Category Archives: Non classé

The Druzes community in the Golan Heights

The Druze religion is a schism of Ismaili Shia Islam. It was born in Egypt during the reign of the Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim, recognized as “mad” for some and “genius” for others. During an official ceremony in 996, he established himself as the last imam and the incarnation of God on earth. It was during this period that the split between Druze and Ismailis occurred.

Three Ismaili characters are the instigators of this new Druze religion, Muhammad bin Ismail Nashtakin ad-Darazi, will give him his name, but later he will be removed from the group whose ideas are incompatible with the new doctrine.

The Druze doctrine is rooted in a desire to synthesize the three monotheisms with ideas from Manichaeism, ancient Egypt, India and the Greek world.

The Druze designate themselves as unitary. This term is doubly justified because the Druze affirm the strict oneness of God and because they aspire to unite with him.

Al-Hakim wants to unite by force the Sunni and Shiite cults to create a new Islam, largely inspired by Ismaili Shiism with only pilgrimage place in Cairo. The vast Sunni majority living in Egypt strongly contests this ideology. In 1020, Al-Hakim disappeared during one of his usual walks, near Cairo where he found peace and serenity. His body was never found, only his clothes tainted with blood.

The death of Fatimid Al-Hakim led to a wave of persecution against the Druze. Their doctrine is eradicated from Egypt. Followers of this new religion fled and took refuge in southern Syria, Lebanon and the Galilee, far from Cairo and the Fatimid Empire. A movement of proselytizing is created in these regions and part of the local Shiite population converts to this unitary Druze religion which is then enriched by contributions of Kurdish, Arab origin and becomes a community of multiple ethnic origin.

The divine hierarchy has five ministers considered by five colors. At the top, there is Divine Intelligence, Soul, Word, Previous and Next.

These are the five colors found in the Druze flag (green, red, yellow, blue and white).

The initiates are distinguished by their moral quality, their reputation and their spiritual elevation. They renounce earthly pleasure and their long mystical journey leads them towards the purification of the soul to the level of elevation which will unite them to God and the return of the Messiah Al-Hakim at the end of time.

Reincarnation is one of the core beliefs of the Druze community. After death, the deceased’s soul immediately enters a Druze newborn.

This religion is strongly influenced by Sufism which advocates the removal of material goods to stay closer to God. Jewish and Christian religions are better accepted in Druze writings than Islam. One of the Druze doctrines is Greek philosophy.

The Druze do not follow Islamic rules such as the pilgrimage to Mecca. They do not read the Koran but the books of wisdom, they do not pray in mosques but in prayer houses. There is no rite or prayer on Friday. On Thursday evenings the Druze wishing to get closer to religion meet to listen to the conference on the books of wisdom followed by recitation of the texts of Sufi poetry. The session leader then gives a signal and only the initiated can stay and participate in the real religious session.

For a long time, the disclosure of the Druze doctrine was worth its author’s death.

The only Muslim holiday celebrated by the Druze is Id of Al-Adha which celebrates the sacrifice of Abraham which will be celebrated on the same day by other Muslims. They do not practice fasting during the month of Ramadan but during the ten days before the Id of Al-Adha. The party lasts four days. The day of ‘Id symbolizes the day of the last judgment which represents the deliverance for the druze.

Proselytism is prohibited among the Druze. We are born Druze, we cannot become one. Marriages take place within the community only. A password allows members to recognize themselves. Polygamy is not tolerated and marital fidelity is one of the rules. The woman is equal to the man and can inherit the family patrimony if the parents establish a will, if this does not exist the brother will be the heir and if there is no male in the family the cousins will inherit.

There are approximately one million druzes living in the world, 143,000 Druze in Israel, including 20,000 on the Golan Heights. Following the six-day war the Golan Heights, until then Syrian, was taken by the Israelis, the Druze population became administered by the Israeli government. Some Druze accepted Israeli citizenship while others remained loyal to the Assad regime. Trade, especially that of apples which is an important production of the region passes in Syria. Some young Druze people go to Damascus to study in Syria, where education is free for them.

