The Samaritan Update

“Mount Gerizim,

All the Days of Our Lives”


January/ February 2016                                                                                                     Vol. XV - No 3

In This Issue

·         Commentary

·         Samaritan Medal

·         Substance Flows

·         Auction

·         Drone over Gerizim

·         YouTube Aerial

·         Recent Research

·         New Publications

·         Lord Avebury

·         From the Editor

·         2016 Tours

·         Publishing

·         Lantern Slide

·         Call for Papers

·         Digitisation Project

·         Tahini

·         Biblioblog

·         Old News

·         Biblio


Your link to the Samaritan Update Index

On January 1, 2015, the Samaritan Community numbered 777.


Passover link


Future Events

It has been 3654 years since the entrance into the Holy Land

 (Samaritan’s typical calendar) 



The Eleventh Month 3654 - Monday Evening, 8 February 2016

The Twelfth Month 3654 - Tuesday Evening, 8 March 2016                                  

The First Month 3654 - Wednesday Evening, 6 April 2016

Passover Sacrifice - Wednesday from sunset to sunset (7:13 PM) - 20 April 2016


[Calculated by: Priest Yakkiir ['Aziz] b. High Priest Jacob b. 'Azzi – Kiriat Luza, Mount Gerizim]


Ṣadaqah al-Ḥakīm’s Commentary on Genesis, Last Part No. Five, Chapters XLI— L

Preliminary edition by Haseeb Shehadeh


The first part that includes the commentary of the first six chapters was published in August 2014 in  

Part 1 is here at


The second part that includes the commentary of chapters VII—XX was published at the beginning of January 2015 in

Part 2 is here at


The third part that included the commentary of the chapters XXI— XXX: was published at the beginning of July 2015 in

Part 3 is here at 


The fourth part that includes the commentary of the chapters XXXI— XL was published at the end of August 2015 in

Part 4 is here at


This thirteenth-century Arabic commentary by the physician Ṣadaqah b. abū al-Farağ Munağğā b. Ṣadaqah b. Ġarūb al-Sāmiriyy al-Dimashqiyy (d. 1223) is the oldest commentary to have come down to us. It has survived in two manuscripts: R. Huntington 301 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (203 fols., Genesis 1: 2 — 50:5) and Cam III 14 (114 fols., Genesis 1: 4—49: 16) in the Russian National Library in Saint Petersburg. The portion of the commentary that appears below reflects Sadaqah’s broad knowledge of medicine, as well as of Rabbinic, Karaite and Arabic sources of philosophy, grammar and exegesis. This portion, including the first six chapters of Genesis, has been ready in my computer for almost two decades. Unfortunately, I did not find the time to continue with this project, and I therefore decided to make this portion available to Samaritans as well as to all who are interested and able to read and understand this kind of Arabic. This edition is based on R. Huntington 301 with some readings taken from Cam III 14. Based on my preliminary research into the latter manuscript (as well as Cam III 5 and 6), I can say that this source does not present substantially different readings from R. Huntington 301. The character أ or the word ال صأ ل stands for the Oxford manuscript and the character س stands for the manuscript in Saint Petersburg. The slash indicates the end of one page and the beginning of the next. It should be mentioned that almost 11% of the Oxford manuscript, 22 first folios, was rendered into Modern Hebrew by A. Loewenstamm in the early 1980s. A facsimile of the text and the translation were published in Jerusalem in 2008.


The First Israelite Samaritan Medal 
Granted to the President of Israel, Mr.
Reuven Rivlin

A warm welcome full of friendship

On Wednesday, 06/01/2016, at 12 noon, arrived the High Priest Abdel Ben-Asher and the seven members of his entourage to the Israel's President Residence in Jerusalem, to give the President of Israel, Mr. Reuven Rivlin, the first Israelite-Samaritan Medal of peace and humanitarian achievement.

President Rivlin warmly embraced Abdel High Priest and his entourage: His Eldest son Asher; The Secretary of the community Committee in Kiryat Luza, Isaac Altif; Committee members in Kiryat Luza, Hanan Altif and Ben-Yehuda Altif, Member of the Holon's Community committee Oved Altif and the brothers Benyamim and Yefet Tsedaka.

After their mutual courtesy, expressed Priest Abdel his hope that the president will continue his activities for the consolidation of peace, that the High Priest said, without peace there is no better future for the peoples of the region.

The High Priest Abed-El, who is also the owner of a factory for the production of "Har Bracha Tahini” in Kiryat Luza, Mount Gerizim, gave President Rivlin a personal gift from his business. The President made a point of saying in joy that it tastes most delicious tahini he knows, and that the kitchen of the presidents of Israel house using this product often. The High Priest’s entourage confirmed the president's remarks with enthusiastic nods of agreement.

Line compare the family of President and the Samaritans

President Rivlin expressed his confidence that he would continue its activities for peace and noted that for many decades he knows the Samaritans and felt a special affection for them.

The President mentioned that his family lived in Jerusalem for the last 210 years, where the family lived together with all the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities in peace and friendship.

The Samaritans first recognized by him as a subject of his interest since he became aware to the activity of the second president, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi for them, and learned to love and respect the Samaritans. Even in his many years as a parliament ["Kneset"] member he solved problems that plagued them.

Then the noble host and distinguished guests stood for the Medal ceremony specially dedicated to the President Reuven Rivlin. Yefet Ben Ratson Tsedaka and the secretary Yitzhak Altif read the Hebrew and English texts of the reasons to award the Medal to President Rivlin.

The Samaritan Medal Foundation in Washington, DC and its branch in Holon, Israel, decided at the annual meeting of the board in Washington DC, on November 29, 2015, to award the medal to the President of the State of Israel Mr. Reuven Rivlin, according to a proposal by the chairman Benyamim Tsedaka. The proposal relied unanimously by all seven members of the Foundation Board.

The awarding of the medal to President Rivlin reasoned by his many activities in making peace in the region, his efforts to bring the Israel's communities and strengthening ties between the people of the State of Israel and the Jewish people communities in the Diaspora and his longstanding friendship with the Israelite-Samaritan People.

The history book was awarded the President Rivlin - 
A friend of the Israelite-Samaritan community

At the end of the meeting Benyamim Tsedaka awarded the President with his 106Th book, "The History of Israelite Samaritans based on their own sources" in Hebrew. President Rivlin has expressed his thanks and appreciation to the end of this life project, which was a hard work lasted ten years.

After the visit there was a panel discussion with the President, where the main topic was the expansion of the Samaritan neighborhood in Holon. President Rivlin asked that the matter be submitted to him in a memorandum and He in turn will investigate the critical issue promoting the growing community of Samaritans in Holon, Israel with the appropriate parties, and will seek to advance the issue.

The host and his guests expressed their full satisfaction with the visit. President Rivlin expressed his delight to be the holder of the Samaritan medal in 2016 and thanked the High Priest Abed-El and his entourage for the visit, the medal awarded to him and the book of history

Benyamim Tsedaka

Attached: photo of the meeting by the Government Press Office [High Priest Abdel Ben-Asher and Mr. Reuven Rivlin]


A Magical Substance Flows into Me

Robert Lachmann was a German-Jewish ethnomusicologist. In the 1930s, his radio show "Oriental Music" explored the musical traditions of Palestine and included regular live performances by musicians from different ethnic and religious groups.
Inspired by Lachmann’s musicological studies, Palestinian artist Jumana Manna travels through Israel and the Palestinian territories of today with recordings from the programme. What do these songs sound like now when performed by Moroccan, Kurdish, or Yemenite Jews, by Samaritans, members of the urban and rural Palestinian communities, Bedouins and Coptic Christians?
When a true fascination for history meets the sounds of the rababa, the saz, the oud and tin cans, a cultural diversity emerges that subverts the distinction between "Arab" and "Jewish". There are no national borders here, only different kitchens where people make music together – with their guests, while cooking, while someone makes the coffee. Until the music becomes so infectious you can’t help but dance along.

