The Samaritans

A Mezuzah with ancient Hebrew letters
A Mezuzah with ancient Hebrew letters

They have Palestinian IDs but they’re not Muslim, They speak Arabic but they put a Mezuzah with Hebrew letters on their doors. So who are the ‘Samaritans’?

If you ask a Samaritan he will tell you that they are the ‘Authentic Israel’. When the Children of Israel came out from Egypt, God’s temple was built on Mount Gerizim – in North Samaria. But as a result of a conflict between two priests, Eli and Uzi, Eli left and created another temple. Most of Israel followed him with only three tribes remaining loyal to the temple in Mount Gerizim. The name ‘Samaritan’ comes from the area ‘Samaria’ but could also come from the Hebrew word ‘Shomer’ which means ‘keeper’. They still keep God’s mountain.

The view from Gerizim Mountain
The view from Gerizim Mountain

On the other hand, we have the Bible’s version. As written in the book of Kings, Israel was defeated by the Assyrians in 722 BC and was sent to exile. To make sure that Israel would never return he placed others in the settlement:

“And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah… and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel” (2 kings chapter 17)

Samaritans in Passover
Samaritans in Passover

This new population couldn’t live peacefully there due to lions coming and killing some of them. They sent representatives to the Assyrian king and said:

“The nations which thou hast carried away, and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land

The king had a solution:

“So one of the (Israeli) priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came… and taught them how they should fear the LORD”

In other words, an Israeli priest came and converted them.

In the high priest's house, the priest Ovadia
In the high priest’s house, the priest Ovadia

I’ll let you decide which version is closer to the truth. Until then, you should come and visit their amazing neighborhood. Today, there are 400 Samaritans on mount Gerizim. You will see their holy mountain with a breathtaking view; explore their interesting museum with all kinds of exhibits which tell us much more about their traditions. And finally, the high point of the tour; If you have any more questions you can meet the priest Ovadia, their high priest in his home. He will be very happy to tell you how do they celebrate Shabbat, Passover and other festivals, which calendar they use? and how do they get married when most of their community are men?

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