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by R.W.Bro. LEON ZELDIS
JEWISH AND ARAB MASONS IN THE HOLY LAND
On page 50 of the first edition of Anderson's Book of Constitutions (1723) we find the following declaration of principles, this being the first among the "Charges of a Free-Mason: Extracted from the ancient Records of Lodges beyond sea, and of those in England, Scotland and Ireland, for the Use of the Lodges in London":
I. Concerning GOD and RELIGION
A Mason is oblig'd, by his Tenure, to obey the moral Law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist, nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient Times Masons were charg'd in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet 'tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguish'd; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remain'd at a perpetual Distance.
This is an unambiguous, straightforward declaration that the first fundamental principle of Freemasonry is tolerance regarding religious belief, and that the only requirement for becoming a Mason is to be a man of honor and honesty, so that Freemasonry can become "a center of union" and the means to establish true friendship among persons who otherwise would have remained perpetually distant one from another.
Though it is probable that the religious tolerance the Reverend Anderson had in mind was only intended to smooth relations between Catholics and Protestants, its all-embracing application in some London lodges can be inferred by the presence of Jews being active in Masonic lodges as early as in 1716 (1) and probably earlier.
The universal appeal of Freemasonry induced many Jews to join it. They regarded it as a way to become "accepted" by English society, which at the time still placed boundaries and restrictions on Jewish admission in various circles.
Not only in England Jews sought eagerly admittance into the fraternity. In North America, the first Jew initiated in the state of Georgia, was Moses Nunis (probably a Sephardic name: Moisés Nuñez), initiated in 1733, only 16 years after the foundation of the Grand Lodge in London. Already in 1791 a Jew became Grand Master of a Grand Lodge (Moses Seixas, in Rhode Island).
In the Caribbean islands the presence of Jewish Masons was notable. In 1756 Freemasonry was so popular among the Jews of Curaçao that even the local Rabbi, Haham Chumaceiro, wrote a book trying to link Freemasonry with Judaism (2). In 1756 Jehoshua Henríquez, a Jewish ship owner, baptized one his ships with the name Vrij Metzelar – The Freemason. (3)
The "de-Christianization" of the Craft proceeded gradually in the course of the 18th century, not without reluctance on the part of some lodges, loath to abandon their traditional way of work, but it became more strictly observed after the merging of the two rival Grand Lodges of England in 1813, when the rituals were revised and given their present non-denominational form (notwithstanding a few relics, such the three Theological Virtues on Jacob's Ladder in the Tracing Board of the First Degree).
Men professing other religions were also attracted to Freemasonry. Moslems, for instance, enthusiastically joined the lodges in Egypt, and the Order flourished there, attracting the highest circles of Egyptian society, to the point of having some 600 lodges at one time; however, after the revolution of 1952, when the royal family (many of whom were Masons) went into exile. Freemasonry declined sharply, until being finally dismantled by Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1967. Freemasonry still flourishes in another Moslem country: Turkey, and in Iran, or Persia, a vibrant Masonic fraternity existed until the advent of the Ayatullah's revolution.
In India, a country where a wide variety of religious denominations coexist, the Lodge became a welcome oasis of tolerance and unity in a society splintered by social and religious differences. It is enough to quote a few lines of Brother Rudyard Kipling's poem, My Mother-Lodge, to confirm the universal character of Masonic lodges in the British Raj:
Outside – "Sergeant! Sir! Salute! Salaam!"
Inside – "Brother", an' it doesn't do no 'arm.
We met upon the Level, an' parted on the Square,
An' I was Junior Deacon in my Mother-Lodge out there!
We'd Bola Nath, Accountant,
An' Saul the Aden Jew,
An' Din Mohammed, draughtsman,
Of the Survey Office too;
There was Babu Chuckerbutty,
An' Amir Singh the Sikh,
An' Castro from the fittin'-sheds,
The Roman Catholick!
Several Volumes of the Sacred Law are exposed on the altar of Indian lodges: the Zend Avesta, the Quran and the Bhagavad Gita join the Bible.
