Donnerstag, 7. Februar 2013

Good Samaritans

Mount Gerizim above Nablus, January 24, 2013

View at the excavations and into the valley of Nablus, the old Shechem
Before going on my trip I had written something concerning the Samaritans that I need to correct now: the huge buildings on Mount Gerizim which were uncovered a few years ago are not the remains of a Samaritan temple. However - I'm not completely sure, but am following faithfully the thoughts of a renowned expert among the Samaritans, Benyamim Tsedaka. We received today a kind of private lecture from him. He has vigorously objected the article of the German magazine "Der Spiegel" in issue 15/2012. Here the alleged existence of a huge temple on Gerizim puts – so “Der Spiegel” – a big question mark behind the existence of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem.

Benyamim Tsedaka (and me)
Benyamim Tsedaka, whom everybody calls "Benny" has, with respect to the Gerizim temple a prominent opponent: Flavius ​​Josephus sees it differently. The Jewish historian who lived about 37 to 100 AD has reported that during the destruction of Shechem by the Jerusalem based Hasmoneans in 129 BC also a Samaritan temple on Gerizim was destroyed.

Abraham's stone of sacrifice
Anyway - the excavations on Gerizim, started by a high-profile Israeli archaeological team around 1980 have unearthed a large number of buildings in an immaculate way. And a visit is even then rewarding if it only was for the spectacular view from the summit of the 881 m high Mount Gerizim. If Benyamim Tsedaka is right, then the sanctuaries of the Samaritans were at all times not within the building system but directly next to it: the rock where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac (Genesis 22), the twelve stones that Joshua brought up from the Jordan and into to the promised land (Joshua 4), and a large smooth rock plate that is considered to belong to the eternal hills (Giv'ot olam, Deuteronomy 33:15) mentioned by Moses in his blessing for the tribe of Joseph.
The beauty of Benyamim's theory is that it opens the way to an understanding of a continuous liturgical use of these sites, a chain that stretches back to the earliest times.
The stones of Joshua
Benyamim says that also the remark of the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well, that our fathers worshiped on Mount Gerizim is indicative for this ancient tradition. The woman in her conversation with Jesus (John 4) is sitting within close sight of the Gerizim summit, at the eastern foot of the mount. Mentioning our fathers – says Benyamim – she does not mean her own Samaritan ancestors of past generations, but the common fathers of the Jews and the Samaritans. The fathers have started here a tradition, in ancient times, from which the Judeans in Jerusalem later have departed. By the way, the woman just says that they have worshiped on this mountain, and not "in the temple on this mountain."
The "eternal hills" from the blessing of Mose
As for the changing course of history of Samaritans and Christians, Benyamim sees more conflicts than things in common. Jesus once sent his disciples out to preach, with the provision that they should not go to the Samaritans (Matthew 10:5). On the other hand, however, a successful proselytizing of Samaria is reported in the Acts, and the persecuted Christians in Jerusalem find protection there.
The priest Japhet
Anyway - the Samaritans asserted their existence as a small special group of the Children of Israel, and they saved their faith through persecutions and especially through demographic changes, to the present day. The priest Japhet, 69 years old, who dismisses me after visiting the museum with a special blessing, has a display board on which all his 133 ancestors are listed, connecting him with the Archpriest Aaron and its Aaron’s ancestor Levi.
It seems to me that the place up on the mighty Mount Gerizim is a special site where, as almost nowhere else in the world an ancient hope is visibly alive to this day: that the dwelling of God with men, the Shekinah is possible time and again.

Keine Kommentare: