On Wednesday morning, members of the Samaritans sect gathered near the West Bank city of Nablus for a ceremony marking the end of their Passover celebrations.
A week prior, the community, which sees itself as the true transmitters of ancient Israelite religion, sacrificed lambs on top of Mount Gerizim, which they consider holy. The Samaritans are the only group that follows this practice today, after Jews abandoned it following the destruction of the Second Temple.
Samaritan practices and beliefs contain many similarities to Judaism, which they see as having been corrupted during the Babylonian exile in the 6th century BCE. Their version of the Torah is written in the Samaritan alphabet, which differs from the Hebrew alphabet.
Members of the small community of about 750 are Israeli citizens, speak Hebrew and Arabic, and serve in Israel’s army.
Josefin Dolsten is a news fellow at the Forward. She writes about politics and culture, and edits the Sisterhood blog. She received an MA in Jewish Studies and Comparative Religion from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a BA in Government from Cornell University. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @josefindolsten.