Ancient priesthood uses past to predict future

By Majeda El Batsh, Agence France-Presse

NABLUS, Palestinian Territories – In the northern West Bank city of Nablus, a small and ancient Samaritan community is managing to make ends meet by dabbling in the age-old practice of fortune-telling.

Samaritan priest Hosni Al Samir speaks at the Samaritan Museum in the West Bank city of Nablus on January 14, 2011 (AFP photo by Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

University Avenue, in the hill-ringed city of Nablus, is lined with white banners with the names of Samaritan priests, renowned among their Palestinian neighbours for astrology and divination.

Palestinians go to the Samaritans’ booths along the avenue or to their homes on nearby Mount Gerizim hoping to find answers to their most pressing problems.

The Samaritans claim to be the true children of Israel who left Egypt with Moses and consider themselves the guardians of the authentic Mosaic tradition.

They say it is the Jews who over time diluted the religion revealed by Moses.

Some 750 Samaritans live in the Holy Land, around half in the city of Holon near Tel Aviv, while the remainder reside on Mount Gerizim, which they consider a sacred place.

Hosni Al Samir, a 67-year-old Samaritan priest, says his people have been studying the stars for millennia.

“We have inherited astrology books for thousands of years,” he told AFP. “The most recent one we use goes back almost 450 years.”

The practice is restricted to the priestly class, which represents about a third of the total community, he says, adding that the use of astrology and numerology should not be confused with witchcraft or parlour tricks.

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1 reply

  1. I don’t know how they manage to dish out such excuses with a straight face. The Torah explicitly forbids practicing astrology and divination in any way shape and form.

    Now they reveal they’ve been dabbling with these things (not just astronomy) for ages, which is little different than the Jewish preoccupation with these fields. And yet in the same report they have the impudence to lambaste the Jews for diluting the Moseic religion. Apparently gall has no bounds.

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