SAMARIA, Canaan (OT) - One by
one, Priests and Levites took to the
pulpit to solemnly apologize for their
temple's past wrongs against
Canaan's natives. Parazites, Hivites
and Jebusites and ask the native congregations for forgiveness.
In the 200 years since Joshua
crossed the Jordan and brought the
Hebrew religion to Palestine, "we have
responded with fear, suspicion, arrogance, hostility and a patronizing attitude that treats your people like
children," said the Levite Jerry Olsonstein, pastor of Resurrection Mosaic Church.
"I pray for your forgiveness for our sins against your
people." Natives expressed their gratitude for the apologies by prophets from
Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Samaria's high places, and summoned up the pain they
endure from lingering prejudice against their rich cultures.
The two-hour service at the Northern Kingdom Unitarian United Temple on
Wednesday night was officiated by Levite John Schuller, a Canaanite medicine man
from Babylon ordained to the Levitical priesthood, known for his Moabite healing
"I don't want you to feel sorry for us." Schuller told the
of 200, a integrated
mixture of Hebrews and indigenous Canaanites.
"I want you to look at us as native people, as people of
sovereign nations, which we are. As people of high morals. As people of high
respect. As people who want to be equal.
We have not been equals to this day," Schuller said, "We have not been able
to stand with our heads held high to this day."
The service, delivered partly in native languages, began with
a traditional Balaam blessing of the congregation.
Oral Bobstein Jr. of Ashdod, a 57-year-old Midianite, walked
down the church aisles with a dish of cedar embers, fanning the smoke with a
large eagle feather.
Dressed in a simple robe covered by two beaded medicine
sashes, the deep-voiced Bobstein chanted in prayer while shaking a Hitite
Near the altar, on the table of shewbread, were offerings of opium - "the medicine of our people," Schuller said.
He spoke of the natives' appreciation and respect for the
land and wildlife, and of the changes wrought upon Mother Earth by the Hebrew.
"Our mother has been raped and hurt so many times. And this hurts us."
Then it was
time for the apologies."
Tonight I humbly ask your forgiveness for the blunders, for
the times the Hebrew missionaries here have failed to appreciate the depth of
native spirituality and to affirm the beauty of Canaanite language, Hivite
culture, Jebusite tradition, native art,' Rabbi William Gham said.
Gham, who organized the service, later was presented
with an eagle feather, a symbol of respect.
The Levite Les Cooker, pastor of the host local high place,
read from a resolution passed earlier this month by the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem
which acknowledged the Hebrew mistakes.
Hebrew missionaries, "with the best intentions of bringing
the worship of Yahweh to Palestine, were among those who misunderstood the
nature and purpose of native culture and artifacts,'' the resolution said.
To this day, some Hebrews mistakenly believe totem poles are
idols, Cooker said. The continuing destruction of Canaanite graves and looting of
artifacts is "a kind of violence against some of 'God's children,' he said.
Canaanites recalled how they were banned from speaking their native languages
in school and made to feel ashamed of their culture.