Celebrating Shavuot with the Samaritans

On Sunday, Israel’s Samaritans—members of a Jewish sect that broke away around the 5th century BCE—gathered to celebrate what on their calendar was the first day of the holiday of Shavuot. The Samaritans recognize the authority of the Pentateuch but not that of the other biblical books or of the rabbinic tradition. Alongside a series of photographs of the holiday rituals, the Times of Israel writes:

[W]hereas Jews celebrated Shavuot last Wednesday, the Samaritans marked the festival, as always, on Sunday. The discrepancy comes from the verse which says that, “You shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, . . . seven complete weeks; until the day after the seventh Sabbath you shall count fifty days [until Shavuot]” (Leviticus 23:15-16).

Rabbinic Judaism interprets “the day after the Sabbath” as referring to the day after the first day of the Passover festival [on which Sabbath-like restrictions are observed]. However, the Samaritans understand it literally to mean Shabbat, so they begin counting their seven weeks from the Saturday during Passover. . . . [F]or the Samaritans, Shavuot is a seven-day festival, and as one of the three [annual] pilgrimage festivals, the faithful all gather on Mount Gerizim, near the West Bank city of Nablus, which they believe is God’s chosen site rather than Jerusalem.

From the nearly 1,000,000 strong Samaritan kingdom that existed in the Roman period, only 750 Samaritans populate the earth today. Half live in the Samaritan village on Mount Gerizim and the other half live in the Israeli city of Holon.

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More about: Religion & Holidays, Samaritans, Shavuot

 

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East