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.
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.