Ever since Pesach, we have wanted to go back to Har G'rizim to visit the archeological site, which include remains of the Shomronim (Samaritan) Temple (destroyed in 128 BCE). Their Temple is of particular interest to us, since it was built similar, in style and size, to the Beit HaMikdash (Israelite Temple) in Jerusalem.
We were also curious to see see the Succot that the Shomronim (Samaritans) build inside their homes. (These succot are not "kosher" for Jews. We can appreciate the way they look, but we do not eat inside them.)
Unfortunately, we were unaware that the archaeological site was only open until 12:00. When we arrived, the gate was already locked. What a bummer!
Moving on, we went to a lookout point, where a succah was set up for soldiers. We ate our "picnic" lunch in the succah, then looked out over Sh'chem, to see Kever Yosef.
After taking somem pictures, we went back to the visitor's center, and visited Yefet's succah. It was quite beautiful. The succah was an "awning," like a panel, made of one layer of hanging fresh fruit, in geometrical patterns, with an enormous etrog as the centerpiece. Above the fruit, lay s'chah, freshly cut, leafy branches.
We wanted to visit their Kohen Gadol (High Priest), but he was not available, so we went to visit one of his grandson's. His succah was similar in structure, but had a very different geometrical pattern, and three larget etrogim in the center.
From Har G'rizim, we went through Itamar to the beautiful organic farming community, Giv'ot Olam. Giv'ot Olam was founded in 1966 by Avri Ran. Among other impressive qualities, Giv'ot Olam is a haven for wayward youth, who are searching for meaning in their lives. Avri Ran is well known for opening his home to any Jew who wants to live there. Some of these lost souls arrive at the community, leaving behind a world of drugs and immorality. At Giv'ot Olam, they work the land, and learn to live in peace with themselves and others.
Not everyone comes from such difficult backgrounds. Many of the youth come from strong families. They want to be a part of this ideological community, that still believes in Avodah Ivrit (Jewish labor), living without fences, working the land, protecting one's own home, and living communally. All members take pride in their community, working, defending, and enjoying the land and each other.
We arrived, and immediately felt at home. The serenity of the hilltop was inviting. The grass grew long, the olive trees stood magestic, the wind rustled the leaves, everything evoked harmony. The central structures, were the wooden communal dining hall, and the large, round, stone and wood succah. The landscaping was simple, rustic, and beautiful, with an artistic central garden, decorated by stone structures.
Our friends kids went to feed the goats. My daughter, A, wasn't feeling well, so she settled herself in a lounge chair, in the beautiful country succah. Also in the succah, sitting along the very long table, was another visiting family, with about 30 people, from several generations.
Our older kids, and their friends from another family, found a simple playground, to entertain themselves. Later on they moved to one of the large grassy areas.
At one point, community members opened their local dairy for anyone who wanted to purchase their organic goat's milk products (milk, yoghurts, cheeses, etc). We purchased some fruit yoghurts and some hard cheese.
The community also produces organic eggs (they are the largest supplier of organic eggs in the country!) and has a flour mill and organic bakery.
As the sun was setting, and we were leaving, we met a young man, who had recently finished his army service and was working on the farm. He smiled warmly, and spoke easily about what drew him to be a part of this community.
As we drove home, I breathed deeply, trying to hold onto the peace and tranquility that still surrounded us.
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,