256 PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
take a second wife. He explained that the Samaritan law permitted him to do so under
the circumstances. He soon afterwards married, with the consent and approval of his first
wife, and there was great rejoicing in the house of Amran and throughout the community
when a son was born; and they gave him the name of Isaac.
Selameh, the chief priest, died in the year 1857. Amran, who had been the ministering
priest, became the chief priest, and died in 1875. He was succeeded by his handsome young
cousin Yakub, above referred to. Since the death of Selameh and Amran the difficulties
of governing and guiding the little community have continually increased, especially with
regard to the distribution of property and the arrangements of marriages, the marriageable
men being more numerous than the marriageable girls. Although the Samaritans always
intermarry among themselves, they are as a rule intelligent, tall, strong, and handsome, and
bodily defects are very rare among them.
During the feast of unleavened bread, from the 14th to the 21st of the first month
(Nisan), the Samaritans, when it is possible for them to do so, close their houses in the city
and live in tents pitched in the form of a half-circle on a sheltered plateau at some distance
below the summit of Mount Gerizim (Jebel et Tur). Sometimes they go there a few days
earlier, but more frequently they only remain on the mountain for two days, to celebrate the
sacrifice of the Passover, and to partake of it during the intervening night.
The scene of the sacrifice is on a terrace a little way above the place of encampment.
Here towards the close of the day all is in readiness for the service. Two cauldrons filled
with water are standing over a long trench, in which a fire made of thorns and brushwood
is crackling and blazing. A few paces higher up a deep circular pit is thoroughly heated to
serve as an oven. Near to the trench, within a space marked off by stones, stand twelve
men in white garments and turbans, reciting prayers, their faces turned towards their
" Holy Place," or Kibleh. In front of them stands the ministering priest looking towards the
west, as if watching for the going down of the sun. At intervals he recites portions of the
history of the Exodus. Behind him stand the spectators, while the elders of the congregation range themselves on one side, where the chief priest is seated on the ground. Presently
six or seven youths, dressed in white, advance, each holding a white lamb, "according to
the number of souls" about to celebrate the passover. (Until recently seven lambs were
required.) They take their places near the oven, and behind them a little group of women
and children stand. At the moment of sunset the chief priest rises, and with a loud voice
pronounces a blessing three times, and repeats the words, " And the whole assembly of the
congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening" (Exodus xii. 6). The slaughterers stand
with their knives ready, and as these words are uttered the lambs are slain, all at the same
instant. The twelve men approach the spot reading the twelfth chapter of Exodus, and at
the seventh verse they pause, while fathers dip their fingers in the warm blood of the
victims and mark the foreheads of their children with it. Boiling water from the cauldrons
is then poured over the fleece, which causes the wool to leave the skin without much diffi-