Parashat Pinchas

Parshat Pinchas July 18, 2008 In the late 1800’s an officer in the British army and an avid researcher of biblical sites, by the name of Charles Wilson published an important book called ” The Illustrated Land of Israel” including pictures of the famous “Wilson Arch” discovered by Wilson adjacent to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. In this book in section2 page 4 there is documentation, including a series of pictures drawn by Wilson of the village of Awarta, just southeast of the city of Shechem- or what the Jewish people have called from time immemorial Givat (the hill) Pinchas. In the book, he writes about the mossy stoney gravesites of the High Priests Elazar and Itamar (the sons of Aharon),and the shade of the huge trees that covered the structure of the gravesite of Pinchas, the star of this week’s parsha. This is the last remaining picture we have of Kever Pinchas for in 1955 the local arab mosque was transformed into something larger, and its construction eradicated the sacred landmark of Pinchas. The last passuk of the book of Joshua brings us to this site:”And Elazar the son of Aharon died and they buried him in the hill of Pinchas his son, which was given him in Mount Ephraim” (Joshua 24/33) Wilson was not the first to investigate Givat Pinchas. Many dark age religious figures, Christian and Jewish visited the site. Josephus writes about Givat Pinchas calling it GABATHA (for Giva-hill). In 1213 the Muslim geographer Shiaab Adin Yakut describes Awarta (the arab name for the site) as the resting place of Itamar, Elazar, Pinchas and the 70 elders.. Nachmanidis, the great torah scholar moved to Eretz Yisrael in 1267. One of his students came to Israel to visit him and wrote a journal in 1280 which has been preserved in the library of Leningrad. He speaks about his visit to the Shomron, his meeting with the Samaritans, the tomb of Joseph, and traveling southeast to the resting places of Itamar, Elazar and Pinchas. He also gives a detailed account of the catacomb graves of the 70 elders. Rabbi Yitzchak ben Alpra from Malaga Spain came in 1441 and wrote a detailed account of Givat Pinchas. “…and from there we went to Awarta, and there Elazar the High Priest- a huge monument built on his site. One day we discovered a huge museleum built bigger than 100 ama- the resting place of Pinchas and Avishua his son.This edifice leans unto the mosque. Not far from there, Itamar. The place is close to the city of Shechem. Skipping over to 1621, the holy Shlah Hakadosh in his book “the 2 tablets” writes about the week of parshat Toldot in which he visits Yosef Hatzaddik in Shechem, Yehoshua Bin Nun in Kfil Charess (Timnat Serach) and Givat Pinchas- all in the Land of Ephraim. The list is endless including Rabbi Smuel Grunim Katz that came to live in Pekiin in 1778. He writes excitedly about visiting Givat Pinchas.In 1839 Moshe Montifiore and his wife Yehudit made many excursions to the Land of Israel. Yehudit writes in her memoirs:”…We left the city of Shechem and reached the environs of Awarta and began to visit the gravesites of the tzaddikim. The first, Pinchas. There were many insciptions in the Kuti language there, as well as Arabic and hebrew. Our guide translated all of these to us. There are ancient huge trees there and many caves…” At the conclusion of the 6 day war, the chief Rabbinate of the Israeli army, who were responsible for holy sites liberated in the war, arrived at Givat Pinchas (Awarta).They cleaned up refuse dumped there and rehabilitated the holy sites. Extensive archeological research was done on the site, much of which information taken in this article is from their archives. Since 1967, over 60,000 people visited Givat Pinchas until the Oslo accords ended the visits and relinquished it to the hostile local Arabs who desecrate the graves and pour garbage there. The ministry of religious affairs occasionally enter Awarta to clean up and paint the tombs, usually prior to the once a year permit to enter on the first day of Av, the yartzeit of Aharon the High Priest. From my perspective, many jewish people have returned to live in the Land of Ephraim. The community of Itamar faces (hill paralleling hill) the old large stones that serve as monuments to the true owners of the Land. The descendents of Itamar, Elazar and Pinchas’s lineage have returned and are here to stay. · much information for this article was taken from the archives (hebrew) · Agudat Shechem Echad- 2003 –Yigal Amitai Shabbat Shalom- Leah Goldsmith

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