The Samaritans living in the Palestinian Territories are one of the smallest and oldest communities in the world. They number no more than 743 individuals half of whom live at the summit of Mount Gerizim in the city of Nablus while the other half live in the Holon region of Tel Aviv. This small ancient community yesterday began what is known as the Festival of Tabernacles or Sukkot.
The Samaritan festival of Sukkot marks the fifteenth day of the seventh Hebrew month of Tishri and lasts for seven whole days. During the first days of Sukkot, the Samaritans go on pilgrimage to the summit of mount Gerizim. Samaritan families then construct trellises made of seasonal fruit which are attached to the roofs of their houses and left there for the duration of the festival in commemoration of the children of Israel's exodus from Egypt. According to Samaritan beliefs and narrative, after leaving Egypt, the Israelites encountered the Sinai desert and its hostile environment. Being unaccustomed to this, during the day God provided them with shade from the sun's heat while at night, He lit a column of fire to provide them with warmth.
One of the most prominent differences between the Samaritans and the Jews is that according to the former as well as to authentic Judaism, the haloed site of the Temple of Solomon is located in mount Gezirim as it is mentioned in the Torah 13 times. On the other hand, Jews consider the Temple of Solomon to be located in Jerusalem, despite that Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Torah.
The history of the Samaritans which stretches back more than 3,600 years, began when the people of Prophet Moses or the Israelite entered Palestine. Differences and disagreements led to the split of the Israelites into two kingdoms; The Samaritan kingdom with its capital at Sabastia in the north, and the kingdom of Yehuda with Jerusalem as its capital.
Samaritans criticize the prevalent view within Palestinian society that they are Jewish and continuously emphasize that they are the genuine strain of the children of Israel independent of the Jews. They believe that those who describe them as Jews demean and wrong them. Despite these Samaritan criticisms, their area of residence has the permanent protection of Israeli forces in addition to the fact that they carry Israeli nationality with all its various distinctions while entry to their mountaintop residential area requires prior coordination with the Israeli military blockade stationed there to provide protection to the community.
MEMO Photographer: Ibtehal Mansour