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(photo credit: AP [file])
The mayor of Nablus was refused a permit on Tuesday by the army to attend the Pessah ceremony of the Samaritans, who are under his jurisdiction.
"We [the municipality] gave them all the services for their ceremony," Mayor Adli Yaish told The Jerusalem Post. "But the army did not let me attend in my official capacity as their mayor." The Samaritans live on Mount Grizim, outside Nablus, but within its municipal jurisdiction. Many of them voted for Yaish, who won the mayoralty last December by a landslide last November at the head of a Hamas electoral list.
But for the mayor to attend the ceremony, he - like other residents of the city - needed a permit to exit the Hawara checkpoint, in the south of the city. Nablus has been under a military closure off and on since 2002.
The army gave different reasons for rejecting the request for a permit. One spokesman said it was because the Samaritans chose the army to attend the ceremony over the mayor.
"The issue was raised last week," said Shlomo Dror, head spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. "We informed the Samaritans that if they want him to be there, then we won't be there. That's the whole story. As far as I know, they did not invite him. They invited the head of the Civil Administration and the head of the DCL. We don't want any connection with him, we don't want to meet him, we don't want to be in the same place and shake his hand."
Another army spokesman said there was never any question about Yaish's attendance. "Yes, he was refused," confirmed Adam Avidan, spokesman for the Civil Administration. "As [Acting Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert and others have said, we will not cooperate with Hamas. He asked for a permit to go past a checkpoint. But we will not ease their movements, we will not coordinate with him. Because he is Hamas he will not get any permit from us as the Civil Administration."
Yaish says he is not a member of Hamas. "They offered me to run at the head of their list and I accepted the offer," said Yaish. "I just want to serve my city."
Every year the mayor and the governor of Nablus come. This year the former mayor, Ghassan Shaqa, attended.
Khader Cohen, former secretary of the High Priest of the Samaritan community and presently a board member of the Institute of the History of the Samaritans, said Yaish was invited and the army refused to let anyone come from Hamas.
"We invited him to attend," said Cohen "He's a friend of the Samaritan community and the mayor. But the Civil Administration said everyone from Fatah can come to your ceremony, but not from Hamas."
Khader said that Yaish helped the community prepare for their special occasion. "He helped us with the electricity for Pessah. He said whatever you want I will help you," adding that "Adli Yaish is my good friend. He's a great person. Samaritan, Christian, Muslim - he does not differentiate. By the way, the Yaish family was once Samaritan."
The Samaritans are a small community of 685 people, divided between Holon, south of Tel Aviv, and the Palestinian village on Mount Grizim. All members of the community hold both Israeli and Palestinian identification cards.
"We are in Holon and here," said Cohen. "We are always praying for peace. We have offered a number of times that Mount Grizim will be a bridge for peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis."
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