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Monday, April 8, 2013

Nebi Musa©

The old Muslim structure at Nebi Musa (pronounced Nebi Moo-sah  literally, the prophet Moses in Arabic)  is found in the heart of the Judean desert. With its thick stone walls, blue domes, arched entrances and desert mystique, this is the site that the Arabs believe is Moshe
Rabbeinus grave. This large, walled complex includes 120 rooms, a large number of white caps above its roofs, and a high tower.

This can obviously not be the site of Moshes grave since it is located on the wrong side of the Yarden. Standing at Nebi Musa, in the haze, one can make out way beyond them mountains of Moav, one of which is Har Nevo. In Parashas Vezos Habrachah (Devarim 34:5) we are told that Moshe passed away in Eretz Moav and was buried by Hashem Himself in that land, in the gei (depression) opposite Beth Peor. In the next verse, we are told that no one knows his precise burial place, to this day.
Both Sunni and Shiite Muslims consider Moshe to be a navi. They used to come to the hill of Nebi Musa and look out towards the hills of Moav at the unknown place of Moshes burial. Around the year 1259, the Mamluk Sultan Baibars decided to build these pilgrims a monument so they would have an actual place to come to. He then built the inner structure  the core  of todays Ottoman structure.

As the Arabs are not so finely tuned to the details of history, it did not take long for them to become mixed up and claim that Nebi Musa was the actual spot of Moshes tomb. In truth, this place was not so important to the Muslims, but when they saw that Christian Arabs celebrate a festival each spring, they created a festival to coincide with this time of the year.

This newly invented religious and national holiday became so popular that as many as 15,000 would gather at this venue annually. During the 19th century, Muslims would assemble in Jerusalem, trek to Nebi Musa, and spend three days in feasting, prayer, games, and visits to the large tomb.

This invention of tradition made the colourful pageantry of the Nebi Musa pilgrimage a potent symbol of both political and religious identity among Muslims, from the outset of the modern period. It is worthwhile to note that the festivals have been banned since 1948 by the Jordanians, to prevent further unrest.

Riots From Nebi Musa

When the Jews started flocking to the Land (end of 19th and beginning of 20th century) the local Arabs felt disturbed, and to show their displeasure they would murder Jews. After World War I a great influx of Jewish olim came. (On March 1, 1920, just before the events described below, Arabs murdered Joseph Trumpeldor and seven other Jews, at the Battle of Tel Hai.)

Instigated in large part by Haj Amin al Husseini (the British-instated Mufti of Jerusalem) and Aref el Aref, (editor of the newspaper Southern Syria), the imams riled up the masses. They called on the Arabs to assemble at Nebi Musa.

Somewhere upward of 60,000 people gathered very early on the morning of April 4, 1920. A battle cry was let out. By 9:30 a.m. they reached the Old City of Jerusalem, and began the first of the Palestinian riots and pogroms against the Jews during the British Mandate. Jews were attacked randomly all over the Old City. The Arabs ripped open quilts and pillows, sending up clouds of feathers  all so reminiscent of Russian pogroms. Arabs entered the Etz Chaim Yeshivah, where they tore and trampled on sifrei Torah and then set the building on fire.

At the end of four days of rioting, five Jews had been killed and over 240 injured. A large amount of Jewish property had been burned or pillaged. Synagogues and religious schools had been torched and seforim desecrated. Eventually, after five days, the British army came to stop the riots and evacuate the Jews of Old City.

The riots had been carefully pre-planned. A few days before the riots, Arab milkmen had demanded that their Jewish customers in the Meah Shearim neighbourhood pay up their bills. They explained that they would no longer be selling milk in the Jewish section. Christian storekeepers marked their shops with their religious symbol to protect themselves from looters.

It would seem the riots were instigated by the British. It is known that British officers, especially Col. Bertie Harry Waters-Taylor, who was the financial adviser to the Military Administration in Palestine (1919-23), encouraged and coached the rioters. British police applauded the Arab war cries of Filasteen arduna waal Yahud kilabuna (Palestine is our land and the Jews are our dogs), Itbach al Yahud (slaughter the Jews), and other such slogans that became the hallmarks of such massacres. They inexplicably withdrew their police and let the rioters do as they pleased.

To add to it all, the British responded to the riots primarily by punishing the Jews. The Palin Commission, which investigated the riots, blamed them on Arab ire over the Balfour declaration. As a result, the government restricted Jewish immigration. Agitation for effective Jewish self-defence grew in the Jewish community.

Throughout the British Mandate there were a number of such riots: 1920, 1921, 1926, 1929 (Chevron massacres), and 1936-39.

How to Get to Nebi Musa
The site of Nebi Musa is located on the east side of a red hill, on the north side of the Valley of
Horkania. A road connects the place to Highway 1, which is 1.5 km. to the north. (It is suggested strongly,to go only in large groups.)

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