Samaritanism an Abrahamic religion closely related to Judaism. Based on the Samaritan Torah, Samaritans assert their worship is the true religion of the ancient Israelites prior to the Babylonian Exile, preserved by those who remained in the Land of Israel, as opposed to Judaism, which they assert is a related but altered and amended religion, brought back by those returning from the Babylonian exile.
Ancestrally, Samaritans claim descent from the Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (the two sons of Joseph (son of Jacob) as well as from the priestly tribe of Levi who have links to ancient Samaria from the period of their entry into the land of Canaan, while some suggest that it was from the beginning of the Babylonian Exile up to the Samaritan polity of Baba Rabba. Samaritans used to include a line of Benjamin tribe, but it went extinct during the decline period of the Samaritan demographics.
In the Talmud, the Samaritans are called Cutheans (Hebrew: כותים, Kutim), referring to the ancient city of Kutha, geographically located in what is today Iraq. In the Biblical account, however, Cuthah was one of several cities from which people were brought to Samaria and they worshipedNergal. Modern genetics suggests some truth to both the claims of the Samaritans and the account in the Talmud.
Once a large community of over a million in late Roman times, the Samaritans shrank to several tens of thousands in the wake of the bloody suppression of the Third Samaritan Revolt (529 CE) against the Byzantine Christian rulers and mass conversion to Islam in the Early Muslim period of Palestine.
As of January 1, 2012, the population was 751,divided between Kiryat Luza on Mount Gerizim and the city of Holon, just outside Tel Aviv.Most Samaritans in Israel today speak Arabic and Modern Hebrew. For liturgical purposes, Samaritan Hebrew, Samaritan Aramaic, andSamaritan Arabic are used, all written in the Samaritan alphabet, a variant of the Old Hebrew alphabet, which is distinct from the Hebrew alphabet. Hebrew and later Aramaic were languages in use by the Jewish and Samaritan inhabitants of Judea prior to the Roman exile.