Have you been to Kfar Kama to see Circassian life?

Slowly returning to normal means venturing off the Jerusalem streets.

People are beginning to get around again, and we joined a group tour going to the Galilee.

Leaving Jerusalem we saw the scorched remains from the summer forest fires,

which were way too close to the new construction in Mevaseret.

Going past Mount Tabor to Kfar Kama, to the home of the Circassian community, Adyghe Израилым ис Адыгэхэр; and in Hebrew, הצ’רקסים, descended from two groups who were settled in Galilee in the 1870s during the Ottoman Empire.

Circassia: country, the historical region was along the northeast shore of the Black Sea, was destroyed and devastated after the Russian-Circassian War which lasted 100 years from 1763–1864.

90% of the Circassian people were either massacred or exiled, today there are 2- 3 million in Turkey and the Middle East, and half a million in Jordan.

In Israel, the 4,000-5,000 Circassians live mostly in Kfar Kama.

The Circassian Heritage Center is not always open to the public. We had driven through the narrow village streets once before, but then the center was closed.

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Even the shutter blue windows and doors tell part of the story. This blue color is used throughout the village for good luck.

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Our guide gave a historical background to his people and history.

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In Kfar Kama, some of the old stone structures and arches are preserved.

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The mosque and minaret rise above the Muslim community.

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Contrasts of old and new are found along the meticulously clean streets.

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The signs are in 3 languages: Hebrew, Arabic, and Adyghe, written in Cyrillic script.

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In the museum, there are artifacts from the past,

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examples of traditional costumes,

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and items from early settlement, including a Singer sewing machine.

A visit to Kfar Kama Heritage Center needs a video of their distinctive dancers.

The male dancer in the black hat was at Beit Hanasi almost 10 years ago with President Shimon Peres for a Sukkot Open House Performance.

Too bad I couldn’t find those photos now. Does anyone else remember their performance?

This seemed a good time to share a bit and a look at the blending of old and new, little-known cultures and religions in the land of Israel.

More from the many things happening on Jerusalem streets next time.

Samaritans Celebrate Sukkot

This week it was good to be back on the road again after a difficult year at home with so many annual events canceled or otherwise extremely limited.

We drove from the Jerusalem hills past the site of ancient Shilo,

then through the Binyamin region to the Shomron,

and up past Har Bracha to reach Har Gerizim.

The Samaritans, (Shomronim in Hebrew) are a tiny sect with ancient Israelite roots, a unique and fascinating group.

Their religious-ethnic community consists primarily of 840 people who reside in Kiryat Luza, a small village near Shechem in the Shomron, and a smaller community in the central coastal city of Holon.

Once numbering over 3 million people, today the Samaritans are Israel’s smallest religious minority and view themselves as the keepers of the ancient Israelite religion and culture.

They study the five books of Moses in the ancient Hebrew script, which children learn how to read as 6-year-olds. Their version of the biblical Shema is posted over their outside door, not on the doorposts.

Circumcisions are performed on the eighth day. They do not use electricity on Shabbos. On Yom Kippur, they spend most of the day in prayer.

On a tour of the Samaritan Museum, matzah, bitter herbs, and a shofar are on display, along with ancient stones.

Samaritans celebrate the biblical holidays of Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. However, the Samaritan celebration is different from its Jewish counterpart in multiple ways.

Their writing is in ancient Hebrew script.

Their version of a Torah scroll is on display in the museum.

The scroll written on animal skin has three branches on top to represent Shimon, Levi, and Menasheh who they view as their forefathers, our guide explained.

The Samaritan Sukkot, though based on a lunar calendar, is held at a different time of year due to a different leap year structure. This year they celebrate Sukkot a month after the Jewish calendar, beginning October 20th, and ending after seven days, with Simchat Torah. 

Tourists can only view their synagogue from the outside. Usually, only men go to the synagogue services, however, on Simchat Torah women attend.

In addition, the Samaritan sukkah built in honor of the festival has a different appearance and is built inside the home.

The ornate sukkah ceiling took a day for the family to build, starting first with a layer of palm leaves, and then with an arrangement of real fruit, included etrogim.