Palestinian Territories / Germany / Great Britain 2016, 68 min; Arabic, Hebrew, English

By Jumana Manna

See at their website:



Jewish and Israeli History and Culture by Kedem Public Auction House Ltd

March 16, 2016, 5:00 PM EET Jerusalem, Israel Live Auction


Lot 346: Collection of Documents and Letters concerning the Samaritan Community Starting bid: $800

Description: A collection of documents and letters from the estate of Avraham Nur Tsedakah of the Board of the Samaritans in Israel, who, among his other activities, edited and printed annotated editions of Samaritan manuscripts with explanations of Samaritan laws and customs. Documents include: * Handwritten letter from David Ben-Gurion, confirming "with deep gratitude" the receipt of the Book of Exodus in a Jewish-Samaritan version, sent to him by Avraham Tsedakah. * Thirteen letters from Yitzhak Ben-Zvi on various matters. * Booklet written by Ben-Zvi on the Samaritan Abisha Scroll, with dedication. * Correspondence on various matters: allocation of lamb meat to the Samaritan people, recruitment to the IDF, Samaritan writings and the edition of the Hebrew-Samaritan Torah edited by Avraham Tsedakah, request of permit for flour to bake matzot for Passover, letter from the mayor of Holon Pinchas Ayalon regarding a housing project to be built for Samaritans and a letter from Yeffet Tsedakah regarding the agreement of 15 families to move to Holon, letter of confirmation of receipt of medical aid from the Red Cross, signed by the Head of the Board of Samaritans in Nablus High Priest Amram ben Yitzhaq Cohen and Tsedakah Yitzhaq Cohen. * Copy of "Lineage of Our Master Moshe ben Amram, May He Rest in Peace", written by Elazar ben Tsedakah, High Priest in Nablus. * Collection of publications and articles on the Samaritans. * A number of leaves in Samaritan handwriting, and more. Total of about 55 documents, some containing a number of leaves. Size and condition vary.


Lot 347: Collection of Samaritan Manuscripts

Starting bid: $2,500

Description: Five Samaritan manuscripts, [20th century]. 1. Manuscript volume, "Kittab Ildalil fi Yum Almia'ad", Samaritan theological essay, in Samaritan handwriting. 2. Manuscript volume (unidentified), in Arabic and Samaritan script. The last 40 leaves are detached and their margins are cut (with damage to text). 3. 45 leaves handwritten by Avraham Nur Tsedakah, "Tefillot Shabatot HaShavuot" [Shavuot Sabbath Prayers] - in preparation for a printed booklet. 4. Circa 150 leaves (large format), apparently handwritten by Avraham Nur Tsedakah, preparation for a book. Samaritan and Arabic script. 5. Circa 70 leaves handwritten by Avraham Nur Tsedakah, parts of the Books of Exodus and Leviticus, written on large paper sheets. Hebrew, Arabic and Samaritan script.


Lot 348: Collection of Samaritan Printed Materials - Torah and Prayer Books Starting bid: $400

Description: Fifteen volumes, Torah and Samaritan prayer books, [1960s-1970s]. Samaritan original and photocopied printed materials, edited by Avraham Nur Tsedakah. Including: * Siddur of the prayer for the Sabbath of "Tssimot Ha-Pesach". * Chumash, Jewish-Samaritan version, (all five books in one volume). * Samaritan Torah. * Book of Festivals - Samaritan liturgies for festivals. * Prayer booklets, Sabbath of "Tssimot Ha-Pesach". * Prayer booklet for the Succoth Festival (the emblem of the State of Israel is embossed on the cover). * Booklet of prayers of "Ma'amad Har Sinai" (the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, one day before the Festival of Shavuot). * Sabbath morning prayers, and more. Varying size. Good overall condition; slight worming to some volumes.



Drone over Gerizim

Tomer Altef posted this image taken from a Phantom 3 Advance drone over the Samaritan neighborhood of Kurit Luza on Mount Gerizim Jan. 14, 2016

See a short flight over Mount Gerizim:




Oviadia Alteef Facebook Posts (Feb. 5, 2016)




Mount Grizim


Aerial on YouTube by Amir Aloni Published on Jan 21, 2016

Aerial photography-4K- Mount Gerizim is a holy and historic site, located on the south side of Shechem. On the top are ruins of a Samaritan city dated to the Persian and Hellenistic periods, and a Byzantine Church.
To use this video in a commercial player or in broadcasts, please email  



The Samaritans in Recent Research

By Reinhard Pummer

Department of Classics and Religious Studies, University of Ottawa
December 2015

“High Priest of Vanishing Samaritan Sect Dead at 82” was the headline in one of the daily online Israeli newspapers in 2001. From today’s vantage point, this statement was wrong on two accounts. One, the Samaritans are not a sect, and, two, they did not vanish but grew substantially in the meantime. (Continue reading)


New Publications


The Samaritans: A Profile by Reinhard Pummer  

Most people associate the term “Samaritan” exclusively with the New Testament stories about the Good Samaritan and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Very few are aware that a small community of about 750 Samaritans still lives today in Palestine and Israel; they view themselves as the true Israelites, having resided in their birthplace for thousands of years and preserving unchanged the revelation given to Moses in the Torah.

Reinhard Pummer, one of the world’s foremost experts on Samaritanism, offers in this book a comprehensive introduction to the people identified as Samaritans in both biblical and nonbiblical sources. Besides analyzing the literary, epigraphic, and archaeological sources, he examines the Samaritans’ history, their geographical distribution, their version of the Pentateuch, their rituals and customs, and their situation today. There is no better book available on the subject.


Get your copy today for $30.00, Best money you will spend all year:


Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.



The History of the Israelite Samaritan Keepers Based on Their Own Sources is selling well and responses have been positive, apart from a few readers from our own community who expected that they, or their ancestors, would be given more comprehensive coverage. But this is to be expected with any history book.

The great university libraries have eagerly ordered it for the growing number of scholars in Samaritan Studies worldwide. The book is written in Modern Hebrew.


The History Of The Israelite Samaritan Keepers Based On Their Own Sources,
From the Time of Joshua bin Nun to 2015 CE

By Benyamim Tsedaka


The price of the 900-page volume is €180 (including postage) or $200 (including postage: US$150 + US$50 postage)

Orders for the book are most welcome, and can be made through our Website  

Orders are placed through Greenwave Promotions Ltd for delivery directly from the AB Institute of Samaritan Studies in Holon, Israel.


Benyamim (left) and Yefet (Right)Tsedaka present Israel President Reuven Rivlin (center) with a copy of The History of the Israelite Samaritan Keepers Based on Their Own Sources, From the Time of Joshua bin Nun until 2015 CE



History, Archaeology and The Bible Forty Years After "Historicity": Changing Perspectives 6

Edited by Ingrid Hjelm and Thomas L. Thompson 

February 19, 2016, Routledge


 In History, Archaeology and the Bible Forty Years after "Historicity", Hjelm and Thompson argue that a ‘crisis’ broke in the 1970s, when several new studies of biblical history and archaeology were published, questioning the historical-critical method of biblical scholarship. The crisis formed the discourse of the Copenhagen school’s challenge of standing positions, which—together with new achievements in archaeological research—demand that the regional history of ancient Israel, Judaea and Palestine be reconsidered in all its detail. This volume examines the major changes that have taken place within the field of Old Testament studies since the ground breaking works of Thomas Thompson and John van Seters in 1974 and 1975 (both republished in 2014). The book is divided in three sections: changing perspectives in biblical studies, history and cult, and ideology and history, presenting new articles from some of the field’s best scholars with comprehensive discussion of historical, archaeological, anthropological, cultural and literary approaches to the Hebrew Bible and Palestine’s history. The essays question: "How does biblical history relate to the archaeological history of Israel and Palestine?" and "Can we view the history of the region independently of a biblical perspective?" by looking at the problem from alternative angles and questioning long-held interpretations.

Unafraid to break new ground, History, Archaeology and the Bible Forty Years after "Historicity" is a vital resource to students in the field of Biblical and East Mediterranean Studies, and anyone with an interest in the archaeology, history and religious development in Palestine and the ancient Near East.


Lord Avebury has Passed

Eric Reginald Lubbock, Lord Avebury, politician.
Born 29 September 1928; died 14 February 2016

British Lord Avebury died at 87 years old on February 14, 2016 peacefully at his home in Camberwell, south London. He was a strong champion of the Samaritan-Israelites.

Lord Avebury received the Samaritan Medal in 2007.


His family posted this on Lord Avebury’s blog:

[I suggest you visit his blog!]


