• Keywords: Palestine, Cultural Landscape, Mount Gerizim, Jabal Jarizīm, Jebel et-Tor, Nablus, Samaritans, Bible, sacred mountain, Holy Land, Abraham, Isaac.

1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES

1.1 National and International Classification Lists

Mount Gerizim Cultural Landscape is in the Tentative List of UNESCO (named: “Mount Gerizim and the Samaritans”), and date of submission: 02/04/2012, criteria: (iii)(vi), category: cultural, and ref.: 5706.

  • Tentative List of UNESCO

1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology

Organically evolved landscapes
Relict (or fossil) landscape
Associative cultural landscape
1

1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med

Description

Mount Gerizim, or Jebel et-Tor, is the sacred mountain of the Samaritans and has been so for thousands of years. It consists of three peaks, the main summit, the wide flat western hill and Tell er-Ras to the north. It has been traditionally identified with the sacred mountain upon which the Blessing was delivered by Divine decree, a claim which, in Samaritan belief, overrides that of the rival Temple of Jerusalem. On the summit is a rock which the Samaritans believe was the place where Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac. The Samaritans, now a small Palestinian community of only a few hundred people, believe the temple on the mountain top was the first temple built by Yosha’ Bin Noun in the Holy Land. Archaeologically, the temple discovered on the summit existed before the later 2nd century BC. It apparently lay within a considerable settlement area on the mountain top, which periodic archaeological excavation in the 20th century, and currently, shows was occupied, not necessarily continuously, during the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods. The archaeological remains on the main summit consist of a large acropolis with paved temenos and massive fortifications with casemate walls and chamber gates, surrounded by a residential quarter. The ruins probably represent the Samaritan town during the Hellenistic period, destroyed by John Hyrcanus in 128 BC. In the early Roman period, the main summit seems to have been deserted, though a temple to Zeus was built just to the north on Tell er-Ras in the 2nd century AD, overlooking the city of Flavia Neapolis. The Samaritans continued to focus on Mount Gerizim in their religious aspirations, occasioning a long-running dispute with Christians who also wanted to worship there. In 484 AD, during the reign of Emperor Zeno, a large octagonal church was built on the main summit, dedicated to Mary Theotokos. The church was turned into a fortress, later strengthened by Justinian, immediately after the Samaritan affront at the presence of a church on their sacred mountain had contributed to the revolt of 529 AD. The church was abandoned in the 8th century, and the fortress was dismantled in the 9th. In the 16th century a shrine of the Muslim saint Sheikh Ghanim was built on the east corner of the ruined church. Because of its spiritual meaning and also because of its archaeological remains, Med-O-Med has considered appropiated to classify the site as a Cultural Landscape (associative landscape), attending to the UNESCO criteria (UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, Article 1, 1972, Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, 2008).

2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY

  • Current denomination Mount Gerizim, (Samaritan Ar-garízim, Arabic جبل جرزيم Jabal Jarizīm).
  • Current denomination Mount Gerizim, (Samaritan Ar-garízim, Arabic جبل جرزيم Jabal Jarizīm).
  • Original denomination Mount Gerizim, Jebel et-Tor, (Samaritan Ar-garízim, Arabic جبل جرزيم Jabal Jarizīm).
  • Popular denomination Mount Gerizim (Samaritan Ar-garízim, Arabic جبل جرزيم Jabal Jarizīm).
  • Address: Mount Gerizim. State, Province or Region: Naplouse.
  • Geographical coordinates: N32 12 44 E35 16 08
  • Area, boundaries and surroundings: Mount Gerizim rises about 500 m above the ancient city of Flavia Neapolis (Nablus), some 886 m above sea level. North of Mount Gerizim rises Mount Ebal, 938 m above sea level, these two mountains being the highest in the Nablus region. At present, the mountain is surrounded by fertile agricultural land to the east and its northern slopes are densely forested. The Mount overlooks the city of Nablus and the archaeological site of Tell Balata, located in the valley between Mount Ebal to the north and Mount Gerizim to the south.
  • Access and transport facilities: Trilingual road signs directing toward Mount Gerizim and Kiryat Luza.
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Mount Gerizim Cultural Landscape (PALESTINE)

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Mount Gerizim Cultural Landscape (PALESTINE) 32.212222, 35.268889 Mount Gerizim Cultural Landscape (PALESTINE) (Directions)

3. LEGAL ISSUES

Property regime
  • Public
  • Owner: Palestinian Government.
  • Body responsible for the maintenance: Palestinian Government.
  • Legal protection: The archaeological site is protected by law.

