Sunday, June 20, 2021

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says: "If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."

My dream of becoming a Shamer, an Israelite Samaritan as opposed to an Israelite Jew, terrifies me so I guess it is big enough.

Friday, June 18, 2021

"I have been to the mountaintop!"

Well, to quote the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., 'I have been to the mountaintop'.

I know I said I wouldn't do this but my wife is overseas and I simply could not not go to Aargareezem. I WhatsApped my Shamer friend & he said that today (Friday, 18 June) would be a good day to come. (My wife gets back on Tuesday morning.) Sunday is Shavuot for the Shamerim. He said that he would speak to the manager at the Israel Nature & Parks Authority site on the mountain, to let me into the locked areas surrounding Givat Olam and the Altar of Yesaahq. I drove there this morning; my drive through Huwara was breathtakingly uneventful. I was so excited when Aargareezem came into view! I threaded my way through the Shamer village & drove straight to the site. The manager was expecting me. There was hardly anyone there, which suited my purposes very nicely. The manager asked me if I was becoming a Shamer and I said that since that would break up my marriage, no. When we got to Givat Olam, he reminded me to take off my sandals (which I would have done anyway, of course). As soon as he opened the gate, I strode in and threw myself down flat on the rock, arms and legs outstretched. I was very conscious of the feeling of the warm rock pressed up against the left side of my face. I lay there for at least 5 minutes (thank Shema there was nobody there) and said, "Here I am Shema, here I am" and then repeated "Here I am" several times. Other than praying and thanking Shema for bringing me there & asking if I might serve him there one day, all I said was "Here I am." We then walked over to the Altar of Yesaahq. The manager let me in. I stared in awe at the rocks of the altar for a few minutes and left. As he locked up the gate to the altar, I thanked him and said that I was now ready to play the visitor/tourist. I walked over to the deck where one can see Nablus down below & Mt. Eval on the other said. The view was as stunning as always.

Afterwards, I drove down into the village & parked right next to the compound where the fire pits for Pesach are. The area has been refurbished and is now much better kept than I remember from some of my previous visits. he now 20 pits are capped & locked and are thus presumably clean & free of litter. I saw a Shamer cohein on the steps of the building right next to the area with the pits. I recognized him as the Cohein Gadol's brother & the keeper of the little museum up there  (where my friend and I were, see my second post way back). I must've stuck out like a non-Shamer sore thumb. He greeted me and I went over to him. I said that I knew him & remembered him from the museum, which was 7 years ago. I told him that I remember something he said then & think about it often. There was a young married couple there with us. The cohein asked them if they thought that the Shamerim loved Jerusalem & when the husband said no, he replied, "No, it is a city in the Land of Israel and we love it very, very much." He was amazed that I remembered that. I told him that I had been there in 2014 to see their Pesach and that in a sense, I had never left. He smiled. I told him that I had just come from praying at Givat Olam & the Altar of Yesaahq. He said that anyone can go there. I said no, that my Shamer friend had asked the manager to open the gates for me so that I could pray on the sites. He was impressed. I told him that I can come only very infrequently as my wife does / would / not approve. I told him that I thought King Solomon had made a grievous mistake by building a large and grandiose Temple to replace the (mere) tent of the Mishkan. Lots of peoples build & have built grandiose temples to their gods, that is commonplace. But who worships their G-d in a tent? That is unique. He asked me where the Mishkan/ Tent of Meeting was and I pointed back at Aargareezem and said it was hidden there somewhere. He smiled again.

Shabbat is coming in soon. I must go get ready. I will write more tomorrow night, please Shema.

Well, it's late Sunday afternoon. 

The cohein that I spoke with brought up the canard from Hulin 6b that they, the Shamerim, worship a dove-shaped idol. They resent that utterly false (and malicious?) accusation and are hurt terribly by it. I told him that I know it is false and that as soon as I realized that it was false, I started wondering what else in our so-called "Oral Torah" is false and once you open that door, there's no going back, you cannot shut it again. (To quote L.M. Boston, "What's thought cannot be unthought.") As Friday was erev Shabbat (duh) and erev erev Shavuot for the Shamerim, and since he was a cohein, he was constantly being greeted by passers-by. I thanked him for his time and then went to see my Shamer friend, who I hadn't seen in several years, certainly not during my last visit to Aargareezem 2 years ago. It was good to see him (and his formerly Jewish wife). He is in his late 70's and is showing his years a bit but is still as mentally alert as always. I thanked him profusely for speaking to the Israel Nature & Parks Authority site manager and arranging for me to get up close and personal on Givat Olam and the Altar of Yesaahq. He gave a Shamer calendar (good until April of next year, until the next First of Nisan of course, the real "Rosh Hashanah") and a copy of the latest Shamer newsletter, of which he is the publisher. We spoke for a while and then I wished him & his wife a good Shabbat & a happy holyday and then I left and made my way home.

