For decades, it seemed as though one of the world's smallest religious communities was doomed. Dwindling and insular, the Samaritans of Mount Gerizim were struggling to survive as inbreeding produced generation after generation of children with serious disabilities on an isolated hilltop in the biblical landscape of the West Bank.
But the threat of extinction is now receding after the deployment of the twin weapons of advanced medical science and internet marriage agencies to import brides from Ukraine. In fact, the community of four extended families totalling 320 people is now looking forward to rapid growth.
Much of this hope stems from five young Ukrainian women who have injected fresh blood to Mount Gerizim after swapping a life of bleak prospects, dismal housing and badly paid employment for space, security and strict observance of the religious dictates of the ancient Samaritan community.Some of these "shocking" custom:
Her distress was compounded by having to "sit on my own" for 40 days following the termination. The Samaritan religion dictates that women must sleep separately from their husbands, wear special clothes and eat from separate plates for seven days following the start of menstruation, 40 days following the birth of a boy and 80 days after the birth of a girl. Abortion is governed by the same rule as birth.