November 21, 2002
  • Samaritan Kantor in Holon has Heart Attack

  • The Levites were on Mount Gerizim, Not Mount Ebal

  • Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church

  • Could this Papyri be Samaritan related?

  • The Tomb of the Last Hasmonean?

  • Samaritan Remains still in Gaza

  • Books on Shechem


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Samaritan Kantor in Holon has Heart Attack

By the Editor

Photo by Eyal Cohen


   The Samaritan community of Holon is happy to hear that Assaf Cohen ben Tabya ben Pinhas is recovery from a recent heart attack on November 10th. Assaf is doing well despite doctors beliefs at the time, that Assaf would not survive. Prayers made by the community were answered and his health has improved.

   You may have seen Assaf's photo in the last SU carrying the Torah. Assaf has been the official cantor at the synagogue for seventeen years in Holon.

    It was too close a call! We are happy to hear that Assaf is doing much better and pray for his speedy recovery.


The Levites were on Mount Gerizim, Not Mount Ebal

   From the Editor: Shomron

    'After that they separated the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali; these went and stood on Mount Ebal. The tribes of Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin having with them the ark of the covenant of the Lord carried by the Levite priests, led by the High Priest Eleazar and his son Phinehas and brother Ithamar, with all the Elders, Judges and Officers of Israel. The eldest priests blessed the whole congregation of Israel in the name of the Lord and they recited all the words of the blessing over them. And the glory of the Lord appeared above the ark of the testimony. After this the Levites turned their faces toward Mount Ebal and they recited the words of the curse as the Lord had commanded Moses.'

    The section of verses above was taken from the Samaritan Book of Days (book of Joshua). The verses are connected to Deuteronomy 27-28, wherein are the blessings and the curses said by the tribes of Israel as instructed by God. It is well known that the Samaritans' claim that the altar was built on mount Gerizim, where as the Jewish version, as well as the typical Christian writings say that the Altar was built on mount Ebal. The location of the altar has always been a major controversy.

    If you have noticed, the Samaritan book of Days informs us that the priests, being Levites, were on mount Gerizim with the Ark of the testimony, or Covenant as it is also known. After the Levites said the blessings, they turned their heads toward mount Ebal. But of course this is the Samaritan writing, but it does line up with the instructions that were given to Moses:

    "And Moses charged the people the same day, saying, These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people, when ye come over Jordan; Simeon, and Levi and Judah and Issachar, and Joseph and Benjamin." (Deuteronomy 27:11-12)

   The instructions illustrates that the tribe of Levi were to stand on mount Gerizim. And with the Levites of course had to have the Ark with them to perform the sacrifice associated with the momentous occasion. The Samaritan writing does in fact line up with the instructions on which mount the Levites were to be on. But, the Levites with all the Elders, Judges and Officers of Israel must have had a very interesting long walk if the altar was placed on Ebal. According to the Samaritan writings, the priests and the others would not have had to take the walk since they were already located on mount Gerizim. It would seem logical that these important people would have been near the altar and the ark. Especially Joshua, he would have had built the altar and then go to mount Gerizim, since he belonged to the tribe of Joseph, and then return to Ebal. But the Samaritan information places the altar on Gerizim, making Joshua close to the altar that he made therefore being also able to observe the sacrifice.

   The altar would also have to be watched my the Levites so that no defilement would occur that would have violated the offering. This altar would have had also all the other Levites that were involved in the offerings, since each had a different important duty. If in fact the tribe of Levi was divided and not all were standing on mount Gerizim, then a violation of the instructions took place. But, no notice of this violation is to be found. All the items for the altar, such as water (there is no water on Ebal, Gerizim has springs) and firewood would have also had to be brought to, then watched by the Levite-priests and not defiled by anyone.

    For all general purposes, mount Gerizim would have been the best location for the offering on the stone altar. The other important issue concerning this altar is the significance of the blessings that were placed with the offerings. Take for example, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All their offerings resulted in a blessing of one type or another. And of course a sin offering results in blessings. 'The eldest priests blessed the whole congregation of Israel.' Where were these Levite-priests? On Gerizim!

   So after reading the Samaritan verses from above, it appears that the Samaritan statements appear to be a much better and are the correct reading concerning the Levites and the location of Joshua's stone altar. 

Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church

By Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, D,D

Vol 1. Lecture XII

Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1884,

   ...(Page 248) This was 'the border of the sanctuary, the mountain which 'the right hand of God had purchased,' for the tribe which now through its victorious leader stood foremost amongst them all, and which henceforth retained its supremacy till it fell in the fall, though but for a time, of the nation itself. How closely the (page 249) grandeur of Ephraim and the selection of the seat of their power are connected with the center of Joshua, may be seen for the fact that he alone, of all the Jewish heroes after the time of Moses, is enshrined in the traditions of the Samaritans. He is "King Joshua:' he takes up his abode on the 'Blessed Mountain,' as Gerizim is always called; on its summit are still pointed out the twelve stones which he lays in order: he builds a citadel on the adjacent site of Samaria: he confers once a week with the high priest Eleazar: he leaves his power to his son Phinhas, and in this confusion the history of Israel abruptly terminates. But the connexion of Joshua with Shechem and with Ephraim, though more soberly, is not less clearly marked in the sacred narrative. He appears there as the representative of his tribe: yet, as we have seen, checking that overbearing pride which at last caused their ruin. Beneath the old consecrated oak of Abraham and Jacob, of which the memory still lingers in a secluded corner of the valley under the north-eastern flank of Gerizim, he made his farewell address, and set up there the pillar which long remained as his memorial. Ina and around Shechem rose the first national burial-place, a counterpoise to the patriarchal sepulchres of Hebron. Joseph's tomb was already fixed: its reputed site is visible to this day. A tradition, current at the time of the Christian era, ascribed the purchase of this tomb to Abraham, and included within the remains, not only of Joseph, but of the twelve Fathers of the Jewish tribes, and of Jacob himself. Eleazar was buried in the rocky sides of a hill which bore the name of his more famous son, Phinhas, who himself, doubtless, interred in the same sepulchre. It is described as being in the mountains (Page 250) of Ephraim, and is pointed out by Samaritan tradition on a height immediately east of Gerizim. The grave of Joshua has been by the Mussulmans claimed for a far-distant spot. On the summit of the Giant's Hill, overlooking the Bosphorus and the Black Sea, his vast tomb is shown, with the gigantic proportions in which Orientals delight. But the reverence of his own countrymen cherished the remembrance of it with a more accurate knowledge, in the inheritance which had been given to him- as though he were a sole tribe in himself- in Timnath-serah, or Heres,() 'on the north side of the hill Gaash;' and in the same grave (according to a very ancient tradition) were buried the stone knives () used in the ceremony of circumcision at Gilgal, which were long sought out as relics by those who came in after years to visit the tomb of their mighty Deliverer. (Commons were footnotes from the book)

  An appendix from this book will soon be added to our knowledge center. It is from appendix III, pages 460-467, entitled: The Samaritan Passover.

Could this Papyri be Samaritan related?

Papyrus. Abbasid-Tulunid-Fatimid Dynasties. 9th century Egypt. Papyrus with Arabic. A central fragment of bifoliom of codex. Non Koranic. No diacriticals. Subject is probably Islamic theology, dealing with the mountain heights - of sin - and Adifficulty hinders,@ and he who bears the burden. Verso only three letters. Measures 16 by 8cm. A fragment. Arabic papyri are rare. Choice 1,000.00 item 915 or email them at

Lead Sealing. 2nd-3rd cent. A.D. Sealing in Samaritan alphabet and script. Obverse shows an inscription in incuse circle. Reverse appears to be a multi-line small letter inscription. Measures 17 by 15mm. cf. Diringer page 237. Very rare. Choice 650.00 item 1181.

The Tomb of the Last Hasmonean?

   A link to that tragic episode may have been revealed in 1971 when a bulldozer was preparing the foundation for a private house in Jerusalem's Givat Hamivtar district. As so often occurs in Israel, the excavation unexpectedly uncovered an archeological site, an ancient burial cave. As the scholars and archeologists were summoned to examine the site, their attentions focused upon an extraordinary inscription facing the cave's entrance, composed in the Aramaic language in the "old Hebrew" alphabet in use among the Samaritans.

   The inscription told a terse but moving story related in the first person by an individual who identified himself as "Abba descendant of Eleazar the son of Aaron the High Priest." This Abba goes on to describe how he was born in Jerusalem, but was subsequently "tortured and persecuted," and exiled to Babylonia. Now he has returned to his home bearing the remains of one Matathias son of Judah, to bring them to final burial in this cave.


From the Editor (Shomron):

   What is interesting about this article is not the fact that the Priest was from Jerusalem and was most likely Jewish, but the fascinating Samaritan style script. Was the script in use in Jerusalem at the time? It would appear that this priest would have wrote in a font that other locals would have been capable of reading. This would mean that the script was used in Babylon by the Jews also along with any exiled Samaritans. Since this location was Jewish territory, it would be unlikely meant for any Samaritans, since the man was Jewish. And from what we have seen in many writings lately, the Jews did not care for the Samaritans. A Samaritan in Jerusalem would have been very out of place at the time. This can only mean one thing, that the script was used by the Jewish people before the Ezra square script. If the square script was used by the Jews in Babylon, then the priest would have wrote it in that style. This may also mean that the Jewish Torah was written in this same style as the Samaritans.

Samaritan Remains still in Gaza

Gaza - a chic place to visit By Haim Shapiro
AS WE left the tel and our bus made its way through the crowded city, Goldrath pointed to indications of the more cosmopolitan nature of Gaza in former years. On the lintel of one home there were Samaritan letters framing an Arabic inscription and providing evidence of Gaza's former Samaritan population. Perhaps the most elusive quest was for the once-thriving Jewish community of Gaza.

Books on Shechem
Shechem III: The Stratigraphy and Architecture of Shechem/Balatah

by Edward F Campbell and G R H Wright

This volume presents the stratigraphy and architectural remains of the tell of ancient (biblical) Shechem on the eastern outskirts of the modern municipality of Nablus, in what was at the time of excavation the independent village of Balatah. First identified as an ancient ruin and proposed as ancient Shechem in 1903, the site was excavated by an Austro-German team between 1913 and 1934, and by the Drew-McCormick Archaeological Expedition, later named the Joint Expedition, between 1956 and 1973. Now, 87 years after Ernest Sellin began the dig, and 27 years after the expedition mounted by G. Ernest Wright left the field, this volume sets out to give a full portrayal of this mound of ancient cities that began its history at least 4000 years BCE and ended its premodern history in 107 BCE. 2 volumes: Volume 1 (Text) 374p, Volume 2 (Illustrations) 272p (ASOR Archaeological Reports 6, 2002) ISBN 0897570626. Hardback. Price US $175.00

Shechem II by Edward F Campbell

This second volume on investigations at Shechem, reports on the survey carried out in the surrounding environs of the site. It includes a gazetteer of sites that were visited and recorded by the project and a summary of the distribution of these sites by period, from the Chalcolithic/Bronze Age through to the Hellenistic/Roman/Byzantine period. The final chapter combines the archaeological evidence with textual material pertaining to sites in this region. 123p, 95 b/w figs and pls (Scholars Press 1991)

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