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About The Oregon daily journal. (Portland, Or.) 1902-1972 | View Entire Issue (Oct. 14, 1906)
THE OREGON SUNDAY JOURNAL.
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SUNDAY MORNT OCTOBER 14, 006
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7 ALL of stature, gaunt, as through
sufering, but dignified and silent,
four men, clad in the robes of
their priestly office, have just visited Eng
land to implore aid for a dying race.
They were representatives of the Sa
maritans of Palestine, who are so harried
and taxed by the Turks that life is a con
tinual struggle to them.
The oldest Jewish sect on earth, and
once very numerous, the Samaritans have
dwindled to thirty families and fewer than
150 persons. As a people they have de
fied the ravages of war, poverty' and op
pression nearly three thousand years.
Never has their unity been broken; their
customs and manner of worship have re
Except that they are so pitifully few
in number, the sect is the same today as it
was when the Good Samaritan of the par
able succored the traveler who had fallen
among thieves; its unbroken line stretches
back to the morning of history, when
Abraham crossed the Jordan and pitched
his tents in the land of Shechem.
A long and valiant struggle for ex
istence, asking nothing but fo be let alone
with their traditions and their religion,
have these people made, but the rapacious
Turk is now slowly crushing out the life
of the little remnant. In despair they
raise their voices to Christendom and cry,
"Save usjorwe perish."
VISITORS to the small city of Nablus, in
North Palestine, are attracted there,
more than anything else, by the pathetic
little religious community that has
elans; desperately, through centuries of oppres
sion and poverty, to the foot of its sacred
No more tenaciously has the cactus root held
to the granite sides of somber Ebal, across the
valley, than has this devoted band nestled in
its chosen abode to await the advent of a new
Of all religious sects, this is the most ancient,
the most extraordinary, in a way, and yet the
smallest numerically and the feeblest in the
world. Their story is one of pathos and tears.
a of unfaltering loyalty to the traditions and
ifs that have come down to them unchanged ;
from the time of Father Abraham.
Among the millions of the W"'" race, the
Samaritans assert themselves to be the only
true worshipers of God, the sole depositaries of
Bis revealed will.
"The fire that was kindled from heaven on
the sacred altar of the Jews has long been ex
tinguished,' says an authority in expressing the
convictions of the Samaritans. "The light that,
age after age, shone out upon the surrounding
darkness from the holy Mount at Jerusalem has
bean quenched in endless night, but its latest
illuminations linger still on the cliffs of Ger
laim, in the mountains of Samaria, a gleam of
"CHOSEN SEED Of ISRAEL"
"Clinging to these -liffs and steadfastly watch
ing that heavenly light, these ancient Samari
tans, as the chosen seed of Israel, are waiting
In aura and certain expectation the coming of
the cheerful morn that shall yet rise on the dark
and dreadful night that is still gathering around
them. 'We know that Messiah cometh, which
is called Christ. When He is come, He will telt
us ail things, is their cry."
A single long, narrow street, running east and
west through a wonderful cleft in the mountain,
composes Nablus. The Samaritans are clus
tered in a colony in the southwest quarter.
Several hundred feet above them towera Ger
ixim, their sacred mountain.
While other people of Palestine have scat
tered to the four corners of the earth, the tru
Samaritan would never think of removing pei
manently beyond the shadow of his beloved Gar
bum. There, clustered together in a recess of the
cliff, they dwell quietly, close by their little syn
agogue, where they assemble for devotions, con
ducted as they were 8000 years ago.
Every Samaritan dresses in white, especially
when appearing in public, in the religious as
semblies and on all festival occasions. In order
to comply with Moslem regulations, rather than
from taste, the men wear red turbans. The
Women are permitted to wear earrings, because
af therm the golden cslf waa made.
The valley in which the Samaritans dwell is.
a sparkling gam of nature. In all the country
roundabout there i nothing that approaches it
an beauty and fertility.
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girl's father. The prospective bridegroom must
guarantee an acceptable dower before his pro
posal is considered.
Written out at great length, the marriage
agreement is witnessed with much solemnity,
during which ceremony prescribed portions of
the law are read aloud. The wedding festivities
last several days, and end with an interchange
of gifts between the newly married pair and
A Samaritan priest never cornea in contact
with the dead. If the relatives themselves per-'
form the last offices of affection for their da
parted ones, they subject themselves to the
Levitical law, which provides penance for cere
monial un cleanness. For this reason, persona
not of the sect ore called in to perform tha
After morning service on the Sabbath follow
ing a burial, the entire congregation gathers
about the grave and eats a simple meal, in ac
cordance with the lovefeaat of ancient times.
Every Sabbath is strictly observed, but the
severest regulations and solemnity surround the
Day of Atonement. For twenty-four hours the
people do not eat, drink, sleep or convene. The
entire time is given to silent meditation and
reading the Scriptures.