4. HISTORY

-Biblical account: The Torah commanded the Israelites on first entering Canaan to celebrate the event with a ceremony of blessings and cursings respectively on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. The masoretic text of the Tanakh says the Israelites later built an altar on Mount Ebal, constructed from natural (rather than cut) stones, to place stones there and whiten them with lime, to make peace offerings on the altar, eat there, and write the words of this law on the stone. The Samaritan Pentateuch version of Deuteronomy, and a fragment found at Qumran, holds that the instruction actually mandated the construction of the altar on Mount Gerizim, which the Samaritans view is the site of the tabernacle, not Shiloh. Recent Dead Sea Scrolls work supports the accuracy of the Samaritan Pentateuch’s designation of Mount Gerizim rather than Mount Ebal as the sacred site. -Post-exile history: After the end of the Babylonian Captivity, a large schism between the Samaritans and Judaism developed, with the Samaritans, but not the Jews, regarding Mount Gerizim as the holy place chosen by God. Subsequently, in the Persian Period, the Samaritans built a temple there probably in the middle of 5th century BCE., arguing that this was the real location of the Israelite temple which had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. The religious tension between the Jews and the Samaritans led to the temple on Gerizim being destroyed by either John Hyrcanus in the 2nd century BCE (according to Josephus) or by Simeon the Just (according to the Talmud). The date of the Samaritan temple destruction, the 21st of Kislev, became a holiday for the Jews during which it is forbidden to eulogize the dead. However, the mountain evidently continued to be the holy place of the Samaritans, as it is mentioned as such by the Gospel of John and coins produced by a Roman mint situated in Nablus included within their design a depiction of the temple, surviving coins from this mint, dated to 138–161 CE, show a huge temple complex, statues, and a substantive staircase leading from Nablus to the temple itself. Eventually, when Christianity became the state church of the Roman Empire, Samaritans were barred from worshiping on Mount Gerizim. In 475 CE a Christian church was built on its summit. In 529, Justinian I made Samaritanism illegal, and arranged for a protective wall to be constructed around the church. As a result, the same year, Julianus ben Sabar led a pro-Samaritan revolt, and by 530 had captured most of Samaria, destroying churches and killing the priests and officials. However in 531, after Justinian enlisted the help of Ghassanids, the revolt was completely quashed, and surviving Samaritans were mostly enslaved or exiled. In 533 Justinian had a castle constructed on Mount Gerizim to protect the church from raids by the few disgruntled Samaritans left in the area.

5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION

5.1. Natural heritage

  • Heritage: Other
  • Geography: High Mountain
  • Site topography: Natural
  • Geological and Geographical characteristics: Mount Gerizim rises about 500 m above the ancient city of Flavia Neapolis (Nablus), some 886 m above sea level. North of Mount Gerizim rises Mount Ebal, 938 m above sea level, these two mountains being the highest in the Nablus region.
The mountain is particularly steep on the northern side, is sparsely covered at the top with shrubbery, and lower down there is a spring with a high yield of fresh water.
Land uses and economical activities:
Spiritual. Agriculture.
Agricultural issues or other traditional productions and their effect on the landscape:
At present, the mountain is surrounded by fertile agricultural land to the east and its northern slopes are densely forested.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:

Mount Gerizim is located in the West Bank just south of Nāblus, near the site of biblical Shechem. In modern times it was incorporated as part of the British mandate of Palestine (1920–48) and subsequently as part of Jordan (1950–67). After 1967 it became part of the West Bank (territory known within Israel by its biblical names, Judaea and Samaria) under Israeli occupation. Mount Gerizim is the sacred mountain of the Samaritans and has been so for thousands of years. It has been traditionally identified with the sacred mountain upon which the Blessing was delivered by Divine decree, a claim which, in Samaritan belief, overrides that of the rival Temple of Jerusalem. There are also archaeological remains in the region.

