THE PASSING OF HIGH PRIEST AARON BEN AB HISDA BEN JACOB
The High Priest Aaron ben Ab-Hisda ben Jacob ben Aaron (1927 – 2013) is no more.
A short while ago the High Priest Aaron ben Ab-Hisda ben Jacob returned his spirit to the Creator, when he passed away following heart failure while seated in his home on Mount Gerizim. He was aged 86. May the Almighty have mercy on him.
High Priest Aaron was born in Nablus on 5th February 1927, and was educated by his father High Priest Ab-Hisda son of the High Priest Jacob, wise and held in great esteem by the Israelite Samaritans. He was an author and poet. As a child Aaron learnt the traditional poems, chants and prayers from his father, and soon stood out as an exceptional singer, and profound reader of the Torah. He had great knowledge of the prayers of the community.
To earn a living he was employed as a nurse at the National (Al-Watani) Hospital in Nablus, where he worked for forty-five years. He was considered loyal and expert in helping patients, and in more specific diagnosis of their illnesses.
At the same time he devoted many years to instructing young Israelite Samaritan children in the Torah and prayers. Choral singers were shocked to hear of his sudden passing. Like his brother Josef who died in 1998, High Priest Aaron suffered sudden heart failure, which left members of the community pained and wordless.
Devoted service to the Community
High Priest Aaron continued to serve his community until his very last day by giving good advice to thousands of people who approached him, also from outside the community. The community returned his affection as he was consistently agreeable to all, and always endeavoured to make peace.
High Priest Aaron was revered throughout his life. He was a member of the Community Committee in Nablus between 1979 and 1983, and took up the High Priesthood in 2010 after High Priest Elazar ben Tsedaka passed away. High Priest Aaron fulfilled his role faithfully. He stood before his community in the service of the Almighty in the synagogue, conducting the ceremonial milestones in community life: the ritual circumcision, Torah Reading conclusions, engagements, weddings and mourning. For the last three years he directed the Passover sacrifice ceremony; his beautiful voice rang strong and clear right up until his last day.
At official meetings with senior public figures in Israel, and in areas under the Palestinian Authority, he represented the Israelite Samaritan Community proudly and honourably. Only last Thursday 18th April he returned from a farewell meeting with the Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr Salam Fayyed, where he gave him a symbolic Key to Mount Gerizim in a decorative frame, three years after he presented him with the First Israelite Samaritan Medal for Peace. Recently High Priest Aaron visited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s home to console him on the death of his father, Ben Zion. At these three meetings the Prime Ministers received the High Priest Aaron respectfully. The Community Committee in Mount Gerizim notes that High Priest Aaron’s presence and calm demeanour resulted in improved relations and more successful progress in community matters. He bore himself nobly at the head of joint missions of the community in Nablus and in Holon, and brought great honour to the Israelite Samaritans with his words of peace and reconciliation.
A world-class singer
Of special value to the Community were his prayers and festive songs. His voice was wonderful; he was among the world’s finest singers. He had a resonant voice, strong and clear, drawing on a powerful tradition of rich and tonally accurate singing. He was a beacon for many who aspired to emulate his precision in song, and his breadth of knowledge of Samaritan chants. While he preserved his quiet ways and modesty, his welcoming countenance lit the way for people of all ages in the community. He received all visitors to his home with a shining smile, and heart-penetrating conversation. He insisted on accompanying each guest to the threshold of his home when leaving, showering them with blessings for success on their journey and in all they do. On his departure he leaves more than 750 members of the community with damp eyes, saddened by his passing.
He made sure to visit each member of the community in Mount Gerizim and Holon if they were hospitalized, at least once. He would lay his soft, gentle hand on the sufferer’s forehead, and wish them a speedy recovery. Nobody in the community will ever forget him for this. He leaves behind him many who will remember fondly the pleasure of being in his presence.
High Priest Aaron distinguished himself by ensuring the continuity of his family line. He professed great love for his wife Leah, and together they raised five sons (one of whom tragically drowned in a well at the family home on Mount Gerizim about forty years ago), and two daughters. His grandson, son of his son Amram, was named after him, and brought him great satisfaction during his last few years.
The Community is holding the hand of his widow Leah, and the hands of the sons and daughters of the family. May the Almighty have mercy on his spirit on his burial on Friday afternoon 19th April at the cemetery on Mount Gerizim, accompanied by all the members of the community, dignitaries from Nablus, many Nablus residents, and senior Israeli and Palestinian military and police officers. Over the next seven days of mourning after burial many will flock to his house from all over the country and the world to pay their respects.
With the Mercy of the Almighty, may his spirit grace the Garden of Eden forever. With ever-increasing grace, nothing exceeds the Almighty in His greatness.
The Community mourns
The passing of the High Priest Aaron ben Ab-Hisda has been especially difficult for all Israelite Samaritans, because this week, on Tuesday 23rdApril after sunset they are about to present the Passover Sacrifice on Mount Gerizim. Everyone expected that, as last three years, High Priest Aaron would open the ceremony in his pleasant, comforting strong voice, wishing peace to members of his community and the entire world, before starting the reading of the Exodus Chapter 12 passage. Even though it is forbidden to mourn on a Festival or Sabbath, no-one will see happy Samaritan faces on the coming Day of Sacrifice.
The Ceremony will be opened by the new High Priest.
The New High Priest Aabed-El ben High Priest Asher
Afterwards, at the end of the seven days of mourning, the deputy High Priest Aabed-El ben High Priest Asher, son of the High Priest Matzliach, aged 78, will be appointed to the High Priesthood. Mild-mannered and pious, and a successful businessman, may the Almighty extend his days.
The High Priest is chosen by the Almighty based on the Torah principle: “The Eldest Priest of His Brothers” (Book of Leviticus).
Photography: Ori Orhof