The history of the Samaritans is complex. When Jesus meets the Samaritan Woman at the well, there is a small glimpse of the history between the Samaritans and the Jews.
- John 4:9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
- John 4:20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain (Mount Gerizim); and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
- John 4:21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
History of the Samaritans
They broke away from the Israelites in the 11th century B.C., refusing to accept a change in the location of the religious capital. This would be during the time of David, because David was the one who changed the capital to Jerusalem. To this day the Samaritans maintain that Mount Gerizim near Shechem (Nablus, in northern Israel) is the place chosen by God as the center of Israelite worship and not Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. They have therefore continued to live around Shechem and to make pilgrimages to Mount Gerizim. This is the mountain that the Samaritan woman was referring to in John 4:20.
The Samaritans refused to accept any of the Jewish religious writings which followed their split with the Israelites. Their religion is therefore based mainly on the Five Books of Moses. Thus, while the Jews ceased to offer sacrifices after the destruction of the Second Temple, the Samaritans still celebrate the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb on Mount Gerizim each Passover, and all Samaritan families share in the ritual slaughter and feasting.
During the rule of the Greeks (175-164 BC), the Samaritans allied themselves with the Greeks, while the Jews rallied around the Maccabees. When the Maccabees defeated the Greeks, there was much animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans, because of these alliances. In 128 AD, Jewish Maccabean leader, John Hyrcanas, destroyed the Samaritan Temple on Mount Gerizim in retaliation.
Since Hannukuh is a celebration of the victory over the Greeks, the Samaritans do not celebrate this holiday, or other holidays after the books of Moses.
Modern Samaritans have always claimed to be the descendants of Israelites of the Northern Kingdom who escaped the deportations. They remained behind during the Babylonian Captivity, and thus introduced none of the religious changes brought about among the Jews during this time.
However, Jewish tradition states, The king of the Assyrians then brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, and other places to Samaria. The king of the Assyrians sent one of the priests from Bethel to teach the new settlers about God's ordinances. The eventual result was that the new settlers worshipped both the God of the land and their own gods from the countries from which they came. Modern DNA evidence validates both local and foreign origins for the Samaritans.
One genetic study (Shen, et al., 2004) concluded from Y chromosome analysis that Samaritans descend from the Israelites (including Kohen, or priests). Other evidence using mitochondrial DNA analysis shows descent from Assyrians and other foreign women.
By the beginning of the 20th century there were only 150 of them left. With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 this minute community was split into two centers --- one under Jordanian rule and the other in Israel. The Six-Day War in 1967 ended the isolation of the two branches and under the protection of the Israel government, their population has grown to about 500 persons." (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)
Although living in Israel, the Samaritans do not pledge allegiance to either the Palestinians and the Israeli's, preferring to maintain neutrality on the issue of the state of Israel.