Friday, May 21, 2010

The Samaritan Community

I visited the Samaritan village on the top of Mount Gezerim, guided by Husne Kahim (pictured below), the Samaritan's high priest and 163rd descendent of Adam (and he has the framed family tree to prove it). Nablus is the home to one of the world's last Samaritan communities. Samaritans are one of the world's smallest communities, numbering about 725 people (as compared to 146 in 1917). At it's peak, the Samaritans numbered over a million followers in the fifth and fourth centuries BC.

Their religious observances cement cohesion of the community and are strictly defined, with no tolerance for breaches. Women are particularly affected by laws to ensure their purity; they are not permitted to participate in any ordinary activity for seven days during their menstrual cycle or after their have give birth (40 days if the baby is a boy and 80 days if the baby is a girl).

They hold three passports: Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian. Samaritans believe that Mount Gezerim was not only the first piece of land ever created, but it was also the land out of which Adam was made, the only place spared in the great flood and the place where Abraham went to sacrifice his son (opposing the common belief that this took place in Jerusalem). Their small population, coupled with their refusal to accept converts, has caused a history of genetic disease. A Samaritan male may do so on the condition that his future wife convert and submit to a six-month trial period under the direction and supervision of a priest who decides in the end if the marriage may take place. The Samaritan High Priest said this process has been been done with 25 Jewish, 3 Muslim and 5 Christian women. However, there are few non-Samaritan women who want to live segregated on top of a mountain in the middle of Palestine.

Today, the Samaritians live in both Nablus and Holon, a suburb of Jaffa-Tel Aviv. They are both Palestinians and Israelites, they speak Arabic, but pray in ancient Hebrew. Aside from their religious traditions, Samaritans have the same secular traditions as Palestinian Arabs. Although the israeli occupation has granted them special status, Samaritans have remained attached to their Palestinian identities and institutions. There is a seat automatically reserved for them on the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).

No comments: