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Nabi Musa in Wikipedia
Nabi Musa (Arabic: نبي موسى, meaning the "Prophet Moses", also transliterated Nebi Musa) is the name of a site in the Judean desert that
popular Palestinian folklore associates with Moses. It is also the name of a seven-day long religious festival that was celebrated annually by
Palestinian Muslims, beginning on the Friday before Good Friday in the old Orthodox Greek calendar. Considered "the most important Muslim
pilgrimage in Palestine," the festival centered around a collective pilgrimage from Jerusalem to what was understood to be the Tomb of
Moses, near Jericho.
The Jerusalem-Jericho road was one of the primary routes used by Mediterranean Arabs to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. The great, many-domed
building which marks the Mausoleum 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 and catch a glimpse of Mount Nebo 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 sultan Baibars al-Bunduqdari built a small shrine here, as part of a general policy he adopted after conquering towns and rural
areas from Lebanon down to Hebron from the Crusaders. The shrines were mostly dedicated to biblical prophets and the companions of Mohammed,
and their maintenance was funded by an awqaf, an endowment from properties that formerly belonged to the Latin Church. In the case of Nabi
Musa, the waqf 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, hostels for travellers were built on
adjacent to the shrine, and the hospice 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 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 celebration of Easter. 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 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 (1876–1888), was the first to attempt to exploit the festival to incite Muslims against Christians. Ilan Pappé 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) 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 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 form deteriorating into an all out riot.'
Ottoman flags fly over the Nabi Musa for the last time, in 1917.
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 assumed administration over the West Bank in the aftermath of 1948 Arab-Israeli
war, 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...
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