Monday, January 06, 2014

Appropriating Nabi Samuel

Israel's long-term occupation of the West Bank has entailed countless small acts of de facto annexation:
With views overlooking Jerusalem, Ramallah and the Mediterranean Sea, Nabi Samuel's inhabitants suspect that Israel has been planning their removal since occupying the West Bank in 1967. In the 1970s the army bulldozed most of their homes. In the 1990s the Israeli authorities declared the village a national park and prevented construction or even tree-planting. Now the planning authorities in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Beit El are planning to incorporate the villagers' mosque, built over the supposed shrine of the Biblical Prophet Samuel, into a tourist site emphasising its Jewish ties.
The ruins of the villagers' stone homes are already part of an archaeological site at the base of their mosque, which is cordoned off with rope and an Israeli sign says date back to biblical times. The part of the mosque purportedly housing Prophet Samuel’s shrine has already been turned into a synagogue. An iron door bars access from the prayer-room above. Mr Halimi’s plan includes a road that links Nabi Samuel to a nearby settlement, but peters out at the village. 
As the name indicates, Nabi Samuel is the Palestinian village at the site of the tomb of Samuel, venerated as a prophet in both Judaism and Islam.  Israeli nationalists are simply appropriating the site for Judaism alone, and in the process doing economic and cultural harm to local Palestinians.

On a side note, a few years ago I blogged about Jewish pilgrimage to the site in the 1500's:
Going to (Samuel's tomb) required payment of a special tax, though a very small one, and while there was no special time for it, it was often an add-on to pilgrimages to Jerusalem. The site, however, was often a source of conflict. First, right after the Ottoman conquest in 1517, Karaites tried to ban other Jews from the synagogue, and relented only after a decree from the Ottoman authorities. There was also conflict with Muslims in the area. In the 1530's, Muslim villagers in the area complained that the Jews were unduly boisterous when they returned from the site, though the government took no action. In 1550, there were complaints that the Jews camped at the site for long periods and their pack animals invaded property in the area. The qadi ordered the Jews to keep track of their pack animals. In 1554 and 1555, there were major attempts to disrupt the pilgrimage, and local Muslims seized the shrine and tried to turn it into a mosque. The matter went all the way to Istanbul, which ruled in favor of Jewish rights. Something similar happened in 1598, and that time the official government ruling was buttressed by a fatwa.

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