Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2016, 08:56 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Palestine : Samaritans

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Palestine : Samaritans, 2008, available at: [accessed 26 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


About 400 Samaritans live concentrated in the village of Kiryat Luza, near Nablus and their holy site of Mount Gerizim; they claim descent from Israelites from before the Assyrian exile of 722 BCE. Their sole norm of religious observance is the Pentateuch. They are Arabic speakers who use Aramaic as a liturgical language. They live in semi-isolation, usually only marrying within the community.

Historical context

Samaritans have often faced persecution, including during the Roman Empire. Then, under Byzantine rule in the fifth and sixth centuries, the community's population fell from the hundreds of thousands to near extinction. Through persecution and assimilation, the community persevered at the brink of disappearance. In 1917 there were only 146 Samaritans in all of Palestine.

In modern times, Samaritans have attempted to avoid taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the West Bank population of Samaritans has grown to around 400, with another group of a few hundred living in Israel.

Current issues

The small population of Samaritans in Palestine has significantly fewer women than men. Reports in 2007 indicated that some Samaritan men were seeking wives in Eastern Europe and Russia who were willing to convert to the Samaritan religion and adopt its culture and traditions.

Samaritans held one seat in the Palestinian parliament following the 1996 elections, but are currently unrepresented.

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