Young druze girls will be promised in marriage to young boys from Syria, the border crossing will then be open the time of their passage, thanks to the thousand efforts of the Red Cross, in order to join their future husband and will never be able to return to the despair of the family and the bride. A very beautiful film was made on this subject its title “The Syrian fiancée”.

Following the war in Syria, families are torn between pro and anti-Assad, people of the past united against the Israeli occupation no longer speak from house to house, and the “hill of screams” , where families once came to exchange news via megaphones on either side of the barbed wire border between Syria and Israel, is now deserted. The means of communication have improved significantly in recent years.

The height of the Golan Heights is between 500 and 1,000 meters above sea level, its length is 55 km long, a highly strategic crossroads by location, and geography. It overlooks the kinnereth lake with the city of Tiberias, the upper Galilee and the Syrian Damascus plain. Its main source of water flowing into the kinnereth Lake is the Jordan river. It is a perfect point of observation. It has become a military field filled with antennae and sophisticated military equipment.

 

Golan height druze leaders meeting with their syrian compatriotes

Golan height druze leaders meeting with their syrian compatriotes

The samaritan (Ha Shomronim)

The origin of the name Samaria (Shomron in Hebrew) is associated with a certain Shemer, to whom Omri, king of Israel (886-875 BC) bought a hill, which he fortified to build a city on it. 

He gave the city the name of Samaria. It became the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. Being a lush and very wealthy city, Damascus became its rival.

The name of Samaria was later dedicated to the entire center of the kingdom of Israel, and more particularly, the mountainous region which surrounded it.

The religion of the Samaritans ( Shomronim in Hebrew ) is based on the first five books of the Bible. Therefore, their only prophets are Moses and Joshua. Until today, the Samaritans are faithful to the Law of Moses. They practice circumcision on the eighth day of the birth of a baby boy and observe Shabbat scrupulously. They celebrate the pilgrimage festivals on Mount Garizim (which means ‘sacrifice’ in ancient Hebrew), where they sacrifice the Passover lambs.

The origin of the conflict between the Jews and the Samaritans dates back to 722 BCE (before the common era) Following the conquest of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians and the inevitable arrival of foreign settlers, who would mix with the jewish local population. This combination of different people would be born as the Samaritan people. To their traditional gods they will add the worship of YHWH (Yahweh = G-d). The Samaritans are since then considered heretics by the other Jews.

Over the course of history, relations between Jews and Samaritans would gradually deteriorate. The construction of a Temple in 323 BC on Mount Garizim, recognized by the Samaritans as the site of the sacrifice of Isaac would be the beginning of the conflict with Jerusalem.

The final break between Jews and Samaritans occurred in 107 BC .Jean Hyrcan, king of Jerusalem, destroyed the city of Sichem and the Temple of Garizim.

In the Christ era, the Jews regarded the Samaritans as strangers. They did not socialize. The Jews considered the objects, animals or crops that crossed Samaria, were unsuitable for worship.

According to the New Testament, some Samaritans rally to Jesus, who gave them as an example in the Acts of the Apostles, the Church opens without discrimination to the Samaritans and John the Baptist would have exerted an influence in Samaria.

In recent history, they have even managed to get in the good graces of Christians, eager to see in them the descendants of the “Good Samaritan”.

In 1907, a family of Samaritans from Nablus settled in Jaffa, on the Mediterranean coast, still in Palestine. In 1955, a few years after the creation of the State of Israel, other members of the community, eager to find work, obtained the right to settle in Holon and south of Tel Aviv.

One of the main rules of the samaritan is the prohibition of marriages outside the “family”. This consanguinity, preserved over the centuries, has caused a degeneration of the population.

Following the 1st intifada in 1987, to avoid any further conflict, the Samaritans left the city of Nablus. They settled at the foot of Mount Garizim. In 1990, they obtained an Israeli identity card, on which they are defined as “Samaritan”. This card allows them to freely travel the West Bank and Israel. This is an undeniable advantage compared to the local Palestinians, especially during periods of tension.

