Samaritan Passover -- By: Todd Bolen

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 14:2 (Spring 2001)
Article: Samaritan Passover
Author: Todd Bolen


Samaritan Passover

Todd Bolen

The following report was sent to us from Israel by Todd Bolen, an instructor with the Master’s College Israel Bible Extension (IBEX) program. Prof. Bolen and a group of his April 1999 and he shares the experience with us.—Ed.

Construction is nearing completion on the “Biblical Garden” project at Moshav Yad HaShmonah. The hillside of this Israeli settlement where ABR is based during its excavations of Kh. el-Maqatir has been transformed into a landscape reminiscent of Biblical days. Grapevines are flourishing and winepresses have been built nearby. Olive trees are producing and olive presses are being set in place. A watchtower has been constructed and burial caves have been carved out of bedrock. The facade of a Galilean synagogue has been relocated to the gardens. Very soon tourists, including resident ABR dig participants, will be able to experience many of the ways of the ancient Israelite, from his fanning techniques to his worship structures to his burial practices. It is a rare opportunity to be transported back in time to see the customs of the Bible.

Some 65 km (40 mi) north of Yad HaShmonah an annual event occurs that likewise transports the modern person thousands of years back in history. The Samaritan Passover has, for over 2, 000 years, been observed on Mt. Gerizim and until today the Samaritans continue to gather there to offer the sacrifices prescribed in the Torah (Pentateuch). The Jewish people celebrate Passover each year, but since the Temple in Jerusalem was leveled by the Romans in AD 70, the Biblically mandated sacrifices have not been offered. The Samaritans, in contrast, did not give their allegiance to the Jerusalem Temple (since the days of the Exile) and held their sacrificial services on Mt. Gerizim instead. A reference to this is clear in the New Testament when the woman at the well asked Jesus if worship should be held on Mt. Gerizim or in Jerusalem (Jn 4:20). The Samaritan temple that was constructed in the fifth century BC and destroyed in the second century BC has now been excavated. Even after their temple was destroyed, the Samaritans continued to offer sacrifices on Mt. Gerizim and do so to this day.

Samaritan elders on Mt. Gerizim at the Passover celebration.

The Samaritan Passover must be one of the most worthwhile events to attend in Israel today. If you can get beyond the crowds and the noise, you can almost imagine yourself back in Second Temple period times and feel like you are actually present at the sacrifices as they used to be. Come to think of it, keep the crowds and the noise, or the experience probably would not be...

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