A novel

Mira Hamermesh


“The primary fact, never to be forgotten when one thinks of life in Palestine then (at the time of Christ) is that it was an occupied country …… Europeans know from experience what the word ‘occupation’ means, what it implies in the way of constraint and even of bondage and coercion. The Romans held the country in the fullest sense of the term, either directly or by means of their (Jewish) servants.”
(‘Daily Life in Palestine at the Time of Christ’ – Daniel Rops)
“…It seemed not improbable that there might be more scrolls, and certainly fragments, since apparently some of the documents found were in a fragile condition with pieces missing …”
(The Dead Sea Scrolls- J. M. Allegro)

The above two quotes inspired the writing of the story 'PROCULA’S DREAM'. The book is fictional and draws from sources that are historical facts, myths and Biblical dreams. Dreams dreamt in the holy city of Jerusalem brought in their wake not only mystic aftershocks, but also the shadow of doom to the existence of Judea. Against the background of the hard Roman imperial presence, the ephemeral character of dreams takes on a historical reality.

At the heart of the narrative is MARY'S family drama of the impending danger that threatens her son JESUS, with the prospect of his arrest, trial and the Crucifixion. The book 'PROCULA’S DREAM' adds a totally new and original insight into the Passion Story – it enlarges the perspective to include Mary's role and her share in the unfolding drama.
The writers of the four Gospels give scanty information about MARY, beyond attributing a few mystic dreams and her regal lineage. The richness of her personality is obliterated. Her vitality, intelligence, healing talents and the influence it had on Jesus was sacrificed at the altar of creating an archetypal icon to Holy Motherhood, the Mother of the Redeemer, a perfect and a pure vessel through which God could pour his Divine Will.
'PROCULA’S DREAM' establishes MARY as an earthly, corporeal presence. She was the mother of a large family- Jesus had four brothers called James, Joses, Juda and Simon. Also mentioned by Mark (6; 3) and Matthew (13; 55) are two sisters who remained nameless.
The time of the story is set during the month of preparation for the Passover Festival when the Jerusalem Temple becomes the magnet for pilgrims from Judea and the various centres of Jewish Diaspora.
The approaching Passover Festivities are also the time that brings PONTIUS PILATE - the Roman proconsul who survived for posterity as the key to the Crucifixion tragedy - and his wife PROCULA. Surprisingly nowadays nobody recognises the name PROCULA, despite the fact that Roman history if filled with vivid descriptions of wives of famous Romans and even of courtesans. Yet, there is no official record of the wife of the man who had ruled Judea with an iron fist for fourteen years! There is one exception - the author of ST. MATHEW mentions her by name and describes a dream she supposedly has had, relating to Jesus, on the eve of the Crucifixion. Matthew (27:19)
At some point, the paths of JESUS and MARY, PILATE, and PROCULA, cross in Jerusalem, where the Roman rulers and its military cohorts converge for the Jewish Festivities.
Also on the way to Jerusalem Temple is Mary's rich uncle from Alexandria, ( a kind of ancient Onassis figure), a well connected man with spies in Rome, who has sent a warning to Mary's family. He warned that on no account must Jesus appear in Jerusalem with his disciples.
In spite of the disapproval of her own family and from the elders of the Nazarene community that it's not a woman's task, Mary sets out to find her son Jesus to stop him from proceeding to Jerusalem. Jesus ignores her warning, determined to carry out his mission at the Jerusalem Temple. He proceeds on his way, accompanied by his disciples and followers.
Also flocking to reach Jerusalem are numerous Jewish rebels, plotting against Rome.

In despair, Mary makes her way to Jerusalem to seek help from influential officials of the TEMPLE as well as Jews employed by Roman administration. Most of all she is aiming to find access to PROCULA, the power behind the proverbial throne. The encounter between the two women is central to the story - it illuminates the drama of the collision of the two cultures: Pagan Rome and Monotheistic Judaism.
JERUSALEM is the cross road where the lives of Jesus and Pilate, Procula and Mary become knotted together. In the valley where Jews were crucified and where Jesus earned through his agony the Crown of Thorns and the title 'The King of the Jew', is Mary, cradling the dead body of her tortured son. She became the symbol of sorrow, a MATER DOLOROSA of the PIETA.

The novel 'PROCULA'S DREAM' was begun a few years ago, written in sections, in between filming projects. It awaits completion.

(The above story was originally commissioned by David Rose, FILM ON FOUR as a film script in 1999)