There are 820 Samaritans in 2019 living in Nablus or Holon.

 

 

Samaritans celebrating pessah

Samaritans celebrating pessah

The Empress Helena and the Holy Cross

Constantine and his mother Helena

Constantine and his mother Helena

Hélèna, mother of the Emperor Constantine, lived in the shadows until the advent of her son, Constantine the Great, in the year of 306. She had had doubtful life in the past because of her  work as being as an inn servant, and later, when her husband Constance Chlore (father of Constantine) became empereur, he rejected her.

The rise of her son Constantine, however, gave her power which allowed her to return to the public life. Like Constantine, she converted to Christianity and lived an active apostolate of the new faith to better establish the Christian empire, still fragile in the fall of 324.

Staying at the imperial court of Treve (city made capital by Constantine until 316) then in Rome, she became a true follower of the new religion. As his power grew, her son proclaimed his mother “Augusta” Empress in year of 324.

It was as an empress that she left Rome to settle in Palestine (326-328). But this journey, under the guise of a pilgrimage, was rather made as a political aim of recognition of Christianity, as established by her son. With his support she had planned to established Christianity iin the Holy Land by finding the holy places. She was guided by the scholar Eusebius of Caesarea. She built the  “Church of the Disciples”, today called the “Pater Noster”, and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The holy relics, including the cross of Christ were find on the site of Golgotha.

A temple at the site of the Golgotha (Calvary) was built, bearing the name of “Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher”, in which the relic has been preserved.

In the year 614, during the conquest of Jerusalem by the Persian king Chrosroës, the Holy Cross was stolen. The population was massacred, the prisoners were sold as slaves, churches were burnt. The Holy Cross (or True Cross) was taken to the heart of the Persian Empire and placed at the foot of the king’s throne, as a sign of disdain for Christianity.

This was to become the Grail of the Eastern Roman emperor Heraclius who, after 15 years of struggle, would achieve his ends. The True Cross was returned to Jerusalem on September 14, 628, carried by the emperor in person across the city of Jerusalem.

Therefore, this day is marked in liturgical calendars like that of the Exaltation of the Cross.

To avoid further theft, the Holy Cross was cut into several pieces. One was transported to Rome, one to Constantinople and the third one was placed in a silver chest in Jerusalem. Another piece was divided into very small pieces and distributed in churches around the world bearing the name of Veracruz (the real cross).

Eliezer Ben Yehuda and the revival of the Hebrew language

Eliezer Ben Yehuda and the revival of the Hebrew language.

“The success of Hebrew proves that an old language can adapt to a new reality” (Academy of the Hebrew language).

The Hebrew Language Committee was created by Eliezer Ben Yehuda in 1889 in Jerusalem. In 1953, the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) replace it  by “the Hebrew Language Academy”

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, was born on January 7, 1858 in the Belarusian village of Luzhki. His birth name was Eliezer Yitzhak Perelman.

Born into a Hassidic Jewish family, he studied Hebrew and the Bible at the “Cheder”. From the age of twelve he started studying  the Torah, Michna and Talmud as well.  He became a talmudic student at the local  “Yeshiva”.

His family had hoped that he would become a rabbi. However, his affinity with the Hebrew language was of more significance to him than religion.

Eliezer Ben Yéhuda was deeply convinced that the redemption of Israel would only be accomplished by the revival of Hebrew as a national language.

In 1877 he wrote:” A country cannot really become a living nation other than through their return to the land of the Fathers”. And again: “Hebrew is the only way to achieve the redemption of the Jewish nation. The revival of the Hebrew language in the Land of Israel could unite all Jews around the world “.

He left Russia in 1878 for Paris, where he undertook studies of History and Politics of the Middle East at the Sorbonne University. Unfortunately, his fragile health did not allow him to end these studies. In 1881 however, he arrived in Palestine with his plans to revive the Hebrew language.

He and his wife Dvora decided to adopt Hebrew as their mother tongue.

