Huberman The Samaritans

  • Issue: February 1992
  • Designer: D. Pessah
  • Stamp size: 25.7 x 40 mm
  • Plate no.: 147
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: Offset

In Kings II, we find the traditional Jewish version of the origins of the Samaritans. In Chapter 17 we read about the people brought by the King of Assyria from the Fertile Crescent, who were settled in the cities of Samaria in place of the Israelites who were exiled to Assyria. According to the Biblical version, therefore, the Samaritan people was not part of the Tribes of Israel.

The version of the Samaritans is different: their destiny and their Torah are - according to their belief - living witnesses to the similarity that their tradition bears to the tradition that was practised in Biblical times. The Samaritans are the remnant of an ancient people, the heirs of the Ten Lost Tribes, who still bear the flag of the ancient sanctuaries of Israel.

The ancient Samaritan period overlaps with the period of the ancient Kingdom of Judea, and both of them bear witness to a glorious common history, up to the period of Eli the High Priest. Despite the fact that Eli, was of the lineage of Itamar, the son of Aharon the Priest - as is written in Samuel I, Chapter 1 - he took for himself the position of High Priest. As a consequence, two centres of the priesthood arose among the Jewish people: one on Mount Gerizim, at whose head stood the High Priest, Azai, a descendant of Phinehas, and the second in Shilo, at whose head stood Eli the High Priest, a descendant of Itamar. This brought about the first religious division among the people of Israel, the division of the priestly house.

The Samaritan religion is based on five principles of faith, which are the basic beliefs of the followers of the religion. These five principles of faith are read by the Samaritans at the beginning of prayers and religious ceremonies, and they are: the belief in one God; in his servant, Moses, son of Amram; belief in the Torah; in Mount Gerizim; and the Day of Vengence and Retribution - the End of Days when the Messiah will be revealed.

The Samaritans celebrate the seven festivals laid down in the Torah: Passover; the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which falls on the seventh day of Passover; Pentacost; the Festival of the Seventh Month - equivalent to the New Year in the Jewish tradition; the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, and after the end of the seven days of the Festival, the festival of Shemini Atzeret (the Eighth Day of Holy Convocation).

The members of the sect scrupulously observe the Sabbath day, as well as the laws of purity and impurity, and Kashrut (Dietary Laws). The Samaritans circumcise their sons on the eighth day after their birth. They do not postpone the circumcision, except where there might be a danger to life. Boys and girls, on completing the reading of the Torah with the Cohen (priest) or a scholar specially trained in this, are called "Hatam Torah" - completers of the Torah, but, as opposed to the Jewish tradition, this is not determined by age. Ties between couples are in three stages: sanctification, engagement and marriage; and only the first stage can be revoked without a divorce.

In the 4th century CE, Samaritans numbered over 1 million people, and lived all over the Land of Israel, and even outside it: from Damascus in the north, to Alexanoria in the south. For many generations the Samaritans were perseculed by those running the country which nearly brought about their total elimination, so that at the beginning of the 20th century there were on y about 150 people left.

Today, there are about 550 Samaritans. They all live in Israel: about half of them on Mount Gerizim and the other half in Holon, in their own special neighbourhoods.

On examining a cross-section of the members of the sect from a demographic point of view, it would seem that it is a younger society than average. The young people of the sect are involved in cultural and social activities and are adept at keeping both 'separate and together'. They study in all the national educational institutions from kindergarten to higher education, enlist in the Israel Defence Forces and work in many different professions and with this, are firm in their tradition and heritage.

The stamp shows the Samaritans praying on Mount Gerizim. The tab shows the Samaritan "Sefer Torah".

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The Samaritans