Sins Of My Fathers
In recent discourses with Samaritan brethren I have come to realize the injustices that have been perpetrated against this people; in particular, the suffering they have encountered at the hands of my family. This is not even a situation that I can blame on the Rabbanites because the initial prejudices, persecutions, murderous and destructive assaults were all initiated by members of my own ancestral family. And as absurd as it sounds, even with the occurrences of these blood craving rampages, the members of their high priestly family and mine would still intermarry freely as if all was well with the world. One can only conclude that love and hate are the same fine edge of the sword and little differentiates between the two. The Pharisees freely tossed around the accusation that the Jerusalem and Mt. Gerzim High Priesthood was one and the same but the reality was that this was neither rumour nor innuendo. It was the truth. It began from the same line, it continued to intermarry through the same line, and until the death of Shalmar, the Samaritan High Priest in the 18th century, it continued to be the identical line. But when it came to claiming the authoritative love of God, we would slice each other’s throats freely and without reservation. And in the end, it was my family that won out, if winning is an expression that can be used for such a situation.
I thank Shomron for providing me with much of the information I’m about to reveal. For those interested in the history of the Samaritans I encourage you to visit their own website at http://www.The-Samaritans.com . Remember we have only been spoon fed one side of the equation our entire lives. Perhaps it is time you listen to their side of the story as well. I think you will find as Karaites, we have much in common with this people that we have always assumed was foreign to us.
Self-Destructive Forces of Human Nature
When one thinks of all the opportunities that presented themselves following the division of Israel into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms to reunify the people, each opportunity met with a resounding refusal, then one can only think of how brothers and sisters in today’s families will refuse to talk with one another, only to regret what they have done when one finally passes away and they can never correct the error of their ways. We are left with the impression that all of Samaria had intermarried after the majority of the population had been forcibly taken into exile by the Assyrians. But according to the Samaritans from their own chronicles and also taken from the Annals of Sargon, only 27,290 people had been forced into exile by the Assyrians. This was only a fraction of their total population as evidenced by King Hezekiah of Judea’s attempts to persuade the remainder of Israel to come south into Judea for protection. There in Chronicles II it says that he sent his messengers to all the cities of Ephraim and Manasseh; hundreds of cities in which there would have been thousands remaining in each. But once again, like the two siblings that refuse to talk to one another until it is too late, the Israelites refused to come south. And it can be safely assumed that they refused to do so because they had the security of vast numbers of their own kind still remaining in the northern kingdom.
In the sixth century BCE with the returning Judean exiles from Babylon, the opportunity was certainly there, but these Hebrews from the South that now clearly distinguished themselves as Judeans or Jews and not Israel, would have no hand of a filthy half-breed touch a single stone during the rebuilding of the Temple. How ironic that Ezra had to force the Jews within his own domain to dismiss their foreign wives and children because his own people were no less guilty of intermarrying with the same foreigners of which he accused the Samaritans yet he could be more accepting of thes half-breed Judeans than he could of his northern neighbours. But as was evident in the time of Hezekiah, there were sufficient numbers within the Samaritan population that the majority would still marry with other Samaritans and thus the accusation of half-breeds, though universally accepted after Ezra’s outburst was erroneous. Since a priestly line of descendants of Aaron already existed in the north, then Ezra’s purpose may have been one of self preservations as well, since accepting these northerners would have meant that any of the Samaritan Kohanim could have challenged him for his position of Kohan Gadol in Jerusalem. By forbidding any contact with the Northern Israelites, Ezra ensured that he had no challengers.
The relationship certainly didn’t improve with the appearance of Alexander the Great in the Middle East. Both sides saw it as an opportunity to convince the conqueror of the world that he should destroy the Temple of the other and slay the opposing populations. From the story handed down through the ages, it would appear that the Samaritans had Alexander convinced to champion their side and lay waste to Jerusalem. They rode with him towards Jerusalem eager to pillage and plunder the capital city of the Jews but then Alexander was overwhelmed by the humility of Jerusalem’s High Priest Jadduah that marched accompanied by a throng of the city’s elite to greet the young Alexander and bow before him. (See http://hubpages.com/hub/Karaite-Comments-The-Truth-About-Chanukah ) Exactly what the true story might have been is difficult to say from the conflicting arguments but nonetheless, a slaughter of the Samaritans occurred and once again a wedge was buried deep between these two related peoples.
Had the relationship at least been cordial then history may have taken a surprising turn. In 69 AD Vespasian left for Rome leaving his son Titus behind to complete the siege of Jerusalem. The Romans acknowledged that there were times the outcome of the war could have gone either way. The Jews had been at least a legion away from victory at times and had those five thousand extra men shown up at those pivotal moments, the battles would have been swayed in their favour. But they didn’t come as we know and the world today is an outcome of that Roman victory. We know from fifth century records that over a million Samaritans still lived in Israel prior to the Muslim occupation, which would indicate that at the time of the Roman-Jewish war they probably number around half a million. Had they fought alongside their Judean brethren, it is very likely that Judea would not have fallen and Titus would not have been victorious and the Temple would still stand. But the Samaritans never came and in so doing, the favour was returned when their most illustrious leader and general Baba Rabbah led a revolt against the waning Roman Empire in the fourth century. He fought the Empire to a stalemate and was invited by the Emperor to Rome in order to sign a peace treaty, to which he naively agreed, sailing to Rome only to be held as a prisoner until the day he died. Had we Judeans fought alongside our Samaritan brethren, it would not have been a stalemate but a decisive victory. But our animosity prevented us from agreeing to such a distasteful alliance. And thus because of our own loathing amongst what are our own people we became a people that have been nothing more than a doormat for other nations to wipe their feet upon.
The Present Situation
Today there are close to 700 remaining Samaritans living in Israel. They are equally split between two locations, those in Nabulus and those near Tel Aviv. This was once a nation that numbered over a million and through our own prejudices we have allowed it to dwindle practically into extinction. Fortunately, the laws in Israel have permitted those Jews that marry a Samaritan to adopt the Samaritan faith if they so desire without too much interference by the rabbis that frown on such an event. But it will be a long time before the Samaritan people ever number as a sizable influence upon Jewish history again. I take no great pride in knowing that my family was integral to their demise, nor can I even fathom the politics that made them think that they had made the right choices as they pursued the path of sanctions and isolation that left Samaria destitute and vulnerable. Was it our vanity to think that there could only be one Temple to God and only one true way to serve the Almighty and in so thinking we actually signed our own warrants of destruction? Now there is neither a Temple in Jerusalem or in Shechem and through our own miscalculation there exists not one true way of serving God but a plethora that have arisen to supplant us. Perhaps now is the time that we as a people should examine what we have achieved through negligence, prejudice and vanity and seek to rectify the wrongs we have done within our own family.
Avrum Aryeh-Zuk Kahana