Snap Judgment: The little tomb around the corner

calevbendavid88 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Today we 'know' that my neighborhood is home to the tomb not only of Jesus, but of his mother Mary, his brother Joseph, his companion Mary Magdalene and even their son - yes, their son - Judas (yes, Judas) Little did I know when I bought an apartment in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot last year that I was buying into a piece of sacred history so profound it threatens to shake the very foundations of Western civilization - or at least, the local real estate market. At the time, like most Jerusalemites, I thought of Talpiot as nothing more than a quiet, leafy neighborhood on the capital's southern border, best known in the past as the long-time residence of Nobel Prize-winning author S.Y. Agnon, and in the present as a perfectly pleasant place to live (save for some wicked morning rush-hour traffic jams). Now, of course, we know better. Today we know that Talpiot is home to the tomb not only of Jesus, but of his mother Mary, his brother Joseph, his companion Mary Magdalene and even their son - yes, their son - Judas (yes, Judas). We know this thanks to a documentary that makes this very claim that aired this week around the world. And we know those claims must have some validity, given the extensive press coverage awarded them. Surely all those involved, including huckster "documentarian" Simcha Jacobovici, Titanic director James Cameron and all those media outlets (including this one) that gave this story so much play were only acting out of a sincere desire "to bear witness to the truth." It would certainly be the height of cynicism to suggest instead that they were influenced by the success of The Da Vinci Code, which opened so many minds (and wallets) to the theological (and financial) possibilities inherent in making fantastic claims about the origins of Christianity, and then reporting on them. In fact, it would be downright un-Christian-like to believe that all these good people were in this case far more interested in serving Mammon than you-know-who. Naturally, that goes for me too. TRUE, SINCE I now own an apartment in the vicinity of the "Jesus tomb," I might soon see some material benefit from this astounding discovery. It won't be long, I imagine, before entrepreneurs looking to open in the area religious-trinket shops, like those that crowd around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City, will be knocking at my very own door and offering to buy my place at well above its current market value. I guess it's also likely that as Jacobovici and Cameron look to expand their archeological investigations in the area around the Jesus tomb, my own little patch of Talpiot garden might well yield up similar sacred (and valuable) relics. Okay, I admit that 10 years ago, when BBC-TV first aired its own documentary on this very same tomb (first unearthed in 1980), I wrote a piece deriding the sensational claims that were repeated to much wider notice this week. Noting that the ossuaries (burial boxes) in the tomb bear some of the most common names in first-century Judea, I scoffed that believing this was the Jesus and Mary of the Christian Bible "would be like someone finding a centuries-old grave in Ireland bearing the name Patrick and taking that as evidence that they had found the resting place of St. Patrick." Nor will I deny that when the story broke five years ago about the so-called "James (brother of Jesus) ossuary," which Jacobovici and Cameron now claim came from the Talpiot tomb, I wrote a piece for this paper titled "Jesus for suckers" that derided the discovery as an outright fake (a view shared by the Antiquities Authority and the justice system, currently trying the ossuary's owner Oded Golan for fraud and forgery). In retrospect though, I now see how hasty and cynical those judgments were - since all that was well before I myself bought into Talpiot. The truth is, ever since I moved into the neighborhood, I've felt an almost inexplicable sense of sanctity and holiness hanging in the air around my apartment. At first I attributed that simply to my own presence in the community. In recent months though, I have borne witness to near-supernatural occurrences which, in retrospect, might now be seen as signs I failed to correctly interpret as portending this week's astounding revelation. For example, just last week I managed to drive out of Talpiot in just 15 minutes during the morning rush hour - which believe me, can only be defined as a truly miraculous event. So count me in among the believers. The Talpiot resident who lives immediately next to the tomb told The Jerusalem Post this week: "I will be glad if this turns out to be real, and Christian tourists from all over the world come to Israel because of it." So will I. And when those tourists come, drop by the Ben-David residence. Then think about what it would be like to own a home just a few minutes walk away from the real resting place of Jesus and Mary. I'd call that a priceless experience. But don't worry - it might be well be a price you can afford, and one that I can't refuse. The writer is director of the Jerusalem office of The Israel Project.