5.2. Cultural Heritage

A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general

In the case of gardens: original and current style:
It is not the case.
B) Related to ancient remains

  • Archaeological components:

    Archaeologically, the temple discovered on the summit existed before the later 2nd century BC. It apparently lay within a considerable settlement area on the mountain top, which periodic archaeological excavation in the 20th century, and currently, shows was occupied, not necessarily continuously, during the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods. The archaeological remains on the main summit consist of a large acropolis with paved temenos and massive fortifications with casemate walls and chamber gates, surrounded by a residential quarter. The ruins probably represent the Samaritan town during the Hellenistic period, destroyed by John Hyrcanus in 128 BC. In the early Roman period, the main summit seems to have been deserted, though a temple to Zeus was built just to the north on Tell er-Ras in the 2nd century AD, overlooking the city of Flavia Neapolis. The Samaritans continued to focus on Mount Gerizim in their religious aspirations, occasioning a long-running dispute with Christians who also wanted to worship there. In 484 AD, during the reign of Emperor Zeno, a large octagonal church was built on the main summit, dedicated to Mary Theotokos. The church was turned into a fortress, later strengthened by Justinian, immediately after the Samaritan affront at the presence of a church on their sacred mountain had contributed to the revolt of 529 AD. The church was abandoned in the 8th century, and the fortress was dismantled in the 9th. In the 16th century a shrine of the Muslim saint Sheikh Ghanim was built on the east corner of the ruined church.

  • Traces in the environment of human activity: Archaeological remains.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values

  • Population, ethnic groups: The Samaritans, now a small Palestinian community of only a few hundred people, believe the temple on the mountain top was the first temple built by Yosha’ Bin Noun in the Holy Land.
  • Lifestyle, believing, cults, traditional rites: Mount Gerizim is directly associated with events and living traditions over some three and half thousand years, with ideas and beliefs which have profoundly influenced religious thinking, and with a literary work, the Bible, all of which together are of outstanding universal significance.

5.3. Quality

Condition: environmental/ cultural heritage degradation:
Mount Gerizim continues to be the religious centre of the Samaritans. Their village below and west of the summit, and originally temporarily occupied during the 40 days of the feast of the Passover, is developing with modern, permanent buildings, now including a museum displaying collections and all kinds of related cultural, religious and social testimonies. The site of the paschal sacrificial ceremony is now a permanent installation, designed to accommodate thousands of spectators. The Samaritans’ ceremonial progress to and around the mountain summit is a contemporary version of a tradition of worship which they believe to be thousands of years old.
Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:

-The mountains. -The sacred places, monasteries, churches. -The archaeological remains.

6. VALUES

Tangible

  • Aesthetic
  • Archaeological
The main tangible values of "Mount Gerizim Cultural Landscape" are: -Aesthetic: -Archaeological: Archaeologically, the temple discovered on the summit existed before the later 2nd century BC. It apparently lay within a considerable settlement area on the mountain top, which periodic archaeological excavation in the 20th century, and currently, shows was occupied, not necessarily continuously, during the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods. In 484 AD, during the reign of Emperor Zeno, a large octagonal church was built on the main summit, dedicated to Mary Theotokos.

Intangible

  • Religious
The main intangible values of "Mount Gerizim Cultural Landscape" are: -Religious. The mountain is sacred to the Samaritans who regard it, rather than Jerusalem's Temple Mount, as having been the location chosen by Yahweh for a holy temple. The mountain continues to be the centre of Samaritan religion to this day, and over 90% of the worldwide population of Samaritans live in very close proximity to Gerizim, mostly in Kiryat Luza, the main village. The passover is celebrated by the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim, and it is additionally considered by them as the location of the near-sacrifice of Isaac (the masoretic, Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scroll versions of Genesis state that this happened on Mount Moriah which Jews traditionally identify as the Temple Mount). According to classical rabbinical sources, in order to convert to Judaism, a Samaritan must first and foremost renounce any belief in the sanctity of Mount Gerizim. -Social significance/Cultural: Mount Gerizim is directly associated with events and living traditions over some three and half thousand years, with ideas and beliefs which have profoundly influenced religious thinking, and with a literary work, the Bible, all of which together are of outstanding universal significance.
Authenticity:
-Comparison with other similar properties (UNESCO): There are of course many holy places in the world and many sacred mountains, with much about the latter in World Heritage terms already in print. China, for example, provides several examples already on the World Heritage List. Tongariro, New Zealand, the holy mountain of the Maori, was at the core of the first World Heritage cultural landscape. Without its ideographic, cultural overlay, physically and topographically, Mount Gerizim would just be another mountain with just another large, basically later historic and classical archaeological site on its summit. Yet, entirely because of its long-term association with the beliefs of, and protection by, the remarkable ethnic group of people known as the Samaritans, Mount Gerizim is unique in its particular qualities and the beliefs, traditions and history that it enshrines. So in a real sense it has no comparators. On the other hand, in the context of a completely different culture, religious beliefs and tangible expression thereof, the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga in Madagascar could be considered an analogous World Heritage site. Interestingly, because it included the mountain’s sides as well as the Royal site on the summit, it was inscribed on the World Heritage List as a cultural landscape, a possibility that might be considered in nominating Mount Gerizim, provided the purpose of such a potential designation, and its boundaries, are clearly defined.
Universality:
The Samaritans on Mount Gerizim represent the smallest, most ancient, living ethnic community in the world, bound together by a profound and rigid religious belief. Central to it is the sanctity of a particular mountain as decreed by Moses and on which, nearly four thousand years ago, Abraham may have nearly sacrificed Isaac. The Samaritans believe that, since more than 3600 years ago, they came to live on Mount Gerizim because Moses, in his tenth commandment, ordered them to protect it as a sacred mountain and worship on it by making pilgrimages to it three times a year. These beliefs and traditions have been kept alive by Samaritans since then. This sanctity and longevity, through to the present day, make this sacred mountain a place of outstanding universal value going far beyond the beliefs of a few hundred people. Med-O-Med agrees to the UNESCO criteria to define the site as a Cultural Landscape: iii) The Samaritan community displays a remarkable continuity of a living cultural tradition in the Palestinian society expressed in a religious life-way which, it believes, has been pursued for some three and half thousand years since its first arrival on Mount Gerizim. vi) Mount Gerizim, the sacred Mountain of the Samaritans, is directly and tangibly associated with events and living traditions over some three and half thousand years, with ideas and beliefs which have profoundly influenced religious thinking, and with a literary work, the Bible, all of which together are of outstanding universal significance.

