- Title: WEST BANK: Samaritans celebrate Passover with sacrifice of sheep
- Date: 11th April 2009
- Summary: CHILDREN WITH SHEEP MORE OF MEN WITH SHEEP
- Embargoed: 26th April 2009 13:00
- Topics: Religion
- Reuters ID: LVA6SMPSE7WLBEWQXMAQDNMX5QHG
- Story Text: Members of the ancient sect of the Samaritans celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover with the sacrifice of sheep.
Several hundred Samaritans, an ancient Jewish sect, gathered on Thursday (April 9) for a special ceremony celebrating the holiday of Passover.
The Samaritans, or "Keepers of the Law", trace their origins back to the ancient Israelites and many of them reside on Mount Gerizim near the Palestinian West Bank city of Nablus. They are mentioned in the Bible in a parable told by Jesus, which has lead to the widely-used term "Good Samaritan".
Scores of members of the community gathered at nightfall on Thursday for a special ceremony in which sheep are slaughtered as a sacrifice offered to God for the holiday of Passover.
Just before sunset a fire was prepared in a pit and Samaritan men dressed in white garments began chanting and praying as the service began.
Traditionally, when the signal is given, the head of each household takes a knife to cut the throat of his family's lamb. When the deed is done they cheer and clap and congratulate each other. The sheep are then skinned and put on a skewer and carried over to the roasting pit to be cooked for most of the night.
Samaritan historians say there were 1.2 million Samaritans 1,400 years ago but conflict down the centuries reduced their numbers until in 1917 only 146 were left.
Most of the 630 community members reside in the shadow of what they believe is a sacred site in the West Bank -- on Mount Gerizim. The rest of the community lives in the central Israeli city of Holon.
The Samaritans of Nablus consider themselves Palestinians, carrying Palestinian identity cards and passports. Some were given Israeli identity cards, while others hold Jordanian passports.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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