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Some Samaritans Are Afraid Sect May Be Divided Again

As Israeli troops pulled out of this Palestinian town and the PLO took control, Hamdi Samari sat in bed with the flu, reading the Torah, the Jewish holy book.

Samari is a Samaritan, a sect whose followers broke off from Judaism 2,800 years ago. Numbering 600, they now live in Holon, a Tel Aviv suburb, and in Nablus, the West Bank’s largest city.

Samari, 47, predicted Tuesday he would get along fine with the new Palestinian rulers: “We keep good relations with any authority because we want to live in peace and practice our rituals.”

He spoke in his home on Mount Gerizim, the site Samaritans believe God chose for the Jews to build their Temple. The mountain overlooks Nablus, where thousands of Palestinians danced in the streets Tuesday to celebrate an end to 28 years of occupation.

But Samari’s fellow Samaritans in Israel worried that the new political realities would again divide the sect.

The Samaritans in Nablus and the Israeli coastal town of Holon could not visit each other until Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast War.

To Christians, the Samaritans are mainly known through the parable of the Samaritan who helped an injured stranger.

Descended from the ancient Israelite tribes of Menashe and Efraim, the tiny nation broke off from Judaism in the eighth century B.C. Although Samaritans practice many of the same religious rituals as Jews and have adopted some Islamic beliefs, neither community accepts them: Most Jews see them as heretics; Muslims see them as infidels.


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