According to the Bible, in the 31st year of the reign of Asa over the southern Kingdom of Judah, reigned Omri over the northern Kingdom of Israel. In the 6th year of his reign, Omri bought a hill a few miles north of the holy city of Shechem (Nablus) from Shemer, its owner. On it he built a new capital city which he named after Shemer – Shomron – Samaria. Eventually, this name was also applied to the entire area which is still called Samaria to this day – at least by those who are not anti-Semites. Presently, the town of Samaria is a small Arab town surrounded by the ruins of this ancient Israelite city.
The city of Shechem lies approximately five miles to the south. Today, it is an Arab city but with a much more ancient Jewish and Samaritan history. For thousands of years, until being driven out by Arabs early in the 20th century, a Jewish community existed in Shechem, centered around the Tomb of Joseph, site of many Jewish pilgrimages that continued even after the expulsion of the community. In 2000, during one of the many Arab intifadas, this holy site was desecrated, and Arabs and the Israeli army enthusiastically cooperated in barring Jews from the site. But today, Jews can once again reach the Tomb, albeit, only very late at night and only a few times a year – the army see to that. On the southern outskirts of Shechem, overlooking Joseph’s Tomb, is Mount Gerizim on which, are two villages – the Jewish village of Har Bracha, and the neighboring Kiryat Luza, a village populated wholly by Samaritans and which is located next to their ancient Temple. The Samaritans, an ancient Israelite sect descend from the tribes of Ephraim and Menasseh. Relations between the Jewish and Samaritan villages are good.
About 20 miles south of Shechem is the Jewish town of Ariel which has just recently been deemed, “the capital of Samaria”. It is a typical college town. Ariel University has recently received the status of university and its student body consists of both Jews and Arabs. In 2010, the Ariel Center for the Performing Arts was completed and, when it is not being boycotted by Israeli and international artists, gives fine performances throughout the year.
For a deep spiritual experience, or to just relax and enjoy the scenery, Samaria is the place for you.