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Tomb of Samuel – Nebi Samwil *

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout – Hannah presenting her son Samuel to the priest Eli c. 1665 Public Domain

Nebi Samwil – النبي صموئيل‎ is the site of a Biblical town and a Crusader fortress. A succession of buildings were erected at the top of the hill, which changed hands throughout history and were for long periods used, either exclusively or in parallel, as places of worship by Christians, Jews and Muslims. The village mosque’s main structure, the former Crusader church, is still used for worship and it contains a Muslim cenotaph (an empty tomb or a monument) draped in velvet. Adjacent to the mosque section of the complex there is a Jewish Orthodox synagogue with a traditional tomb of Samuel in the basement. The complex as a whole acts as a prominent landmark.

Nabi Samuel Photo: AVRAHAM GRAICER
Nabi Samuel at night Photo: Joesabb

Tomb of Samuel

The Tomb of Samuel (Kever Shmuel ha-Nevi), commonly identified with in the West Bank village of Nebi Samuel or Nebi Samwil, is the traditional burial site of the biblical Hebrew and Islamic prophet Samuel, atop a steep hill at an elevation of 908 meters above sea level. A tradition dating back to the Byzantine period places here the tomb of Samuel. Samuel is described in the biblical narrative as being buried in Ramah. 

Tomb of Samuel Photo: Md iet 
Grave of Nabi Samuel قبر صموئيل النبي اليوم في القدس، يدعى صموئيل في الإسلام: شمويل. Photo: Md iet 

Byzantine monastery 

A monastery was built by the Byzantines at Nabi Samwil, serving as a hostel for Christian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. The monastery was restored and enlarged during the reign of Justinian I in the mid-6th-century CE.

Arab Period 

The tomb continued to be in use throughout the early Arab period of rule in Palestine from the 7th to 10th centuries.

Crusader – Ayyubid Period

In 1099, the Crusaders conquered Palestine from the Arab Fatimids and received their first view of Jerusalem from the mountain upon which Nabi Samwil is built, thus naming it Mont Joie (“Mountain of Joy”). They soon constructed a fortress there to fend off Muslim raiding of Jerusalem’s northern approaches as well as to shelter pilgrim convoys. After the Ayyubids under Saladin conquered much of interior Palestine in 1187, the church and monastery were turned into a mosque and since then remained in Muslim hands.

Mamluk Period

In the 15th-century, Jews built a synagogue adjacent to the mosque and resumed pilgrimages to the site after losing that privilege during the Crusader period.

Nebi-Samuel, or the Plain of Mizpah, Holy Land Public Domain

Ottoman an-Nabi Samu’il

In 1596, Nabi Samwil appeared in the Ottoman tax registers in the liwa of Al-Quds. It had a population of 5 households, all Muslim. Edward Robinson the American biblical scholar noted that the mosque was regarded by Jews, Christians, and Mohammedans, as covering the tomb of the prophet Samuel. In 1883, the Palestine Exploration Fund’s Survey of Western Palestine (SWP) described it as small hamlet of adobe huts, perched on top of the ridge, amid the remains of the Crusader ruins. Nabi Samwil was heavily damaged by Turkish shells in 1917 while fighting British forces, but the village was rebuilt and resettled in 1921.

Nebi Samwil The Holy Land and the Bible; (1888) Photo: Public Domain

British Mandate period

In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Nabi Shemweil had a population 121, all Muslims increasing in the 1931 census to 138, one Christian and the rest Muslim.

Ruins near Nabi Samuel Photo: Md iet 

Jordan

From 1948 to 1967, Nabi Samwil was used by the Arab Legion of Jordan as a military post guarding access to Jerusalem.

 View from tomb of Samuel towards the east including the town of Nabi Sammwil Photo:Ori~

Israel

Since the 1967 Six-Day War, Nabi Samwil has been under Israeli occupation. After Israel’s victory and occupation in the war, during which most of the village’s inhabitants had fled, the shrine became predominantly Jewish.

Nabi Samwil النبي صموئيل‎ is a Palestinian West Bank (Area C) village of nearly 220 inhabitants. Their home are in a new location slightly down the hill.

 מרכז מבקרים ראשית ירושלים בנבי סמואל
Photo: Reut odem

Nebi Samuel Park

Nebi Samuel Park is a fascinating combination of antiquities, agricultural terraced landscapes, mountain spring, and orchards. At the heart of the site is a large building from the Crusader period, containing the tomb of the prophet Samuel.

Hannah’s spring:  An ancient road goes down to an orchard of strawberry, olive and fig trees alongside a small spring, rising from a cave. Above the cave, the entrances to First Temple period burial caves were found. Picnic tables have been set up in a pleasant and tranquil corner in the shade of the fig trees.

Second Temple period residential quarter:  Two rows of buildings which are part of a street in a large residential quarter dating to Hasmonean times (2nd century BCE) preserved to a rare height: around 4 m.

The western moat:  In the western wing of the Crusader fortress is an unfinished section of the fortress moat.

The quarry: North of the central building is a Crusaders stone quarry building blocks here, creating a 5 m high perpendicular wall. At the northern end of the leveled area they built stables.

There are those who think that this was the site of the “high place of Gibeon”. The Bible tells that King Solomon went to the high place of Gibeon to make an offering: “And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place” (I Kings 3:3). The village of Al-Jib, about 1.5 km north, is identified with the biblical Gibeon.

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