Friday, April 22, 2011

Crowds at the Samaritan Passover

Years of relative quiet in the West Bank have led to increasingly large crowds of Israelis and foreigners attending the Samaritan Passover ceremony.  Not all of the Samaritans are happy about the intruders.  From Haaretz:

The real problem was the area around the altar on which the sacrifice was to be made, which was surrounded by a fence and designated for prominent Samaritan community members, who surrounded it to fend off visitors. One young woman from Jerusalem spied an elderly Samaritan woman who was having difficulty walking, took her hand, and accompanied her to the site; for her pains, she remained inside the altar area until the end of the evening, taking photos of the slaughtered lambs with her cell phone. Other Israelis passed themselves off as journalists, invited guests, army officers - anything to get closer.

Asher, a red-haired Samaritan from Holon, despaired. "Who needs this headache, go home," he growled, frustrated by the dozens of people blocking his path. "But we are your guests," somebody insisted. "You're not my guests, go home," he responded.

Another Samaritan proposed charging visitors an entry fee next year. One elder confessed that his community had lost control of the annual ritual. The mountaintop site is not suited to thousands of visitors, he said, and there is not enough space for photographers. Meanwhile, some young people climbed atop a Palestinian fire truck nearby; others watched from the rooftop of a building, which did not appear to be strong enough to bear them; the barbed-wire surrounding the building did not deter anyone. Other visitors knocked on doors of private houses and asked to watch the ceremony inside.

Almost everyone had sophisticated camera equipment. One photographer who tried to barge her way into the closed-off altar area complained that she just had to take pictures. Said one Samaritan guard nearby: "It's all on YouTube."

I’ve seen similar attitudes with Samaritans as with Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians, and others.  When times are hard and visitors are few, they gladly welcome outsiders.  Tourists who want a VIP welcome right now are advised to head to Egypt.

This year the celebration was held on Sunday evening, the day before the Jewish Passover.  For more reading about the event, I recommend the top hits given on Google search. In addition, see this page for views and perspectives before tourists outnumbered Samaritans.

Samaritan Passover square and Mt Gerizim, tbs104259900

Crowds watching the Samaritan Passover, with full moon over Mount Gerizim

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