Nitza Spiro Hebrew Studies

Registered Charity No 1070926


The Samaritans - Come and find out at the Spiro Ark

Dr. Binyamin Tsedaka, a Samaritan scholar who is presently lecturing in North America on the subjects of the history and culture of the Samaritans will be a guest of the Spiro Ark on Monday 17th December, 7.30 pm, at 25/26 Enford Street, London W 1 (Tel. O2O 7723 9991; email:

Most people recognize the name Samaritan from the remarkable organization which tries to save depressed people from committing suicide, taking its name from the 'Good Samaritan' in the New Testament.

The Samaritan sect however is closely linked to early Jewish history and provides the fascinating story of a once large group who claimed and whose descendants still claim, to be direct heirs to the Israelite tribes who lived in ancient Samaria. The rabbis and orthodox Jewish tradition have always disputed this claim.

Orthodox history, gleaned from the Bible and other sources, maintains that in 722 BCE the Assyrian Empire came from the north and conquered the Kingdom of Israel, taking some 27,000 people to be resettled elsewhere in different parts of the empire. In turn they brought other peoples to reside in what had been the Northern kingdom. This exchange of population gave rise to doubt as to the Jewish authenticity in the area.

In 586 BCE the southern Kingdom of Judah was also conquered, this time by the Babylonians with the people of Judah likewise sent to exile, this time to Babylon. Some 50 years later the Judeans (now referred to as Jews) were allowed to return to rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem. For various reasons the rebuilding was delayed, the major one being, as they claimed, the obstruction by the Samaritans, following their request to help in the construction of the new Temple being turned down by the returnees from Babylon. They maintained that the Samaritans were not pure Jews and therefore had no role to play in the rebuilding of the Temple.

And this is when the real antagonism between the two peoples began. The Samaritans claiming that the "true site" for the Temple must be on Mount Gerizim, as confirmed by Moses (Deuteronomy 27 and Joshua (9; 30). This basic difference is so fundamental that despite the rabbis agreeing that the Samaritans basically adhere strictly to all Biblical commandments, Talmud Tractate Cutim answers the question "At what point can the Samaritans be accepted into Judaism?" with: "When they reject their belief in Mount Gerizim".

There are of course other differences such as the use by the Samaritans' of the ancient Hebrew script which was changed by Ezra to the one we now know and in so doing (so claim the Samaritans) altering a number of vital passages such as the 4th and 10th Commandments in the Samaritan Torah introduce references to the holiness of Mount Gerizim. In their version this happens some 3 ½ centuries before Jerusalem is ever mentioned. The Samaritans believe that Mount Gerizim was the original site of the Garden of Eden, the site of the sacrifice of Isaac and that it towered over the waters of the flood. They also believe that at the end of days it will be the location of Paradise.

The Samaritans canonized only the Pentateuch, adding the book of Joshua, due to its significant references to Mount Gerizim.

Dr. Binyamin Tsedaka will throw light on some of the 6000 differences between their scriptures and our own. He has chosen the Spiro Ark in the past to present the wonderful Samaritan choir of male singers who claim that their liturgical mode has not changed over the centuries or been influenced by others.

Dr. Tsedaka will not only address the history of the Samaritans but will discuss their future. Thus, although numbering many hundreds of thousands in the past, today there are only some 700 Samaritans, roughly divided equally between Holon in Israel and Nablus on the West Bank.

I B Singer -- Nobel Prize Nominate at the Spiro Ark
Howard Rypp -- popular Israeli theatre actor / director is bringing the classic story by I B Singer to life blending Klezmer music with surrealistic theatrical presentations in a story of betrayal and ridicule about Gimpel's childlike acceptance and steadfast belief in God.

Howard will also be leading children's drama workshops (7-11, 11-17) exploring various Biblical stories. The workshops will provide an educational, rewarding and stimulating activity for the school holiday. This is a unique opportunity for youngsters to be guided by a top Israeli actor. If you wish your children to be inspired -- contact the Spiro Ark now!