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Samaritans in Nablus

Photographer: Alaa Badarneh


Everybody has heard about the ‘Good Samaritan’ – the parable Jesus tells in the Bible as an example for charity. It is the story of a man travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho who was severely beaten by robbers and only received help from a Samaritan after two other men just walked by.


Samaritans lived in several places in the Holy Land, extending from the southern part of Syria to northern Egypt. According to tradition, Samaritans are descendants of the Jews who were not deported when the Assyrians conquered Israel in 722 BC.


The Samaritan religion is based on four principles of faith: One God - The God of Israel, One Prophet - Moses Ben Amram, The Belief in the Torah - the first five books of the bible, and One Holy Place - Mount Gerizim.


Despite many hardships over the last 2,700 years, Samaritans have been in this country for over 2,600 years. They have their own culture, heritage and religion. They recite prayers in ancient Hebrew using a Torah scoll. And the Samaritans possess what could be the oldest document in the world in the form of a bible that was written in ancient Samaritan characters on lambskin, 13 years after the death of Moses, over 3,634 years ago.


Today's Samaritan community hails from ancient people who once numbered over a million. Now the community counts about 803 members, half of them living in a village on Mount Gerizim near Nablus, West Bank and the rest in Holon near Tel Aviv, Israel. Most Samaritans are holders of IDs from Israel and Palestine and speak both Arabic and Hebrew.


Samaritans celebrate seven holidays that are mentioned in the Torah: Passover, Matzot, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Feast of Shemini Atseret or Simchat Torah.


During Passover festivities, 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 Samaritan community originates from only five family associations and struggled with serious physical handicaps due to inbreeding. Nowadays, Samaritans do genetic testing and look for brides online in places like Ukraine to stir the gene pool.