Members of the Samaritan sect take part in a traditional pilgrimage marking the holiday of Passover on Mount Gerizim, near the West Bank city of Nablus, May 9, 2015. (photo by REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini)
NABLUS, West Bank — Mount Gerizim, south of Nablus in the northern West Bank, is home to the Samaritans, who call themselves the world’s smallest religious community. There are some 780 Samaritans total, distributed between Gerizim, where 380 of them live, and the city of Holon in Israel, where they number 400.
Hosni Wassef, a Samaritan priest and curator of the Samaritan Museum, located on Mount Gerizim on the outskirts of Nablus, told Al-Monitor that the Samaritans are the descendants of Israelites who fled with Moses from Egypt to the Holy Land some 3,600 years ago to escape the oppression of the Pharaoh. “We have not left the Holy Land since,” he said.
The word “Samaritan” in Ancient Hebrew, the language of Moses, means “guardian,” referring to those who guarded the Torah, said Wassef. Samaritanism is based on five key pillars: the oneness of God, the prophecy of Moses, the first five books of the Torah, the sanctity of Mount Gerizim (not Jerusalem) and the Last Judgment.
The Samaritans celebrate seven holidays a year. One is Passover, during which they present offerings to God, who made way for the Israelites to save them from the Pharaoh. Among their Passover traditions, Samaritans eat unleavened bread and bitter herbs, commemorating the bitterness of life in Egypt. The others are the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, which lasts for six days, the Harvest Festival, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Shavuot.
Today, Mount Gerizim has been divided, distributed among Areas A, B and C in the Oslo Accord between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel. The Samaritans had bought some 150 dunams (37 acres) of land in Area B, on which they built homes. Reflecting the historical struggle over the Holy Land, they hold Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian passports.
The holiest place for Samaritans is the summit of Mount Gerizim, which they believe to have been the chosen location for the holy temple. By order of Israel, the area is now fenced off and only accessible to the Samaritans for pilgrimage three times a year, during Passover, the Harvest Festival and Sukkot.
The Samaritans are led by a high priest, the eldest member of the Levites, who are descendants of Eleazer, the second high priest of the sect and son of Aaron, the first high priest and Moses’ older brother who accompanied Moses during the Exodus. Abdullah Tawfiq is the current high priest. The occupant of the office traditionally makes decisions on religious affairs, while two five-person committees, elected to two-year terms in Mount Gerizim and Holon, are in charge of managing the community’s daily life, explained Wassef.
Samaritans take great pride in their history, which is preserved in the Samaritan Museum, built in 1997. According to Wassef, the museum documents the lineage of 163 generations of Samaritan history, beginning with Adam all the way to the current high priest. It also includes what is alleged to be the oldest copy of the Torah, written in Ancient Hebrew, as well as a collection of Ancient Hebrew documents, books, coins, stones, pottery, traditional glassware and models of the Samaritan holy places. The Samaritans claim their Torah, housed in the synagogue at the museum complex, was written 13 years after their ancestors entered the Holy Land. Only Samaritans can view it, and then only on three occasions per year. By religious tradition, only three priests hold the keys to its repository.
About the differences between Samaritans and Jews, Wassef said, “Samaritans use the original [authentic] Torah, written in Hebrew by the fourth descendent of Aaron, Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, brother of Moses. It was written 13 years after [Abishua] arrived in the Holy Land. Therefore, there are 7,000 differences in verses and words between the Samaritan and the Jewish Torah. This is not to mention the sanctity of Mount Gerizim, where the true temple of Moses was built. It was mentioned 13 times in the Torah, while Jerusalem was never mentioned. It is where Ibrahim [Abraham] built his temple and wanted to sacrifice his son, Isaac, to God.” The split between Samaritanism and Judaism resulted from tribal and succession conflicts.
According to Wassef, the Samaritans originally settled in Nablus, until moving to Mount Gerizim in 1987 because of overcrowding in the neighborhood where they concentrated and the outbreak of the first intifada. He told Al-Monitor that Samaritans are considered “an integral part of the Palestinian people and their social fabric, sharing their joys and sorrows. Our mission is to be a bridge for peace based on democracy, freedom and the establishment of a free and independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, alongside Israel, along the 1967 borders.”
During the 20th century, Wassef said, the Samaritans faced the prospect of extinction, their population dwindling to 146 people in 1917. They survived, but today the community is struggling demographically due to a gender imbalance. “Samaritans are suffering from a lack of females, thus young men are obliged to marry girls belonging to other religions, which is theologically forbidden unless they convert to Samaritanism. During the past 40 years, young Samaritans managed to marry 40 girls of different religions who converted,” said Wassef.
These days, Wassef said, the community also harbors concerns about telecommunications towers erected on Mount Gerizim. “There are six towers for mobile [cellphone] companies [Jawwal and Cellcom] and for the Israeli army that have increased the chances of cancer among Samaritans, affecting and threatening our future,” he asserted. “These towers were set up without our approval.”
Wassef concluded, “Samaritans numbered 3 million before the arrests launched by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of ancient Babylonia, in 586 B.C. Their number dwindled through the centuries, and 800 remain today. They live with the obsession of preserving their lineage and protecting their history, which goes back to the days of Adam.”
An antisemitic flyer found on the University of Houston campus on Tuesday. Photo: Michael Leone / Facebook
Dozens of flyers and stickers promoting neo-Nazi propaganda were found at the University of Houston (UH) this week, the latest incident associated with an increase in white supremacist activity on campuses nationwide.
The flyers, found on bulletin boards, walls, trash bins, and lamp posts at the university’s main campus on Tuesday, included phrases such as, “Beware the International Jew” and “Imagine a Muslim-Free America,” according to a statement shared online by UH’s chapter of the Young Communist League (YCL).
IDF soldiers make a blessing on the traditional Jewish custom of apple and honey to welcome Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. (ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) and Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) said they will provide $1.5 million in annual Rosh Hashanah “Fellowship Gift Cards” to 12,000 IDF soldiers marking the upcoming Jewish New Year.
The initiative, coordinated in collaboration with the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers and the LIBI Fund, will provide more than 10,000 lone soldiers and soldiers $140 gift cards. Another 2,200 soldiers will receive gift cards worth $100.
The cards “will allow the soldiers to celebrate the New Year without the burden of financial stress,” the organizations said in a statement Wednesday.
Gaza-based terror group says it will agree to Palestinian Authority conditions on forming joint government and holding elections
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, center, and spokesman Fawzi Barhoum attend a protest in Gaza City on July 22, 2017, against new Israeli security measures implemented at the holy site, which include metal detectors and cameras, following an attack that killed two Israeli policemen the previous week. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)
For the past week or so, Iranian official media and social networks have been abuzz with anecdotes woven around a football match in Tehran between Iran and Syria and the light it might shed on a complicated relationship.
According to most accounts, a group of Syrians flown in by special charter to cheer their national squad in its bid for a place in the World Cup in Moscow staged an anti-Iran demonstration in the stadium. The Syrian contingent included young ladies who refused to wear the Iranian-style hijab.
Their presence in the stadium highlighted the fact that no Iranian woman is allowed to attend a football match after a fatwa by the “Supreme Guide” that women watching young men running around with bare legs might cause “undue excitement”
An Orthodox man passes a British guard in London, UK. (drserg / Shutterstock.com)
A new in-depth survey conducted by the U.K.-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) found that around 30 percent of the British public hold at least one anti-Semitic viewpoint.
The report noted, however, that most of the 30 percent polled also held some positive views about Jews.
Further, around 15 percent of the British public indicated they agreed with two or more anti-Semitic views presented to them, while two percent of British adults polled were found to be “hard-core” anti-Semites.
The survey was conducted by JPR senior research fellow Dr. Daniel Staetsky using face-to-face interviews and online polls.
That’s followed by the sounds of the terrorists assaulting a passenger.
“Please don’t hurt me,” he pleads. “Oh God.”
As the passengers rush the cabin, a Muslim terrorist proclaims, “In the name of Allah.”
As New York firefighters struggle up the South Tower with 100 pounds of equipment on their backs trying to save lives until the very last moment, the Flight 93 passengers push toward the cockpit. The Islamic hijackers call out, “Allahu Akbar.”.
The autumn of 2015 was unusual in almost every way on the north Aegean Greek island of Lesbos from which I am writing. There were tens of thousands of illegal migrants on the island, the native population of which was scarcely 100,000. New refugees arrived every day by the thousands.
One evening, the blue-gray sky grumbled shortly after sunset. The thick clouds blackened and rain poured down over the city with a roar. As I ran across the slippery pavement into a friend’s bar, I heard a group of five poor souls speaking Persian with a Turkic accent and running amok, seeking shelter under the eaves of a building.
Back in May, a New Orleans statue of Joan of Arc was tagged with “Tear it Down” graffiti.
Why Joan of Arc? Any famous historical figure is by definition controversial. Joan is a French national
symbol, but Shakespeare depicted her as a malicious witch. The French Quarter where the statue stands is a mostly white neighborhood. France was dealing with a controversial election.
This is what happens when you open a can of historical, religious and nationalistic worms.
Regarding the question that forms the title of this article, I truly believe that the answer is “yes.” It is my belief that Christian Zionism is as obvious a sign of the beginning of the redemption of Israel as are the ingathering of millions of Jews to the land of Israel and the existence of the State of Israel itself. But there are many people who don’t share this perspective.
In the Jewish community, there are still many who are wary of Christian friendship and support. Many Jews are suspicious of an ulterior motive to convert Jews to Christianity that they fear underlies this political partnership.
Last weekend, the world experienced a petrifying “wake up call” when Pyongyang test launched a hydrogen bomb. According to Yukiya Amano, director of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), Sunday’s test represents “a new dimension to the threat.” Added Amano, “I think the North Korean threat is a global one now.
In the past, people thought it was a regional one, but that is no longer the case.”
Since 1994, when North Korea decided to pull out of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), there has been a huge history of attempts to chain the North Korean nuclear beast, including efforts for military cooperation, sanctions and, of course, negotiations.