Nabi Musa

Nabi Musa

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Nabi Musa is the name of a site in the Judea
Judea or Judæa was the name of the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century CE, when Roman Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina following the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt.-Etymology:The...

n desert that popular Palestinian folklore
Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales and customs that are the traditions of a culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folklore is sometimes called...

 associates with Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

. It is also the name of a seven-day long religious festival that was celebrated annually by Palestinian
Palestinian people
The Palestinian people, also referred to as Palestinians or Palestinian Arabs , are an Arabic-speaking people with origins in Palestine. Despite various wars and exoduses, roughly one third of the world's Palestinian population continues to reside in the area encompassing the West Bank, the Gaza...

Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, beginning on the Friday before Good Friday
Good Friday
Good Friday , is a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of...

 in the old Orthodox Greek calendar. Considered "the most important Muslim pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

 in Palestine," the festival centered around a collective pilgrimage from Jerusalem to what was understood to be the Tomb of Moses, near Jericho
Jericho ; is a city located near the Jordan River in the West Bank of the Palestinian territories. It is the capital of the Jericho Governorate and has a population of more than 20,000. Situated well below sea level on an east-west route north of the Dead Sea, Jericho is the lowest permanently...



The Jerusalem-Jericho road was one of the primary routes used by Mediterranean
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

s to make a pilgrimage to Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

. The great, many-domed building which marks the Mausoleum
A mausoleum is an external free-standing building constructed as a monument enclosing the interment space or burial chamber of a deceased person or persons. A monument without the interment is a cenotaph. A mausoleum may be considered a type of tomb or the tomb may be considered to be within the...

 of Moses was located at what would be have marked the end of the first day's march in that direction. Originally, it was simply a point from which pilgrims could look across the Jordan Valley
Jordan Valley (Middle East)
The Jordan Valley forms part of the larger Jordan Rift Valley. It is 120 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide, where it runs from Lake Tiberias in the north to northern Dead Sea in the south. It runs for an additional 155 kilometer south of the Dead Sea to Aqaba, an area also known as Wadi...

 and catch a glimpse of Mount Nebo
Mount Nebo (Jordan)
Mount Nebo is an elevated ridge that is approximately 817 meters above sea level, in what is now western Jordan. The view from the summit provides a panorama of the Holy Land and, to the north, a more limited one of the valley of the River Jordan...

 where the tomb of Moses was thought to be located. It appears to have become a fixed point in the local Muslim calendar from the time of Saladin. In 1269 the Mamluk
A Mamluk was a soldier of slave origin, who were predominantly Cumans/Kipchaks The "mamluk phenomenon", as David Ayalon dubbed the creation of the specific warrior...

Sultan is a title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar سلطة , meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who...

 Baibars al-Bunduqdari
Baibars or Baybars , nicknamed Abu l-Futuh , was a Mamluk Sultan of Egypt. He was one of the commanders of the forces which inflicted a devastating defeat on the Seventh Crusade of King Louis IX of France and he led the vanguard of the Egyptian army at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260, which marked...

 built a small shrine
A shrine is a holy or sacred place, which is dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, hero, martyr, saint, daemon or similar figure of awe and respect, at which they are venerated or worshipped. Shrines often contain idols, relics, or other such objects associated with the figure being venerated....

 here, as part of a general policy he adopted after conquering towns and rural areas from Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 down to Hebron
Hebron , is located in the southern West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Nestled in the Judean Mountains, it lies 930 meters above sea level. It is the largest city in the West Bank and home to around 165,000 Palestinians, and over 500 Jewish settlers concentrated in and around the old quarter...

 from the Crusaders
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

. The shrines were mostly dedicated to biblical prophet
In religion, a prophet, from the Greek word προφήτης profitis meaning "foreteller", is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and serves as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people...

s and the companions of Mohammed, and their maintenance was funded by an awqaf, an endowment from properties that formerly belonged to the Latin Church
Latin Church
The Latin Church is the largest particular church within the Catholic Church. It is a particular church not on the level of the local particular churches known as dioceses or eparchies, but on the level of autonomous ritual churches, of which there are 23, the remaining 22 of which are Eastern...

. In the case of Nabi Musa, the waqf
A waqf also spelled wakf formally known as wakf-alal-aulad is an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law, typically denoting a building or plot of land for Muslim religious or charitable purposes. The donated assets are held by a charitable trust...

 fund was secured from ecclesiastical assets expropriated in nearby Jericho.

