The Erased Heritage of Palestine: A traveller’s itinerary

By Homeintheair (Instagram: @Homeintheair)

During my 10 hours visit to Jerusalem I got a mild form of the famous Jerusalem Syndrome. I was so amazed by all the holy and historical sites. It is truly the most culturally dense city in the world. But Palestine is much more than just Jerusalem. The country is filled with historical sites.

However, during the Nakba the Israeli’s initiated a military program to erase as much non-jewish heritage from the country as possible. This meant the demolishing of some of the most holy sites in Islam and Christianity. Of course the Islamic sites has been hit the hardest, due to the Pope’s intervention which saved some Christian sites and made it possible for hundred thousands of the Christian Palestinians to return after being expelled in the first place.

Nonetheless countless of mosques and churches were either destroyed completely or turned into synagogues, warehousing, horse stables, nightclubs or the like. The exact number is of course disputed but both sides agrees that at least 570 villages were completely destroyed by the Israelis where each one had probably 1-2 mosques. On top of that comes the bigger towns and cities that were destroyed and the many muslim neighborhoods in Jerusalem. You can do the math.

So finally, I have a huge interest in discovering lost places. I seriously should have been an archaeologist! Some of these places I discovered while doing research for my itinerary for my next visit to Palestine. My researcher gene took over and I listed those 10 significant holy sites that were destroyed by Israel during the Nakba and until today. Number in parenthesis is the year of destruction.

1. Nabi Rubin (Reuben son of Jacob) (1948)
Nabi Rubin was one of the most popular sites in Palestine before 1948. The mosque housed Reuben’s grave and every year one of the largest festivals in Palestine would take place here. The festival included singing, dancing the Dabke, distribution of colorful candy, sufi prayers, horse races and magic shows. The festival was so exciting, that Palestinian women from afar would tell their husbands: “Either you take me to Nabi Rubin or you divorce me!”. In 1947 the last festival was held. The next year the city was razed by the Israelis and the mosque destroyed. 
Today, Jews are trying to claim the ruins of the shrine to be one of their own, but their plans has been facing difficulty since Jewish tradition place the grave of Reuben somewhere very different.

Nabi Rubin Festival
The Nabi Rubin Festival before 1948

 

2. Nabi Yamin (Prophet Benjamin) (1948) 
This mosque was not destroyed but converted into a synagoge and prohibited muslim entrance even though the place in the first place was holy to muslims only. Before 1948 the place was not considered holy by the original Palestinian Jews (the Yishuv Jews), nor was it considered the true burial place of Benjamin. 

Nabi-Yamin-50
Nabi Yamin mosqye turned into a Synagoge

 

3. Nabi Shuayb and Mosque of Hittin (1948)
Hittin was a very special city to muslims. Here Saladdin won the battle against the crusaders that lead to the reconquest of the holy land. He built the city and the mosque in this place where the tomb of Nabi Shuayb happened to be. Nabi Shuayb has always been important to the Druze population of Palestine. Muslims and Druze shared this mosque until Hittin was destroyed by Israel in 1948. The mosque of Hittin was completely destroyed and ruins can still be visited while they gave the mosque of Nabi Shuayb exclusively to the Druze as a payment for them to join the Israeli forces.

PikiWiki_Israel_48150_Nabi_Shuayb
Nabi Shuayb still looking like a mosque from the inside

 

4. Nabi Samt (Judge Samson) (1948)
This shrine contained both the tomb of Samson and his father Manoah. It was destroyed with the city of Sar’a (Zorah). After it was proven that the tomb actually belonged to the two holy people, the ruins of the city has been taken over by Israel as an important archeological site.

5. Al-Nabi Yusha’ (Joshua) (1948)
This was the name of a small village that also housed the tomb of Joshua. The village was under French control during the colonization and therefore, officially, a part of Lebanon. However, the French decided to leave the village to the British who were colonizing Palestine. The British gave Palestine to the Jews which included this originally Lebanese village. And yes, they destroyed it all including the tomb. Ruins can still be found but are rarely visited.