Coming to the main subject of my paper, the meeting and interaction of Arab and Jewish Masons in the Holy Land, if we want to maintain some standard of historical research our story must begin only in the middle of the 19th century. Before that time we only have legends, dating to King Solomon's reign or even earlier, which would be pointless to examine. Coming to historical times, we don't know whether the French officers who accompanied Napoleon in his campaign in Egypt formed any military lodges while in Palestine, but even if they had done so, the French would still be a foreign element and there is no sign of any local Masonic activities at the time.
The first recorded Masonic ceremony in the Holy Land was the Secret Monitor meeting held at King Solomon's Quarries, a cave deep under the old city of Jerusalem, in May of 1868. The event was organized by Robert Morris, an American Mason, Past Grand Master of Kentucky, who had come to the Middle East in search of Masonic antiquities to provide evidence for the ancient origins of our Craft. Morris did not find any such proof, but he did meet a few Masons then living in Jaffa and Jerusalem, and these, reinforced with the presence of some visiting British naval officers with Masonic credentials, were assembled by Morris and constituted the group which he grandly named "Reclamation Lodge of Jerusalem".
On Wednesday, May 13, after some preliminary meetings in the Hotel Mediterranean they walked down into the ground beneath the Old City of Jerusalem; the eternal cold of the cavern, the sepulchral silence and the darkness barely dispelled by the light of their candles, must have made a deep impression on them. Morris, filled with the importance of holding a Masonic meeting in the Holy City for the first time "since the departure of the Crusading hosts more than seven hundred years ago" opened the "Moot Lodge", a prayer was offered, appropriate remarks were expressed by Henry Petermann, the Prussian Consul at Jerusalem (member of the Royal York Lodge at Berlin), Captain Charles Warren (who was later the first Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge N° 2076) and Morris's secretary, David W. Thomson. Unfortunately, on the way back they became lost in the passages and chambers of the vast cave, and found the exit with difficulty, groping the walls while trying not to fall into the pits left by the quarriers.
The list of those taking part in the ceremony included Americans, Britons, the Prussian consul, and the Turkish Governor of Jaffa. Even then, at this symbolic birth (or rebirth, if we want to believe in our legends) of Freemasonry in the Holy Land, we find Christians of various denominations and a Moslem joining hands under the aegis of Freemasonry. (4)
The first real lodge to be established in the Holy Land was also the work of Robert, or Rob Morris, as he is better known. After trying unsuccessfully to get a charter from an American Grand Lodge (5), he finally convinced William Mercer, a personal friend, who happened to be the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario, to grant a charter for a lodge to work "in Jerusalem and surroundings". The charter was issued on February 17, 1873 and Royal Solomon Mother Lodge N° 293 was formally consecrated on May 7.
The signers of the petition were Robert Morris, John Sheville, Rolla Floyd, Richard Beardsley, Charles Netter, Peter Bergheim, and 14 other Masons who did not live in the Holy Land, but were obviously recruited by Morris to make up a suitable number of founding members.
Morris, Sheville, Floyd, Beardsley and Bergheim were Christians, while Netter was a Jew.
Charles Netter (1826-1882) had been one of the founders in 1860 of the Alliance Israelite Universelle, the French society formed to defend the rights of Jews and to promote Jewish education in the Middle East (6), and he had been entrusted with the mission of establishing in Palestine the first agricultural school, Mikve Israel, founded in 1870. Netter was the first Director of this institution, which formed the basis for the development of agriculture in the Holy Land.
The first candidate to petition the lodge – at its very first meeting - was Moses Hornstein, a Jew from Odessa who had apparently converted to Christianity. I'll have more to say about him later on. Anxious to increase their number, the lodge appointed a Committee of three and a meeting was held the next day (May 8) to ballot and initiate Hornstein. The following day (May 9) the new Brother was passed to Fellow Craft and one day later, on May 10, he was raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. At that same meeting the lodge officers were elected, and Hornstein was appointed Junior Deacon.
Another member of the lodge was William Habib Hayat, son of the British Consul in Jaffa, Jacob Assad Hayat. He became Master of the Jerusalem lodge in 1889 and he appears to have served in that position for four years.
A Christian Arab of Lebanese origin, Alexander Howard, was another member of the lodge. Howard, whose real name was Iskander Awad, was a colorful figure whose work as local agent for Thomas Cook (who started at the time his tours of the Middle East) gave him status – and income – that enabled him to become an influential businessman in Ottoman Palestine. He owned hotels in Jaffa, Jerusalem and Latrun, a village about half-way between Jaffa and Jerusalem, facing the Ayalon valley, where Joshua had the moon stand still while the sun stopped over Gibeon to allow the total defeat of the Amorites (Joshua 10:12).
