Monday, April 30, 2007
Samaritan Passover: The Silence of the Lambs
Today we went to Mt. Gerizim in the region of Samaria, in the west bank, in the north, to view the Samaritan Passover. While graphic, I have chosen not to post the most graphic photos. The Samaritans are a sect claiming descent from the northern kingdom of Israel, and carry out a ritual sacrifice of sheep that follows ancient traditions. At 3 pm there is a fire lighting ceremoney in 5, deep, plaster lined pits and these fires are kept burning for about 5 hours in advance of the cooking. Each pit is lit separately with chanting. About an hour before the sacrifice there is more chanting and prayer. The chanting is rhythmic and becomes more intense leading up to the sacrifice. The sacrifice involves the killing of about 30 sheep. They drain the blood into a channel, prepare the sheep, then cook the offal and skins separately as a sacrifice, then cook the whole sheep on a spit, with 5-6 sheep in a fire pit. It was one of the most intense and amazing things I've ever witnessed. Hundreds of people watched in bleachers like the kind you see at a football game. I counted at least 15 tour buses in the village! Right after they made the first cut, a guy fainted about 4 rows behind me! I had to take off all my clothes when I got home to wash and take a shower to get the smell of burning lamb out of my hair. We couldn't eat any leavened bread or prepared food in front of the Samaritans because it goes against their beliefs. I had a big lunch before I left the Albright, and I didn't really feel like eating last night after what I saw and I didn't really feel like eating the next day! Although Australia has the best lamb I've ever tasted, I don't plan on eating any of it for a while. Although I enjoyed the experience, I did not really even want to look at my photos for a few days.