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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.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Religion & Holidays, Samaritans, Shavuot

Toward an Iran Policy That Looks at the Big Picture

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a speech outlining a new U.S. approach to the Islamic Republic. Ray Takeyh and Mark Dubowitz explain why it constitutes an important and much-needed rejection of past errors:

For too long, a peculiar consensus has suggested that it is possible to isolate the nuclear issue from all other areas of contention and resolve it in a satisfactory manner. The subsidiary [assumption] embedded in this logic is that despite the bluster of Iran’s rulers, it is governed by cautious men, who if offered sufficient incentives and soothing language would respond with pragmatism. No one embraced this notion more ardently than the former secretary of state, John Kerry, who crafted an accord whose deficiencies are apparent to all but the most hardened partisans. . . .

A regime as dangerous as the Iranian one requires no less than a comprehensive strategy to counter it. This means exploiting all of its vulnerabilities, increasing the costs of its foreign adventures, draining its economy, and aiding our allies. Most importantly, the United States must find a way of connecting itself to domestic opposition that continuously haunts the mullahs.

Washington should no longer settle for an arms-control agreement that paves Iran’s path to a bomb but rather a restrictive accord that ends its nuclear aspirations. The United States should not implore its allies to share the Middle East with Iran, as Barack Obama did, but partner with them in defeating the clerical imperialists. And most importantly, the United States should never forget that its most indispensable ally is the Iranian people.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Iran nuclear program, Mike Pompeo, U.S. Foreign policy