Howard also built houses in Jaffa beyond the walls of the old city. In fact, a whole street block was named for him, and his own home became a Masonic Temple (7). The good relations he maintained with the local Jewish community is reflected in the fact that his home also served as a meeting place for the waves of Jewish immigrants who came to the Holy Land at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. Around 1890 it became the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion), a pioneer Zionist movement of Russian Jews that promoted settlement in Palestine.
Howard took as his assistant another founder of the lodge, Rolla Floyd, a Christian member of a sect derived from the Mormons who came to the Holy Land to await the impending second coming of Jesus. Floyd brought to Palestine the first primitive stagecoach to transport tourists between Jaffa and Jerusalem. Floyd eventually succeeded Howard as the local agent for Thomas Cook. He is mentioned as being Master of the lodge in 1884 (8).
Two further Jewish brothers of the lodge I shall mention are Jacob Litwinsky and Joseph Amzalak. The first was initiated on April 26, 1887, passed on May 13 and raised on May 31 of the same year. One of his grandsons, Haim Litwinsky, is a 33° Mason, currently member of the Supreme Council of Israel. Joseph Amzalak was initiated on January 29, 1884, passed on February 5 and raised on February 23. The speedy advancement of the new initiates reveals the poverty of numbers, which forced the lodge to operate in this manner. Joseph's son Meir (or Meyer) joined the lodge Barkai (see below), being initiated on April 27, 1911 (9).
Joseph Amzalak belonged to a family of wealthy Sephardic Jews, who in their wanderings after the expulsion from Spain in 1492 traveled through the northern coast of Africa until reaching Turkey. The family eventually settled in Morocco during the 16th to 18th centuries, finally returning to the Iberian Peninsula to settle in Gibraltar. Joseph was born in the British colony, and it appears that he engaged in shipping between Spain, Portugal, North and East Africa, and the Caribbean Islands (10). By 1824 he had taken residence in Jerusalem. He was reported to be the wealthiest Jew in Jerusalem (11) and he built one of the most beautiful houses in the Old City of Jerusalem, near the Jaffa gate.
During the 1860's the Amzalak family home in Jerusalem was rented out: the ground level was used for shops, while the upper floors were taken by Moses Hornstein to establish the Mediterranean Hotel. This was the hotel where Robert Morris and his secretary stayed during their visit, it also was the hotel used by Charles Warren, the place where Morris organized the meetings to prepare that "Moot Lodge" ceremony in King Solomon's Quarries, and it was also the lodging of Mark Twain and his group when they visited Jerusalem in 1867. The building stands to this day and is still used as a hotel, under the new name of Petra Hotel.
Royal Solomon lodge had a troubled existence. The lack of experience in Masonic procedure and the lack of communication with Grand Lodge led the brethren to frequent lapses of Masonic protocol, such as admitting to their meetings Masons from irregular or non-recognized lodges. Eventually, the Grand Lodge of Canada requested the return of the charter, books and other paraphernalia, which was not done. The lodge was finally erased from the rolls, but it appears that it continued working independently for some years.
A group of brethren, however, wishing to work in a regular fashion, decided to establish another lodge, this time based in Jaffa, where most of the brethren lived in any case. They petitioned the Misraim Oriental Order in Egypt and obtained a charter sometime around 1890, founding The Port of Solomon's Temple lodge. One of the founders was Abraham Levy, who had been initiated in the Jerusalem lodge in 1887 (12). The lodge admitted both Jews and Arabs. It enjoyed a period of glory when some French Masons, engineers who had come to build the Jaffa – Jerusalem railway, joined the lodge (13). After their departure, however, the lodge declined and practically disappeared.
The new century marked the end of the lodge's activities. The brethren realized they had to find a new home and in February of 1906 a group of members held a meeting and decided to found a new lodge, choosing the name Barkai (Dawn).
