|NABLUS, West Bank - He grew up in a tiny tribe tracing its roots back to the Bible, but when Nader Sadakah decided to take up arms against Israeli soldiers, he was expelled by his community.
The Samaritans, just 660 strong, have been caught between warring Israelis and Palestinians, not picking sides during nearly four years of Mideast fighting. Sadakah's choice undermined their survival strategy.
Samaritans descended from the ancient Israelite tribes of Menashe and Efraim but broke away from mainstream Judaism 2,800 years ago. Today, they live in the Palestinian city of Nablus in the West Bank and the Israeli seaside town of Holon, south of Tel Aviv. Many Samaritans have both Israeli and Palestinian ID cards. They speak an ancient Hebrew dialect as well as modern Hebrew and Arabic.
Jesus mentioned a Samaritan in a parable as the only traveler who stopped to care for a man who was robbed, beaten and left for dead on the side of a road. The good Samaritan treated the man's wounds with wine and oil and bandaged him (Luke 10:25-37).
Sadakah, 27, spoke about his choice at a coffee shop in Nablus' old city, a dark warren of twisting alleys that is frequently raided by Israeli forces.
Sporting a neatly trimmed short beard, Sadakah glanced around nervously as he spoke and sipped a cup of coffee. A shiny, automatic pistol protruded from his belt.
Sadakah said that since the early 1990s, he has been a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a tiny PLO faction which once had a Marxist bent. Sadakah said he has been on Israel's wanted list for the past three and a half years, a claim the Israeli military would not confirm.
He refused to comment on charges that he was responsible for sending two Palestinian gunmen to kill three Israeli soldiers in the shadow of Mt. Gerizim in 2002. But, he insists, armed resistance is the only way to establish a Palestinian state.
Sadakah said he is no longer a Samaritan despite being raised in a strict Samaritan family in Nablus and on Mt. Gerizim, a local Samaritan stronghold.
"I belong to Palestine," he said.
He said his activism in the Popular Front has estranged him from his father and members of the local community, and has caused him to postpone studies for a master's degree in archaeology and plans of starting a family with his Muslim girlfriend.
But it has also apparently caused problems for the Samaritans.
Hosni Wasif, a Samaritan high priest in Nablus, said Israeli authorities had begun taking a hard line against Samaritans because of Sadakah's activities, subjecting them to new scrutiny at military checkpoints.
"By joining a left-wing faction he left our religion," Wasif said. "The entire sect sees him as an apostate."
Sadakah, a tall, fair man, is a popular figure in Nablus, greeted by passers-by as he wanders through the streets of the Old City. He is known for the paper kites he builds for kids in the black-white-red-green colors of the Palestinian flag.
The gunman said he would not lay down his arms, even though he is cut off from his community. "I will fight them (Israeli soldiers) until they leave my country," he said.