The Samaritan Community in Israel
Kings I 14:24 we read that the king of Israel, Omri, bought the hill of Shameria
from Shemen, the name of the owner of the hill. The province of Israel called
Samaria is named after Shemen.
called Samaritans still live in Israel near Mt. Gezirim overlooking the town of
Nablus. Today there are only about 700 people in the Samaritan community who
live between Tel Aviv and Hulon . Samaritans have been persecuted for centuries,
during all those years before Israel was restored in 1948. Today, the Samaritans
are not considered Jews by the Jewish establishment, as they do not recognize
the Talmud, but cling to the ancient versions of Jewish ritual, that is, animal
sacrifices. At Pesach or Passover, the Samaritans perpetuate the ritual of
slaughtering sheep, as was done in the ancient temple in Jerusalem.
Samaritans believe that they are the descendants of the biblical tribes of
Menasha and Ephraim, the sons of Joseph. Although, the majority of the
population of the northern kingdom of Israel was exiled to Assyria by Sargon II
in 722 BCE, a few remained behind, and these are the Samaritans. When the exiled
Jews returned to Jerusalem from Babylon in the sixth century BCE and built the
second Temple, they refused to recognize the Samaritans as Jews.
children become bar mitzvah at the age of six after reciting the entire Torah.
Because the Samaritans are not considered Jewish, the Arabs in Israel support
them and even reserve a seat in their parliament for a Samaritan representative.
Samaritans bear Jewish first names and carry Israeli and Palestinian ID cards.
Samaritans also employ a high priest, whose name is Aharon ben Av
Hisda. According to Samaritan tradition, Mt. Gerizim was the are original
holy place of Israel and not Jerusalem. The Talmud calls the Samaritans Catheans
or Kutim, which refers to the ancient city of Kutha in Iraq. Modern genetics
studies support this claim.
reason for the small number of Samaritans lies in the bloody suppression of the
Samaritan revolt against the Byzantine Empire in 529 C.E. Conversion to
Christianity also reduced the number of Samaritans. Thus, Samaritans are so few
that survival is in doubt. Nevertheless, it is remarkable how long this distinct
culture has continued.