One of the members of the lodge was Maurice Schönberg, a Jewish watchmaker who installed the four clocks on the tower of Jaffa. The clock tower is a town landmark existing until today. Two of the clocks showed local time, while the other two were set to Moslem time. Schönberg, whose business took him often to Paris, established contacts with the Grand Orient of France. On March 13, 1906, the members of the newly formed Barkai Lodge submitted a formal petition to the Grand Orient, signed by the following brethren:
Alexander Fiani, merchant, born in Beirut (proposed as first Master of the lodge);
Joseph Rosenfeld, physician, born in Baghdad;
Jacques Litvinsky, merchant, born in Russia;
Hanna Henry, lawyer, born in Jaffa;
Maurice Schönberg, watchmaker and jeweler, born in Rumania;
Issa Samoury, agent, born in Jaffa;
David Yudelovich, accountant, born in Rumania;
Yehuda Levy, pharmacist, born in Jaffa;
Marc Stein, physician, born in Russia;
Moses Goldberg, merchant, born in Jaffa;
Michel Hurvitz, commission agent, born in Russia; and
Moses Yeshaia, commission agent, born in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Of the twelve founders, only four had been born in Palestine. Apart from the proposed Master, all the rest were Jewish. The first Mason to become affiliated to the lodge, however, was a Christian Armenian, César Araktingi, a merchant, dragoman and Vice-Consul of Great Britain, born in Jaffa, and initiated on October 18, 1891. Three years later he received the 18th degree and in 1896 advanced to the 30th. His affiliation took place on March 13, 1906, that is to say, the same day when the brothers met to formulate their petition.
Brother Yudelovich was a journalist writing for Ben Yehuda's paper Ha'tsvi. Ben-Yehuda, as we know, was the leading force in the revival and renewal of the Hebrew language for daily use. Yudelovich was a teacher, he taught the first Arab to speak Hebrew, was Director of the first Hebrew Primary School, and wrote the first Hebrew book on Freemasonry (and also a history of Hebrew journalism). He earned his living as export manager of the Rishon Le-Zion winery.
The Barkai Lodge actively recruited new members, initiating 15 candidates during its first year. The next year, 1907, eleven candidates were admitted, and in the following years the volume of initiations became even higher: 10 in 1908, 14 in 1909 and 1910, 22 in 1911 and 21 in 1912. Many of the members of the old lodge (The Port of Solomon's Temple) also joined the new one.
The lodge met in Jaffa, at N°1, Howard Street, which had been renamed Bustros Street (it now has another name: David Raziel). Most of the new initiates did not speak French, so the lodge worked in Arabic, and only the reports sent to the Grand Orient were drawn up in French. The ceremonies were conducted in Arabic using a translation of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite rituals, probably made in Egypt (14).
Araktingi soon replaced Fiani as Master of the Lodge, and continued to hold this position until 1929, that is to say, for 23 years. Having received the 30th Degree, he approached the Grand Orient in Paris with the proposal to establish a Rose-Croix Chapter in Jaffa. Kamel Souaya, an important personality of the Turkish government, would like to receive the 18th Degree and Araktingi suggested he could confer it by communication. The project failed because of the outbreak of the First World War.
During the pre-war period, until 1914, the lodge initiated over a hundred new members. An analysis of their religious affiliation is uncertain, because we can rely only on their names, and sometimes their occupation, to make an assumption on their ethnic origin. A rough estimate gives a total of 82 Arab and Turkish brethren (most of them Moslems but some were probably Christians), 29 Jews, 6 Armenian Christians and 6 foreigners who also were probably Christians. Most of the new members were born in the Holy Land, especially Jaffa and Jerusalem, but some had come from Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Libya and Eastern Europe.
The membership of the lodge included many important personalities: mayors, bank managers, accountants, police commanders, advocates, judges, farmers, merchants, professors, doctors, pharmacists, engineers. (15) In all these activities, one can find Arabs, Turks, Jews and Armenians.
It is interesting to note the presence of Persian Consuls in the lodge. (16) As we know, Iran had flourishing Freemasonry until the fall of the Shah, when the Order was banned and disbanded. There is a Grand Lodge of Iran in Exile, based in California, but holding its meetings in Massachusetts.
The happy situation of peaceful coexistence between the various communities of Palestine was disrupted by the Great War of 1914-1919. The dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire resulted in the creation a various nations in the Middle East, with a division of "areas of influence" between the victorious European powers, England and France.
