On Friday I was part of a group of Palestinian and Israeli women from the Women of Action (Seeds of Peace) who visited Mt. Gerizim - Har Bracha (Mount of Blessing) at the home of the Samaritans near Nablus/Schem. Upon arrival, the women all embraced and kissed and expressed delight to see each other after many months and such a hard summer of war and violence.
The Samaritan community reveres Mt. Gerizim as their holy site and can trace their ancestry back for thousands of years. A lovely Samaritan woman hosted us, sharing Samaritan practices and customs. The Christian women shared the story of the Good Samaritan from their bible. The Muslim, Christian and Jewish women discussed the differences between the Samaritan marriage practices with the different religions. We visited their synagogue where everyone sat on the floor, and heard about their Shabbat rituals from a Cohen/Priest. Later, we went to the Samaritan Museum where the brother of their high priest explained their history and practices. It was fascinating to learn about this ancient sect. We went up to the top of Mt. Gerizim where you can look out over a panoramic view of the area and visit the ancient ruins.
At this spot we held listening circles where all of the Israeli and Palestinian women shared the difficulties they had suffered over the summer during the war, and the ongoing struggles now. Women expressed anger, hurt, shame, despondence, frustration, and much pain. As one woman reported "Everyone on every side said that they had the worst summer of their lives and had sunk into depths of despair". And when discussing our feelings about being together, one said, "I didn't come here to visit the Samaritans, I came here to be with my sisters." Everyone expressed relief and happiness to feel the support of each other and to experience our sisterhood of suffering together.
We look forward to another gathering next month that will be coordinated by Lisa Waldbaum and Karen Abuzant. I carry the smiles and embraces in my heart.
Blessings and love,