Eric Avebury: 29 September 1928-14 February 2016

Following the death of Eric Avebury on Sunday 14th February, we, his family would like to express our sincere thanks to all Eric's friends and colleagues for the lovely messages of condolence, reminiscences and support which are hugely appreciated.

We are planning a Memorial Celebration of his life and work (hopefully in June). If you might be interested in attending such an event, please email .

No flowers please, but donations may be made to Angulimala, the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy Organisation of which Eric was a long-standing Patron. Account Number: 00004592. Bank sort code: 40-52-40.


See more at



From the Editor


Recently, I have been enjoying Reinhard Pummer’s book, The Samaritans, A Profile.   I was a little confused when I read on page 192, about interfaith marriages among the Samaritans;

 ‘As of late, not only Jewish women from Israel are chosen as marriage partners for Samaritan men, but also Muslim and Christian women from different countries, including Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Russia.’


I had thought that the Samaritan men only married Jewish ladies.


Sean Ireton in his University of Kent at Canterbury MA Dissertation,The SamaritansStrategies for Survival of an Ethno-religious Minority in the Twenty First Century,’ says in Chapter 2; ‘In Samaritan halakha(38) there is a strict prohibition on intermarriage with non-believers (whether Samaritans who do not uphold the faith or anyone not born of the Samaritan religion). Historically this taboo was strictly followed as non-Samaritans could not be converted (unlike Rabbinite(39) Judaism which allowed converts to marry Jews - except to members of the Cohen lineage). Consequently the numbers in the community dwindled almost to extinction. Since 1924 this halakha has been waived as Samaritan practice changed vis a vis marriage to Jewesses. (Korinaldi 2001: 2).


Monika Schreiber discusses in her book The Comfort of Kin: Samaritan Community, Kinship, and Marriage on page 324, the former Ukrainian Christian Alexandra, who married the son of the High Priest.  Kohen remarked ‘Joseph the son of Jacob our father, married an Egyptian, and even Moses, the most important prophet, married a non-Israelite woman.. So why shouldn’t we?’

In the Guardian article, ‘How Ukrainian women saved the Samaritans of Mount Gerizim’ Feb. 11, 2013; ‘The women, located by specialist internet-based agencies, have converted from Christianity in order to join the community, whose members are forbidden from marrying non-Samaritans. The brides now adhere to strict biblical traditions, including isolation during menstruation and for long periods following childbirth.’

In the Article from the BBC News, Feb. 6, 2007, ‘Ancient community seeks brides abroad’; Another woman from outside the community is 29-year-old Elena Altif. She emigrated to Israel from Siberia, Russia in 2000.  She was Jewish and met her husband while working in a toy factory in the large West Bank Jewish settlement of Ariel.’


Peterman (in Reisen I, page 279) said, ‘es ist den samaritanern nicht verboten, christliche oder judische Madchen zu heirathen, nur mussen diese dann zu ihrem Glauben ubergehen.’ Translated: ‘it is not forbidden to the Samaritans, to marry Christian or Jewish girl, just must love these then go over to their faith.’ From ‘Samaritan Rituals and Customs,’ quoted from Reinhard Pummer in The Samaritans, edited by Alan Crown, page 660. Pummer goes on writing that between 1923 and 1969, six Samaritans married Jewish women.


Osher Sassoni writes on his website (; Ten years ago, when one of the Samaritan guys, from the priestly family, who lives in Nablus, couldn’t find his woman among the community, The High Priest at that time, allowed him to marry a woman from the beautiful ladies of  Ukraine. Since then, there are some other couples, of Samaritan men with Ukrainian girls, who have accepted the Samaritan tradition, and have lived a time among the community.

Unlike Samaritan men, Samaritan women cannot marry men (including Jewish men) who are outside the community. The reason is that, the Samaritan religious identity, as well as family association, is in accordance with the father religious identity, i.e. it is a patrilineal system. Judaism also followed the same patrilineal practice until several hundred years ago.’


In a more recent news article from al-Monito, ‘How one of the smallest religious communities in the world is struggling to sustain its community,’ Sept, 20, 2015:  ‘During the 20th century, Wassef said, the Samaritans faced the prospect of extinction, their population dwindling to 146 people in 1917. They survived, but today the community is struggling demographically due to a gender imbalance. “Samaritans are suffering from a lack of females, thus young men are obliged to marry girls belonging to other religions, which is theologically forbidden unless they convert to Samaritanism. During the past 40 years, young Samaritans managed to marry 40 girls of different religions who converted,” said Wassef.’

In the article ‘Visiting the Samaritans on their holy West bank mountain,’ on Reuters website, June 3, 2009; ‘While most of Samaritanism’s outside brides have been Jews from Israel, Kohen said three were Muslims and five Christians like Shura. All of them came from far away — the Muslims from Turkey and the Christians from Russia and Ukraine. Seeking converts among the local Muslim majority or the tiny Christian minority in Nablus could strain the good relations the Samaritans have with their neighbours.’


I asked Samaritan Elder Benyamim Tsedaka concerning foreign marriages, he responded; ‘There is no any process of conversion in such marriages, since it is done first as a listing in the local mayor office before the girl flying to her beloved Samaritan boy in Israel. First she meets the High Priest to assure him that she will do anything needed to live as every Samaritan woman. Nothing left from her formerly life style. It happened that the future bride regretted on her decision in the last moment and left back with no harm to the groom. This is the routine of life. There is always time to repair broken hearts and find the true love.’


I would like to thank Mathew Hamilton of Australia for bringing my attention to an additional article by Hartwig Derenbourg. The article is now below in the Biblio section of this Update.



Benyamim Tsedaka European Lecture Tour, Summer 2016

I welcome invitations to lecture during my three weeks' tour of Europe in 2016.
Here is the provisional tour timetable:
31 July - 4 August 2016 Prague, The International Congress of Samaritan Studies
5 August - 11 August 2016 Paris, the National Library

 12 August - 18 August 2016 London

Lecture subjects are as listed on our website, with the addition of my new book mentioned above, The History of the Israelite Keepers Based on Their Own Sources



Preparations for Benyamim Tsedaka next World Tour 2016 have begun.
Provisional details are:
13 November 2016   Rio de Janeiro
20 November 2016   Sao Paulo
27 November 2016   New York City
1 December 2016    Washington DC
 6 December 2016    North Carolina
13 December 2016    North California and Seattle
18 December 2016    Toronto
22 December 2016    Vancouver

 If you would like to arrange a lecture in any of these places, please contact me by email: , or .



The Cost of Publishing Monographs

Towards a Transparent Methodology

Feb. 5, 2016

By Nancy L. Maron, Christine Mulhern, Daniel Rossman, Kimberly Schmelzinger

Full PDF

Thank you Jim Ridolfo for bringing this to my attention.



From Estate Rare Photo Glass Lantern Slide made by Bonfils Family of Photographers between 1867 and 1912 in Middle East ( Holy Land Palestine, Syria , Egypt and more).
Most of the pictures are marked A. Bonfils, Collection des vues d'Orient, Syrie. It was Adrien Bonfils the son of Felix Bonfils who embarked on the ambitious project of photographing all of that Levant he saw being transformed by railways, roads and tourism in the Middle East.


Félix Bonfils (1831 – 1885) was a French photographer and writer. He moved his family to Beirut in 1867, opening a photographic studio called Maison Bonfils. Within three years, the Bonfils had 15,000 prints of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Greece, and 9,000 stereoscopicviews. The studio became "F. Bonfils et Cie" in 1878. (see article by Will H. Rockett).

 The photograph above has the name A. Bonfils, this is Adrien (1861-1929), Félix’s son. The collection des vues d’orient were sold in 1877-78 in five volumes. I have yet to see if any of the volumes has the Samaritans in it. It is believed that the Samaritan camp was photographed around 1881, since that is when Felix photographed also the images of Samaria, View of Shechem or Nablulus and Jacob’s Well.

Photo FELIX BONFILS, Rochers sur lesquels prient le Samaritains, Palestine, Nazareth, Albuminé, Albumen ca1880 on sale on Delcampe (See original at This photograph is listed as No. 929 (see 35 at;r=32391 ) was taken most likely the same day as the No. 930 photograph in the glass lantern slide above.

