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The Samaritans reject the name “Samaritans” or “Samarians”.  Instead, they consider their name to be “Shamerim”, which means guardian or watchman (BAR, 10/1991).  The Samaritans view themselves as Israelite, the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh as well as priests of the tribe of Levi, the latter of whom claim descent from Phinehas, the son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron (Article written by Dr Eyal Baruch: Mount Gerizim and the Polemic against the Samaritans on 9/18/2016).

However, in 2 Kings 17 it implies that the Samaritans emerged from the mixture of northern Israelites and foreigners brought by the Assyrians in 721 BCE and who evolved to pagan and false god worship.

The recent research from the ancient sources, the rigorous mizvot (commandments) practices, and the belief of the Samaritans do not point to a pagan worship in the past and even today (BAR, 10/1991).  In addition, according to Yitzhak Magen printed by Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) said: “The Jewish Sages appreciated the Samaritan observance of the mizvot and said that all those mizvot observed by the Samaritans were more scrupulously followed than by the Jews.”

Per INPA, the Samaritan religion has four main doctrines:

  1. One God
  2. One prophet, Moses Son of Amram
  3. One holy scripture which is the five books of the Torah
  4. One holy place – Mount Gerizim
In short, the Samaritans are rather divergent from ancient Judaism, probably from the second or first century B.C.E. when the Jewish and Samaritan communities went their separate ways (BAR 10/1991).

samaritans in mount gerizim

According to the Jerusalem Post on 4/22/2016, Samaritans were prohibited from living atop Mount Gerizim and performing the sacrifice.  It was not until after the Six Day War that they had free access to live atop Mount Gerizim as shown in the picture.

In 2000, there were 301 Samaritans living at Kiryat Luza, atop Mount Gerizim and 324 in Holon, south of Tel Aviv (INPA).

At the slight left in the picture, you may see a small sloped paved road.  Visitors can take a shuttle bus run by the Samaria Regional Council, then hike about 15 minutes up this small paved road to arrive at the sacrificial offering place.

slaughtering place

Mount Gerizim is the only ritual sacrificial offering place still performing in the world.  Every Passover, the Samaritans carry out the sacrifice here.  Typically there is one sheep per family and the sheep cost about NIS 1,600 which is around USD 514.00 as of 2016.

burning pits

The sheep are slaughtered and blood will be put on the Samaritans’ foreheads to stave off the angel of death.  Then the sheep are skinned and the organs are burned over the burning pits.

passover sacrifice

 So, how can they cook the sheep?  The sheep carcasses are placed on large five-meter-long spiked wooden skewers, washed, salted, wrapped, and placed in an “oven” (a big hole) with a piece of fabric cover on the top of the poles, the hole’s sharp ends pierce through the fabric.  A muddy mixture is then placed on the top of the fabric, and then clay smoke it for 2.5-3 hours, each family can take a wooden box of meat home to enjoy.

Photo was contributed by Dr Rasmussen.

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