Israel: Pagan priest Einar calls for recognition by State

In Asatru community, says 'no contact with those who sow hatred'

10 February, 10:48

    TEL AVIV - Einar, an Israeli Jew who is a pagan priest in the Asatru community, imagines a future in which the paganism of northern Europe is finally recognised as a legitimate religion in the Jewish State, so that its members are no longer forced to practice it on the fringes of society.

    "We've already chosen the ideal place for our sanctuary," Einar said.

    "It's a wooded area in the Golan Heights. There, immersed in nature, we can celebrate our rites and lift up our offerings to the gods," he said.

    Being pagan in a strongly monotheistic society such as Israel isn't a simple thing; there is often immediate incomprehension of those who believe in Nordic mythology.

    Adding to the suspicion surrounding Nordic paganism is the widespread belief in Israel that the practice is associated with Nazi ideology.

    In order to clear up any misconceptions, Einar decided to feature in a documentary by Italian photographer Dario Sanchez, who has been living in Israel for five years.

    "There is no contact between us and neo-Nazi groups," Einar told ANSA.

    "They usurped our symbols for their own purposes," he said.

    In fact, contrary to ideologies that spread hatred, the Asatru community preaches honesty, tolerance, and respect for the environment.

    "The swastika is a symbol of strength and has very ancient origins. It was even reproduced in a mosaic in an old synagogue," Einar said, referring to the Ein Gedi ancient synagogue on the Dead Sea, not far from Masada.

    Einar is a professional cook by trade, and his Jewish name is Eliad.

    He came to Nordic mythology as an adolescent, after having family difficulties.

    Since that time, he has gradually deepened his knowledge and made contacts with others in Israel who practice paganism.

    "The Asatru community here has a thousand members. There are 20,000 pagans in Israel overall," Einar said.

    Since the community's members can't have a fixed meeting place, they maintain contact through phone messages and periodically gather in places immersed in nature.

    There, they make sacrifices to the gods using various animals (cows, chickens, sheep, goats) and then eat the meat.

    "The gods fill me with a sense of well-being that I never knew before," Einar said.

    Pagans in Israel hope that in the future the Knesset will recognise their religion as legitimate, following the example of Scandinavian countries.

    However, for now the members of the community will continue to celebrate their rites in private.

    Sanchez, the documentary photographer working on the theme of identities, said he produced his documentary showing Israelis the reality of pagan cults, "not to judge, but to stimulate questions on universal themes".

    "It's a vehicle for reflection on the complex and subjective path of building an identity, and the possibility of facing it freely, going beyond the limits of the usual conventions," Sanchez said.(ANSAmed).

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