In April of 1948, Boston University history professor Evan Sinclair receives a telegram notifying him that his father, Professor Clive Robert Sinclair, has been reported missing from his post at the Palestine Archaeological Museum. Fearing for his father's well-being, Evan and Clive's longtime friend, Mervin Smythe, travel to Palestine on the eve of the first Arab-Israeli War.
Evan finds his father and far more-a lost love, a son he never knew he had, and covert elements of the Third Reich positioned in Palestine before the end of World War II. Having infiltrated both Arab and Jewish populations, the Nazis seek to use counter-intelligence and terror to stoke the fires of hatred and fear between Arabs and Jews. The goal is to drive the British from Palestine and to seize Jerusalem as the capital of a reborn Third Reich with the legendary Knights Templar treasure as plunder and the Temple Mount as their fortress. To defeat them, Evan finds that he must risk everything.
Filled with real people from the pages of history as well as fictional characters, Foxes in the Vineyard follows Evan as he battles not only for his ideals, but his life.
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FOXES IN THE VINEYARDTemplars, Nazis, and the Battle for Jerusalem
By Michael J. Cooper
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Michael J. Cooper
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFive years later ... Boston University April 18, 1948
Professor Evan Sinclair paused in the stairwell and looked up at the tiers of students as the lecture hall door wheezed on its pneumatic arm and settled closed. God, they keep getting younger. Stepping to the chalkboard, he steadied the wooden frame with his left hand, made a few quick strokes across the black slate, and dropped the chalk into the tray. Flanking the chalkboard, a bank of iron radiator heaters kept the hall warm—too warm.
After eighteen years on faculty, Evan felt at home in the aging lecture hall with its faded institutional light brown paint, high ceiling, thick beams, and terraces of old wooden desks. A wall of single pane windows with drawn tan shades filtered the late afternoon sunlight.
Warily approaching fifty, Evan wore wire rim glasses, a white shirt and bow tie with a tweed vest that closely followed the contours of his chest. His beard was trimmed short and streaked with gray. He brushed the chalk dust from his hands, and the bright particles whirled in slanting columns of evening sunlight. Gripping the smooth sides of the wooden lectern with both hands, he leaned forward and began speaking.
"We will continue today ..." As his voice filled the hall, the spirited disharmony of talking students, creaking chairs, and rustling papers settled into silence. "... with the historical record in Scotland, Ireland and elsewhere that might shed light on the disappearance of the Templar fleet and treasure in the early 14th century." He pointed at the date written on the chalkboard, "Friday, October the thirteenth, 1307. Mr. Zaritt, would you be so kind as to tell us what happened on that day?"
A skinny young man with a brown halo of curly hair stood up and cleared his throat. "The order of the Templars was disbanded, Professor Sinclair."
"By ..." Evan coaxed.
"By Pope Clement the Fifth, sir."
"Precisely!" Evan slammed his hand down on the wooden lectern with a report that echoed through the room. "Very good, Mr. Zaritt. You may sit down." He stepped back to the chalkboard. "The Templars were declared heretics, enemies of the faith, and subjected to an inquisition. The arrests began at dawn on Friday, October the 13th. Friday the thirteenth ..." he tapped the board, "Now you know where the notion of unlucky Friday the thirteenth originated—right here." He continued speaking as he returned to the lectern. "The Templars were among the wealthiest and most influential people of their society, but on that day they became dispossessed fugitives." He picked another name from the roster. "Mr. Mahoney, why did the Pope disband the order?"
In the highest tier, a student stood up but said nothing.
"We're waiting, Mr. Mahoney."
"I don't know, sir."
"Tell me, Mr. Mahoney ... did you do the assigned reading?"
"No, sir. I did not."
"Thank you for your candor, Mr. Mahoney. You may sit." Evan picked another name. "Perhaps you can tell us, Miss Brown. Why would Pope Clement disband this powerful order of knights?"
A petite young woman with curly red hair stood up and smoothed out her light green chemise. "Because the King of France told him to?"
"Miss Brown, was that a question or a statement?"