Palestine, which at the time included the territories on both sides of the Jordan River, comprising present-day Israel, Transjordan (now Jordan) and the disputed territories of Cisjordan, came under the control of Great Britain, which received in July 1922 a Mandate from the League of Nations to govern the country.
The lodge had suspended its work during the war, as many brothers were exiled by the Ottoman government. Then, after the end of the war, and soon after reopening its doors, they were closed again in 1921, perhaps following the massacre on May 1st, 1921, of 47 Jews in Jaffa. Only in January of 1925 the lodge started working again, in a new location, this time being composed almost exclusively of Jews. The Arab brethren apparently left to join the lodges established in Palestine by the Grand Lodge of Egypt. This was the time when Arab rioting against the Jewish population started, instigated by the Moslem leadership.
These disturbances, which continued intermittently until the break of World War II, affected the relations between the lodges of the various jurisdictions. In 1932, following a bitter struggle in Egyptian Freemasonry which was split into two Grand Lodges, the lodges in the Holy Land under Egyptian jurisdiction decided to become independent, forming the National Grand Lodge of Palestine. The majority of the brethren were Jewish; however, the non-sectarian character of the lodges is confirmed by the fact that the founding ceremony of the new Grand Lodge was presided by M:. W:. Bro:. Fuad Bey Hussein, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Egypt. Bro. Shuqri Houri, also an Arab, had been elected as the first Grand Master. Unfortunately, he died before he could be installed, and Bro. Mark Gorodisky was elected instead.
The English-speaking lodges, established under charters from England and Scotland, refused to join the new Grand Lodge and continued operating under their original jurisdictions, while a number of German-speaking lodges worked within the framework of the Symbolic Grand Lodge of Germany in exile (Freemasonry having been banned in Nazi Germany, where Masons were persecuted and thrown into prison).
Despite the troubled relations between the Arab and the Jewish communities, the Grand Lodge made constant efforts to attract candidates from all the non-Jewish communities: Christian and Moslem Arabs, Armenians, Druse (17) and Bahai (18). In fact several Arabic-speaking lodges composed almost exclusively of Arabs were established: Nur El-Hichmah ("The Light of Wisdom") and Jerusalem Lodge, both in Jerusalem, Khoresh ("Cyrus") in Amman (Jordan) and Galilee in Nazareth.
Only with the creation of the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel in 1953, Freemasonry in the Holy Land was finally united under one roof. The 30 lodges operating at the time were divided linguistically in the following way:
19 lodges worked in Hebrew, 5 in German, 4 in English, and one each in Rumanian and Arabic. (19)
Lodge Galilee, which received number 31 in the roster of the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel, worked in Arabic in the city of Nazareth. It had been founded in 1950, with membership of both Christian and Moslem Arabs, with a large majority of the former, reflecting the Christian majority of this city that has such profound meaning for Christianity. (20)
The other Arabic-speaking lodges, which has been active before the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 closed voluntarily their doors. One, Khoresh Lodge, remained in Jordan, though it is now dormant; some reports claim it is still working, but very discreetly.
In 1954 a second Arabic-speaking lodge was founded in Acco, the ancient port of St. John of Acre, the crusader fortress which Napoleon failed to conquer. Acco Lodge received number 36.
A third Arab lodge was founded in 1957 in the town of Kfar Yassif, in Western Galilee: Hidar Lodge N° 45.This lodge had in its membership a large number of Druse brethren.
Al-Salaam ("Peace") Lodge N° 47 was founded in Tel-Aviv-Jaffa in 1959, with a mixed membership of Arabs and Arabic-speaking Jews. It failed to attract a sufficient number of candidates, and it is now dormant.
A further Arabic-speaking lodge, Ha-Lapid (The Torch) N° 65, (in Arabic: el Shu'ia) which integrates Moslem, Christian and Jewish Masons, was founded in Jerusalem in 1974 (one year after the Yom Kippur War). Its first Master was Jewish: David Greenberg.
Finally, in 1983, Nazareth Lodge was founded in the homonymous city, with both Christian and Moslem membership, working in Arabic
A Hebrew-speaking lodge with joint Arab-Jewish membership was founded in 1968 in Haifa, a city which has always had a mixed ethnic composition: Na'aman Lodge N° 61. Of the 32 Masters the lodge has had between 1968 and 2003, 19 have been Arabs.