Ben Yehuda’s leitmotif was: “Hebrew at home, Hebrew at school, and words, words, words”.

Their first son, Ittamar Ben-Avi, born in 1882, was the first Hebrew-speaking child in modern history. The need to find Hebrew words, suitable for the ordinary activities of daily life, had become a necessity.  Eliezer Ben Yehuda therefore created new words and expressions in Hebrew. Four other children were to be born from this union, before his wife Dvora fell sick and died of tuberculosis.

In 1884 he founded the newspaper “HaTsVi” (“the deer “), in which articles were written in Hebrew and in which he urged the young pioneers and the future founders of the State of Israel to speak only in the Hebrew language. He instructed schools to study only in Hebrew. In his newspaper he wrote columns with new words he created to enrich the modern Hebrew language.

Having also become a teacher at the School of the Alliance Française Universelle, he constantly propagated Hebrew, despite the lack of textbooks in this language.

Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, who were opposed to Zionism and the revival of Hebrew language, denounced him to the Turkish government as revolutionary. He was arrested and was only released by the intervention of Baron de Rothschild.

He remarried Hemda, Dvora’s younger sister. Their home became the Hebrew Language Committee Center, a  meeting place for the whole community wishing to practice Hebrew.

He went into exile in 1914 in New York, fleeing the Ottoman persecution, and returned to Eretz Israel at the end of the First World War to pursue his ideology. He was delighted to see the City of Jerusalem had grown, and that the Hebrew language had caught on.

Despite all his work, the family lacked means. Living in permanent discomfort, Ben Eliezer fell ill again with tuberculosis. However, his bad health condition did not stop him from travelling to Europe, where he visited various universities to study works written in ancient Hebrew, so he could write a dictionary of modern Hebrew.

Eliezer Ben Yehuda died in peace in 1922. During his lifetime, Hebrew was recognized as an official language by the British Mandatory Administration. After he died, three days of mourning were declared for this Great Man. Thousands of people came to pay their respect at his grave.

Eliezer Ben Yehuda and his wife Hemda

Eliezer Ben Yehuda and his wife Hemda

 

The High Priest ‘Cohen Gadol’

The High priest 'Cohen Gadol'

The High priest ‘Cohen Gadol’

According to the Torah and the Hebrew Bible, ‘Cohen’ means ‘devoted, dedicated’. It was the title given to Aaron, the brother of Moses of the tribe of Levi, as well as to all his male descendants.

Those priests were devoted to the service of the Temple of Jerusalem. As members of the Hebrew clergy they carried out the sacrifices, the Blessing of the People of Israel, as well as the implementation of the Divine Law under the authority of The Cohen Gadol (High Priest).

For Yom Kippur, ‘the Day of Atonement’,  the Cohen gadol was the only one allowed to meet with God by entering the holy of holies of the Temple, adorned with chains and bells to make sure that in case of emergency, it would be possible to take him out of the holy sanctuary without breaking the law.

The robe of the High Priest ‘Cohen Gadol’ was of the color azure, lined with gold bells and pomegranates, a tiara and a scarf. On his breastplate he wore 12 precious stones – each representing one of the 12 sons of Jacob and the 12 tribes of Israel.

These stones were:

  • Ruben the ruby
  • Simeon the topaz
  • Levi the emerald
  • Judah the garnet
  • Issachar the sapphire
  • Zebulon the diamond
  • Dan the opal
  • Nephtali the turquoise
  • Gad the crystal
  • Asher The beryl
  • Joseph the onyx
  • Benjamin the jasper

Since the destruction of the Temple, the title has continued to be passed on from father to son. In Orthodox Communities, the Cohanim are subject to special rules and laws.

 

The 12 pectoral stones of the High Priest

The 12 pectoral stones of the High Priest

The Kabbala and the mystical City of Safed

 

Safed -Kabbalist drawing

Safed -Kabbalist drawing

The “Kabbalah” is a familiar name, whose meaning is not always understood. It is a speculative tradition, dealing with the mysteries of God and Creation.