As a wave of suppressed laughter rippled through the class, the young woman took a deep breath. "That was a statement, sir. King Philip the Fourth controlled the papacy. He influenced the Pope to disband the order."
"Well done, Miss Brown!" Evan exclaimed and brought his hand down on the lectern with another loud bang. "Prompted by greed and jealousy, King Philip and the Pope moved against this wealthy and influential group of warrior monks. But, let's take a moment to review how an order, sworn to poverty, came to accrue such wealth and power." He turned and, with his hands clasped behind, walked slowly toward the wall of windows on his right. "Their original mission was to protect pilgrims traveling to and from the Holy Land. To this end, they developed their own navy and merchant marine." To protect pilgrims ... he thought and glanced out between the drawn shades to watch the glowing edge of the setting sun disappear behind the dark stone buildings on the far side of the commons. I suppose teaching is one way ...
"The Templars developed their own ports throughout the Mediterranean, storehouse cities throughout Europe, and they came to control nearly all commerce between North Africa, Europe, and the Holy Land. Over time, their holdings in titled property, gems and precious metals was such that we cannot even begin to imagine." He sauntered back to the lectern. "Thus, the order of the Templars, once known as the Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon, became a very rich and very powerful force. In view of this, and the greed of King Philip, he was determined to seize their assets."
Gripping the sides of the lectern, he leaned forward. "But, in order to seize the Templar treasure, he had to disband the order, and to do this, he needed a pretext. The notion of heresy would do nicely, and the Templars provided ample grounds. After all, knights of the order had lived among the Moslems and Jews of Palestine for two centuries; they spoke their languages, they conducted commerce and developed friendships with these apostates. Worst of all, the knights endeavored to reconcile Christianity with Judaism and Islam-indeed, a dangerous heresy. And if that wasn't enough, the Templars seemed to go out of their way to be mysterious and secretive.
"Since knights of the order were originally quartered on the site of Solomon's palace in Jerusalem, they assumed for themselves the legacy of the armies of Solomon. They saw themselves not merely as protectors of pilgrims, but as avatars of the armies that conquered Canaan and toppled the walls of Jericho. They mantled themselves with the aura of Solomon's Royal Guard, Joshua's army, the Maccabees, the Grail Knights. They saw themselves not merely as military monks, but as high mystical initiates, blessed with divine power, charged with a sacred mission."
Evan walked to a map of Europe that covered part of the back wall of the lecture hall and took the long wooden pointer from its bracket next to the map. "Under the direction of Pope Clement, the inquisition began in France." He tapped the map with the pointer's black rubber tip. "Then spread to England and Spain. Many knights were tortured and killed. But about two hundred escaped France—with the Templar treasure. Where did they go?" He held up two fingers, "We know two things for certain; they escaped to the sea, and they split into two separate groups. The larger contingent with most of the ships and all of the treasure disappeared, while a smaller group of knights led the officers of the inquisition on a diversionary chase—easily traceable, even today. They crossed the Channel here, and sailed to Ireland's Atlantic coast, stopping at Galway." He guided the pointer over the map. "Heading north, they rounded the coast of Donegal with landfall in Scotland, at the Mull of Kintyre. Once here they were able to hide because Scotland was in turmoil—fighting for its freedom from English domination. But, where exactly did they hide?" He looked out at the students. "Anyone?"
No hand was raised.
"I'll show you." Evan smiled as he reached up and pulled down a projection screen. "OK, Roger," he called, "let's have the slides."
The lights dimmed and the first lanternslide glowed on the screen. "Last year, I led a field study along the valley of the north fork of the Esk River. That's what you see here." Evan traced the pointer over the screen. "This paved road next to the river dates to the early 14th century. Next slide, please. In this cliff face next to the road, we found a dressed stone window, and behind it, a long shaft leading to a hidden warren of tunnels—perfect for hiding a small army. Next slide, please, Roger. This is Rosslyn Chapel—a miniature cathedral on the cliff's edge overlooking the valley—an anachronism in stone; the chapel reflects a level of artistry and masonry known only to the major European centers. Yet, here it sits, in the middle of nowhere. Next slide, please. Here's an example of the chapel's interior—full of carved images, which I'm in the process of cataloging. Incidentally, I'll be going back in July and we still have a limited number of openings. Speak to Roger after class if you're interested in joining us. OK, lights please."
