Quick of mind and strong in spirit, Esther refuses to suffer the fate of her harem sisters and boldly challenges Xerxes to give of his heart before taking his pleasure, thus sealing her place beside him as queen. While conspiracy spins its diabolical web, Esther's mind and spirit waver, and she is forced to confront the past in order to save her future–and thus an entire nation.
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By GINGER GARRETT
NAVPRESSCopyright © 2005 Ginger Garrett
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Chapter OneNote to the Reader
These diaries, reproduced here in their entirety, were dated using an ancient Babylonian calendar. Explanation must be given so that the modern reader is not confused. Three dates are given at the top of each entry, including: month, the year of king's reign, and year after creation. Ancient calendars, of course, did not include the markers "BC," "AD," "BCE," or "CE." The "number of years after creation" was only a very rough estimate determined by early Jewish priests, using key historical dates given in the first inspired Scriptures.
The months were lunar months. At the first report from two reliable witnesses that a full moon had risen, the first day of the next month was declared. The months corresponded roughly to ours, although their New Year began later:
Nisan April Iyyar May Sivan June Tammuz July Av August Elul September Tishri October Kheshvan November Kislev December Tevet January Shevat February Adar March
Adar II A leap year, occurring approximately every three years
In addition to understanding this dating system, we would like to call to your attention the special features we have added for further study and interest. The Persian Antiquities Authority has graciously allowed us to include news reports and academic commentary in this specialAmerican edition. We hope this will allow you, the reader, to better place these diaries in the context of Esther's world and your own. These features have been set apart in boxes so that you will clearly see what is our own addition and what is original to the scrolls.
Hitler Invades Poland
SEPTEMBER 1, 1939
Hitler launches an unprovoked attack and begins his reign of terror. His first public proclamation after the invasion closes all synagogues, effective on the first day of the festival of Purim. Purim is the Jewish holiday that celebrates the heroism of one woman, Esther, and her triumph against the evil of Jewish genocide. Hitler was crafting a horrific annihilation for his Jewish captives, and Purim would give them one last shining hope.
Hitler's men raced against time to destroy the synagogues and wipe the festival of Purim from the mind of every Jew. "Unless Germany is victorious," Hitler shrieked to his men, "Jews could then celebrate a second triumphant Purim festival!" Hitler may have hated the entire race, but he feared one woman. Even her dusty memory could threaten his bloody regime. Who was this woman that gave a madman pause? Could she even now call to her people across the centuries?
FROM THE ART NEWSPAPER.COM, INTERNATIONAL EDITION
London and Paris Markets Flooded with Looted Iranian Antiquities [REPORT ON JANUARY 2001 DISCOVERY] By Edek Osser
JIROFT, IRAN. In January 2001 a group of Iranians from Jiroft in the southwest province of Kerman stumbled upon an ancient tomb. Inside they found hoards of objects decorated with highly distinctive engravings of animals, mythological figures and architectural motifs.
They did not realize it at the time but they had just made one of the most remarkable archeological discoveries in recent years.
A few weeks after the discovery, officials from Iran's Ministry of Culture, vastly outnumbered by the local people, watched hopelessly as thousands systemically dug up the area. The locals set up a highly organized impromptu system to manage the looting: each family was allocated an equal plot of six-metres to dig.
This organized pillaging continued for an entire year. Dozens of tombs were discovered, some containing up to 60 objects, and thousands of ancient objects were removed.
FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES FEBRUARY 2003
War in Iraq Would Halt All Digs in Region By John Noble Wilford
War in Iraq could halt archeology not just in that country but across the Middle East, experts say, and could result in some of the earliest cities of Mesopotamia being bombed or looted into ruins. Archeologists have set aside their individual concerns and have tried to alert American officials to the cultural devastation that war and its aftermath could bring to the land of the oldest civilization, where urban life and the written word originated some 5,500 years ago.
Archeologists and art collectors alike agreed that their greatest concern is looting after a war. In the Persian Gulf War of 1991, damage known to ancient sites was slight, but looting afterwards left museums and excavations in shambles. Assyrian sculptures in northern Iraq were sawed up so the pieces could be taken out of the country, archeologists said. Unexcavated sites in the south were bulldozed by plunderers, who hauled artifacts away in dump trucks. One expert said a diplomat's car was stopped from crossing the border from Iraq into Jordan with 80 illicit artifacts. The expert would not say what country the diplomat was from.
Dr. John Malcolm Russell of the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston said that in the last decade "a flood of many thousands of undocumented Iraqi antiquities has been surfacing on the market, visible at every level of the market from the big auction houses to eBay."
U.S. AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT BUREAU FOR DEMOCRACY, CONFLICT, AND HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE (DCHA) OFFICE OF U.S. FOREIGN DISASTER ASSISTANCE (OFDA) DECEMBER 29, 2003
On December 26, 2003, at 5:27 a.m. local time, an earthquake struck Kerman Province in southeastern Iran. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake measured 6.6 on the Richter scale and had a depth of 10 km. The epicenter was near the city of Bam, 180 km southeast of the provincial capital of Kerman and 975 km southeast of Tehran.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) reports that an estimated 100,000 to 120,000 people live in Bam and the surrounding villages, all of whom have been affected by the earthquake.
International media reports estimate that the earthquake has resulted in the deaths of 20,000 to 30,000 people.
Government of Iran (GOI) officials estimate that 25,000 to 40,000 have been injured. GOI officials report that 80 percent of houses have been destroyed in the immediate area of Bam, and an estimated 70,000 residents are homeless.
MARCH 4, 2004 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ancient Diaries of Queen Esther Acquired
A twelve-year-old Iranian girl has offered for sale the publication rights to a box of antiquities that include the sealed scrolls believed to be the personal diaries of Queen Esther, who ruled in Persia approximately 480-465 BC.
The owner will not say how she came into possession of the artifacts. She was discovered by humanitarian workers after the December earthquake wandering in the streets with the box and a few belongings. Her family was killed by the earthquake, and she was seeking to sell the box to pay for transportation to another city to live with relatives.
The diaries, which are recorded on scrolls in Aramaic, the adopted language of the ancient Persian Empire, could bring in at least $130 million at auction.
Although it is difficult at this time to verify all details, media outlets have reported that the girl is now living outside of Iran, possibly in Paris with an unnamed relief worker, and has successfully negotiated with her former government to place the scrolls in Iran's national museum. Conditional to the museum acquiring the scrolls, they will be duplicated and published for public review. All royalties will be payable to the girl, who will also retain all future publication rights.
Fourth Day of the Month of Av Year 3414 After Creation
If you have opened this, you are the chosen one.
For this book has been sealed in the tomb of the ancients of Persia, never to be opened, I pray, until G-d has put His finger on a new woman of destiny, a woman who will rise up and change her nation. But we will not talk of your circumstances and the many reasons this book may have fallen into your hands. There are no mistakes with prayer. You have indeed been called. If this sounds too strange, if you must look around your room and question whether G-d's finger has perhaps slipped, if you are not a woman with the means to change a nation, then join me on a journey. You must return with me now to a place without hope, a nation that had lost sight of G-d, a girl with nothing to offer and no one to give it to.
I must introduce myself first as I truly am: an exiled Jew and an orphan. My given name was Hadassah, but the oppression of exile has stripped that, too, from me. I am now called Esther so that I may blend in with my captors. My people, the Hebrew nation, had been sent out of our homeland after a bitter defeat in battle. We were allowed to settle in the kingdom of Persia, but we were not allowed to truly prosper there. We blended in, our lives preserved, but our heritage and customs were forced underground. Our hearts, once set only on returning to Jerusalem, were set out to wither in the heat of the Arabian sun. My cousin Mordecai rescued me when I was orphaned, and we lived in the capital city of Susa under the reign of King Xerxes. Mordecai had a small flock of sheep that I helped tend, and we sold their fleece in the market. If times were good, we would sell a lamb for someone's celebration. It was always for others to celebrate. We merely survived. But Mordecai was kind and good, and I was not forced into dishonor like the other orphans I had once known. This is how my story begins, and I give you these details not for sympathy but so that you will know that I am a girl well acquainted with bitter reality. I am not given to the freedom in flights of fantasy. But how can I explain to you the setting of my story? It is most certainly far removed from your experience. For I suspect that in the future, women will know freedom. And freedom is not an easy thing to forget, even if only to entertain an orphan's story.
But you must forget now. I was born into a world, and into this story, where even the bravest women were faceless specters. Once married, they could venture out of their homes only with veils and escorts. No one yet had freed our souls. Passion and pleasure, like freedom, were the domain of men, and even young girls knew the wishes of their hearts would always be subject to a man's desire for wealth. A man named Pericles summed up my time so well in his famed oration: "The greatest glory of a woman is to be least talked about by men, whether they are praising you or criticizing you."
Our role was clear: We were to be objects of passion, to receive a man's attention mutely, and to respond only with children for the estate. Even the most powerful woman of our time, the beautiful Queen Vashti, was powerless. That was my future as a girl, and I dared not lift my eyes above its horizon. That is how I enter this story. But give me your hand, and let us walk back now, past the crumbling walls of history, to this world forgotten but a time yet remembered. Let me tell you the story of a girl unsparingly plunged into heartache and chaos, who would save a nation.
My name is Esther, and I will be queen.
Excerpted from Chosen by GINGER GARRETT Copyright © 2005 by Ginger Garrett. Excerpted by permission.
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