Al_Nabi_Yusha_Mosque
What is left of Nabi Yusha Shrine

 

6. Al-Hussein mosque, Ashkalon (1950)
This site was the holiest to muslims outside of Jerusalem. Here the head of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad was buried. The shrine was said to be the most magnificent building in Ashkalon at the time. This having absolutely no value for Jews, it was the most important mosque for zionists to erase. Today a medical center has been built on the grave.

Sey'd_Hussein_ashkelon
Pilgrims going to the Al-Hussein Shrine in 1943

 

7. Sheikh Eid mosque, Jerusalem (1967)
The destruction of this mosque is part of the story of the destruction of one of the most historical areas in Jerusalem, the Moroccan Quarter. This quarter of Jerusalem dates back to Saladdin’s era and the Sheikh Eid Mosque was the biggest and most prominent in this quarter. The whole quarter was destroyed in order to make room for a big square where 200.000 Jews could stand in front of the Buraq Wall (Wailing wall). The residence got 15 minutes warning to leave their houses before the demolishing. Those who did not leave, were killed by the bulldozers wrecking their walls down. 

Moroccan quarter
The Moroccan quarter. I cannot believe I actually stood there just right there not knowing what thriving life has been here once.

 

8. Al Buraq mosque, Jerusalem (1967)
This mosque was also destroyed during the raze on the Moroccan Quarter. This mosque however, was the second most holy to muslims in Jerusalem. It was built where muslims believe that prophet Muhammad tied his divinely sent horse (the Buraq). One of the leaders behind this demolition said “”Why shouldn’t the mosque be sent to Heaven, just as the magic horse did?”. The basement of the mosque, I believe, is still accessible today. 

9. Al-Khadra Mosque, Nablus (2002)
The Nakba never really ended. So I have included a very historical mosque that was destroyed not long time ago. This mosque was built on the holy site where Prophet Jacob cried after believing Joseph had been killed. The mosque is also named “Sadness of our Lord Jacob”.

Nablus is a large city belonging to the Palestinians on the West Bank. In 2002, Israel razed the city and their bulldozers destroyed countless UNESCO heritage sites including this mosque and Abd Al-Hadi Palace.

10. Siksik Mosque, Jaffa (1948)
This mosque is one of the examples of how they used mosques to other purposes after conquering land. This mosque was first turned into a Bulgarian restaurant, then a nightclub and then a warehouse for a plastic factory. And this is the fate of many mosques and churches as well in the bigger cities.

Maybe at some point I will research the churches and do a blog post about those too. And of course, there are countless more holy sites I did not include. There are also palaces, archeological sites, hamams and historical city centers that were completely destroyed that I did not include here. Long story short: thousand years of heritage was destroyed in this country, but ruins remain for us to go and explore which I would love to have the chance to do.

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Top 10 Christian festivals to experience

We are approaching Christmas very fast but unfortunately this beautiful tradition has become more of a celebration of capitalism than actual Christianity. However, there are places and festivals around the world that gets to the inner core of the beautiful religion of Christianity and I thought I would share some of my favorite must experience Christian festivals around the world:

  1. Christmas tree lighting
    Place to be: Bethlehem, Palestine
    Time to be next year: December 24, 2019
    What is a better place to witness the celebration of the birthday of Jesus rather than in his very own birth city? The lightning of the Christmas tree is a huge event where the Christian Palestinians count down in the Arabic language for midnight to light up the tree.
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  2. Semana Santa
    Place to be: Granada, Spain
    Time to be next year: April 14, 2019 (easter week)
    I have witnessed this festival myself. Large parades with people dressed like something coming from the Ku Klux Klan or the inquisition. However, this ceremony is held to repent for the sins you have forsaken the last year and to acknowledge the sacrifice of Jesus. Many people would exhaust themselves and walk it every day bare footed. The festival is best celebrated in Granada, but most Spanish and specially Andalucian cities will have it as well.