To stress the non-sectarian nature of Israeli Freemasonry, the seal of the Grand Lodge of Israel presents in its center, within the square and the compasses, the Christian cross, the Moslem crescent and the Jewish David's Shield (Solomon's Seal). On the Grand Lodge altar (as on most subordinate lodges) are found three Volumes of the Sacred Law: the Bible, the Hebrew Tanakh ("Old Testament") and the Koran. Three Bearers of the Holy Books, with the same Masonic rank, carry the holy volumes into the Temple at the beginning of every Grand Lodge Communication.
Grand Lodge Officers have always comprised both Arabs and Jews. In fact, an Arab lawyer from Haifa was elected as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Israel in 1981, and in 1982 M:. W:. Bro:. Jamil Shalhoub was re-elected for a second term.
Also, three Arab brothers are members of the Supreme Council of Israel
Now I'll come to a story that concerns my own lodge, and I ask your indulgence, because I shall speak of some matters in which I was personally involved.
My lodge, La Fraternidad N° 62 of Tel Aviv, has a tradition of spending every year, around the month of May, a fraternal week-end at a holiday hotel where the brothers are joined by their wives and family. Thirty to forty couples assemble for a three-day holiday, in the course of which we attend a panel discussing Masonic and other subjects, with the participation of our ladies, make visits to nearby tourist sites, and of course, we sit together at sumptuous dinners in addition to the famous Israeli buffet breakfasts. "La buona tavola" before and after "le tavole della legge"!
In 1993 we held this fraternal week-end in the city of Nazareth, and for the festive banquet on the last night of the event, our W:. Bro:. Dr. Juan Goldwaser had an inspiration. Why not invite the brethren of the local lodge, Nazareth N° 71 to join us for coffee and cake? Said and done. He contacted the Master of Nazareth lodge, and in due time some twenty brothers arrived at the hotel. However, when we saw they had arrived alone, we went them back to fetch their wives.
This was a revolutionary change for our Arab brethren, who generally keep the women separate from Lodge activities. However, noblesse oblige, and they did come back after a while with the ladies, also bringing several huge trays heaped with Arab pastries. We all had such a good time that we promised to meet again, and so we did. Bro. Goldwaser started the ball rolling, inviting a large group of Nazareth brethren for dinner at his home, together with the entire La Fraternidad Lodge. Other homes opened their doors, the Arab brethren reciprocated; we held joint meetings, joint picnics, and personal friendship developed between the two groups of Masons. All this, please remember, while the country lived in a permanent situation of tension, we experienced frequent acts of terror.
My dear brothers, what better demonstration than this, that the Masonic principles of Fraternity can overcome the differences of politics, of religion, of distrust?
In 1995, Dr. Eduardo Vaccaro, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Argentine, and Gabriel Jesús Marín, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of Argentine, decided to establish jointly a Masonic Academy of Peace, with the express purpose of awarding Masonic Peace Prizes to persons and organizations – not only Freemasons – who distinguished themselves in working for the case of peace and humanism.
I was invited to submit the names of suitable candidates for this award, and I proposed two names: Dr. Juan Goldwaser, whose activities developing the fraternal relations between Nazareth Lodge and La Fraternidad lodge I have already described, and Joseph E. Salem, 33°, then Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of Israel.
R:. W:. Bro: Goldwaser, a physician, came to Israel from Argentine and was initiated in La Fraternidad Lodge, where he became Master in 1991. He has held several Grand Lodge offices, reaching the rank of Regional Superintendent for the past two years.
Ill. Bro. Salem was born in Iraq and speaks Arabic; he was educated in England but lived most of his life in Rhodesia, now Botswana, where he was active in all Masonic bodies. Once in Israel he joined the Supreme Council and soon was elected Grand Secretary General and then Sovereign Grand Commander, a position he held for six years. His knowledge of Arabic helped him in his tireless efforts to strengthen the Masonic bonds with Arab brethren.
Both my recommendations were accepted, and Dr. Goldwaser traveled to Buenos Aires to receive his Prize, consisting in a medal and Diploma. Bro. Salem could not travel, because of health problems.
