good synagogue.” But the Jewish religion was an internal thing, a system for organizing life rather than building edifices, and no Jewish religious structures were visible.

  Even at the dockside his introduction to the Jewish state was postponed, for the first man who recognized him was a genial, good-looking Arab in his late thirties, dressed nattily in western clothes, who called from the shore in English, “Welcome! Welcome! Everything’s ready.” Two generations of British and American archaeologists had been greeted with this heartening call, either by the present Jemail Tabari or by his famous uncle, Mahmoud, who had worked on most of the historic digs in the area. Dr. Cullinane, from the Biblical Museum in Chicago, was re

  For many years he had dreamed of excavating one of the silent mounds in the Holy Land, perhaps even to uncover additional clues to the history of man and his gods as they interacted in this ancient land; and as he waited for the freighter to tie up he looked across the bay to Akko, that jewel of a seaport, where so much of the history he was about to probe had started. Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and finally Richard the Lion Heart and his Crusaders had all come to that harbor in glorious panoply, and to follow in their footsteps was for an archaeologist like Cullinane a privilege. “I hope I do a good job,” he whispered.

  As soon as he cleared the papers for the ponderous amount of equipment stored in the freighter—the books, the chemicals, the photographic equipment, the little Diesel locomotive, the thousand things a layman would not think of—he ran down the gangplank and embraced Tabari, and the Arab reported, “Things couldn’t be going better. Dr. Bar-El will be here shortly. The other Americans are already dug in, and the photographer is flying down from London this afternoon.”

  “Weather been good?” Cullinane asked. He was a lean, tall man just entering his forties, an Irish Catholic educated at Harvard and Grenoble, with excavation experience in Arizona, Egypt and the area south of Jerusalem. Under normal circumstances it would have been unlikely for a Catholic to head such a dig, for the earlier field directors of the Biblical Museum had usually been Protestant clergymen, but the bulk of the money for this particular dig had come from a Chicago Jew who had said, “Isn’t it about time we had a professional doing the work?” and Cullinane had been agreed upon, particularly since he spoke Hebrew, a little Arabic and French. He was the crop-headed type of new scholar, solidly trained and not given to nonsense. On his departure from Chicago, loaded with gear, he had been asked by a newspaperman if he expected to dig up any records which would prove that the Bible was true. Cullinane replied, “No, we’re not out to help God steady the ark.” The impudent reply had been widely quoted, but when the businessman who had put up the quarter of a million dollars for the dig saw the wisecrack he felt reassured that his money was in sober hands.

  “Weather’s flawless,” the Arab replied, speaking with the fluent ease of a man whose father had been Sir Tewfik Tabari O.B.E., K.B.E., one of the Arab leaders whom the British had trusted. Sir Tewfik had sent his son to Oxford, hoping that he would want to follow him in the civil service, but the boy had from the first been enchanted by his Uncle Mahmoud’s work in digging up history, and his professors at Oxford had turned him into a first-rate scientific archaeologist. In the winter of 1948, when the Jews threatened to capture Palestine from the Arabs, young Jemail, then twenty-two, had debated a long time as to what he should do. He ended by making a typical Tabari choice: he stayed in Akko and fought the Jews vigorously. Then, when his haphazard army was crushed, he announced that he would not seek asylum in Egypt or Syria. He would stay in Israel, where he had always lived, and would work with the Jews to rebuild the war-torn land. As a result of this bold decision he found himself popular and almost the only trained Arab available for the many archaeological excavations that were proliferating throughout the country. His presence at any site meant that the highest scientific standards would be enforced and that good spirits would be preserved among the workmen, who said of him, “Jemail once dug twenty feet straight down using only a camel’s-hair brush.”

  As the two friends talked a jeep squealed its brakes outside the customs area, and the driver, a petite young woman in her mid-thirties, jumped out and ran past the protesting guard to give Cullinane a leaping kiss. “Shalom, John! It’s so wonderful to have you back.” She was Dr. Vered Bar-El, Israel’s top expert in dating pottery sherds, and without her assistance Dr. Cullinane’s dig could not succeed; for she had the unusual capacity to memorize the scores of scientific reports issued during the twentieth century, so that whenever someone like Cullinane or Tabari handed her a fragment of pottery, a sherd left by some household accident that had occurred seven thousand years ago, she could usually look at the piece, then summon from her extraordinary memory pieces of similar construction found in Egypt or Jericho or Beit Mirsim. Archaeologists of five countries called her “our walking calendar,” and the commendable thing about her work was that when she did not know she said so. She was a small woman, beautiful, bright-eyed, a pleasure to have at any dig. She was also one of the first major experts who had been trained wholly in Israel: when the state came into being in 1948 she was but seventeen, and had later attended Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

  “Leave the gear where it is,” she said with a musical Hebrew accent. “I’ve brought along two of the crew, and they’ll stand guard till it’s unloaded. Right now let’s head for the dig. I’m hungry to get started.” She led Cullinane to the jeep and with deft turns of the wheel soon had him on the ancient road that led from Akko to Zefat, and beyond that to Damascus, the capital of Syria.