7. ENCLOSURES

Historical and graphical data (drawings, paintings, engravings, photographs, literary items…):

Mount Gerizim Cultural Landscape is one of all of the cultural landscapes of Palestine which are included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.

Bibliography:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5706/ http://whc.unesco.org/venice2002 http://www.samaritans-museum.com/ http://global.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/230561/Mount-Gerizim -Anderson, R.T. et al (2002). The Keepers: An Introduction to the History and Culture of the Samaritans. Hendrickson Publishing. ISBN 1-56563-519-1. -Anderson, R. T. et al (2005). Tradition kept: the literature of the Samaritans. Hendrickson Publishers. -Bowman, J. (1975). The Samaritan Problem. Pickwick Press. -Coggins, R. J. (1975). Samaritans and Jews: The Origins of Samaritanism Reconsidered. Growing Points in Theology. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. -Crown, A.D. (2005). A Bibliography of the Samaritans: Revised Expanded and Annotated (3rd ed.). Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-5659-X. -Gaster, M. (1925). The Samaritans: Their History, Doctrines and Literature. The Schweich Lectures for 1923. Oxford University Press. -Hjelm, I. (2000). Samaritans and Early Judaism: A Literary Analysis. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament. Supplement Series, 303. Sheffield Academic Press. ISBN 1-84127-072-5. -Hjelm, I. (2010). “Mt Gerezim and Samaritans in Recent Research”, in Samaritans: Past and Present: Current Studies, Edited by Mor, Menachem, Reiterer, Friedrich V., Winkler, Waltraud (Berlin, New York) (DE GRUYTER) 2010, Pages 25–44, eBook ISBN 978-3-11-021283-9, Print ISBN 978-3-11-019497-5 -Macdonald, J. (1964). The Theology of the Samaritans. New Testament Library. London: SCM Press. -Montgomery, J.A. (2006). The Samaritans, the Earliest Jewish Sect. The Bohlen Lectures for 1906. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock. ISBN 1-59752-965-6. -Pummer, R. (1987). The Samaritans. Leiden: E. J. Brill. ISBN 90-04-07891-6. -Purvis, J. D. (1968). The Samaritan Pentateuch and the Origin of the Samaritan Sect. Harvard Semitic Monographs 2. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. -Thomson, J. E. H. (1919). Tha Samaritans: Their Testimony to the Religion of Israel. Edinburgh & London: Oliver and Boyd. -UNESCO. (2001). Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. World Heritage Committee. 25 session. Helsinki, Finland. -UNESCO. (2002). Cultural Landscapes: the Challenges of Conservation. Associated Workshops, World Heritage. Ferrara, Italy. -Zertal, A. (1989). The Wedge-Shaped Decorated Bowl and the Origin of the Samaritans. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 276. (November 1989), pp. 77–84.

Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías.