There is always something special to explore or someone interesting to meet when traveling on a Holy Land tour. During our tour to Nablus, the town on the site of biblical Sechem, we decided to visit the Samaritan inhabitants living in Mt. Gerazim. Till that day, we only read about them in the Bible.
We knew the famous story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan women on the site of the Jacob’s Well in Shechem. “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.” (John 4:7-8)
So, it was amazing to take ourselves back to the biblical times during our visit to the Samaritan museum, located on the top of the sacred mountain. Our group was kindly welcomed by the museum’s director, Mr. Husney, who right away began explaining the habits of the sect.
Paintings on the wall of the museum.
Who are the Samaritans?
We learned that the Samaritans are the descendants of the original children of Israel, who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses. They are divided into two religious strata: the leaders – Kohanim (priest) and the community, who are the descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh tribes. Nowadays, there are only around 740 Samaritans living in Nablus and 350 in the city of Holon, near Tel-Aviv.
The Samaritan community is monotheistic and believes only in the 5 books of Moses. For them, Moses and Amram are the prophets and the Mt. Gerazim is a holy place. They observe Sabbath in a strict manner.
They celebrate most of the same feasts as Jews. However, they follow different practices and habits while feasting. The most important and spectacular is Passover, celebrated to commemorate their exodus from Egypt. To learn more about the Samaritan sacrifice on Passover, click here.
Samaritan’s Sacred Scripts – Torah
Why Mt. Gerazim is so Important to the Samaritans?
The Samaritans have unique beliefs regarding the Mt. Gerazim. They believe that Adam and Eve first met on that mountain. Moreover, they believe that this was the spot where Abraham wanted to sacrifice Isaac to God. Mt. Gerazim holds other significance to the Samaritans which further reinforce the importance of the site to them.
Samaritans and Nablus
While walking the streets of Nablus, you would probably not recognize a regular Samaritan from the crowd. With the exception of the priests, most wear modern clothes and speak Arabic. It is only during the religious feasts and prayers they use the ancient Hebrew language.
It is also believed that much of the Nablusi population descends from Samaritans who converted into Islam, mainly during the Ottoman period. Mr. Husney gave us an interesting theory how we could recognize a descendant of a Samaritan: The lower parts of their ears would be disconnected from the face.
Visit the Samaritans
If you are seeking to learn about Samaritan culture and to perhaps even meet members of the community, visit the Samaritan Museum on Mt. Gerazim in Nablus. There you will see many records from their rituals and feasts, as well as some of the archaeological findings discovered around the mountain.
Items in the Samaritan’s museum
There are no regularly scheduled day tours to Mt. Gerazim, however, the site can be visited on a privately guided program. For further information on the museum contact: Samaritansfirstname.lastname@example.org ; mobile: +970 523 545006. Mt. Gerazim and Nablus can both be visited on a day tour and can also be combined with a visit to nearby Sebastiya. If you are interested in arranging a tour to include these sites, contact email@example.com
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Beata M. Andonia works for the Bethlehem tourist bureau and blogs regularly about Bethlehem for Travelujah-Holy Land Tours. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.