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Member of a now nearly extinct Jewish community. Calling themselves Bene-Yisrael (Children of Israel) or Shamerim (Observant Ones), they claim to be related to those Jews of ancient Samaria who were not deported from Israel by the Assyrians in 722 BC. The Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) is their sole norm of religious observance. Jews who returned to their homeland after the Babylonian Exile would not accept their help in building the Second Temple of Jerusalem. Consequently, in the 4th century BC the Samaritans built their own temple in Nablus, at the base of Mount Gerizim, in the present-day West Bank. The modern population (about 500 persons) is distributed between Nablus and the city of Holon in Israel. All live in semi-isolation, marrying only within their own community. They pray in Hebrew but have adopted Arabic as their vernacular.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Samaritan, visit Britannica.com.