The next time the Masonic Peace Prize was awarded, in 1997, I was again asked to put forward candidates. I now proposed two Arab brethren: W:. Bro. Samir Victor Faran, of Nazareth; and Ill. Bro:. Elias Mansour, 33°, of Haifa, Active Member of the Supreme Council. Brother Faran is Roman Catholic while Brother Mansour is Greek-Catholic.
Brother Faran was initiated in 1979 in Acco Lodge N° 36, in 1982 he was one of the founders of Nazareth Lodge N° 71 and he has always been an enthusiastic promoter of better understanding between the Arab and Jewish communities. Bro:. Faran traveled to Argentine to receive the award, Bro. Goldwaser accompanied him, which was a relief for Bro. Faran, who doesn't speak Spanish, and their presence in Buenos Aires gave physical proof of the unity and universality of Israeli Freemasonry.
As a side comment, I shall mention that among the other recipients of the prize was the Tokyo Masonic Association, noted for its philanthropy; the distinguished Colombian writer Germán Arciniegas, and Aun San Suu Kyi, the Burmese human-rights activist, long persecuted by the local military government, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia in 1991.
Unfortunately this wonderful project of Argentinean Masonry has not continued. The 1997 awards were the last.
Our friendship with Bro. Faran had other results as well. Due to some internal difficulties within his lodge, he resigned and after a while, with the support of a group of Nazareth brothers who had become inactive, and with the encouragement of other lodges (including La Fraternidad) Galilee Lodge N° 31 was revived in Nazareth with him as its first Master. The lodge works in Arabic and is doing very well. A few months ago Bro. Goldwaser and I were awarded in Nazareth the title of Worshipful Master as-Vitam of Galilee Lodge, in recognition for our efforts to further peace and understanding in our Fraternity.
Dear Brethren, I'm afraid I have abused your patience, but I believe the message I brought to you is important, perhaps today more than at any time in the past. Today, when the forces of fanaticism and intolerance are rising in waves of death and destruction, threatening the very foundations of our free and democratic way of life, it is most important to reflect again on the values of Freemasonry, on what our Order is capable of contributing to fight nihilism and defeatism, by showing that men are still capable of developing and maintaining true bonds of fraternity even under the most trying circumstances.
Our Fraternity is not an outdated relic of past glories; it is an institution that proclaims its faith in the value of the Human being and of human life, in the permanent validity of moral judgment, in the importance of assuming responsibility for one's words and actions, in the universal brotherhood of Humanity under the fatherhood of God.
We masons must proclaim loud and clear our message of reason and humanism; our message must be brought to the younger generations, to the men who are sick and tired of chimerical utopias promising an ever-receding Eden, while experiencing the harsh reality of arbitrary power, corruption and oppression.
Freemasonry is not Utopia, we build no "City of the Sun" as described by Campanella; what we build is a tower of strength, of moral strength, and we forge not the chains of slavery, but the links of fraternal love transcending language and distance.
The world needs Freemasonry now more than ever. On our part, what we need is enthusiasm, the readiness to undertake the burden of making our voice heard, of teaching tolerance, of combating prejudice and hatred.
The hand that wields the mallet must not rest, the head that controls it must not despair, and the heart that loves must not be silent. Ché, seggendo in piuma, in fama non si vien, né sotto coltre. (21)
(1) Francis Francia, known as the "Jacobite Jew". Another Jew, Edward Rose, was initiated in 1732 in a lodge presided by Daniel Delvalle, clearly a Jew, who therefore must have been a Mason for some years before becoming Master of his lodge.
(2) Rabbi J. H. M. Chumaceiro, The Evidence of Freemasonry from Ancient Hebrew Records, Augusta, Georgia 1896.
(3) Isaac S. and Suzanne A. Emmanuel, History of the Jews of the Netherland Antilles, American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati 1970, p. 478. The authors make reference to the Old Archives of Curaçao 913, N° 47, 21 February 1774.
(4) Robert Morris, Freemasonry in the Holy Land, New York 1872, Chapter XXVI.
(5) He was persona non grata in American Grand Lodges because of his attempt to enforce a common ritual under the banner of the "Conservators", and his introduction of the Eastern Star women's Masonic organization.
