Sonia Halliday

Mt. Gerizim. A small group of 300 Samaritans still lives in ancient Shechem (modern Nablus) at the foot of this sacred mountain. According to Samaritan tradition, Mt. Gerizim existed before the Creation and will continue to exist at the end of the world; Adam was fashioned out of the mountain’s dust, and Abel built the first altar here. Central to the Samaritans’ belief is a variant text of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), which refers to the place that “God has chosen,” meaning Mt. Gerizim, as opposed to the Jewish text, which refers to the place that “God will choose,” meaning Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 12:5 et al.). (Jerusalem did not become Israelite until the time of King David.)

Further, in the Samaritan Bible, the tenth commandment decrees: “It shall be that when the Lord your God brings you to the land of the Canaanites, which you are to inherit, you shall erect an altar of stones, and plaster them and write upon these stones all the words of this Torah which I command you this day. You shall erect them on Mt. Gerizim and build there an altar to the Lord your God.”

The Samaritans’ designation of Mt. Gerizim as this holy mountain created—or reflected—a serious rift between them and the Jews, a division made worse by their building of a temple, now long destroyed, on Gerizim in the fourth century B.C.E.