So I'm back to...

Furtive visits, snatched on the sly;
time too short, till the next visit good-bye.
Until then Aargareezem that I see
must remain hidden deep within me.

My wife so far has not asked me what I did last Friday before Shabbat so I have not had to lie to, or mislead, her. I am not happy about that but there was no way I could not go to Aargareezem. I hope and I pray that what she doesn't know won't hurt her. I do NOT want to hurt her but I just could not stay away. In my prayers I have been thanking Shema profusely and profoundly for blessing me and affording me the privilege of going to Aargareezem.

I would like to serve Shema on Aargareezem as a Shamer very much and He knows that. But I have realized that what is important is not how I want to serve Him but how He wants me to serve Him. And He wants me to serve Him as my wife's husband, as her partner, and if that means being an orthoprax Jew (who must snatch furtive visits to Aargareezem on the sly and keeping Aargareezem deep, deep in my heart), then so be it. I will not complain about what Shema is denying me but will praise Him for what He is blessing me with: A woman of grace whose worth is far above gold (to paraphrase Ben Sira) and the awesome privilege of visiting with Him on His Mountain from time to time.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

I still carry the little stone I took from within the fenced area around Givat Olam. It is in my pocket every day, Shabbat, holidays, etc. If I cannot be with Aargareezem, then a little piece of it will have to be with me, and this will have to suffice.

I heard Loreena McKennitt say, at her concert in the Alhambra, that a traveler just travels. The point is the journey itself (or "The journey itself is the point"), not arriving per se. Arriving somewhere, anywhere, is irrelevant. I am tired of travelling. When I became an orthodox Jew here in Israel, I thought that I had arrived. And then, after years of living as an orthodox Jew, I felt restless, I felt the yen to travel and I realized that being an orthodox Jew was just a way station, to where I as yet had no idea. Then my path led to, led me to, Aargareezem. This is where I want to be but where I cannot be. Why can't I, why couldn't I, be happy in Jerusalem (as it were), as an orthodox Jew??!! Why do I feel this spiritual restlessness? I would be far happier, I think, if I did not feel it, if being an orthodox Jew was not just a way station. But much as I would like it to be, it is not. I am still drawn to a northern hill. Deny Aargareezem? I might as well deny my kidneys.

And what scares the hell out of me is what if Aargareezem isn't it either? What if I could get there and after a while, I feel that awful gnawing restlessness again and Aargareezem proves to be just a glorified way station? What then?

Wednesday, October 2, 2019


Yesterday & Monday was our (Jewish) two-day holiday of "Rosh Hashanah". In the orthodox Jewish ritual, once on each day, at a certain point during a particular prayer, we kneel on the floor & genuflect. I placed my stone from Aargareezem on the floor and knelt, resting my forehead on it (and not on a cloth or piece of paper on the floor as per Jewish custom). I prayed that one day I might kneel & genuflect in prayer on Aargareezem, openly, as an Israelite Samaritan. May it be G-d's will!

Monday, July 1, 2019

I went to Aargareezem!

One week ago today, I had to drive up north. Instead of driving on Highway #6 the whole way, I drove through Samaria and paid a quick (5 minutes!) visit to Aargareezem before driving through western Samaria and turning onto Highway #6 further north than I otherwise would have. Once again Givat Olam was locked, as was the Altar of Yesaahq. But it didn't matter. I knelt by Givat Olam & prayed and then went over to the Altar of Yesaahq. There was nobody else there, just me & G-d. I slipped off my sandals and walked around barefoot. Before I left I said with as much emotion as I could muster: "How full of awe is this place! This is none other than the House of G-d and this is the gate of Heaven!" I reached inside the fence around Givat Olam and took a small stone from the area next to Givat Olam. I keep it in my pocket, especially when I pray. Until the next visit!

I did not tell my wife. I'm not happy about that but I think this is one of those times when, to quote the Jewish sages, peace trumps truth.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

More dreams

Sometime in the past few years, after my Mom passed away, I dreamed that I was actually converting to the Samaritan version of our faith. I was preparing for the ceremony and put on an orange-colored robe / tunic. My Mom had ordered an orange-colored robe / dress / garment thing / before she passed & never wore it. My Dad offered it to my wife. It wasn't her style and we ended up giving it away. Was my wearing an orange-colored robe in my dream my Mom's way of communicating her approval of my inner embrace of the Samaritan version of our faith?

