Armenian Jerusalem
There was nothing on earth to compare with the ineluctable moment, of silence, of tranquility among the sands of the wilderness. Not a single sound. Not even a heartbeat.     Never in his life had the stranger from a distant land felt such euphoria. Never had he experienced such a thrill.     In the elemental silence of the parched hills around Jericho, the young artist from Russia, Alexei Shtraimishev, was having communion with his own soul.     Suddenly, without any warning, the hard-nosed theatrical director from the former Soviet Union was engulfed in a maelstrom of delectable strains of angelic music, cascading upon him in waves, drowning him. There was an instantaneous uplifting of the soul as it danced to the echo of the music. And then the brief glimpse into the mystery of eternity was over.     Life would never be the same again for Alexei, for having heard the music of the angels, he experienced a dramatic turnaround that he describe as akin to Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus.     As he recalls his revelation among the seared, forbidding Biblical hills, the wiry new immigrant's eyes shine with a gentle glow. There is no escaping the nagging suspicion that this fellow is no more than just another of the inestimable number of crackpots that infest the Holy Land. But as you listen to him expound his theory, and then put it into practice, your doubts are resolved.     Alexei is a Jew, but he has had the benefit of an early exposure to Armenians, in Tbilsi, Georgia where he had stayed for some time with an Armenian family. The fact that his wife Angela's father is Armenian (his name is Robert Karabedian), has enhanced Alexei's Armenian connection.     Haunted by the memory of his Jericho experience, Alexei decided to embark on a spiritual journey that would take him to the spiritual wellsprings of the Far East, particularly India, Ceylon and Japan and that would deepen and reinforce the new direction his life had taken.     He could not shake off the conviction that he had been given a message. But for two years, its content eluded him - until he returned to Jerusalem, with his wife, to settle down here.     Six months after his arrival, he knew. And the stupendous discovery he had made was unveiled to a few close supporters, like the fellow Russian Jew, Avraham Shifrin, a leading scholar and writer on mysticism and esoteric religions, and the Christian pastor, Ruth Heflin. At their prodding, he decided to go public and share his secret with the world.     The discovery was as simple as it was earth-shattering: the Bible can be read not only as prose but also as a musical score. Alexei's insight into this revelation did not come easily. Frantically, he had set about trying to relive the experience, to recapture the music he head heard, but it was an almost impossible task since he could not read a musical score, nor had he ever written or played a note before. But driven by his desperate zeal, he finally decoded the mystery of the music buried in the original Hebrew words of the Bible.     He has arrived at his discovery using a simple computation that assigns each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet its own musical equivalent, based an a chromatic scale of 12-notes which encompasses not only the regular 7-note octave but also 5 other half-notes.     This week, Alexei gave a selected audience his alternative glimpse into the mystery of creation, at the Dormition Abbey, the imposing Benedictine cathedral that is the traditional site of the Virgin's transition. The Abbot, Father Nikolaus Egender, is known in  religious circles as one of the most enlightened Christian clerics in the land, with a yen for ecumenism. And this evening would riot have been possible without his active support.     With Shifrin's wife acting as interpreter Alexei explained how he had arrived at his discovery, in an effort to make his hearers realize that the "'word'" that was "'in the beginning,"' that is, the sound of creative vibrations, is not just a symbol, but a reality.     And then, there, seated in the nave of the Cathedral, a stone's throw from the, 500-year-old walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, and a host of other historic and archaeological wonders, the audience was given a preview of the music of the Bible, as played on the church organ, the only musical instrument that could do justice to the majestic outpouring of the word of God.
Isaiah Scroll
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