Yitzhak Magen

The curtain is drawn back, revealing a locked entranceway, in this fourth-century mosaic floor from the Samaritan synagogue at Khirbet Samara. The paneled doors may represent the desert Tabernacle, the portable sanctuary that housed the Ark of the Covenant as the Israelites wandered in the desert. Or it may depict the synagogue’s Ark of the Law, the shrine that contained the Torah scroll and that was itself thought to recall the Tabernacle.

The synagogue mosaics of the Samaritans—a religious denomination that split from Judaism by the second cen-tury B.C.E.—reflect the common heritage, grounded in the first five books of the Bible, of both Jews and Samaritans.