Introduction to the Israelite Samaritan

Israelite Samaritans view themselves as descendants of the Israelites who settled in the northern Kingdom of Israel after the exodus from Egypt. They trace their lineage to the tribes of Menassah, Ephraim and Levi and later survived the Assyrian exile of 722-721 BCE.

There are approximately 800 Samaritans in the world today with half living in Holon, Israel and half living in the town of Kiryat Luza, West Bank. The Samaritans have one sacred text, the Samaritan Torah, written in ancient Hebrew. They are led by their High Priest; venerate their Temple Mount on Mt. Gerizim, near Nablus; and practice a style of Israelite religion that predates the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem.

Samaritan children attend public schools. After school, they attend “Samaritan School” where, from the ages of 5-15, they learn the Samaritan language (Ancient Hebrew), prayers and history.

Although deeply religious, Samaritans are actively involved in the outside world. Most Samaritans (male and female) graduate from universities. Those living in Israel attend Israeli universities while those living in the West Bank attend a Palestinian university. Samaritans generally work in the fields of business and commerce. In addition, those living in Israel serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

The Samaritans can trace their history back 127 generations and often refer to themselves as “Keepers of the Torah."

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