September 23, 2013
Releasing an Elah Valley SpiritArieh O'Sullivan -- Srigim, Israel -- June 2013
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I live in Israel in the hills overlooking the spot in the Elah Valley where David slew Goliath and occasionally seek out interesting stones from previous civilizations to decorate my garden in my communal village of Srigim (aka Li-On), southwest of Jerusalem. One day I spotted in the nearby forest what appeared to be a tomb. Its carved corners in the limestone indicated it was man-made, probably from the Second Temple period or Roman/Byzantine era. Now this isn’t unusual since the hills here in the Judean foothills are peppered with ancient villages and burial caves.
About a month ago I decided to explore it a little more. Accompanied by Timmy, my Jack Russell dog, and a spade and bucket, I came to the tomb one morning and gently started clearing out the site. After poking inside the pile of stones to chase out any snakes that may have been lurking inside, I started to remove them and clear out the opening. I came upon a second corner cut in the stone. It was a rectangular pit, about the size of a refrigerator, and it had a stone slab, about 30 centimeters thick covering half, the other half was broken and filling it. After clearing out these stones I took a peeked inside. About two feet down into the black hole I could see the mud fill that had seeped in over the millennia. Resting on top of it was the shell of a turtle; God knows how long it had been there. I don’t know how much time passed, but I slipped inside for a look.
Nothing. Just xeric earth. I dug down about two more feet and came upon the stone bottom in one corner. It appeared to be a sort of stone sarcophagus that may have been buried long ago. I sat on the edge, my feet dangling inside, Timmy the dog panting before me as I wiped the sweat away with a muddy sleeve. It was a hot morning with clear blue summer skies. Suddenly, I felt a heavy breeze run across my left cheek and toss my hair into the sky. I looked up. The trees were still. It was a dead, windless day. Timmy let out a low growl and then a sharp bark. He’d felt it too. I swung around me. Nobody. Just me and the forest and the dog and the tomb. Being a native of New Orleans and raised with an awareness of ghosts, I knew what to do. “Can I help you I?” I said.
Then a little louder, “Can I be of assistance to you?” The air grew thick. It became an effort to breath. I climbed out and took a few steps back. Waited. The breeze never returned. I laughed it off, joking with Timmy that we’d just been visited by a ghost. “Maybe it’s Goliath?” I jested. But walking backwards I took a few photos and left it, believing that maybe I’d just released someone’s spirit. In the Holy Land you never know where that might end up.