was born in 1913 in the Meah Shearim section of Jerusalem to a
large Bucharan Ultraorthodox Jewish family which had
migrated from Persia at the end of the 19th
century. He would become a legendary figure in Jerusalem, journeying
being an Ultraorthodox Jew to Roman Catholicism, Trappist
monk, Benedictine, returning to the Trappists and finally to serving in
the Greek-Catholic Church in Galilee.
The youngest of
sixteen children, he went to school at the “Collège des
and would become a companion of Menachem Begin in the Irgun (the
military wing of Jewish Defense in Israel from 1935-1940). In World War
II he joined the British army and fought in the famous Jewish legion.
Captured in 1941, he became a prisoner of war. He was deeply moved by
reading of the New Testament which he had acquired in exchange for
only when he was released some four years later and returned to London,
England, did he recognize Jesus as his Messiah and was baptized as a
Christian. Back in Jerusalem,
his family tried to persuade him to return to
the Jewish faith, but he persisted and became a
Trappist monk. For a brief time
he stayed at the Trappist Monastery in Latroun. But when it was taken
by the Jordanian
army in 1948, he joined a Benedictine community and studied briefly in
Wanting to announce Christ as Messiah, "Abuna" joined the Greek
Catholic Church. He was
ordained priest by Archbishop Hakim in Nazareth
in 1956 and served the Melkite community as a
parish priest at Gush
Chalav, (he spoke perfect Arabic as well as his native Hebrew) and helped the bishop as
secretary for Jewish affairs. As he encountered more and more
in serving the Palestinian community, he found his true place at “La
in Jerusalem founded by the French Dominicans, where he
collaborated on developing a Hebrew Liturgy with Fr. Jacques
Fontaine. It was at this time that Fr. Abraham
took on the task of recording the entire Tanak in
Hebrew. Fr. Abraham always
showed a great passion for the Hebrew language and often chided his
fellow Israelis for not speaking Hebrew well.
His later years were spent in Jerusalem
where he frequently associated with the Jesuits
the Pontifical Biblical Institute. Fr. Francesco Rossi de Gasperis
bring students and pilgrims to hear him recount his many stories
in the Land of Israel. The last few years of his life were spent
in Bethany, where he was convalescing at Casa Mater Misericordiae.
He died there and was buried on March 23, 1994. His close relationship continued with the Dominicans and the
Melkites, and that is why he is buried in their
garden at the
monastery of St. John in the Desert, just west of Jerusalem, below Moshe ‘Even
Sapir, near ‘En Karem.
The diffusion of the Audio Recordings has been entrusted to the
light of Fr. Abraham’s devotion to St. Theresa of Lisieux. The original
recordings were transferred to digital audio by Audio Scriptures
International, and then transferred to mp3 files, divided according
chapters, by the Academy of Ancient
These latter mp3
files are used in this rendition of the Hebrew Tanak. On-line
links (as of July 2007) can be found at various sites: Academy
of Ancient Languages; or at Mechon-Mamre.
Both sites have links to the crystal clear recordings of Fr. Abraham's
reading of the entire Hebrew Bible.
information has been gathered from personal acquaintainces of Fr.
Abraham Shmuelof by Michael Kolarcik, particularly that of Fr.
Francesco Rossi de Gasperis, S.J.)