NABLUS, West Bank – The early morning mist lifted over the West Bank city of Nablus in the valley below as a handful of Samaritans walked through the poppies atop Mount Gerizim, where pilgrims gathered on Monday to mark the end of their Passover.
People of the Jewish faith mark Passover as a celebration of their liberation from slavery over 3,000 years ago in Egypt.
Monday was the final day of the Samaritan Passover feast, which is marked by an annual pilgrimage to Mount Gerizim, in the West Bank, where the faithful congregate to pray and read from their holy texts.
According to tradition, the Samaritans are descendants of the Jews who were not deported when the Assyrians conquered Israel in 722 BC.
Samaritanism remains a close relation to Judaism, but its followers believe it to be the one true religion of the ancient Israelites.
In Samaritan teachings, Mount Gerizim – as opposed to Temple Mount in Jerusalem – is the Holy Place of Israel.
Followers of Samaritanism adhere to the teachings of the Samaritan Torah. This scripture comprises the first five texts present in the Hebrew Bible and is written in the ancient Samaritan alphabet.
The Samaritan community numbers around 780 people, half of whom live in a village on Mount Gerizim, near the Palestinian city of Nablus, and the rest in Holon, near Tel Aviv.