1881 is the year that the American Colony arrived in Jerusalem.


Updated Call for Papers: ‘The Other Within’: The Hebrew and Jewish Collections of The John Rylands Library

Conference, Monday 27-Wednesday 29 June 2016 at The John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

The John Rylands Research Institute invites paper proposals for its upcoming 2016 conference on the Hebrew and Jewish collections of The John Rylands Library.

The John Rylands Library preserves one of the world’s valuable collections of Hebrew and Jewish manuscripts, archives and printed books. The holdings span Septuagint fragments to the papers of Moses Gaster and Samuel Alexander. The Rylands Genizah and rich collections of medieval manuscript codices and early printed books are among the strengths of the collection, making The John Rylands Library an important centre for the study of Judaism from the ancient world to the twentieth century.

The aim of this conference is to convene scholars, curators and students researching areas represented in the Library’s Hebrew and Jewish collections, including (but not limited to): the Cairo Genizah; medieval Hebrew manuscript codices; early printed Hebrew books; Samaritan manuscripts; and, the collections of Moses Gaster. It will take place as part of a programme of activities at the John Rylands Research Institute that aim to facilitate the study of the Library’s Hebrew and Jewish holdings. This includes the 2015-2018 externally-funded project to catalogue the Hebrew manuscripts and two ongoing projects on the Gaster collections.

For more information:



Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project


The Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project has been digitising items from the British Library's significant collection of Hebrew hand-written books, charters and scrolls, in order to make them available online. -

Arising out of the success of the project so far, a second digitisation phase is scheduled to start in April 2016. This new project, aiming to digitise at least 1,200 Hebrew manuscripts, is an international collaboration with the National Library of Israel (NLI). This new phase of digitisation will focus mainly on our significant Gaster and Samaritan collections. These will be included in a new ‘hub’ of Hebrew manuscripts currently located in worldwide libraries, planned by the NLI in order to consolidate and facilitate their viewing.

Through both The Polonsky Foundation sponsored HMDP (phase 1) and the new NLI collaborative project (phase 2), most of the Library’s 3,000 Hebrew manuscripts will be fully digitised and available online by 2019, and all of them will be fully catalogued.

See more at:



Understanding skin – Examining the parchment of a 14th century Samaritan manuscript


By Julia Poirier

As part of our current project to conserve the CBL Hebrew collection, I have been working on a large 14th century Samaritan Pentateuch. In the first post about this manuscript I will concentrate on the context in which it was written, and the materials from which it is made.

The Samaritan people are a religious and ethnic group preserving the tradition of copying the Pentateuch in the Samaritan alphabet. The Pentateuch comprises of the first five books of the Hebrew bible/Old Testament, also known as the Five Books of Moses because they are believed to have been dictated by God directly to Moses. The Chester Beatty manuscript codex was written in 1339 AD in Samaritan majuscule Hebrew characters. The primary scribe of this manuscript is believed to have been Abisha ibn Pinhas ibn Joseph.

This manuscript is composed of 28 parchment quires, each made of five bifolios (H: 32cm x W: 51cm). Given its overall size, a very large number of animals have been used to produce the textblock. Earlier this year we provided samples from some of our parchment manuscripts to be tested by the BioArch project at the University of York.

Further interesting reading:


Har Bracha Tahini

Sesame Tahini is an essential ingredient in many Middle Eastern healthy dishes.

Should you visit Kiryat Luza, on Mount Gerizim, visit the Sesame factory, or stop in one of the groceries. The Sesame factory was the first industry of the Samaritans. It produces one of the best Tahini (Tehina) pastes in Israel, and also makes sesame-flavored Halva.

  The Tahini bottle is named "Har Bracha", meaning the "mount of blessing" (Gerizim). The tahini is sesame seeds produced with Millstones.

The Samaritans Tahini Factory located on the Holy Mountain Gerizim in one of 2 places in the world where you can find & meet with Samaritans.

It can be purchased online



The Biblioblog Reference Library


January 3, 2 AM

Οι Σαμαρίτες: η σύγχρονη έρευνα / The Samaritans: the current state of research byTsalampouni Ekaterini via Ιστολόγιο βιβλικών σπουδών / Biblical Studies Blog (#67655)

Reinhard Pummer, "The Samaritans in Recent Research" [Σαμαρίτες] [ιστορία της έρευνας]


September 26, 12 AM

Το τρέχον τεύχος του PEQ / The current issue of PEQ by Tsalampouni Ekaterini viaΙστολόγιο βιβλικών σπουδών / Biblical Studies Blog (#62582)

Palestine Exploration Quarterly 147:2 (2015)David M. Jacobson, "Editorial: The Gezer boundary inscriptions," 83-85Shay Bar, "The settlement patterns in the Northern Samaria highlands during the Late Chalcolithic period," 87-103Melissa A. Kennedy, "EB IV s...[PEQ] [Ισραήλ] [αρχαιολογία]


September 22, 11PM

Το τρέχον τεύχος του JSJ / The current issue of JSJ by Tsalampouni Ekaterini viaΙστολόγιο βιβλικών σπουδών / Biblical Studies Blog (#62396)

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Old News


‘A Samaritan Passover. Curious Observances of the Oldest Sect in Existences.’ In The Indianapolis News, Wednesday, July 17, 1895, Page 6

The Samaritans are the oldest sect in existence, and probably the smallest. They number about 130, and live at Nablus, the ancient Shechem at the foot of Mt. Gerizim, the city of the Samaritans from time immemorial, and preserves to the present day the beliefs, ceremonies, and habits of their forefathers. An interesting account of their Passover is sent to the Guardian by a correspondent who was present at the feast, which this year happened to fall on the same day as the Jewish Passover, April 8. The people were collected in thirty tents on the top of Mt. Gerizim, according to the Samaritans the place where Abraham was directed to sacrifice Isaac. Half an hour before sunset the services began. A little inclosure on the open him, unturfed, with a rough inclosure of stones, was the place where the sacrifice was to be eaten. Near it a long, low trench had been made in which a fire was burning, and over it two caldrons were boiling. Here the lambs were to be slain. Further up the hill was a circular pit some ten feet deep filled with a wood fire, where they were to be roasted. The men were clad in robes that recalled the Levite priesthood, all white, the loose linen breeches, the tunic, girdle and headdress. The high priest was distinguished by a green mantle and wore a Turkish order. He faced the west, watching the setting sun, and led the chanting, the men about him singing and prostrating themselves on the ground. After a while all but the high priest moved to the shallow trench, where were waiting seven lambs of alpure Syrian breed, one for each family, Each was held by a robed butcher, while an elder kept going from the trench to the high priest, awaiting the signal.

Preparing the Sacrifice.

The sky had been overcast, but as the sun sank it burst through the clouds, making a broad crimson band on the horizon, the signal was given the white forms bent over the victims, and all was over in a moment, for the Jewish rule ordains that the knife shall be so sharp that the animal has no sensation of being killed. All now turned to each other, falling on one another’s neck and exchanging the kiss of peace, and then kissed the high priest’s hands. The lambs were then hastily dressed, the water from the caldrons poured over them, the wool taken off, the entrails removed, and the right shoulders cut off as the high priest’s portion. They were then placed on wooden spits, eight or ten feet long, with a transverse piece below the head, looking like a cross. Every part of the sacrifice, even the wool, was carefully salted. Then lamps were brought to see if the victims had been killed according to law, and as in one case the incision had not been correctly made, another lamb was brought and killed as the others had been.

Between 8 and 9 all was ready for the roasting. In the still moonlight the white-robed men stood chanting around the open pit, that sent out lurid flames, seven of them holding each a cross-like spit. There was a pause in the chant, and at the same instant the spits were thrown into the fire. A hurdle was drawn over the pit and sods and earth heaped upon it, leaving only the ends of the spits protruding. Then there was a wait for two hours, during which the tents were marked with the blood, and the chanting went on by the side of the first pit, in which gradually the wool and entrails and the priest’s portion were carefully burnt.

