Sunday, April 06, 2008

Machon Meir Tiyul 1: Mitzpeh Yericho

Another Zman (semester) is finished at Machon Meir, so we took a little trip out through the Judean Desert. Unfortunately, Rav Listman, the Director of the English Department who usually gives inspiring lessons along the way, was unable to come at the last minute. Since I've been to this region before, I was able to fill in at the last minute and do some tour-guiding from memory.

By the way, both of my cameras are broken, so all credit for these photos goes to Yuval, who brought a massive SLR-style professional camera. I have to admit is was quite a relief to just enjoy the tiyul and not be taking photographs at every twist and turn in the road, knowing that Yuval was snapping away.

Our first stop was in Mitzpeh Yericho (approximately, Jericho Vista,) which overlooks the sprawling city of Jericho in the Jordan Valley.

Looking from Mitzpeh Yericho towards Yericho itself.

The guys at Mitzpeh Yericho.
Looking south, a mosque adorned with palm trees sits in the distance.

This building is what the Arabs call "Nabi Mussa," "Nabi" being the Arabic cognate of the Hebrew, "Navi," or prophet, and "Mussa" being Moshe, or Moses. The Arabs built this on what they believed to be the grave of Moshe. Of course, as we know from the book of Deuteronomy, Moshe was not buried in Eretz Yisrael. He was not even permitted to cross over the Jordan River, but died on the other side. Also, Moshe is one of our few biblical ancestors whose grave is unmarked. But we do know that his grave was on Har Nevo.

So what is the root of this Muslim belief? After all, much of the Torah and Talmud was incorporated into the Koran, albeit with glaring inaccuracies, and most Arab cities still preserve the original Hebrew place names, so it seems that the Arabs would likewise have adopted this custom based on some preexisting native Jewish custom.

Nabi Mussa

If you drive up to the site, one thing you will notice is that Nabi Mussa provides the closest unobstructed view of Har Nevo. It seems reasonable that on Moshe's Yahrtzeit (the anniversary of his death,) Jews would schlep from Jerusalem down to this spot and read Tehillim (Psalms) in view of the place of his burial. A passing Arab might ask, "Hey, what are you guys doing?" To which they would respond, "Remembering the passing of our Teacher Moshe." The Arab would then get the idea that this was the very spot of his burial. It's the most reasonable theory.

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