The Samaritan Community of Holon
Located in a working-class town south of Tel-Aviv, the Samaritan community of Holon is along one street and adjoining alleys. This humble congregation is well integrated into Israeli life and culture but zealously preserves its fascinating, unique Samaritan heritage.
Who Are the Samaritans?
Best known in the Christian world for the “Good Samaritan” parable, the Samaritans are one of the oldest religious and ethnic groups in the world. Claiming to be descendants of the biblical northern Israelite tribes, the Samaritans thrived in the Roman and Byzantine periods. Sadly, continued Christian and Muslim persecutions dwindled the community, and in 1918, only 145 members were left. Today, more than 800 Samaritans are split between their town next to Mount Gerizim in the West Bank and their community in Holon. The Samaritans believe in the first six books of the bible and argue that Mount Gerizim, not Jerusalem, is God’s favored sacred place. Once, they had a temple complex on Mount Gerizim, and to this day, they congregate on the Mountain on their holidays. Most moving is their Pesach ceremony, in which they get into religious ecstasy while performing the rite of animal sacrifice.
The Samaritans and Holon
At the turn of the 20th century, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, a Jewish immigrant from Ukraine, rented a room in a Samaritan-owned house in Jaffa. Developing a solid friendship with the landlord, he studied the Samaritan culture and history and eventually became an expert in the field. Later, as the second president of the state of Israel, he used his influence to allocate a plot in Holon for Samaritans who wished to live in Israel.
Visiting the Samaritan Community in Holon
The community lives mainly in humble-sized homes along their main street, Ben-Amram. At first, the neighborhood looked like any other, but stone plaques engraved with Samaritan text revealed the community’s identity. This is the Samaritan version of Mezuzah, believed to provide the house with divine protection. The central monument of the community is its synagogue. At first sight, it looks like a Jewish synagogue, as it has a Menorah decoration over its top. However, Samaritan Inscriptions are also present here, and the building is oriented towards Mount Gerizim, not Jerusalem. Its interior is plain, with carpets over the floors. Even more confusing is that during prayers, the Samaritans will bow on their knees. It all looks too much like the liturgy in a Muslim mosque. But as their representative explains, smiling, “Our liturgy is 3,000 years old. If Muslim liturgy looks similar, it is because they are copying from us, not the other way around”. The community is warm and welcoming, proud of its heritage, and happy to explain it to visitors.
A visit to the Samaritan community in Holon can be combined with a guided day tour of Jaffa and Tel Aviv.
“This community is truly fascinating. They remind me so much of the history of the Jews. Both once thrived, and then were persecuted for centuries. Both dwindled, and today both are thriving again!” ,team member, Danny “the Digger” Herman