Processions' to the holy mountain mark the
feasts' of Pentecost, Tabernacles and Passover
today, as they did 2000 years ago. The Passover
is marked by especially solemn and ancient
While barren lands and deserts stretch-their
miles over much of the surrounding country,
this quiet, half-concealed little valley blooms as
the rose. The profusion of fruits and flowers
suggests a glimpse of the tropics. Figs, mul
berries, grapes, oranges, pomegranates, apricots,
almonds and other fruits vie with each other in
luxurious growth in this miniature Eden. Over
all is a peculiar coloring of sky and atmosphere
which has been described as "a lovely bluish
Samaritans assert that their real name is
Israelites "the true lsrsel of God," they say,
"in distinction from the Jews, descendants of
Judah, who have forsaken the religion of their
They declare that a copy of the Pentateuch in
their possession is older than that of the Jews.
They nave other ancient manuscripts of price
less vahfe' as well. Among these1 it a scroll which
has been used in their synagogue for many cen
turies. Enclosed in a silver case and kept in a chest,
the original scroll is rarely shown to visitors. It
consists of dingy skins, which were prepared
long before tha invention of parchment, sawed
together. . The skius are about fifteen by twenty-five
inches, and are now worn and patched;
in fact, large portions of the writing are il
legible. When the Samaritans want a new copy af the
Pentateuch, some scholar among them slowly
prints it out by hand. They- have no printing
presses. A year is required to make a copy,
whieh is never sold, but kept for the usa of the
In religion the Samaritans ace strict mono
theists. They permit no pictures in their home
or temples not even the portrait of a friend
holding fast to the injunction against represen
tation "in the likeness" of anything "in heaven
above or in the earth beneath."
They believe in good and evil angels, in
heaven and hell, where good and wicked abide
after death, After a future judgment, they be
lieve that body and soul1, are reunited for a
happy or unhappy existence,' according to the
life lived on earth. They fix the coming of the
Messiah at 8000 yean from the creation of the
"He will quickly coma and gather all nations
unto himself." His throne of universal domin
ion will be on Mount Gerizim. The twelve
tones on which Joshua wrote the Ten Com
mandments will he recovered, as will the sacred
vessels of the temple and the pot of manna now
buried on the mountain.
Amram, then high priest of the Samaritans,
related to the late Bishop Hurst, of the Metho
dist Episcopal Church, a few years ago, somq.ef
the theological views of the dying community.
For fifty-five years, he stated, men will go on
increasing in wickedness, after which will come
a time of great peace and purity. Then there
will come on a new period of great wickedness,
which will laat 800 years. This time will be
closed by the destruction of tha world.
After this the general judgment will take
place, when the righteous will go to live with
God and the wicked will be finally dispatched to
the domain of Satan.
The Samaritans assert that they alone have-
kept the faith as it waa committed to Abra
ham; that other Jewish peoples -have wandered
away from pure religion and the prescribed wor
ship. Enmity between tha Jews and Samar
itans, spoken of in the New Testament, con
tinues unabated to this day.
Btrictly Orthodox are tha domestic institu
tions of tha Samaritans. Their names are'
taken from the ancient Scriptures. The family
of their priesthood has descended directly from
the tribe of Levi.
Whan Samaritans want to marry, which they
do at an early age, the proposal of the young
man is made frequently by his father to this
Q&etfura tie ISsonx
Before the sun seta on the preceding day tha
entire community proceeds to the top of Mount
Gerizim and encamps. For the Paschal sacri
fice six lambs without blemish are provided.
As the sun sets the members of the congrega
tion, in white robes, gather about the sacrificial
fires. They chant prayers and sacred songs, re
citing the entire history of the plagues of Egypt
and the establishment of the Passover.
While this ceremony is in progress the lambs
are led out, and the young men appointed to
alay them draw their long, sharp knives. At a
certain passage the lambs are shun and tha
slayers cross themselves with the blood.
Next the lambs are roasted over the fires,
while bitter herbs, inclosed in strips of un
leavened bread, are handed around. The people
then retire to their tents until midnight, when
the feast begins.
At that time the men of the congregation
stand in two lines, with shoes on their feet,
staves in their hands and rope girdles about
their waists, as instructed by Exodus xii, 11.
After certain recitations eaeh man tears off
fleets of flesh and eats hurriedly and silently,
ortions of. the flesh are then taken to tha
woman in the tents.
When the feast is over every particle of re
maining flesh and bone is thrown into tha fire
and burned. - The rest of the ni-ht is passed in
prayer, and in the morning the people return
to their homes and their daily occupations.
"Thus on this sacred mountain in Samaria
the Paschal Lamb is offered year alter year the
"only Jewish sacrifice that; still lingers in tha
world" says a writer. Every detail of cere
monial as prescribed by the ancient law is faith
Such is the strange sect in historic Palestine,
the oldest and smallest sect in the world, which,
for the first time in all its remarkable history,
sends out s ery to be preserved from total ea