Shavuot, Samaritan-style


They celebrated the Feast of Weeks in Nablus on Sunday — a week later than usual.
They are the Samaritans, a two-millennia-old faith with Jewish roots that follows the customs of the Torah, the written law, but not the Talmud, the oral law.

Which is why their observance of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks that marks the giving of the Torah, took place this week, a week later than mainstream Judaism marked the holiday. The Samaritans observe their holidays on different dates than Jews do; in Samaritan belief, Shavuot always comes on a Sunday.

And that is why their celebrations took place on Mount Gerzim, near Nablus in the West Bank, the Samaritans’ holy site where their tradition places the giving of the Torah.

According to mainstream Judaism, the Torah was given on Mount Sinai. Among Samaritans, Shavuot is also known as the Seven Weeks Day.

Some 700 Samaritans live in Israel and the territories, half in Holon, near Tel Aviv, half in the Nablus area.

Mount Gerezim, where the Samaritans’ pilgrimage holidays are celebrated, is the site, Samaritans believe, where Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed.
Samaritan High Priest Elazar ben Tsedaka ben Yitzhaq, top, raises a Torah scroll on Mount Gerezim. Members of the sect, above, chant prayers at sundown. Samaritan boys, below, watch the celebration.