(6) The Alliance Israelite Universelle had been founded in 1860 following the scandal of the Mortara affair of 1858 (when a Jewish boy had been baptized by his nurse and the Pope sequestered him and never allowed returning him to his parents), to defend the civil and religious rights of the Jews all over the world. The Alliance promoted Jewish education. Another founder of the Alliance (and its President in 1864) was another prominent French politician and Mason: Isaac Alphonse Crémieux (1796-1880), elected Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of France in 1869. In 1875 he organized the first international conference of Supreme Councils, held at Lausanne. See Juifs et Francs-Maçons by Daniel Beresniak, Bibliophane, 1989, pp. 178-183.
(7) Leon Zeldis, "The first Masonic Lodge in the Holy Land", Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Vol. 113 for 2000 (published October 2001), p. 197.
(8) Rev. Henry R. Coleman, Light from the East – Travels and Researches in Bible Lands, Louisville, KY, 1884.
(9) André Combes, "Le Grand Orient de France en Palestine", Chroniques d'Histoire Maçonnique, IDERM, Paris, N° 62, Year 2001, p. 36.
(10) Joseph B. Glass & Ruth Kark, Sephardic Entrepreneurs in Eretz Israel. The Amzalak Family 1816-1918, The Magnes Press, Jerusalem 1991, p. 52.
(11) William Henry Bartlett, Walks about the City and Environs of Jerusalem, London 1884, p. 191.
(12) André Combes, op. cit., p.31.
(13) Some historians have mistakenly believed that the French engineers founded the lodge, but a Lodge diploma held by Bro. Baruch Eldad antedates their arrival. The Jaffa-Jerusalem railway was a pet project of Haim Navon, a grandson of Joseph Amzalak.
(14) Cf. Combes, op. cit. p. 34.
(15) Some of the members classified by profession (partial list):
Accountants: Jules Abrevaya, Aziz Arida.
Advocates: David Moyal, Neguib Fares Amiouini, Osman, Noury Elhaldy.
Bank managers: Mohamed Rechad, Paul Christodoulibbi
Doctors: Marcel Drouillard, Samuel Kantarovitch, Elias Sawabini, Mohamed Khaled.
Engineers : Nazif el-Khaldi, Said Ahmed Nashashibi.
Jewish settlers (farmers, etc.): Israel Seyger, Kasriel Rappoport, Ruben Segal.
Judges: Georges Hanna Zacharia, Mohamed Taher, Mohamed Edib Dameka, Abdalla Chefik el-Dajani.
Mayors: Said el-Thanu, Mayor of Gaza, Kamal el-Dine Arafate, Mayor of Nablus.
Merchants: Ibrahim Kattan, Selim Shehebar, Efraim Arber, Assad Araktingi, Isaac Dokelman.
Pharmacists: Nedjib Irmouche, Atalla Bordcosh, Luigi Knesevich.
Police commanders: Mohamed Fazi, Zehia Wafa, Assem Fajri el Din, Ben Ben Khalel Daoud Chucri, Joseph Zia.
Professors: Israel Many, Elie Carmona, Wadieh Sirine.
(Source: Combes, op. cit. pp. 36, 38)
(16) Djabri Zaki, Vice-Consul in Gaza; Ahmad Ata Jabri, Vice-Consul in Ramleh (but Jaffa resident), Anis Jabri, Vice-Consul in Jaffa.
(17) The Druse constitute a distinct ethnic and religious community, living in northern Israel and southern Syria and Lebanon. Their religion is monotheistic, very secretive. They believe in reincarnation and in the Ismaili caliph Al-Hakim (985-1021) as the embodiment of God.
(18) The Bahai is a religion founded in 1863 in Iran that emphasizes the spiritual unity of all humankind. After being persecuted in Iran, it established its world headquarters in the city of Haifa, Israel.
(19) The list is as follows:
Hebrew speaking: Achidan, Aviv, Barkai, Bezalel, Bilu, David Yellin, Dror, Gazit, Genossar, Ha'ari, Hacochav, Hermon, Hiram, Kadima, Menorah, Mitzpah, Moriah, Rashbi, Reuven.
German: Ein Hashiloah, Even Hameukevet, Levanon, Müffelman-Ouman, Ner Tamid.
English: George Washington, Har Zion, Holy City, Sharon.
(20) This situation has been reversed in the last decades, due to an influx of Moslems coming from other parts of the country or from abroad.
(21) Divina Commedia, Inferno, Canto 24.