NEW YORK (Sep. 16)
Two representation of the ancient Samaritan community in Israel arrive here this week to begin a four-week tour of the United States to acquaint Americans, particularly Jews, was the customs and traditions of their community.
The two Samaritans, Menashe Marchiv, 41, the secretary general of the Samaritan community in He on, and Meir Sasoni, 31, said in on interview with the Jewish. Telegraphic Agency here, that they consider their mission to the United Stores to be of forereaching importance to the future of their community.
“We are here to raise money to build a community center and a research institute of Samaritan history and life in Holon,” Marchiv said. He claimed that the project will cost an estimated $350,000 and that the Israeli government has allocated about $50,000 for the project.
According to Marchiv and Sasoni, the lock of a community center might be a major contributing factor in the demise of the Samaritan community as a distinct group. “We are concerned about this possibility,” Sasoni said, “and we believe that a community and cultural center will be a unifying force for the Samaritan community in general and for the young generation in particular.”
The Samaritans reside in Holon, near Tel Aviv, and in Shechem (Nablus) on the West Bonk. The communities have about 600 members. Marchiv said that during their visit to the U.S., he and Sasoni are representing only the community in Holon.
HISTORIC BACKGROUND OF SAMARITANS
The Samaritans claim to be descendants of the tribes of Ephraim and Menashe and part of the tribe of Levi. Their original capital was in Samaria and originally they called themselves “Bene Yisrael” of” Shomerim (the keepers” of the Law), The Samaritans did not participate in the Jewish revolt of 66-70, but rose independently from time to time against the Romans.
The Samaritans believe in Moses as the sole Prophet and the only part of the Bible they accept is the Pentateuch. They claim that the place chosen by God for His sanctuary is Mt. Gerizim, the holy place in the history and tradition of the Samaritans and that Passover can only be celebrated on Mt. Gerizim where the lamb are sacrificed, roasted and eaten. On the seventh day they make a pilgrimage to the mountain, reciting sections of the Pentateuch.
With the establishment of the State of Israel the Samaritan community enjoyed the patronage of Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the second President of Israel. As a sign of gratitude, the Samaritan community plans to name the new community center they hope to build as the Yitzhak Ben-Zvi Samaritan Community Center.
The tightly knit Samaritan community in Israel is represented by a High Priest (Kohen Godol) and a committee of five. Their children receive their education in State schools, but their religious studies are conducted within the community “at the private home of the Kohen due to the lock of appropriate buildings,” Marchiv said. Both Marchiv and Sasoni emphasized that the Samaritans are equal citizens in Israel “who enjoy equality of rights and obligations,” including the mandatory service in the Israeli army.
TWO ACUTE PROBLEMS
Due to the small number of Samarirons and their special customs, “it is imperative for us to live together in a close-knit community, ” Sasoni said. He explained that a Samaritan is required to live within his own community and use its synagogue. There is also one Samaritan synagogue in the country, and that one is in Holon. This has caused a severe housing problem for about 50 Samaritan young couples who cannot reside elsewhere in Israel and cannot afford presently to build apartments in the vicinity of their community in Holon, Sasoni said.
The housing shortage and the lack of a community center are two acute problem facing the Samaritans, Marchiv and Sasoni observed. “We hope, while we are in the United States, to meet with Jewish leaders and with American officials in Washington, ” they said, “and we hope to find someone who will listen to our cause.