  As they entered this classic road—for some five thousand years a major east-west artery through which had flowed the contributions of Asia on their way to Venice and Genoa—Cullinane took pains to orient himself. “Could you stop the jeep for a moment?” he asked Mrs. Bar-El. “I’m sorry, but if I get mixed up at the start I never get straightened out later.” He got out of the jeep, studied his field map, turned firmly toward the direction from which they had come, and said, “Straight ahead to the west is Akko and the Mediterranean. To my right, the Crusader castle of Starkenberg. To my left, Jerusalem. Behind me, to the east, the Sea of Galilee. And if you continue in the direction the car’s headed you reach Zefat and, far beyond it, Damascus. Right?”

  “Roger over,” Tabari said, but he thought it strange that in the Holy Land a man should orient himself by facing away from Jerusalem.

  For some miles the riders discussed the coming dig and the allocations of work that had been agreed upon. “The photographer coming down from London is excellent,” Cullinane assured his colleagues. “Chap who did such good work at Jericho. And our architect is top-notch. University of Pennsylvania. I haven’t seen any drawings done by the girl you’ve chosen for draftsman. Is she capable?”

  “She was good enough for Yigael Yadin at Hazor,” Dr. Bar-El explained.

  “Oh, that the girl? How’d you get her?”

  “We’re training some great artists in this country,” the little pottery expert said, and Cullinane thought: I must remember to titillate their national pride. I must. Aloud he said, “If we’ve got the girl who did the art work for Hazor, we’re lucky.”

  “We are lucky,” Dr. Bar-El said, almost defensively.

  Now all grew quiet as they neared the point from which the mound to be excavated would first be seen. Cullinane leaned forward, tense with excitement. To the north substantial hills appeared, and from time unremembered they had protected this road from the marauders of Lebanon. To the south matching hills were beginning to rise, offering security in that direction. A small valley was thus being formed, and along its northern edge short, sharp fingers of rock jutted out like opened hands, warding off anyone who might want to attack the ancient lifeline along which so much wealth had traveled. Dr. Bar-El turned a corner, straightened out the jeep, and drove for a few minutes. Then it loomed ahead—the mysterious target.

  It was Makor, a barren elliptical mound standing at the foot of one of the projecting spurs and rising high in the air. It was difficult to believe that it was real, for it had two strange characteristics: its top plateau was quite flat, as if some giant hand had smoothed it down; and the visible flanks of the mound were perfect earthen slopes, each a glacis forty-five degrees in angle, as if the same monstrous hand had stuck out a finger to round off the edges. It looked unnatural, like a fortress without walls, and this impression was augmented by the harsh rocky spur that rose to the rear, by the hills that rose behind that, and by the rugged mountains which backed up everything. The mound was thus the terminal point of a chain of fortifications, the lowest of four descending steps, and it was perfectly pla
ced both for its own protection and for guarding the important road that passed its feet.

  Its full name was Tell Makor, which signified that the local citizens knew it was not a natural mound, laid down by tectonic forces, but the patiently accumulated residue of one abandoned settlement after another, each resting upon the ruins of its predecessor, reaching endlessly back into history. From the bare rock on which the first community of Makor had been built, to the grassy top, was seventy-one feet, made up of fallen bricks, ruptured stone walls, broken turrets, bits of prehistoric flint, and, most valuable of all, the fragments of pottery that would, when washed and inspected by Dr. Bar-El, tell the story of this solemn, yet exciting spot.

  “We’ve picked the best tell in the country,” Dr. Cullinane assured his team, and he took from his briefcase the preliminary maps made from aerial photographs in which a grid of rectangular squares, ten meters to the side, had been superimposed upon the tell; and at that moment the three archaeologists in the jeep could feel that their will was being imposed upon the mound and would finally squeeze from its secret inner places the remnants of the once vital existence. Yesterday Tell Makor had been a beautiful elliptical mound sleeping on the road from Akko to Damascus; today it was a carefully plotted target where not one pickaxe would be applied aimlessly.

  “Let’s check with the 1/100,000 Palestine map,” Cullinane suggested, and Tabari unfolded a section of that beautiful map, drafted years ago by British engineers. On it the two men made calculations which zeroed in the location of Tell Makor so that other archaeologists around the world could accurately identify it: henceforth the site of their labors would be 17072584, in which the first four numbers indicated the east-west orientation and the last four the north-south. In Israel, in Asia, in the world, there could be no other spot like this, and when the superimposed layers of earth had been penetrated, one by one, the world would be able to say with some exactitude what had happened at 17072584. It was the meticulous re-creation of that history which would occupy John Cullinane and his skilled crew for the ensuing years.

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