The Kabbalah is an interpretation of the five books of the Bible, (“Torah” in Hebrew), namely Law, or Teaching, and which make up the Pentateuch, in particular from the text of the “Vision of Ezechiel”.

It is a tradition of Judaism that appears from the time of the Second Temple. It it is based on the Revelation. A gift concerning the Nature of man, his origin and his future, this covenant is created by God and the people of Israel, chosen by Him.

Kabbalists associate word and alphabet. The 22 letters of the alphabet were engraved by and in the divine breath.

The city of Tsfat, also called Safed, is located on Mount Canaan at over 900 meters above sea level, and is the city of Kabbalah. It is one of the four Holy Cities of Israel, together with Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias.

In 1492, during the Spanish Inquisition, the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella banned the practice of all religions other than Christianity, whereupon many Kabbalists and their followers fled to Safed.

It became a city renowned for its synagogues, with the names of Kabbalah scholars, some of whom lived in Safed. For example, Rabbi Isaac Louria, the Ari, who settled here in the 16th century. He developed a method how to study the Kabbalah, which is followed even today by all Kabbalists. His pupil Rabbi Joseph Karo wrote the book ” Choulhan Arouh ”, where the laws of Judaism are summarized by subject. Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz wrote the famous song with which the Shabbat begins: Leha Dodi.

To visit the Rabbi Abuhav’s Blue Synagogue is a delight. It is adorned with many symbols.

Inside a holy arch stands a sixteenth century Bible, which is taken out and read only on Yom Kippur, Shavuot and the Rosh Hashanah Holidays. The legend says, that if a person ignores this message, a misfortune will befall him within in the year.

The first letters of the three words: Kippur, Shavuot and Rosh Hashanah mean “Kasher” (kosher). It is also said, that in another holy arch, during the Ottoman period, the “Koran” was kept, a ploy that would have saved the synagogue from muslim attacks in times of tension ….

In this holy city, the mystical atmosphere is intertwined with many legends. Visitors enjoy the narrow passage in its alleys, surrounded by numerous colourful galleries of artists.

It is said that, when the Messiah will come from Meron, He will enter the Old City of Safed by “the path of the Messiah”, which has remained untouched until today.

Legend has it that the clean air of Safed allows a longevity of up to 120 years!

 

 

Safed - Abuhav street synagogue

Safed – Abuhav street synagogue

 

 

T

 

Berenice – the ”Little Cleopatra”

Berenice was born in Rome to Agrippa and Cyprus before Agrippa became king in 36 C.E.  She bore the Roman name of Julia.

She was Herods’ great-great-granddaughter and only thirteen years of age at the time she married Marcus, the son of Alexander, Head of the Jewish Community in Alexandria, and nephew of Philo the philosopher.

With the death of Marcus in 44 C.E, Berenice became a widow at only sixteen. She then married Herod -her father’s oldest brother- and became Queen of Chalcis, a tiny principality in the Lebanon Mountains. She would retain this title even after her husband’s death.

Berenice had two sons by Herod: Hyrcanus and Berenicianus. She was widowed for a second time in 48 C.E, being only twenty years of age.

After Herod’s death, the Kingdom of Chalcis was given to Berenice’s older brother, Agrippa II. Together with his brother and sister, he moved into the new Kingdom’s Residence into close quarters.

Many sources indicate that Agrippa II and Berenice were often found together in official capacities. They would appear in public together, as when Agrippa gave his peace address to the people of Jerusalem just before the outbreak of the revolt against Rome.

The New Testament mentions Berenice’s presence with her brother at Paul’s trial, and in rabbinic literature, she is mentioned as the Queen alongside her brother, the King. In two sources this constant companionship is interpreted as incest.

Josephus claimed that rumors of the siblings’ inappropriate relationship led Berenice to seek a third match.She decided to marry Polemo, King of Cilicia, who had to be circumcised and undertake a Jewish lifestyle. However, this was not a successful marriage. She, later on, left Polemo and returned to her kingdom.

