Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mount Gerizim is sacred to the Samaritans


Complete article here

Behind the rusty iron fence surrounding the archaeological work on Mount Gerizim lies one of Israel's most impressive antiquities sites. But the Civil Administration is keeping the compound closed despite its huge tourism potential. It says planning at the site near Nablus in the West Bank is "too problematic."

Over more than two decades, Yitzhak Magen, the administration's chief archaeology officer, dug up a 2,000-year-old city, once home to 10,000 people.

It was preserved in its entirety. The site consists of streets lined with houses, a marketplace and town center. Thousands of bones of sacrificial animals and tens of thousands of coins tell its story.

Mount Gerizim is sacred to the Samaritans who regard it, rather than Jerusalem's Temple Mount, as the location chosen by God for a holy temple.

The mountain remains the center of the Samaritan religion to this day. In 1982, the Civil Administration started digging at the site and continued for 22 years, at an investment of tens of millions of shekels.

"Josephus writes that the Samaritans fell out with the Jews, moved their spiritual center to Mount Gerizim and built their temple in a compound identical to the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. That's what all the archaeologists were looking for," says Benny Katzover, former head of the Samaria Regional Council.

"They discovered that the destroyed temple began in the Hasmonean era and ended in the Byzantine era. The Byzantines built on its ruins an octagonal church, which has been dug up. The compound wall has remained almost entirely intact, as have parts of the central Samaritan city. The findings show a high living standard, with bathtubs, ceramics, a heating system and mosaics. You can see it was the capital of a kingdom."

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