Postcard from... Mount Gerizim

 

Off the main road recently in the village of Kfar Luza on the West Bank there was the annual spiritual and bloody Biblical-era celebration of Passover, conducted by the Samaritans, an ancient community who trace their roots back to the original Good Samaritan.

It is a spectacle that attracts visitors from round the world. In front, six furnaces spout flames from holes in the ground. In one corner, boys keep 20 or so sheep gathered together. Dozens of priests enter the compound carrying large staffs, with rhythmic chanting in Aramaic. Gathered on Mount Gerizim, a hilltop considered the Samaritans’ holiest place, the men stand facing one another in two lines. The sheep are ushered forward, the smartphones are whipped out, the flickering screens set to film the ritual about to be re-enacted for over the 3500th time.

There is a cry as one priest raises a large knife and then swoops it down sharply on the sheep’s neck. Cheers erupt as others lean in to slaughter the lambs. Moments later, everyone embraces each other, leaving bloodied handprints on the starched white clothes. Each community member steps forward to receive a dot of the sheep’s blood on their forehead. The feast of Passover begins...

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