Berenice was present in Palestine during the outbreak of the Jewish revolt against the Romans between 66–70 C.E.  Josephus Flavius described her as a solitary peacemaker, using all her strength in that difficult period of the preliminaries of the revolt. She had made a vow to be in Jerusalem at that time.As required by the vow, her hair was shorn and she walked barefoot.

She made her way to the Roman governor’s palace to ask Gessius Florus and demanded to desist from the violent activities he had undertaken against the Jewish population of Jerusalem. But her efforts were to no avail.

She finally joint venture with her brother to still the Jewish insurrection.

It was during this time that Berenice met Titus and fell in love. He was eleven years her junior.

After the revolt, Titus returned to Rome to assist his father in the government, while Berenice stayed behind in Judea.They would be reunited after four years when she and Agrippa came to Rome in 75.

She lived with Titus at the palace and reportedly acted as his wife in every aspect. This was the time she was at the height of her power and quite influential during this period.

However, being under public pressure, Titus had to restore his reputation for his people and sent her away. When he became Emperor in 79, Berenice returned to Rome but she was not welcome anymore. Titus died two years later.

Berenice was to be remembered as a ”little Cleopatra” in her aspiration to become the Empress of Rome.

 

Berenice the ''Little Cleopatra''

Berenice the ”Little Cleopatra”

A room without a view

 Image result for photos of banksy hotel bethlehem

The original name is ” Walled off ” Hotel. Its owner is none other than Bansky the” graffiti ” artist, who set his sights on the West Bank and especially on the separation wall of Bethlehem to make a work of art.

Oddly enough the name reminds us of another luxury hotel on the other side of the wall, the      ” Waldorf Astoria Hotel”, which was built recently in Jerusalem.

Its ten rooms are decorated with Bansky arts, furnished with taste, humor, research and provocation. Very little light penetrates. The view, certainly the worst of all hotels all over the world, overlooks this famous wall of separation.

Numerous graffitis parade this wall and continue to recall the years of Intifada, the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, nowadays an entrenched population that lives with a feeling of abandonment and isolation while being administered by the ” Palestinian Authority”.

 

Image result for photos of banksy hotel bethlehem

 

Banksy's work is displayed in the The Walled Off Hotel in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Friday, March 3, 2017. The owner of a guest house packed with the elusive artist Banksy's work has opened the doors of his West Bank establishments to media, showcasing its unique worst view in the world. The nine-room hotel named The Walled Off Hotel will officially open on March 11.

Image result for photos of banksy hotel bethlehem

The seven species of the land of Israël

Due to the seven types of fruits and grains, the main products of the land of Israel, it is mentioned in the Torah as :

“A land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey.

WHEAT

This is the first element needed to build Personality, the Spiritual and Intelligent side of a person

Wheat field

Wheat field

BARLEY 

This provides animal feed, an important element for human existence.

Barley

Barley

 

 

 

 

 

 

A VINEYARD expresses Joy and Festivity

Life is made of moments of happiness which are celebrated by enjoying a good wine.                    ” The wine delights the hearts of humans ” Psalm 104-15

Grape vine

Grape vine

DATE HONEY symbolises a Good, Sweet, and Abundant life in the Land of Israel

In biblical Hebrew, the word for date palm is Tamar, a woman’s name evoking grace and elegance. The name is popular even today.

Palm Tree with date fruits

Palm Tree with date fruits

 

 

 

 

 

 

The FIG is the symbol of Celestial food

The fig tree is a Messianic tree and one of the first tree to bloom in February.

It has this peculiarity that none of its leaves are the same, like the image of Israel, or the Torah, where every biblical verse can have a different explanation.

Figs

Figs

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE POMEGRANATE  is the symbole of  Prosperity,  Fertility and Beauty.

It has many seeds. The children of Israël should feel inclined to perform as many good deed (Mitzvoth) as the number of seeds of the pomegranate.

Pomegranate

Pomegranate

The OLIVE tree is the symbol of a Blessed and Happy family life.

It is also that of Longevity, Hope and of Peace … and is reputedly to live forever.

Olive tree

Olive tree