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SWEEPING SAND FROM THE STORY OF A QUEEN

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Just after I’d met my husband Steve, but before we’d started dating seriously,  I made a quick trip to Israel. I wanted to see the Sinai before it was returned to Egypt. It was astonishingly beautiful –ribbons of multicolored rock rising above vast sweeps of desert sand. But I couldn’t

Hasmonean palace, Jericho, courtesy of E. Netzer, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

go to the Sinai without spending some time in Jerusalem.

I was walking down King Solomon Street toward King David Street, when suddenly I found myself looking at a sign that said, in Hebrew, the street of Queen Shalom-zion. A Jewish queen? Why had I never heard of her?

I married Steve a year after I came back from that trip. We’ve lived together for nearly thirty years. I’ve spent the last thirty years writing two books, raising two kids, and getting ready to write the story of Shalom-zion.

For seven years, I’ve been researching, writing, rewriting, and rewriting. I’ve traveled to Jericho and walked through the scant remains of a palace she built. I stepped on a mosaic floor I’m sure she stepped on. There was a bench where she must have reclined, alongside twin swimming pools where she probably swam. The only witnesses were my guide, a goat nosing among the weeds, and the sand sifting across a pattern of pink and blue stones.

I’ve looked for references to Shlomzion in Jewish sources and found almost nothing. So little remains of her reign that I’ve wondered if all traces were deliberately wiped out. When you hear her story, you may agree with my suspicions. Yet the Judaism we know today, the Judaism of the rabbis, might not exist without her intervention.

Next week, in my next blog entry, I’ll tell you how I began to track her down.

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