When we drove up to experience the Samaritan Passover sacrifice at Kiryat Luza we had hoped to also visit the site at Mount Gerizim but it was closed. Now the Israel Nature and Parks Authority with the Judaea and Samaria Civil Administration have completed the work to enable daily access to the archaeological site on Mount Gerizim.
Mount Gerizim is one of two mountains that overlook the West Bank city of Nablus (in Hebrew Shechem, of which there are many Biblical references). Mount Gerizim at 886 meters above sea level (higher than Jerusalem) is one of the highest mountains in Israel. In Deuteronomy 27:2-13 Moses and the Elders command the nation to build an altar of large, natural white-washed stones on Mount Ebal (the mountain across from Gerizim) and to make peace offerings on the altar, eat there and write the words of the Law on the stones when they cross the Jordan River into the land of Israel. The Israelites are then to split into two groups of six tribes each, one stays on Mount Ebal and pronounces curses, while the other goes to Mount Gerizim and pronounces blessings.
Mount Gerizim is sacred to the Samaritans. According to the Samaritan version of Deuteronomy and a scroll fragment found at Qumran, God instructs the people to build the altar on Mount Gerizim not Ebal. According to the Samaritans God chose Mount Gerizim as the location for the Holy Temple, rather than the Temple Mount or Mount Moria in Jerusalem (Make me a sanctuary and I will dwell among you – Exodus 25:8).
At the end of the 5th century BCE, Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, constructed a temple on Mount Gerizim and a large city grew around it and flourished during the Hellenistic period. Religious tensions between the Jews and the Samaritans led John Hyrcanus to destroy the temple on Gerizim in the 2nd century BCE according to Josephus (in the Talmud, it is destroyed by Simon the Just). In the 4th century when Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire, the Samaritans were barred from worshiping on Mount Gerizim. In 484 CE the Byzantine ruler Zenon constructed a fortified monastery with a Christian octagonal martyrium inside, in honor of Mary Mother of God (Theotokos). The plan of the martyrdom is almost identical to the Kathisma church on the way from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.
There are the remains of quite intricate mosaic floors in some of the areas.
In 529CE, Emperor Justinian made Samaritanism illegal, extended the enclosure to the north (destroying the Samaritan temple to its foundations) and built a protective wall around it.
According to Muslim tradition, the tomb of Sheikh Ghanem one of Salah al-Din’s commanders was built on the foundations of the northeastern tower.
In the excavations of the city both public and residential buildings were uncovered as well as olive presses.
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