In his sukkah, museum director Husni Al Kahen told us that he is a 164th generation descendant from Adam. He discussed the significance of Har Gerizim and its holiness and aliyah le’regel. 

Tour groups are scheduled all week, a soldier and a young woman arrive, as

the younger brother of the High Priest was showing his bible to our group.

The annual Samaritan slaughter of one-year-old lambs for Pesach, with salting and roasting, attracts crowds of tourists on a regular year. 

However, I am much more a fan of the Sukkot colors and customs.

More than once we were told that the Samaritans love peace. Many have passports from Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel. The Samaritans from Kiryat Luza attend Palestinian Authority schools in Shechem. However, those living in Holon attend Israeli schools and serve in the IDF but not in sensitive locations. 

Kiryat Luza has a garbage dumpster with markings of the Israeli Shomron regional council,

but the collection truck probably from Turkey had Arabic written on it.

I noticed an Israeli Magen David Adom ambulance donated in memory of Rabbi Raziel Shevach z”l and Talia Mizrahi Amali z”l, who were murdered in terrorist attacks.

The Samaritan community moved from Shechem to Kiryat Luza in the late 1990s because of the intifada and manages to keep to themselves. With fewer females than males, men are allowed to marry women from outside, but only if the women learn with the high priest and then convert. However, if a young woman were to marry a Muslim or a Jew, she would be disowned by her family. 

The last stop on the Media Central sponsored tour was the home of the Samaritan High Priest Abdallah Wasef dressed in his gold robe, who apologized for not feeling well, but took time to meet our group.

Samaritan Sukkot, one of the interesting Israeli smaller stories to share.

Jerusalem Getting Back to Normal

People are slowly coming back onto the Jerusalem streets, like bears emerging slowly from hibernation, lumbering up from deep in their caves.

Recognizing friends you have not seen in over a year (or was it two?) whose faces are hidden behind a mask is not so easy. But what a pleasure it is to reunite and speak to people in real life, rather than via a computer screen.

Weddings with bubbles and brides! What could be better this week? Albeit with caution and held outside, but celebrations are back, better than last year and with anticipation and enthusiasm.

Organized tour groups have returned to the Jerusalem streets.

The Kotel (Western Wall) train is back in business.

Not your usual train tunnel

or usual train track,

but the Kotel train, love it or hate it, is back on the Jerusalem streets.

Inside and even outside the walls of the Old City, photoshoots for bar mitzvahs and other celebrations are common again.

Shopping at Mamilla Mall? Masks are needed inside stores, but not outside.

The cats are not back, they never left the Jerusalem streets. Need at least one cat photo, here in the new parking lot in the Armenian Quarter.

Parking in Jerusalem has never been easy, but these workers found a convenient spot on the sidewalk near the construction area at the Paris Fountain.

Remember the parking lot at Shaare Zedek hospital that opened up and swallowed cars? Repair work has progressed, but the area is still not back to normal.

Construction outside the hospital parking area is only part of the story.

The work on the new Route 16 nearby is extensive.

Mountains of dirt are being moved, and

tunnels are emerging from underground.

On the other side of Shmuel Bait Street, there is more huge equipment.

Part of the mountain is gone to make room for new lanes of traffic.

A whole new scene awaits when you return to these Jerusalem streets.

As mentioned last week the Jerusalem Marathon is back!

The Sports Expo returns for two days, October 26-28, at a new venue in the Jerusalem Cinema City, before the Friday marathon races.

Will the new children’s playground at Sacher Park be ready in time?

Participants will see new buildings in the city center as they run by.

The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference is to be held at the new The Museum of Tolerance building. Last year it was held online.

Israeli President House lunch for German delegation in Jerusalem Israel

Andrea Merkel is back again. Three years ago this was the table set for the German Chancellor at a special lunch at Beit Hanasi, with then-President Reuven Rivlin and Israeli Nobel Prize winners. This time no media, private lunch for two, but I did see her motorcade leave.

The First Station parking lot has been full at night. People are back in large numbers. But, the winter igloos have popped up for those who still need more time in a cave and are not ready to party in crowds.

Here’s to celebrating, coming back, and enjoying life.

Hope to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets!