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This distinction is controversial in part because different interpretations can be used to justify or deny claims of ancestry over this region, which has been deeply contested in modern times.In Samaritan Hebrew, the Samaritans call themselves "Shamerim" (שַמֶרִים), which according to the Anchor Bible Dictionary, is derived from the Ancient Hebrew term meaning "Guardians/Keepers/Watchers [of the Torah/Law]".Samaritans used to include descendants who ascribed to the Benjamin tribe, but this line became extinct in the 1960s.According to Samaritan tradition, the split between them and the Judean-led Southern Israelites began during the time of the priest Eli when the Southern Israelites split off from the central Israelite tradition, as they perceive it.In its account, after Joshua's death, Eli the priest left the Tabernacle which Moses erected in the desert and established on Mount Gerizim and built another one under his own rule in the hills of Shiloh.

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While the Israeli Rabbinic authorities consider Samaritanism to be a branch of Judaism, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel requires Samaritans to officially go through a formal conversion to Judaism in order to be recognized as Halakhic Jews.

One example is Israeli TV personality Sofi Tsedaka, who formally converted to Rabbinic Judaism at the age of 18.

Samaritans with Israeli citizenship are obligated to undertake mandatory service in the Israel Defense Forces, while those with dual Israeli-Palestinian citizenship (living in Qiryat Luza) are generally exempted.

The Samaritans believe that Mount Gerizim was the original Holy Place of Israel from the time that Joshua conquered Canaan.

The major issue between Jews and Samaritans has always been the location of the Chosen Place to worship God: Mount Zion in Jerusalem according to the Jewish faith or Mount Gerizim according to the Samaritan faith.

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