At 11 they assembled around the oven, the hurdle was removed and the carcasses taken out. One spit was burnt through, and a man was let down into the pit to gather the fragments that had fallen. The meat was then put in covered baskets and carried to the place of feasting. After a long, loud grace there was a sudden silence, each family bent over its lamb, eating it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, while the boys, with girded loins and staffs in their hands, carried portions with great care to the women in the tents. When all was finished the ground was carefully examined to see that no fragment was left and every scrap was burned in the fire. At midnight the ceremony was over. The visitors among the many Moslems from Nablus looked on from a little distance, for it is an unpardonable sin for a stranger to touch any part of the sacrifice.



פארווערטם Sunday, April 24, 1932; page 26




Guardians of the Israelitish Practice, The Samaritans and Their Sacrificial Offering.” By Yaa’cov, Son of Uzzi, The Cohen, Special to the Palestine Post. In The Palestine Post, Friday, April 27, 1934; page 3.

Recent interest in the Samaritans among those who wish to know the truth of their customs and beliefs, and particularly of the ceremony of offering the paschal sacrifice on their holy mountain has led me to write this chapter of their history. The present study, however, will be limited to the description by a Samaritan of the Pascal feast alone. I hope my readers will forgive this limitation. With the aid of the Lord Almighty (praise be he!), I shall write a more comprehensive study of Samaritan history and customs in the near future.

Who Are The Samaritans?

The Samaritans are the remnants of the three great tribes of Israel, the children of Jacob, peace be unto him. At present they number no more than 206 souls (men, women and children).

They are divided into two classes; the “Cohanim (priest), who are related by direct descent to the tribe of Levi. They number forty-five in all. The eldest is regarded as the head of the Cohanim, and is called the Cohen Hagodal (High Priest), and is leader of the people of the Samaritan lay community, who are descendants of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. They are called Samaritans, or “Shomrim” in Hebrew (literally, those who guard) because, their small number and their poverty notwithstanding, they continue to observe their ancient religious creed, the religion of Israel. That is the true explanation of the name “Shomrim”, and the historians err if they give any other explanation.

Offering Of The Sacrifice

On the 10th of “the First Month”, all Samaritans go to the summit of Mount Gerizim, where they put up wooden huts and tents to store all their provisions, for they remain on the mountain-height for over ten days. After having made these arrangements, the preparations for the “offering of the sacrifice” commence. A few experienced Samaritans are delegated to buy and prepare everything necessary for the ceremony. They purchase seven sheep, one for each clan; for the Samaritan community is composed of seven principal families. They buy also fuel and wooden poles, which are roade ready for the ceremony by Samaritan carpenters.

These preparations are started on the tenth of the month in compliance with the word of God.

“…in the tenth of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house” (Exodus, 12:3).

The sheep must be healthy, not lean or lank, of a year in age and of the best, as God said.

“Your lamb shall be withpout blemish, a male of the first year; ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats” (Exodus, 12:5).

These animals are given the utmost care. They are led daily to a spring where they are thoroughly cleansed.


 On the last day prior to the ceremony, the 14th of Nissan, the Samaritans rise early in order to obtain and store enough water for the coming sacrifice. Samaritan youths wear special attire for this task. Their clothing is entirely of white; a white gown, white trousers, and a white girdle. They wear sandals tied with string to their feet. Thus clad, they proceed to the well from which they draw water and carry it to the spot fixed for the offering of the Pascal sacrifice. There they pour the water into large pots, which are placed upon the altar.

The altar is in a long ditch, not too deep, built of plain, unmasoned stone. Two hours before the sacrifice a fire is kindled beneath the pots. This done, the youths go to another ditch near by, which is round and three metres in depth, and which they call “Tannur” they place wood and straw, and light it. The altar is made long enough to furnish sufficient space for the slaughtering of the offerings and to boil water.

The tannur, however, is made deep, as it is used for the roasting of the offerings. For God forbade them to be cooked or eaten raw “Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast it with fire”, (Exodus, 12:9).

When the feast happens to fall on a Sabbath eve, (as it does this year), Samaritans commence these preparations at 3 o’clock (Arab time), i.e. 10 am, so that the sacrifice may take place exactly at noon, two hours later. In all other cases, the preparations begin two hours before sunset, i.e. 10 o’clock (Arab time), or 3 p.m., so the setting of the sun.

Half an hour before the ceremony takes place, the whole Samaritan community gathers at the designated site, where they stand solemnly in two groups; one group consisting of the religious heads, the “Cohanim”, elders and notables, clad in white gowns, white headgear, white girdles, and carrying sticks. The second group is those youths who, attired in white (as described above), have borne the water to the altar. They stand over the altar with up-turned sleeves.

“And The Assembly Shall Kill”

The Imam (the priest conducting the prayers) opens the ceremony with a chant to which each of the groups in turn reply with a special refrain which has been handed down from ancient times. The chant completed, the High Priest mounts a large stone and recites, in a loud voice, the verse, “…and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening” (Exodus, 12: 6).

And then the sheep are rapidly stretched out upon the altar and slaughtered. At this moment the entire gathering proclaims the praises and the exaltation of the Lord. They clap their hands and chant, recalling how God smote the first-born of the Egyptians. They then take some blood of the sacrifices and smear it on the lintels of their dwellings and the brows of their children, in compliance with the word of God, “And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin and strike the lintel and two side posts” (Exodus, 12;22).

After this they draw hot water from the pots upon the altar and pour it on the skins of the slaughtered animals. They then start plucking the wool from the animal’s hides until they are convinced of the cleanliness of the skin. Two of the Samaritans take a long pole, in the centre of which is a large hook, on which they hang the offering. Thus loaded, they place the pole on their shoulders, with the sheep hanging between them.

Unbroken Bones

The butcher then cuts open the carcasses and removes the intestines and internal organs. These organs are cleaned in fresh water, salted, and then thrown into the fire. The inspection of the carcasses and their dissection begins, and care is taken that none of the bones are broken, as God decreed that none of the bones should be broken.

The sheep are then placed on sharp-edged wooden poles which pierce them lengthwise. They are salted and then carried by the youths to the “Tannur”, which is by now red-hot, and are thrown in.

The “Tannur” is covered with a wooden lattice-work, over which green grass is strewn. The oven is entirely plastered and covered with red earth, so that it becomes air and smoke-proof, to prevent the meat from being burned.

The animals remain in the oven for about three hours, until close upon midnight. At that time the Samaritans proceed to the oven, planning the consumption of the broiled meat at exactly the same time when the first-born of the Egyptians were destroyed, as it has been said,

“And it came to pass that at midnight the Lord smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt” (Exodus, 12; 29).

The heads of all the families come to the oven, each carrying a tray made of straw, with the High Priest at their head. The plaster is broken, the wooden cover carefully removed, and the animals taken out and carried to the designated place of prayer where all the community- men, women, and children- are gathered.

Now they chant hymns loudly and joyously. “Maror” (bitter herbs) and Matzoth (unleavened bread) are spread over the meat, as the Lord commanded, “…And unleavened bread, and with bitter herbs they shall eat it”.

They then attack the meat, tearing it apart with their hands and starting to eat hastily, just as the children of Israel ate their food on leaving Egypt; “…And ye shall eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover” (Exodus, 12:11).

Having finished eating, the remains of the meat, the bones, together with the wooden poles and the platters of straw, are thrown on the altar to comply with the command of God, “And ye shall let nothing remain until morning” (Exodus, 12;10).

In case, however, the feast falls upon a Sabbath eventide (as it does this year), the remains are gathered and put away in a safe place until the Sabbath is over, and then burned, as it is said in the same verse, “…and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire” (Exodus, 12;10).

On the morning of Passover, prayers are held and last about four hours. The Samaritans then greet each other, praising the Lord who enabled them to fulfil their holy rites.

They spend the following seven days on the mount, eating only Matzoth (unleavened bread). No sign of leaven is to be found. At the end of the feast, the Samaritans, full of joy and happiness, make pilgrimage to that spot on the peak of Mount Gerizim where the “Shekhina” (Divine Spirit) resides.


“Samaritan New Year” in The Palestine Post, Sunday, April 7, 1935; page 10

Nablus, April 4.- The Samaritan community yesterday greeted their New year.

Every door post in the tiny quarter where the smallest community in the world dwells was decorated with green sherbs and fruits, symbolic of the fruitfulness of the approaching year.

Before the sun had set every member of the sect, old and youths alike, each bearing gifts which included incence, olives, candles and carpets, repaired to the synagogue. Here they turned over what they carried to the High Priest who in turn placed them where the Almighty might see them and be pleased.

