Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Once Upon A Time in Ein-Sinya

Excerpted from "The Israeli Virginia Woolf" on Yael Medini, the daughter of second prime minister Moshe Sharett and an author by Ruth Almog in Haaretz:-

On arriving in the country your family settled in Ein Siniya (in the West Bank ). Have you ever visited there?

"I visited twice. Once in 1937, my uncle and aunt came from Tel Aviv and we all went together. My father said: "That is where I was born a second time." There was excitement. We toured the village. My second visit was after the Six-Day War. We went with the extended family, including my uncle Yehuda Sharett [the composer], and we saw the place where they had once lived. And no, I would not go there again, except with a visa and passport.

"Ein Siniya is situated between Ramallah and Nablus.

My grandfather, Yaakov Shertok, came to Palestine with the Biluim [pioneers of the First Aliyah]. He was with them at Charles Netter's Mikveh Israel [agricultural school], and after Netter's death went up to Jerusalem with several of his friends and founded a group that dealt in manufacturing decorative objects from olive wood. They sent these abroad, but it did not succeed. He became destitute. He was sick with asthma and lonely, so returned to Russia.

"In Odessa he married my grandmother. They moved to Kherson and proceeded to have five children. In 1906, after the pogroms, they came to Palestine and settled in Ein Siniya. Three families came: two brothers and a sister. They wanted to go into business. They wanted to live in nature. It turned out the village could be leased for two years. The go-between was Eliezer Ben Yehuda. There was an olive press there and they thought they would make a living from that. Nurith Kenaan-Kedar's grandfather was a talented businessman. Aunt Guta termed the Ein Siniya period 'the golden age of our family.'"

..."I consider myself fortunate," she adds, "to have lived through the time when the state was coming into being, in which I played only a thoroughly passive role; that I was a witness to all of that."

Yael, until Rabin built the Ramallah bypass road, I would drive by Ein-Sinya everyday and like my neighbors I would look at the little village and recall the historical fact that this land had no Green Line once upon a time.  That nearby, at Gofna (now Jifna*), there also were Jews living as a national people in its homeland in an earlier period.

We are no strangers in this land.

No passports and no visas.



Jifna was identified by Edward Robinson with Ophni of Benjamin, mentioned in the Book of Joshua as one of the "twelve cities." Nothing thereafter is recorded in its history until the time of the Roman conquest during the 1st century BCE, when it appears in various records as "Gophna". Gophna was described by Flavius Josephus as the second city of Judea, after Jerusalem, in his account of the First Jewish-Roman Wars during the 1st century CE. The town is depicted as Gophna in the Map of Madaba, situated north of Gibeon (al-Jib), and is also mentioned in the Talmud as Ben Gufnin, a "city of priests". The latter portion of its Talmudic name derives from the Hebrew root word gefen, meaning "vine".

Known by the Romans as Cofna, Jifna was a regional capital in the Iudaea Province under the Roman Empire. Around 50 BCE the Roman general Cassius sold the population into slavery, for failure to pay taxes. They were freed, however, by Mark Antony shortly after he came to power. Jifna was within the area under Hananiah's command in 66 CE, during the First Jewish-Roman War, and was the headquarters of one of the twelve toparchies (minor realms) of Judea. The Roman emperor Vespasian occupied the town in 68 CE, established an army garrison there, and concentrated within the city Jewish priests and other local notables who had surrendered to him. Titus, the future Roman emperor, passed through Gophna during his march to besiege Jerusalem in 70 CE.


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