Baibars al-Bunduqdari's constructive piety set a precedent for others. Over the late medieval period, hostel
Hostels provide budget oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex, although private rooms may also be available...

s for travellers were built on adjacent to the shrine, and the hospice
Hospice is a type of care and a philosophy of care which focuses on the palliation of a terminally ill patient's symptoms.In the United States and Canada:*Gentiva Health Services, national provider of hospice and home health services...

 in its present form was completed in the decade between 1470 and 1480. Gradually, the lookout point for Moses' distant gravesite beyond the Jordan was confused with Moses' tomb itself, laying the ground for the cultic importance Nabi Musa was to acquire in the Palestinian worship of saints (walis).

Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 Turks, around 1820, restored the buildings, which had, over the previous centuries, fallen into a state of dilapidated disrepair. In addition, they promoted a festive pilgrimage to the shrine, coinciding with the Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 celebration of Easter
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

. This 'invention of tradition', as such imaginative constructs are called, made the pageantry of the Nabi Musa pilgrimage a potent symbol of both political and religious identity among Muslims from the outset of the modern period. Over the nineteenth century, thousands of Muslims would assemble in Jerusalem, trek to Nabi Musa, and pass three days in feasting, prayer, games and visits to the large tomb two kilometres south, identified as that of Moses' shepherd, Hasan er-Rai, They were then entertained, as guests of the waqf, before returning on the seventh day triumphantly back to Jerusalem.

In the late nineteenth century, the Ottomans appointed the al-Husayni
Husayni is the name of a prominent Palestinian Arab clan formerly based in Jerusalem. Several members of the clan held important political positions such as Mayor and Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and founded and led many Palestinian Arab Islamist groups such as the Holy War Army, the Palestine Arab...

 clan as official custodians of the shrine and hosts of the festival, though their connection with the cult may date back to the previous century. According to Yehoshua Ben-Aryeh, the governor of Jerusalem Rauf Pasha
Pasha or pascha, formerly bashaw, was a high rank in the Ottoman Empire political system, typically granted to governors, generals and dignitaries. As an honorary title, Pasha, in one of its various ranks, is equivalent to the British title of Lord, and was also one of the highest titles in...

 (1876–1888), was the first to attempt to exploit the festival to incite Muslims against Christians. Ilan Pappé
Ilan Pappé
Ilan Pappé is a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter in the UK, director of the university's European Centre for Palestine Studies, co-director of the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies, and political activist...

 offers a different view:
'It is more likely, however, that the governor and his government were rather apprehensive of such an anti-Christian uprising as it could stir instability and disorder at a time when the central government was trying to pacify the Empire. This had been indeed the impression of the engineer (seconded to the Palestine Exploration Fund
Palestine Exploration Fund
The Palestine Exploration Fund is a British society often simply known as the PEF. It was founded in 1865 and is still functioning today. Its initial object was to carry out surveys of the topography and ethnography of Ottoman Palestine with a remit that fell somewhere between an expeditionary...

) Claude Conder. The Hebrew paper, Ha-havazelet, at the time blessed the Ottoman government for imposing law and order in the Nabi Musa affair. The travelogues of Francis Newton
Francis Newton
Francis Clement Newton was an American golfer who competed in the 1904 Summer Olympics.In 1904 he was part of the American team which won the silver medal...

 testify as well to a peaceful execution of the ceremonies. Indeed, the Turkish government must have acted here against popular feelings, shared by the Husaynis as the masters of the ceremony that Nabi Musa was celebrated in the most unfavourable conditions for the Muslims. It was the iron fist imposed by the Turks that prevented the situation from deteriorating into an all out riot.'

The procession moved off from Jerusalem under a distinctive Nabi Musa banner which the Husaynis conserved for the annual occasion in their Dar al-Kabira. On arriving at the shrine, the al-Husaynis and another rising Jerusalem family of notables (A'ayan), the Yunis clan, were required to provide two meals a day over the week for all worshippers. Once their vows were taken, or vows previously taken were renewed, they were offered to the festival. The priestly family conducting events would provide about twelve lambs, together with rice, bread, and Arab butter, for a communal meal every day.

Writing in the early twentieth century, Samuel Curtiss recorded that an estimated 15,000 people from all over the country attended the Nabi Musa festival every year. For some years from 1919, pilgrims made their trek back from Jericho to Jerusalem to the sound of English military music. The festival was suppressed when Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 assumed administration over the West Bank in the aftermath of 1948 Arab-Israeli war
1948 Arab-Israeli War
The 1948 Arab–Israeli War, known to Israelis as the War of Independence or War of Liberation The war commenced after the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine and the creation of an independent Israel at midnight on 14 May 1948 when, following a period of civil war, Arab armies invaded...