The pilgrimage of worshippers was followed by the priests which made an impressive sight in their long robes and uncut hair.

Chants which lasted over three hours opened the ceremonies. The Samaritans will repeat the prayers each morning and evening until April 17, when they gather on Mt. Gerizim for the Passover sacrifices- the latter carried on in accordance with the strictest letter of Mosaic law.


“Admission Fee Charged at Samaritan Ritual, High Commissioner Views the Paschal Sacrifice. (From Our own Correspondents) in The Palestine Post, Friday, April 19, 1935; page 7.

Nablus, Thursday.- The 212 souls who form the Samaritan remnant congregated on top of Mount Gerizim last night for the annual ritual of the paschal sacrifice.

Of about 500 persons who had come to witness the ceremonies, many stayed on after the sun had disappeared and a strong wind had sprung up, forcing down the temperature and enhancing the weird effect of the rather grim spectacle.

The area in which the sacrificial stone had been placed was marked off and – perhaps for the first time in their history- there was an admission charge for the high ceremony itself.

Tickets sold at five shillings per person and the fund it was said will be used towards the construction of a new Samaritan Synagogue.

The priests were during three or four hours preceding the sacrifice much in evidence. They greeted visitors, collected money for souvenirs Bibles, replenished the fires in preparation for the sacrifice and even brought in the lambs, eight of them and allowed the beasts to graze.

Opening Act

The setting had all of the dramatic impressiveness of the opening act of an opera. Perched on the stone which surrounded the arena were a large number of Moslems, Europeans and others who did not choose to pay an admission fee.

The high priests, in long white gowns and gaily coloured girdles, settled down around the rock of sacrifice. They were surrounded by their children and squatted on simple mats which were spread out for the purposed. From their throats issued a monotonous song.

The High Commissioner arrived at sundown. At once the High Priest Tawfik, escorted him and his party to their seats and a fur-lined blanket was offered to His Excellency who placed it over his great-coat appreciatively. The priests sank to their knees, the crowd was still and the chanting began.

Lambs’ Last Supper

For more than thirty minutes the chant continued, uninterrupted except one when one of the younger men made his rounds to light the oil lambs and one of them failed to catch. The eight lambs proceeded conspicuously with their last supper, once coming perilously close to one of the spectators who looked down at the animal somewhat pityingly.

A full moon suddenly appeared in the east and the swaying figures gathered around the cauldrons. There, by the light of the fire, the animals were securely held fast to the earth and one of the high priests went around cutting their throats. The slaughter was accompanied with spirited singing and shouting. The children and elders, all of the males of the community, displayed an enthusiasm which might do justice to a crowd at a football match. Only numbers were lacking to make the noise louder, and the joy fiercer.

The animals were skinned and quartered, placed in a great fire burning in a pit covered with mud and clay, and left to roast until the midnight feast.

The visitors, after making their rounds in the tents in which the Samaritans will remain for another week until the close of the holiday, returned to their cars and dispersed.

The Anglican Bishop and Mrs. Brown, Mr. Furness, the Press Officer; Judge P.E.F. Cressall, President, District Court, Nablus; Capt. H.P. Rice, Deputy Inspector General of the Police were among those present. There was a detail of police on duty all night.


“Palestine Celebrates Passover Joyously” in The Sentinel, Thursday, April 25, 1935; page 3

The High Commissioner visited the Samaritans and witnessed their Passover ceremony of sacrificing a lamb on Mount Gerisim, in accordance with the Bible. The Samaritan High Priest offered a special prayer. The High Commissioner was asked by the Samaritans for government assistance in building a Samaritan Synagogue.


“Samaritans Prepare for Passover Rites, Pascal Sacrifice” (From Our Own Correspondent) in The Palestine Post, Wednesday, April 14, 1937; page 7

Nablus, Tuesday.- The High Priest and other members of the Samaritan Community went up to Mount Gerizim today to prepare for the Passover and the Sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb which will take place on Saturday night, April 24.

The whole community spends the Passover week on Mount Gerizim; work is stopped on the first and last day of the feast.


‘Samaritans Sacrifice Lamb in Ancient Mount Ceremony.’ By Roman Slobodin, in The Jewish Post, Vol. 26- No. 30, Friday, April 15, 1938, page 7.

Jerusalem- When the hour draws near of the setting of the sun on the eve of Passover they go up into the mountain Gerizim, near to Nablus, that in the days of their fathers was called Shechem. They take with them of milk white lambs a sufficient number, and while all things are being set in order for the sacrifice, the High Priest reads from the book of Exodus the story of the sorrows of the Children if Israel in Egypt, of the birth and life of Moses, of the wrath of the Lord and the escape of His people into the desert. And the people listen and the old men answer with hymns and with praises.

At the moment of darkness the young men take knives and let firth the life-blood of the sacrifice, not, as in former times, upon the high altar before the Holy of Holies, but in a trench in the ground. The High Priest examines the sacrifices as it is ordained in the law, to ascertain that none are blemished. The leg sinews are cut, the entails and fleece removed and the offering placed on the fire and covered with turfs. When some hours have passed they take and eat of the meat, the men in the open place and the women and children apart in tents.

They eat in haste with loins girded and their staves in their hands as if about to set forth hurriedly on a journey. Then the people wash and chant praises to the Lord who lead his children out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Samaritans Hate Jews.

Thus is the Passover being observed in Palestine this year as it has been observed for thousands of years not by the Jews, but by the people who regard the Jews with enmity, who hold they are the true Children of Israel, and who are the only community in the world still observing the law as written in the Five Books of Moses literally in all its precepts, including worship by animal sacrifice. This people is the dwindling tribe of Samaritans, who today number only a few more than a hundred, and who until a few weeks ago were vanishing rapidly from the face of the earth by a strange process of race suicide.

History traces the hatred of the Samaritans for the Jews to the time when the Jews returned from their captivity in Babylon. The Samaritans had been colonized by the Assyrian emperors in the conquered land of the Ten Tribes. They adopted the religion of the country, instructed by Jewish teachers whom they asked to be sent to them. But when the Jews returned from the captivity, they rejected the Samaritans. The converted tribe then built their own temple atop Mount Gerizim. In the time they became convinced this was the true holy mountain where the Lord spoke to Abraham from a burning bush, and not Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

Where the Samaritan temple had stood, the Romans later built a shrine, which was succeeded by a Christian church. Today a Mohammedan mosque occupies the site. The Samaritans built an altar nearby, whose ruins they still point out as a scared spot and finally moved to their present place of worship, some distance down the mountain, an open area bounded by rough stone walls.

New Life Seen.

Small as is the number of Samaritans who will partake of the Pascal sacrifice this year, they will be joyful. The tribe is celebrating an event unprecedented for centuries, five marriages among their people in one day.

For years, no Samaritan wedding had taken place. Samaritan fathers demanded too high a dowry for their daughters. They are not permitted to marry outside their tribe. Then, a few months ago, the High Priest, Tewfik Khader Masliyah ben Pinhas, arranged a marriage for his own son. With this good example to bolster his arguments, the High Priest succeeded in persuading fathers of marriageable daughters to drop their demands for big settlements. The resulting mass marriage was the occasion for rejoicing not only by the Samaritans themselves; hundreds of their Arab neighbors joined in a celebration lasting for days.

On this Passover night the Samaritans will be looking forward to the next when they hope that for the first time in generations, their people will number more instead of fewer.


“Rites from the Days of Hosea, Samaritan Passover.” By W.H.G. Popplestone, in The Palestine Post, Thursday, April 25, 1940. Page 6

It is an interesting anomaly that the Jewish Feast of the Passover is among Jews today almost purely symbolic while the feast in its original form in now celebrated only by the Samaritans. In the Seder feast at the Jewish Passover the paschal lamb is represented by a shank bone only, while the Samaritans sacrifice living sheep, thus carrying on the rites taught to their ancestors in the days of Hosea, King of Israel, when the King of Assyria brought foreigners and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the Children of Israel.

