3 August 2015: the Samaritan Medal for Peace and Humanitarian Achievements was awarded to High Priest Abed El, son of High Priest Asher, and to the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Dr Rami Hamdallah.
On a very hot day we set out from Mount Gerizim towards the town of Ramallah, where the Palestinian Prime Minister’s and President’s offices are located. The object of the meeting was twofold: to formally request a budget from the Palestinian Government for the Samaritans of Mount Gerizim, and to award The Samaritan Medal for Peace and Humanitarian Achievements, including the field of Samaritan Studies. The Samaritan Medal was awarded to Abed El, Samaritan High Priest since spring 2013, and to Dr Rami Hamdallah, Palestinian Prime Minister since 2012.
Led by High Priest Abed El, our expedition comprised two cars. In one car, High Priest Abed El, and next to him the driver, Itzhak Altif, Secretary of the Mount Gerizim Community Committee and Samaritan Medal Committee member. Behind him sat the writer, Chairman of the Samaritan Medal Committee, and next to him Ben-Yehuda (Ragai) Altif, a Community Committee member. In the other car Israel (Shukri) Altif, a former Community Committee Secretary, and next to him the writer’s brother, Yefet Ben Ratson Tzedaka, member of the Samaritan Medal Foundation.
The head of the Prime Minister’s office arrived early, the kind and smiling Mr Bashar Jumaya. He shook hands warmly, with the customary hug. We sipped excellent coffee from tiny cups, then the Prime Minister arrived. He hugged the High Priest, and acknowledged each of us with a generous handshake, welcoming us all.
Palestinian Prime Minister’s Positive Record
(Photo: Presentation of the Samaritan Medal to High Priest Abed El and Palestinian Prime Minister Dr Rami Hamdallah. Left to right: Benyamim Tzedaka, Itzhak Altif, High Priest Abed El, Prime Minister Dr Rami Hamdallah, Israel Altif, Yefet Ben Ratson Tzedaka, Ben-Yehuda Altif, Bashar Jumaya, 3 August 2015.)
Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr Rami Hamdallah has a very positive history regarding his relations with the Israelite Samaritans on Mount Gerizim. As President of the An-Najah National University in Nablus he has promoted academic achievements. A few years ago the writer brought two Samaritan researchers to a meeting with Dr Hamdallah. One was Dr Hasiv Shahada from Helsinki University, the other, Eli Veted from Beit Berl College in Israel. They were pleased to support the writer’s request that the University President reinforce the study of Samaritan-related topics.
Dr Hamdallah enthusiastically agreed to the request, eased the admission criteria to An-Najah National University for students from the Mount Gerizim Community. He also opened the university cultural centre to exhibitions about the Samaritans. This was done in partnership with The Samaritan Narrative Association, led by Yakov, son of High Priest Abed El, and attracted a lot of interest among the Palestinian students.
In 2012, at the request of Palestinian Authority President Dr Mahmoud Abbas, Dr Hamdallah agreed to become Palestinian Prime Minister. He replaced the previous Prime Minister, Dr Salem Fayed, who has also been awarded the Samaritan Medal, and bravely forged a friendship with the Israelite Samaritans. Dr Hamdallah did not cause the Samaritans to regret his predecessor’s end of office: he continued the Palestinian Government’s friendly relations with the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim.
At the meeting today High Priest Abed El and Community Secretary Itzhak Altif detailed their requests to arrange a respectable annual budget from the Palestinian Government for the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim. The Secretary convincingly presented the Community’s financial situation, desperate to the point of having to limit the supply of vital services. He then filed a budget request to Prime Minister Dr Rami Hamdallah.
In answer to the requests and to our questions, Prime Minister Dr Rami Hamdallah emphasised the long-standing good relations with the Samaritans, and added that there is no reason why that relationship should not continue. He responded positively to the request for an organised budget, and confirmed that he will ask the relevant local Palestinian Government authority to take care of it. He asked about the connections between the Samaritan Community in Holon and the Community in Mount Gerizim, and was happy to hear that the connection is going well.
Medals for Dr Rami Hamdallah and High Priest Abed El
(Photo: Presentation of the Samaritan Medal to High Priest Abed El and to Palestinian Prime Minister Dr Rami Hamdallah: Left to right: Benyamim Tzedaka, Itzhak Altif, High Priest Abed El, Prime Minister Dr Rami Hamdallah, 3 August 2015.)
At the end of the meeting a ceremony was held to present the Samaritan Medals. In 2006 The Samaritan Medal Foundation, which operates in Washington DC and Holon, decided to present the Medal to each new Samaritan High Priest. Previously, the Medal has been presented to the High Priest at a special ceremony, to Eliezer Ben Tzedaka and to Aharon Ben Av-Hasdeh, may they rest in peace. Today the Palestinian Prime Minister Dr Rami Hamdallah was honoured to present the Samaritan Medal to High Priest Abed El, son of High Priest Asher. He is a first-class personality and promoter of peace, taking advantage of every available platform to promote peace in our region.
High Priest Abed El was honoured to present the Samaritan Medal to the Palestian Prime Minister Dr Rami Hamdallah, who maintains good relations with all political factors in the region, works to promote peace, and has successfully promoted education among Israelite Samaritan students.
High Priest Abed El also presented a Samaritan Mezuzah to the Prime Minister. Dr Hamdallah instructed the head of his office, Bashar Jumaya, a native of Nablus, to frame the Mezuzah and hang it on the wall of his office to bring a blessing.
The meeting was conducted in a good-natured and friendly manner, with Dr Rami Hamdallah showing friendship to his Samaritan guests. He wished the High Priest Abed El good health, and said goodbye to us all after accompanying us to the lift which took us from his office down to the main entrance.
We left the meeting with a feeling of joy, to face the blistering heat outside his office. We hurried to our air-conditioned cars and returned to Mount Gerizim, happily ticking off another successful meeting with such a pleasant person as the Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr Rami Hamdallah.