We all agreed that the weather was too hot and sticky to do anything before the afternoon.
So our family had a lazy Thursday morning. We slept late, ate a relaxed brunch, and eventually got on our way....
We drove to the Muqata and met up with Jameel and his family. Jameel had arranged a visit to the Shomron (Samaritan) community, on Har Grizim. Jameela could not join us, because of the little Jameelians. But afterwards, we would return to the Muqata for a yummy bar-b-q and lots of salads. (all my latent vegetarian tendencies disappear with the sizzle of an outdoor grill....)
At around 4:00 pm, we drove to the small Samaritan Museum, next door to the Samaritan Sacrificial Plaza. As we parked our cars, Yefet HaCohen (The Priest) called down to greet us from an upstairs window.
As we climbed the stairs to the museum, we were greeted by a tall, poised, older gentleman, dressed in a white flowing robe with golden trim, a white turban, with a neatly trimmed beard, and an engaging smile. He warmly welcomed us, greeting everyone individually, and shaking hands with the men and boys.
Then we entered the quaint, one-room museum, whose walls were covered with rich maroon tapestries, embroidered with golden letters of ancient Hebrew. On one wall were books, on another pictures; another had a glass display filled with coins and jewelry; another had ceramic vessels. Some areas of the room were carefully presented, while others seemed to be strewn together.
Yefet sat us down, and began his story. He told of centuries of persecution. With pride, he traced his ancestry, pointing to his beautifully framed geneology in the shape of a menorah, each generation denoted by a seperate golden link.
( In the background is a picture of the current Cohen Gadol (High Priest), the eldest member of Yefet's clan)
Yefet described Samaritan traditions. Their holidays, their traditions. According to Yefet, all Samaritans are religious, though they dress in Western fashion and have television and internet.
Seeing our interest, his excitement grows. He takes us behind a curtain, to a back room, his study. There he shows us various research projects, to which he has devoted his life.
When it is time for afternoon prayers, Yefet invites us to observe. We are all welcome to enter the Beit Knesset (synagogue), even the women (though there are only men in the Beit Knesset). The service is foreign and there is no women's section. After a few minutes of standing in the back, I go outside.
Sitting on a bench, on the sidewalk in front of the Beit Knesset, is a group of teenage girls talking in Hebrew. They are Samaritans from Holon. They look like secular Israelis. The Beit Knesset is for the men and boys, they tell me. They have no interest in joining the public prayers.
I ask them what it is like to be in school with Jews. It is normal, they answer; they are used to it. They start laughing and teasing each other about boys.
In the middle, Jameel's son walks by, eating a bag of Kosher L'Pesach Bisli (Israeli junk food).
"That's chametz to us," says one of the girls.
"You shouldn't walk around here with it," explains another, anxious for the forbidden food to be removed.
The intensity seemed incongruous with the secular dress.
One of the girls explains that they don't purchase any prepared foods on Pesach. On Pesach, everything is cooked and baked at home.
Then the girls asked about the orange ribbons and bumper stickers on our cars. How can we drive around like that? It is dangerous (because of all the Arab villages in the area). We are "asking for trouble."
Their attitude reflects something Yefet said earlier. The community is extremely cautious not to offend, lest they be persecuted and destroyed... again.
With only 730 Samaritans left, from a community that once numbered over a million, it is easy to understand their fear.
Yet the community seems open and friendly. Our group is a curiosity. We receive lots of looks... and lot of smiles.
"You should come see our Pesach sacrifice," one of the girls says invitingly, "That is really something to see."
For more about our day and the Samaritans, check out Jameel's Post.
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,