November 7th, 2002
  • Torah Scroll Case Dedicated

  • The Neighborhood on Mt. Gerizim is Flourishing Following the Abandonment

    of the Samaritan Settlement in Nablus

  • TV Just Got Better

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Torah Scroll Case Dedicated

   In the afternoon of Friday, October 18, 2002, a new Pentateuch (Torah) scroll case was dedicated to the Samaritan community in Holon. After praying for twenty-two consecutive days during the Samaritan Holy days of the feasts, together in both of the synagogues in Holon, the community gathered for the Torah dedication. The Torah scroll was paraded to the smaller synagogue where it was presented for viewing by the observers. Photos were taken, as you can well see.
 Pictured above is Priest Elazar (dressed in blue), next to him and the scroll is Yefet and his two young sons, Golan (on the left) and Gilad (on the right). During the week the sons work with their father, Yefet at their family business, a plastic factory. Yefet made a gift of the pure silver Torah cylinder style case. Priest Elazar with them. Yefet and his sons are from the
Tsedaka family.
   Inside the beautiful silver case is the Torah scroll that was written by the priest Pinhas ben Abraham. Pinhas was the first priest who came to live in Holon after 1967.

 On Friday afternoon the community gathered at the home of Yefet and then paraded the scroll to the synagogue. Carrying the dedicated scroll in the picture to the left is head cantor of the main synagogue in Holon, Assaf Ben Tabya ben Pinhas. He has been the official cantor for the last seventeen years when he replaced  the late Pinhas ben Abraham ben Pinhas (may God have mercy on him). Phinhas was the first priest who came to live in Holon after 1967 and served as the cantor. Today Assaf's son Abraham is the second cantor at the smaller synagogue in Holon. On regular days Assaf works at his own business supplying  office equipment to local businesses. The four photos were taken by Samaritan Eyal Cohen.      

The Neighbourhood on Mt. Gerizim is Flourishing Following the Abandonment

of the Samaritan Settlement in Nablus

  (A. B. News Services)  One of our old friends, Zebulan Altif who is among the leaders of the community in Kiryat Luza, the Samaritan neighbourhood on Mount Gerizim, threw a last glance at his father's and uncles' house in the Samaritan neighbourhood in Nablus. He was remembering the circumstances that had led him to deliver the keys of his house to the lessees, members of a Palestinian aid organization, after collecting the yearly rent money, a handsome sum, which helped him to enlarge and renovate his new home in Kiryat Luza.

   He kept himself a small room in the house for storing some of the heavier furniture and managing his affairs while he was in town, but his eyes were moist despite himself and there was no doubt left in his heart that a period in his life and the lives of many others like him in the Samaritan community in Nablus and on Mount Gerizim was over. The Samaritan quarter in Nablus was gradually being abandoned, house by house, most of its houses being sold or rented to Nablus residents and Palestinian social, welfare and aid organizations.

   "Yes," said Zebulan, his voice stifled and repressed, "I had made up my mind never to desert my ancestral home, but reality was stronger. I provided for my sons' and daughters' future in Kiryat Luza, which enabled me to withdraw from my decision and leave behind me the house where I had spend most of my life."

   We patted his shoulder gently to pacify him, asking him to look at the 'full half of the glass' of his sensitive, personal subject. "But you were not born in this neighbourhood," we told him, "your father brought you here to live when you were a mere boy, a few years after the enormous earthquake in Nablus in 1927. The Samaritan quarter in Nablus, in the western part of the city on the slopes of Mount Gerizim was nothing but a relatively new neighbourhood that had not even grown old with time yet. It was not 65 years old when most of it had already been abandoned in favor of the new neighbourhood on the mountain, Kiryat Luza, which was being fast populated in the seven years of the first 'Intifada,' we told our agitated converser who was well aware of these facts but refused to be comforted.

   "Come and see," we continued to say, "When was the pain of leaving the neighbourhood behind stronger? Is it today, when we part from a neighbourhood that is less than 70 years old or was it in the first half of the 1930's, when we had to depart from the old quarter in the heart of the city where you and our forefathers had lived for over a thousand years? Yet is there anyone who is still undergoing the apin of that departure?"

   We walked with Zebulan on one of our farewell strolls in the Samaritan neighbourhood in Nablus. We passed the single houses that had not yet been rented out or sold. We paused for a short moment next to the home of the Paternal House of Tsedaka, three of whose families were the last to reside in the neighbourhood during the winter months. We then turned to the left into the main street, where small offices of the community priests used to be fully active until the outbreak of the second 'Intifada' in October 2000 and welcomed Jewish and Arab visitors who purchased amulets and paid good money for counsels for a better life. Nowadays those chambers are still open but there are no visitors.

   Until four years ago some two dozen families used to come down the mountain in winter to stay in the Samaritan quarter in Nablus and the singing and chanting of prayers could be heard in the synagogue, which was inaugurated in 1947. However, the demise of the late High Priest Yusef B. Ab-Chisda Ha'Abta'ai, God have mercy on him, in February 1998 at his home in Nablus where he used to stay every winter, reinforced the feeling and the realization already present in the hearts of many who came down in winter to stay in the neighbourhood in Nablus that 'there's nothing more to do there, our future is on Mount Gerizim.' And it so happened. Without consulting with each other all of the 'winter migrants' determined to stay in their houses on the mountain and spend a first-time winter in Kiryat Luza.

   There are still some, albeit few, who promise themselves that this is a temporary situation. In their hearts however, they too know that the new situation is irreversible. There is no way back. Never again will they return to dwell in their houses in Nablus. Year after year they will continue to lease their houses to the highest bidder, while this additional sum also constitutes an important part of their annual income.

   The Samaritans of Mount Gerizim used to call the three families of the House of Tsedaka "watchmen [Shomerim] of the Nablus quarter" until they too moved to their houses on the Mountain. There is almost nothing left to guard. There are no Torah scrolls in the synagogue anymore. The success of Kiryat Luza as a permanent habitation was achieved at the expense of abandoning the relatively young Samaritan neighbourhood in Nablus.   

TV Just Got Better

   For television viewers in the UK, TV just got better. On Monday, October 28th, 2002, the television audience watching the British National Geographic Channel got a brief glimpse of Samaritan-Israelite life. The UK  Channel had a thirty minute special on the Samaritan wedding and funeral. The program from what I understand was a repeat, shown last February. The program will air again on 14 November 2002, 8:00 pm and 15 November 2002, 9:00 am . If your in the UK or plan to travel, take thirty minutes out of your schedule and enjoy the program. I am unaware of any other country airings of the program. If you should have any information on the program, please contact our Editor. The following is their brief description of the program.


More Weddings and another Funeral: Samaritan Jews: A thirty minute program. A light hearted look at Israeli culture through the rituals of marriage and funerals.
   One of the smallest and oldest religious sects in the world, the Samaritans number only 650 people. The wedding ritual has changed little over the centuries. Witness a 3000-year-old tradition.

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