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    Semana Santa parade in Spain
  3. Crusifixation
    Place to be: San Fernando, Philippines
    Time to be next year: April 19, 2019 (easter)
    On the same track as Semana Santa people come here to recall the passion of the christ and experience a similar hardship. Men and women come here voluntarily to be crucified for real. It’s so admirable how much love and passion they have to actually letting nails go through their palms and hang there for hours.
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  4. Mescal Festival
    Place to be: Adis Ababa, Ethiopia
    Time to be next year: September 27, 2019
    This is a very unique celebration of the supposed finding of the “true cross”. It is said to be given to an emperor of Ethiopia and thus this is a huge celebration there.
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  5. Day of the Dead
    Place to be: Janitzio Island, Mexico
    Time to be next year: November 2, 2019
    This is actually a very interesting festival mixing Christianity with native Indian religion. It is celebrated in most places in Mexico but should be most original on the above mentioned island.
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  6. Santa Claus Village
    Place to be: Rovaniemi, Finland
    Time to be next year: December, 2019
    This is not exactly a festival but every year this park opens for visitors and I can imagine it really will feel like Santa Claus’s toolshop up there in the cold north.
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  7. White smoke
    Place to be: The Vatican City
    Time to be: Unknown
    This even does not need an introduction. We all know how a pope is chosen and watching white smoke from the Sistine Chapel is just historical!
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  8. Race of the Candles
    Place to be: Gubbio, Italy
    Time to be next year: May 15, 2019
    I do not know much about this festival other than celebrating some saints, but it does sound fun!
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  9. Salto del Colacho
    Place to be: Burgos, Spain
    Time to be next year: June 23, 2019
    Another south European festival. It is hard to understand where all those ideas come from but this one is probably about cleansing babies of sins and ensure them protection. Someone will play the devil and jump over new born babies. This might even be a dying tradition due to criticism from the Vatican saying only baptism can cleanse the sins.
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  10. Mardi Gras
    Place to be: Binche, Belgium
    Time to be next year: March 3, 2019
    Before the fasting period for the Christians starts, the Belgian Christians go out celebrating the last day with an enormous feast and a very fun parade in the city of Binche.
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In addition, there are many many other festivals to be mentioned. However, I tried not to include some of those ruined by capitalism already like Saint Patricks day. However, I have not been to all of the above yet, so I am yet to be surprised 🙂

Also remember, no matter what religion you have or none at all these traditions are fascinating to witness. The same goes for any other religion out there, and I might do a similar list for Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism very soon. Would it interest you?

New blog start up

So I have decided to start up a new travel blog just like everyone else is doing. I hope you will like mine though. I promise it will be different!

I will not do the usual “Travel Guide to XX country”. Instead I will talk about some of the things I learn on my different travels. I will basically do 2 things:

  1. Try to communicate the philosophical experience that travelling is. Basically sharing my thoughts about the world I see.
  2. I will make a lot of lists about interesting things. My favourite places, favourite airlines, favourite anything.

Visiting historical places or significant cultural moments or even outstanding natural sceneries often throws me in a thinking mood. I am not a romantic nor a philosopher, but I like to actually try to decode the world and understand why everything is as it is. If you know me you will know I respect all cultures, all religions and only try to bring the best to the surface.

So another thing I will not do is the usual “10 things to watch out for in XX countries” or “10 most dangerous countries to go to”.

I have been to many countries on such lists and the rule of thumb is that people are just trying to live a happy life no matter the circumstances. If you meet them with interest, they will repay it with kindness. So do not be afraid and come with me on adventures all over the world 🙂

.. and PS: Tell me your honest opinion and thoughts about what I should do here. I am basically a noob :/

PPS: Until the next blog post, you can read my lists of places I want to go and top places I already have been. Find them in the menu in the top or click here (top destinations visited) or here (top wanna go to places). Thank you! 🙂