As these first Samaritans feared not the Lord, lions came among them and slew some. When this was made known to their overlord the King of Assyria, he sent back one of the Hebrew priests he carried into exile and instructed him to teach the Hebrew religion to these newcomers he had placed in the cities of Samaria. And now, centuries later, their descendants, dwindled to a tiny group of but seven families, still perform each year on Mount Gerizim the ancient rites at the full of the Easter moon.

Last Sunday afternoon the Nablus Arab taxi drivers were kept busy taking visitors to the summit of the mountain by the new military road. Last year there were almost no outsiders, owing to the disturbed state of the country, but this year there were some hundreds. Arabs, Jews and a small number of English Tommies from Nablus, other English people and Americans from Jerusalem.

Starting the Ceremony

Between five and six o’clock in the afternoon activity within the walled area gradually increased. Opposite the entrance was a long shallow trench with a fire at one end heating two oil drums full of water. Round the trench stood young Samaritans, from small boys to grown men, all in white. Near the opposite corner of the quadrangle were the priests in long white robes. All the Samaritans wore red tarbushes, and no women or girls were visible. They remained in the tents. While at the top of the hillock behind the crowd was a stone-lined oven eight to ten feet deep with a fire at the bottom fed from time to time with brushwood so that great tongues of flame were kept continually licking the sides.

Towards six o’clock the chief priest in a distinctive green robe arrived, attended by elders. A vigorous chant in ancient Hebrew was taken up by the priests and laymen.

Just on the hour of six the chanters reached the words that tell of the taking of the sheep, one to each family. Here there was a pause in the service, while several young men went round to the unsuspecting sacrificial animals and staggered back with their kicking burdens, laying them on the ground round the edge of the trench. Three men produced long knives, previously tested on the ball of the hand, and held them poised. The chanting continued to the words in Exodus, ‘And the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening,” then stopped again.

Down lashed the knives on the throats stretched ready. A Roman arena yell went up from the population on the wall, and young men and boys knelt on the struggling sheep while a priest now inspected each gash and pronounced it satisfactory. Some men marked their sons’ foreheads with blood, as lintels in symbols. While the priests went on chanting, the laymen took sauce pans and ladled hot water from the oil drums on to the seven fleeces and tore off the wool in rapid handfuls. At this point flat rush trays of thin unleavened bread and bitter herbs were brought and shared out.

The Meal

It was growing dusk. Suddenly over the brow of the mountain rose the face of the full moon looking down once more on a familiar scene. In the distance two ravens hunted together. Nearby a donkey began to take noisy interest in the ceremony. A glow began to appear here and there in the tents as the Samaritan women lit their lamps.

As soon as the fleeces were removed the carcases were hung up and the entrails were carefully removed, and all but the heart and lungs taken to the trench to be burned. The carcases after being carefully examined for blemishes were slashed and rough salt was tubbed in. The heart and lungs were also salted and stuffed into the abdominal cavity. The right forelegs were then cut off as a special delicacy for the priests. Long wooden spits were brought and thrust through the animals lengthwise. The seven forelegs were spitted separately on one pole.

All was ready. The priests gathered round the oven chanting, while laymen stood the spits vertically at the edge. The high priest gave the word and the seven carcases were quickly lowed and held upright on the ashes. A wooden grill was now lowed over the spits, the tops of which stuck up through the openings, and laid flat on the ground. On this framework newly cut grass was spread thickly. In the cloud of steam that followed, boys and men could be seen pouring clay from baskets and plastering it with their hands over the grass. Soon the last wisp of vapour had been stopped.

At this stage most visitors who had not already gone back to Nablus after the sacrifice, now left, for it was past eight o’clock and the feast would not begin, we were told, till towards midnight.

For the next hour and a quarter the priests continued chanting with undiminished energy in the quadrangle, sometimes kneeling, hands held palms upwards, on little prayer mats, from time to time, touching them with their foreheads, like Arabs, and sometimes standing, facing the summit and the east, or forming a horseshoe with one of the elders standing in the middle holding a copy of the Torah in modern book form. Removing it from its green covering cloth, he waved it open above his head, or held it open close to his face.

At the end of the chant all sat down round the walls of the quadrangle and engaged in ordinary talk. The fire in the trench was still burning and the entrails being now reduced to strenchless ash a group had gathers for warmth- British policemen, a few belated Tommies, and a small number of Nablus fellahin who having fields to attend to, did not return to town each night but lived in black tents a short distance away.

After some time the oven was unsealed and the meat shared out. Squatting in small groups they ate rapidly from small enameled bowls, using fingers and teeth to pull the meat from the bones. The same paper-thin unleavened bread as before, mixed with bitter herbs, was the only other food. By himself sat the high priest with his sleeves rolled up and a bowl to himself. He apologized to the spectators in Arabic, the language of ordinary conversation, for not being able to invite them to partake of the feast.

As soon as the feast was over, the men retired to join their womenfolk who had had meat and bread sent to them in the tents.

Next morning the Samaritans gathered in the quadrangle chanting almost as earnestly and loudly as the night before, but their faces were drawn and heavy still with sleep. In front of them on a deckchair was the roll of the Pentateuch, which they believe to be 3,600 years old and written by Aaron. It was then turned five o’clock and it would be seven before they finished. We therefore left our hosts and walked down to Nablus. They would not return for another week yet, seven days of feasting and joy, in memory of deliverance of the ancient Hebrews from the oppression of Pharaoh in the land of Egypt.



‘Exotic Passovers in Other Lands,’ by David Mordecai, in The Jewish Post, Passover Edition, Indianapolis, April 11, 1941, Indiana, pp. 24-25, 34- 36.


In Palestine today there are 200 Samaritans: Jews. Many Jews do not even consider the Samaritans as Jewish. Be that is it may, this most ancient Jewish sect inhabits a poor quarter of Nablus, speaks Arabic and is a degraded descendant of what was once a proud Jewish group (during the Second Temple period) consisting of multitudes.

The Samaritans’ Bible comprises the Pentateuch and Joshua only. These people have never had anything to do with those Jews who bore the banner of Jewish culture and Jewish history for so many centuries. Thus, their Passover is an exact replica of Passover 3,000 years ago, and no more.

As a matter of fact, were it not for the Samaritans, we would not know how the Pesach was celebrated in Palestine before the Second Temple; they are a living monument to Jewish life (as reflected in their Passover observance) 3,000 years ago, and indirectly, point out how very much Judaism has advanced since then.

Sacrificial offerings among the Samaritans have died out- with the ceremonial Passover sacrifice an exception to the rule. The night before Passover eve is utilized as a ‘chemets’- cleaning occasion. On the following day, the entire tribe of Samaritans makes a picturesque pilgrimage to Mt Gerizim which they sanctify. On the slope of the mountain, tents are set up for each family. They are fully equipped with furniture and utensils, for the Samaritans dwell on the side of the holy mountain throughout the Passover.

Having broken away from Jewry as they did in the latter days of the Second temple, the Samaritans know nothing of the newer innovations for Passover. They do not know of the colorful Seder service, of the wine, of the practice of reclining at the Seder table. Their Passover is made up of the ceremonial sacrifice of sheep, of eating them in great haste with matzos and bitter herbs and of reciting prayers.

Preparations for the feast start a few hours before Passover eve. Mount Gerizim becomes a hub of activity. All adult males, attired in holiday white, stoke the fires in two big pits, one for the roasting of the sheep, the other for the burning of the offal and other remains after the feast. Huge cauldrons of hot water are also prepared.

A half hour before sunset the long-awaited holiday begins. Facing the peak of Mt. Gerizim and worshipping on their knees, the Samaritans raise their voices in a series of chanted prayers. At sunset, the congregation listens to the high priest read a portion of the Pentateuch wherein the slaughtering of the Pascal lamb is ordered. A dozen young Samaritan boys busy themselves with the preparations for the sacrifice. When the high priest comes to the words, ‘And the whole congregation of Israel shall kill at dusk,’ the sheep are thrown toward the pits. Two ritual slaughters pronounce a benediction and kill six or seven sheep. One extra animal is always available should a physical flaw be found in one of the slaughtered sheep.

The actual slaughtering is a signal for great rejoicing. Greetings fill the air; participants kiss one another, first on the right shoulder, then the left. Thus, the first part of the Samaritan Passover ends.