, because of its symbolic value as a vehicle for potential expressions of political protest. Since 1995, control over the tomb of Nabi Musa has been allocated to the Palestinian National Authority
Palestinian National Authority
The Palestinian Authority is the administrative organization established to govern parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip...



The journalist Philip Perceval Graves
Philip Graves
Philip Perceval Graves was an Irish journalist and writer. While working as a foreign correspondent of The Times in Constantinople, he exposed The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as an antisemitic plagiarism, fraud, and hoax.-Life:Graves, eldest son of the writer Alfred Perceval Graves , was born...

, the brother of the poet and mythographer Robert Graves
Robert Graves
Robert von Ranke Graves 24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985 was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life he produced more than 140 works...

, who had achieved recent fame for his exposure of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a forgery (1921) within a year of its English-language publication, gave a vivid description of the colorful re-entry of worshipers back from the countryside into Jerusalem as they passed through the Jaffa
Jaffa is an ancient port city believed to be one of the oldest in the world. Jaffa was incorporated with Tel Aviv creating the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. Jaffa is famous for its association with the biblical story of the prophet Jonah.-Etymology:...


As they entered the old city, the enthusiasm of the crowds reached its highest intensity. Men with the set blank stare of extreme excitement danced round and round, bareheaded, their long locks flying wildly as they revolved. . . Last came the green banner of Hebron
Hebron , is located in the southern West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Nestled in the Judean Mountains, it lies 930 meters above sea level. It is the largest city in the West Bank and home to around 165,000 Palestinians, and over 500 Jewish settlers concentrated in and around the old quarter...

 surrounded by a guard of ten wiry swordsmen. Proudly they walked with their flag, till they came to where the narrow Street of David plunges down into the labyrinth of the old city. For the last time they whirled their bright blades above their heads and disappeared into the shadows of the streets.

A photo of one stage of the procession may be seen in George Aaron Barton's A Year's Wandering in Bible Lands, Ferris & Leach, 1904 p. 200

In Letters from Jerusalem: During the Palestine Mandate, Eunice Holliday describes the procession to the Tomb of Moses in a letter to her mother as follows:
"The procession was the queerest thing I have ever seen, a more disorganised affair you could not imagine, but then that is typical of the country. The people came along in batches, just a crowd with banner of silk, of all colours, then a crowd dancing - Arabic dancing is a joke - then a crowd singing and waving swords or sticks and, interspersed, groups of mounted police and soldiers to see there was no fighting. Quite the nicest part of the day was to see all the fellaheen (peasants from the villages) in their new clothes. The colours were wonderful, bright pink, purple or blue velvet coats, yellow dresses with embroideries in red and green et cetera, and all wore a white veil. It was a gorgeous site [...]"

Moses rocks

Negev Bedouin
Negev Bedouins
The Negev Bedouin are traditionally pastoral semi-nomadic Arab tribes indigenous to the Negev region in Israel, who hold close ties to the Bedouin of the Sinai Peninsula. The move away from their traditional lifestyle in modern times has led to sedentarization.Estimated to number some 160,000,...

 tribes produced oil from the bituminous shale
Shale is a fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock composed of mud that is a mix of flakes of clay minerals and tiny fragments of other minerals, especially quartz and calcite. The ratio of clay to other minerals is variable. Shale is characterized by breaks along thin laminae or parallel layering...

 rocks found in the area around the shrine to Moses which they called "Moses rocks" . The Bedouin not only shared in the belief surrounding the sanctity of the site, but further believed that God had blessed this place where Moses was buried with 'fire rocks' and water wells. Tawfiq Canaan
Tawfiq Canaan
Tawfiq Canaan was a pioneering physician, medical researcher, ethnographer and Palestinian nationalist. Born in Beit Jala during the rule of the Ottoman Empire, he served as a medical officer in the Ottoman army during World War I...

, in his work Mohammedan Saints and Sanctuaries (1927), noted that the black rocks around the shrine would burn when placed in fire and were also used as amulet
An amulet, similar to a talisman , is any object intended to bring good luck or protection to its owner.Potential amulets include gems, especially engraved gems, statues, coins, drawings, pendants, rings, plants and animals; even words said in certain occasions—for example: vade retro satana—, to...

s after being cut into square and triangular forms and inscribed with protective talisman
Talisman have several meanings:*TalismanBooks and novels* The Talisman , a historical novel by Sir Walter Scott* The Talisman , a novel by Stephen King and Peter Straub...


External links