- Title: WEST BANK: Ancient sect of Samaritans celebrate Passover with sacrifice of sheep
- Date: 19th April 2011
- Summary: BLOOD STAINS ON MAN'S CLOTHES PEOPLE GATHERED IN CEREMONY AREA MAN WALKING WITH SHEEP BODY NEAR COOKING PIT IN WHICH FIRE IS PREPARED AHEAD OF SACRIFICE RITUAL FOR PASSOVER PEOPLE WATCHING VARIOUS OF MAN PREPARING SHEEP BODY MEN PLACING STAKES ON WHICH SLAUGHTERED SHEEP ARE SKEWERED INTO FIRE PIT MAN AND BOY WATCHING MEN COVERING PIT WITH METAL GRID AND PLACING FABRIC OVER IT MEN AROUND PIT AS SMOKE FILLS AREA
- Embargoed: 4th May 2011 13:00
- Location: West bank, West bank
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Topics: Religion
- Reuters ID: LVA73YAMQZCRUAP9XOZZOXD0IGMM
- Story Text: Several hundred Samaritans, an ancient Jewish sect, gathered on Sunday evening (April 17) 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 for offering help to Jesus, which draws light upon the widely-used term "Good Samaritan".
With over 700 rituals distinguishing between Jews and Samaritans, they keep to their own faith and have differentiated themselves from Jews since the 6th century BC.
Scores of members of the unique community gathered at nightfall on Sunday for a special ceremony in which sheep are slaughtered as sacrifice offered to God for the holiday of Passover.
Men prepared a fire burning in a pit in the ground ahead of the service, which began just before sunset, when Samaritan men dressed in white garments began chanting and praying.
Traditionally, when the signal is given, the head of each household takes a knife to slice the throat of his family's lamb. When the deed is accomplished, they begin cheering and clapping and congratulating 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. Most of them were killed by Byzantine, and 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.
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