Until about 10 o’clock, the sheep are cleaned and spitted and readied for roasting. The fires in the offal pit burn brightly as the insides of the sheep are thrown in. Finally, the sheep are thrown into the roasting pit together while the congregation stands around chanting.

About three hours are devoted to the roasting. During this interval, most Samaritans seek out their cots or beds, for a good rest is needed in order to partake of the third part of the ceremony- the eating of the sheep.

At about 1 o’clock in the morning the Samaritans are wide-awake. They wash their hands and feet, brush their cloths, gird their loins, take hold of their staves and gather around the roasting pit. Women and children remain in the tents.

The sacrificial animals, bedecked with matzos and bitter herbs, are placed in special Passover baskets. A circle is formed around the sheep. Led by the high priest, the prescribed blessing is uttered and the Samaritans fall to, pulling the meat hastily to pieces. Portions are set aside for the women and children. In less than a half hour the bones and other remainders are cast into the burning pit. Baskets and other utensils that were used in the ceremony are burned too, for the Samaritans follow the letter of the Law: “That which remainth of it until the morning, ye shall burn with fire.”

After the meal, the Samaritans stay awake all night chanting and reciting prayers. Their matzos, which differ from ours, are freshly baked each day.


“The Samaritan Passover, A Sect Dating back to 883 B.C. Celebrates Passover in an Ancient Ritual Manner.” By Ernest Aschner in The Sentinel, Thursday, April 14, 1949; Page 85 and 87.


 While millions of Jews throughout the world commemorate the exodus from Egypt and their liberation from Pharaoh’s bondage by celebrating the beginning of the traditional Passover festival with elaborate ceremonies on Seder night, a unique commemoration of this event is enacted every year in the hills north of Jerusalem by a small sect, tracing its history back some 2,600 years.

This sect of some four hundred men, women and children living in in the Arab town of Nablus (the ancient city of Shechem) is known as Samaritans. By their looks and way of life they can hardly be distinguished by the casual observer from their Arab neighbors, yet their religion is Jewish. They speak Arabic, dress like Arabs, plow the fields in the archaic way the Arabs do, but their prayers are said in Hebrew.

Their history dates back to the times when the Assyrians took Samaria. After the separation of Israel and Judah, the city of Shechem became the religious center of the Northern Kingdom, while the political capital was transferred to the newly built city of Samaria. This was in 883 B.C.E. Some 160 years later (in 772 B.C.E.) Samaria fell to the Assyrians and those of its original inhabitants who were not deported or killed were regarded later as the remnants of Israel and importance and their external history became that of Syria.

Reflecting the rivalry between Israel and Judah, the relations between the Jews and Samaritans from the 5th century B.C.E. onward were hostile. The religious development of the Samaritans were arrested about 430 B.C.E. and while adhering strictly up to today to the Torah, they never admitted any of the prophetical teachings and never codified their law in the Mishna. They venerate Gerizim and not Jerusalem and it is on the hill of Gerizim that the annual celebration of the Passover festival takes place.

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On the eve of Passover the Samaritans leave their homed in Nablus in a long procession leading over the stony hillside to the holy site of Gerizim only a few miles away. A big square on the hilltop, marked in parts by a low wall of piled-up stones is roped off and around this square the Samaritans pitch their tents in which they live during the eight-day festival. Their flocks of sheep are kept in a separate enclosure and another area is set aside as a communal cooking and baking center.

True to tradition, the women put in practically no appearance in all the proceedings and spend most of their time inside the tents unless busy preparing food. The children play around between the tents or help their mothers with “household” chores. The men, mostly bearded and dignified looking in their ankle-long white holiday grab and white turban-like headgear, busy themselves fixing the tents (page 89) or chatting in groups and saying their prayers at the prescribed times. Beautiful Oriental carpets adorn the interiors of the tents and some pillows, boxes and household utensils make up the sparse furnishings of these temporary quarters.

Throughout the day before the Seder all adults observe a strict fast and at sunset the male members of the community assemble for prayers which continue until midnight. Led by their high priest, the men sing prayers in Hebrew and the more solemn passages are marked by the members of the congregation by kneeling and bowing their heads to the ground. Crowds of interested onlookers from all parts of the country flock to Mount Gerizim to watch the proceedings and to spend the night with the celebrants in the open.

The highlight of the ceremonies is the traditional offering of a lamb which is slaughtered ritually and then put into the flames of a bonfire to the accompaniment of loud sing-song prayers. Meanwhile the women have prepared boiling water in huge kettles over open fires and this is later used to clean a good number of sheep slaughtered for the midnight meal. The sheep are then roasted on skewers over the same fires and when the fast is broken at midnight the men sit around in circles and are waited on by the women.

Unlike the crisp square or round Matzoth eaten in most parts of the world where Jews celebrate Passover, the Samaritans have large, thin, oblong soft pieces of doughy unleavened bread. The traditional Passover herbs and spices are rolled into these Matzoth, lending some flavor to the otherwise tasteless baked dough.

Easting and singing continue until dawn of the first day of Passover and the visitors are invited to partake of the food. At the end of the eight-day festival the camp is broken up and the Samaritans return to their Arab neighbors and occupations in Nablus, leaving the bare square on the hilltop where one their temple stood vacant for another year.





Qui sont les Samaritains ?

J’ai été profondément choquée cette semaine par l’apparition sur Facebook de vidéos en arabe, en anglais et même en français sur toutes sortes de sujets concernant le judaïsme et sur lesquels sont divulgués des messages mensongers. Même sur l’histoire de leur prophète et du fondement de leur religion…. Un autre sujet a été abordé dans ces vidéos : les Samaritains visant à faire d’eux des musulmans alors que la réalité est toute autre. Voyez plutôt.



New article


Pummer, Reinhard

Was There an Altar or a Temple in the Sacred Precinct on Mt. Gerizim?

Journal for the Study of Judaism, Volume 47, Issue 1, 2016, pages 1 – 21

Abstract: After the recent excavations by Itzhak Magen on the main summit of Mount Gerizim it has become clear that the Samari(t)an sanctuary stood within a sacred precinct in the Persian and Hellenistic times. So far, no direct evidence of the nature of the sanctuary has been unearthed. The excavator and many contemporary scholars assume it was a temple building. However, some scholars question the accuracy of this assumption and believe that the sanctuary more likely was an altar. This paper reviews both the arguments that speak for an altar and those that speak for a walled and roofed temple.




Bonnard, Christophe

Asfar Asatir, le "Livre des Légendes", une réécriture araméenne du Pentateuque samaritain , présentation, édition critique, traduction et commentaire philologique, commentaire interprétatif. Ph.D. diss.


Derenbourg, Hartwig

“Les Manuscrits judaiques entres au British Museum de 1887 a 1890 [nos. 11 – Or. 4117], Revue des etudes juives, xxiii (1891), p.99-116. 


Heger, Paul-Pessach

A New Comparative Research of the Customes Of the Israelite Samaritans and the Sects of Judea Desert of the Second Temple Period.


Niesiołowski-Spanò, Łukasz

(Pseudo-)Eupolemus and Shechem. Methodology enabling the use of parts of Hellenistic Jewish historians’ work in biblical studies


Tal, Abraham

0 כחלילי   Ou les Yeux de Juda la Tradition Samaritaine in L'Oeuvre d'un Orientaliste, André Caquot 1923-2004, 2010  

‘Euphemisms in the Samaritan Targum of the Pentateuch.’ Aramaic Studies (2003)

‘“Hebrew language” and “Holy Language” between Judea and Samaria.’ In József Zsengellér (ed), Samaria, Samarians, Samaritans 2011

‘In Search of Late Samaritan Aramaic’ in Aramaic Studies 7 (2009)

The Dialects of Jewish Palestiniam Aramaic and the Palestiniam Targum of the Pentateuch. Autores: Abraham Tal; Localización: Sefarad: Revista de Estudios Hebraicos y Sefardíes, ISSN 0037-0894, Año 46, Nº. 1-2, 1986 , págs. 441-448. Fundación Dialnet. ...

‘The First Samaritanologist: Wilhelm Gesenius’   

‘The Samaritan Targum to the Pentateuch, Its Distinctive Characteristics and Its Metamorphosis.’ 2014

‘The So-called Cuthean Words in the Samaritan Aramaic Vocabulary’ in Aramaic Studies 2.1 (2001)


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