Ancient Samaritans celebrate different Sukkot in West Bank 2009-10-06 04:50:31   Print

    by Saud Abu Ramada, Hua Chunyu, Emad Drimly

    NABLUS, West Bank, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- As Jewish people all around Israel are celebrating their traditional feast of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), in northern West Bank, Samaritans, a small religious sect who consider themselves descendants of the ancient northern Kingdom of Israel, are also celebrating Sukkot, but in a somehow different way.

    In the village of Kiryat Luza on Mount Gerizim near the West Bank city of Nablus, the Samaritan priest and Director of Samaritan's Museum Husney W. Kohen and his family have built theirin-door Sukkah (Tabernacles) with fruits of the holy land. Kohen said the sukkah was built to recall the same Tabernacle build by ancient Israelites after they left Sinai Desert in Egypt 3,500 years ago.

    Priest Kohen considers himself as one of the best among his people in building up the sukkah. According to Kohen and his family, the sukkah was made up of 300-400 kg of fruits, and it took them eight hours to put the sukkah together.

    The Samaritan sect celebrate Sukkot every year, just as the world's Jews do. Although, the basic principles of the two sects are the same, however, each celebrates their own feast differently.

    According to Kohen, during Sukkot, the Jews build their sukkah outside the home, while Samaritans build in-door ones.

    "Both people build tents to commemorate the years ancient Israelites spent in Sinai before reaching Canaan, but according to Samaritan Torah, we have settled down in this land, so we should build sukkah inside the house, which will enable us to do everything in it," said Kohen.

    The fame of the Samaritans, has grown after the Israeli-Arab conflict flamed, when they tried to build up a bridge of peace between Israelis and the Palestinians.

    Unlike Jews in Israel, who see Jerusalem as the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Samaritans do not recognize any political or religious significance of Jerusalem, and consider Mount Gerizim as the holiest spot on earth, which makes them live peacefully among the Palestinians.

    As most of the Samaritans in Kiriyat Luza hold Palestinian citizenship, some even tend to call them "Palestinian Jews." "Speaking of our nationality, we are Palestinians, but regarding our religion, we believe in the Samaritan Torah, which is similar to the Jewish Torah, but has up to 7,000 differences between the two holy books," said Kohen.

    Historically, Samaritans were a large community, with up to more than a million population in late Roman times. currently, the Samaritans community has only a population of about 750. Half of them live on Mount Gerzim, which is 800 meters above the Sea level, while the other half live in the Israeli city of Hollon, south of Tel Aviv.

    Kohen told Xinhua the Samaritans celebrate seven feasts annually; the Pesach, or Passover, the feast of unleavened bread, Rosh Hashanah (New Year), Yom Kippur (remission day), Sukkot (pergola), the feast of Harvest and the Happiness of Torah feast.

    The Samaritan pilgrims go to Gerzim Mountain three times a year; one of it is during the Sukkot. Kohen said the Samaritans pay a great concern and importance to the implementation of the rituals that were mentioned in their Torah, which they believe is authentic compare with the Jewish Torah.

    Kohen said that all the Samaritans have one belief in one religion, adding "We don't have seculars or radicals, every one believes in the Samaritan religion and he or she has to be committed and abide by the legislation of the Torah."

    Surfing on his laptop as he sat down under the Tabernacles, Kohen said: "the world is changing, and we are open to this change, now we have TV, we have internet, but still, we are keeping the instructions of the Torah."

Editor: Yan
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