Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Samaritan Passover Sacrifice

We joined the Samaritan people yesterday for the sacrifice to begin Passover. There are only about 650 Samaritans left. Some of them live south of Tel Aviv in Holon and the rest still live on Mt Gerizim above Nabalus in the northern West Bank.

On the top of the mountain there are extensive ruins of a temple dating from the 6th century BC. It offers a beautiful view of Nabalus and surrounding area. We could just make out the area around the well where Jesus met the Samaritan woman.

Around 6pm we gathered to watch the preparations for the sacrifice. Inside a fenced area the Samaritans gathered. Men in white; women in red. All the men had their heads covered – many wore a fez, many others wore baseball caps. We watched from bleachers; others crowded around the fence.

Most of the men gathered around a trench where the sheep were waiting. To one side were the elders; some of them dressed in bright robes. To the other side were the women although they mingled in with the men on occasion. When the ceremony started there was a welcoming of special guests in both Hebrew and Arabic. Then the men chanted for a long time – the two groups of men never quite together. It sounded a bit like Hebrew, but it may have been Aramaic. As the men chanted, the women talked. The louder the men chanted, the louder the women talked. (To be fair there were many of the men talking, too.)

Right at sunset, one of the elders chanted something (a prayer?) and the sheep were slaughtered. We couldn’t actually see that because of the crowd. As the blood drained into the trench, the men greeted each other with a kiss. One group in the corner kept up the chanting. Then they started butchering the sheep. Some of the men had poles about 4 meters long and they prepared to skewer the sheep. There were several pits in which fires had been built. The sheep were roasted on the poles in the pits. We left at 8 pm just as they were putting the sheep in the fires. We understood they would be eaten immediately.

One observation that I made was that the sacrifice did not seem to be a high and holy moment. It was more of a carnival atmosphere. Of course, more that a thousand on-lookers didn’t help, but this was a large family gathering and they were glad to be together. This was a joyous occasion, but there did not seem to be much reflection on the meaning of the sacrifice.

Lord, may this people come to know the Lamb that was slain for all.

Jesus said to the woman “An hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers. God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24.

I found additional information about Samaritan on the web.

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