In June of last year (2018), I dreamed that I was driving to Aargaareezem. I was very excited. I was in Huwara when I remembered that my wife does not want me to go there because she feels threatened by my interest in the Shamerim and their approach to Torah, and my attachment to Aargaareezem. My interest in the Shamerim and my attachment to Aargaareezem frighten her. I remembered, in my dream, what the Cohein Hagadol told me when we met, that I must not jeopardize our marriage. (I would never do anything to jeopardize my marriage to the wife Shema has blessed me with but it was good to hear the Cohein Gadol tell me this.) So I turned the car aside, off the straight road to the Mountain. I was aware, in my dream, that the straight road, both physically and metaphorically!), for me, leads to Aargaareezem. So I turned the car onto a twisting road back to Jerusalem.  That is when I woke up.

I was not upset that I was not able, in my dream, to reach the Mountain. Not even in a dream am I prepared to go behind my wife's back and betray her trust in me. I was happy and grateful to Shema that Aargaareezem was still in my heart such that I dream about it even though I had not been there for over 2 years

Monday, May 27, 2019

Wow, it has been a while since my last post, 2.5+ years.

I have been back to the Mountain only once since my last visit. During the intermediate days of Sukkot 2016, my wife agreed to go with me (!) to the National Park on Aargareezem. The parks authority was having all kinds of activities there, including kite-flying. That is not how I want[ed] to go to the Mountain but since it was the only way my wife would agree to my going there, we went. The fence around Givat Olam was locked. I stood right next to it, slipped off my sandals, stuck my toes under the fence and gripped the rock as tightly as I could and prayed. We walked around the top of the mountain and walked over to the Altar of Yesaahq.

I have not been back to the Mountain since. My attachment to it and to the Israelite Samaritan version of our faith frightens my wife terribly. She feels threatened by it. So I do not go there and do not talk about it. I want to go the Mountain more than anything except upsetting my wife and affecting (detrimentally) our marriage. I will not go there behind her back (no more "furtive visits on the sly"). So I keep the Mountain even deeper inside. I just hope given the lengthening years that It will not get lost in there, deep, deep down inside me. But I suppose that is my challenge, to keep it at the forefront of my heart, and my hopes. Even though I do not talk about the "Samaritans" or "Mt. Gerizim" around, or to, her she knows that they are still in my heart (though I wonder if she really knows how deeply). That bothers her but she has made her (uneasy) peace with it. (Did I say a post or two back that I marvel at her endless patience?) G-d but I love her!

My mother passed away in November 2017, may she rest in peace. Having to mourn for her according to orthodox Jewish law jolted me back into going to regular prayers in the / a synagogue three times a day. But I still direct my prayers to Aargareezem. I put on tefillin in the morning but I do not, and will not, say the blessings. Outwardly I must appear the (modern-)orthodox Jew. Plus it makes my wife happy, which counts for very, very, very much.

I pray that G-d may open her heart that she should allow me to go to the Mountain very soon but without her being threatened or afraid. I also pray that G-d might open her heart that she will see Aargareezem the way I do and that we might worship G-d together, there, but in secret if need be.

I WhatsApp my Samaritan friend every now and then to let him know that I am still here. It is now between Passover & Shavuot. Of course I am counting the Omer according to the Israelite Samaritan rite.

On Friday nights, at Shabbat evening prayers in our synagogue, I envision myself standing there on Givat Olam, in spirit I am there, amidst the buffeting winds until they blow me back to where we live. During morning prayers, every day, when we read the song at the Red Sea, I envision myself at Givat Olam and the Altar of Yesaahq, in spirit I am there. I just pray that it is Shema's will that I might be there bodily, not just in spirit, and openly.

I still read that Israelite Samaritan commentary on the weekly Torah portion (according to the IS rite) in our synagogue every week. It and the tehina are my physical links to the Mountain and the Israelite Samaritan version of our faith.

I will close by reposting something I originally posted back in March 2014:

High Priest Amram Isaac writes about Mt. Gerizim:
In the account (to which reference has been made) Jacob (upon whom be peace) is commanded to erect another altar on it, in order that the timid may be well assured that such a place is his refuge, for it is the house of God, the protector, (may He be exalted) who saves the one taking refuge in Him and seeking Him by faith, in this place.