He reached down, tugged the bottom edge of the projection screen and it snapped upward. "Everything suggests that knights of this contingent hid here from the inquisition. But they didn't stay hidden long—not when the English were poised to crush the free Scotland that was sheltering them—not when Scottish independence, championed by William Wallace, was about to be extinguished." He looked out at the students. "Who can tell me what became of William Wallace?"
A hand shot up. It belonged to the young woman he had called on earlier.
"Yes, Miss Brown?"
"Executed by King Edward, sir," she said loudly and without hesitation.
"Very good, Miss Brown. Scotland was now led by Robert Bruce, and in the summer of 1314, he led a small force of six thousand Scots against over twenty thousand well-armed English troops on the field of Bannockburn at the gateway to the Highlands. Badly outnumbered, the Scots were taking heavy casualties and nearly beaten. But, then," Evan paused, resting the pointer on his shoulder, "something happened; first-hand reports tell of a fresh force of mounted knights in full mail who ranged themselves under Bruce's banner. With their appearance, the English turned and fled the field. The Scots won their freedom. And the knights? They vanished from history, perhaps to join their brethren—and where was that larger contingent with most of the fleet and all of the treasure?"
Evan looked out at the crowded tiers of students; hunched forward in their cramped half-desks, no hand went up. Indeed, not one of them spoke or even seemed to breathe. Evan smiled to himself as he turned back to the map. "If the diversionary group went north, we conjecture the other went south, through the Straights of Gibraltar here, perhaps to North Africa or to Cypress." He moved the pointer, tracing the route across the bright blue Mediterranean of the map. "Or perhaps further east. Perhaps to Palestine ..."
There was a quick knock, and a side door opened. Professor Mervin Smythe, the department chairman, peeked in and waved Evan over.
"Roger, please distribute and review next week's outline," Evan called to his teaching assistant as he returned the pointer to the embrace of its metal bracket. "I'll be right back."
Stepping into the hallway, Evan saw Smythe, hands jammed into his trouser pockets, pacing the hall. Attired in a tweed jacket, he was in his late sixties, mildly stout and the little hair that fringed his head was white. His pince-nez rode low on his sharp nose.
"OK Mervin, what's so damned important that you had to interrupt me—"
"This telegram just came," Smythe said and took a brown envelope from his jacket pocket. "It's from the American Consulate in Jerusalem."
Evan tore open the envelope, slipped out the buff-colored paper, and read the pasted teletype aloud.
PROFESSOR C R SINCLAIR WITH PALESTINE ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM JERUSALEM EXCAVATION MISSING TWO WEEKS EFFECTS REMAIN AT YMCA HOTEL PLEASE ADVISE
He drew an impatient breath. "What's the old fool gotten himself into this time—"
"Stop right there, Evan!" Smythe cut in. "Your father is missing ..."
"So what do you want me to do?" Evan shot back and handed the telegram back to Smythe.
"What do I want you to do? Clive is missing, Evan!" Smythe exclaimed, his voice echoing sharply in the empty hallway. "You must go to Palestine and search for him!"
"Really, Mervin—he's perfectly capable of looking after himself—"
"Not another word!" Smythe, jowls trembling, waved the telegram in Evan's face. "You've got to go to Palestine, now!"
Evan leaned against the light brown wall next to the lecture hall door, the wall cool against his back. He knew Smythe was right. "If I go, Mervin, it won't be just to see what Clive is up to—I've been meaning to go, anyway. I want to see why the Jews and Arabs are at each other's throats—it wasn't the way things were when I left ..."
"I don't care why you go, just go!"
"OK, but I'll need someone to cover my courses."
"Done. And I'll make sure that mine are covered as well."
"I'm going with you."
