Isaac Herzog, President of Israel, has contributed a special stone inscription to the first major exhibition on the Samaritans at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. Created in partnership with the YU Center for Israel Studies, under the direction of Dr. Steven Fine, Dean Pinkhos Churgin Chair in Jewish History, the exhibition, “The Samaritans: A Biblical People,” provides unprecedented access to the life, culture and history of a 3,500-year-old community with deep connections to the Bible.
As part of the opening events, President Herzog spoke via video noting that the exhibit offers a “story that reflects the many voices that make up our social tapestry and the many textured layers of history that contribute to our collective human story here in the Holy Land.” He went on to express his gratitude to “the Museum of the Bible, to Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies, and to the many able minds and hands that have come together to bring this exhibition to life and the story of this special community, the Samaritan community, to a broad public.”
In pre-recorded comments, Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University, noted how the exhibition “celebrates and enhances our understanding of Jewish history – from biblical times to the present. Their traditions and texts shed light on ours, and ours on theirs. The Samaritan will to survive gives greater context to our own struggles through the ages, and their modern rebirth gives hope to all people of good will.”
Among the six objects on loan from Israel is a large stone inscription from the Israeli presidential residence and the Israel Antiquities Authority. Originally from the medieval Samaritan synagogue in Kefar Kalil, the Samaritan Hebrew inscription was published by Itzhak Ben-Zvi, the second president of Israel and a scholar of the history of the Samaritans.
Tracing their lineage back to the Israelite tribes of Ephraim, Menashe and Levi, the Samaritans have lived in the Land of Israel, beside their sacred mountain, for millennia. They are mentioned in biblical and rabbinic texts, but few people know that this ancient people still exists as a microcommunity in the modern world.
To illuminate the history of this ancient people, the exhibition assembles, for the first time, the most important artifacts preserved in museums and libraries from around the world. These include paintings, manuscripts, priceless books, photography, ritual objects and significant archaeological discoveries, including a medieval Samaritan inscription of the Ten Commandments from Bet Al-ma and a second-century inscription from Nablus.
Through a series of unique videos, some of which were filmed in familiar and home settings, the exhibition also spotlights different life experiences of the Samaritans from Passover sacrifices to weddings. The rich religious life of the community is further illustrated with tales from the Samaritan elders and a special sukkah.
A total of 27 institutions and individuals loaned objects for the exhibition from Israel, Greece and the United States.
“Our exhibition is an extraordinary opportunity to encounter the Samaritans as real people, from earliest biblical history to the present,” said Dr. Fine. “Fascinating artifacts and exquisite media create a truly memorable experience of the Samaritans and their relations with Jews, Christians and Muslims over millennia.”
“The Samaritans: A Biblical People” runs through January 1, 2023, at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. More information and tickets are available here.