Chapter TwoJerusalem April 20, 1948
Morning sunlight spread a bright canopy over the crowded houses of the Moslem Quarter and filtered through vaulted arches into the shadows of the open-air souk lining the narrow alleys below. At the top of a stone stairway leading up from El Hakkari Lane was a verandah connected to a house of rose-colored limestone blocks. On the verandah, a circular table covered by a white cloth was set for three. The edges of the cloth moved under a light breeze.
An old man rested his hands on the stone balustrade, leaning forward to look down into the shadowed lane. Dressed in khaki shirt and pants, his full beard was white and trimmed short. In one hand he held a folded newspaper. Professor Clive Robert Sinclair closed his eyes and inhaled the redolent aroma of tobacco, coffee and cardamom. Then he turned and sat down to breakfast. Sunlight glinted off his glasses as he scanned the front page of The Palestine Post.
Sitting across from Clive, his host and old friend, Rahman B'shara, shook his head and muttered as he read the Arabic daily, El Kuds. An abundance of curly hair protruded from beneath his purple fez and his full black beard was flecked with gray. When his wife, Fatima, stepped onto the porch with a foot-high copper coffee decanter, he stood and stretched.
Fatima's straight-cut gown of cream-colored linen was sashed with a silk girdle and decorated with an embroidered breastplate. Unveiled, a cloth of white muslin covered her head, framing the smooth dark skin of her face. As she poured the coffee, Rahman wrapped his arms around her from behind.
"Ah, Fatima and fresh coffee, all that I might ever desire!"
"Look out, you clumsy bear!" She smiled and pushed him away. "Or you will taste this coffee elsewhere."
"My love, you have conquered me!" Rahman raised his hands in mock surrender and settled back in his chair.
"Good morning, Professor Sinclair." Fatima smiled as she filled Clive's cup. "You slept well, I trust?"
"Thank you, dear lady. Your generosity is exceeded only by your beauty."
"And your charm, my dear Professor Sinclair, is exceeded only by your poor vision." She smiled demurely and placed the decanter on the table.
Their two grown daughters, Maya and Khadija, wearing simple dresses of white muslin, brought plates of sliced tomato, lemon, cucumber, hard-boiled eggs and a bowl of sour cream.
Fatima placed a crystal vase filled with scarlet poppies in the center of the table. "Good appetite, gentlemen!" she said and led her daughters back into the house.
As the door closed, Rahman shook his finger at Clive. "My friend, you must get the rest of your things from the YMCA Hotel and stay with us here. You mustn't even think of going back there."
Clive spooned sugar into his coffee. "Perhaps you're right. Since the antiquities dealer is apparently no longer interested in dealing with us, there's no reason for my being there. I just wish I knew what we might have said to offend him."
"I shouldn't worry about that!" Rahman chuckled. "I've known Jalil Kando for years and it's impossible to offend him! Believe me, I've tried!"
"I simply don't understand what happened. The sale of the first three scrolls went so smoothly—Eleazar and I were paying top dollar and meeting all his conditions ..."
"Perhaps it was a question of trust."
"Kando seemed to trust us completely. He even left scrolls and manuscript fragments with us to examine for weeks at a time. Then, just like that—" Clive snapped his fingers. "He stopped showing up for our meetings in the YMCA library."
"Have you tried contacting him?"
"Of course. Eleazar tried, I tried, but he doesn't return our calls. Perhaps we were just out-bid by someone else."
Excerpted from FOXES IN THE VINEYARD by Michael J. Cooper Copyright © 2011 by Michael J. Cooper. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I thought this was a good thriller, echoes of Indiana Jones--- but at the end,totally ridiculous.
Dr. MIchael Cooper is a wordsmith of the old school. He knows his work. He puts you among the characters and events as they happen. His story flows with history as it happens. One is immediately aware the good Doctor is a historical researcher that has walked over the ground he writes of -while fiction, one can feel the passion Michael Cooper has for his subject. The historical facts that interplay with the later world problem of Nazism keeps the reader wanting more - what is next? And there is away a next. The human element of romance is there, the story is submerged in mystery and I challenge the reader to put the book down before reading every word - it just won't happen. .