The Tomb of Simon the Just [Shimon haTsadiq] in Jerusalem, a focus of Jewish pilgrimage for centuries
When the controversy over Jewish-owned real estate in the old Shim`on haTsadiq Quarter of Jerusalem erupted [here] in mid-summer of 2009, I visited the area and interviewed the spokesman for a group of Arabs belonging to a family, some of whom had been evicted from a house there for refusing to pay rent to the Jewish owners, the Sefardic Community Council. A group from this family were sitting outside a house where some of them had been living before being evicted. Other family members lived elsewhere in the city.
This spokesman, al-Hijazi by name, as he told me, changed his story several times as I showed that I had information about the history of the site. When I said that Jews said that the Tomb of Simon the Just [Shim`on haTsadiq שמעון הצדוק ] was on the site, he claimed that Simon's tomb was really in Jish Village in the north, that is, in the Galilee. Jish Village כפר ג'יש was called in ancient times by the Hebrew name Gush Halav גוש חלב, distorted by the Arab pronunciation of Jish, with the second word, Halav, left out. The spokesman's name al-Hijazi indicates a family origin in the Hijaz, northwestern Arabia, where Mecca and Medina are located.
As we spoke, we were both sitting about 100-150 feet away and slightly downhill from the location of the Tomb --which always has some visitors/pilgrims around-- although our view of the tomb, located in a cave, was obscured by Arab houses built on the Shimon haTsadiq plot [about 18 dunams = 4 1/2 acres]. Arab houses were built on the plot about 1955 at the initiative of the Jordanian custodian of enemy property. That is, Jewish-owned property under Jordanian control between 1948 and 1967 was considered enemy property by Jordan. Furthermore, Jordan did not allow Jews to visit Jewish holy places under Jordanian control in that period, in violation of the Israel-Transjordan armistice accord of 1949. [Transjordan changed its name to Jordan circa 1950]
The houses built by Arabs circa 1955 are on a flood plain, that of the upper Qidron creek [Nahal Qidron or Kidron נחל קדרון] which is usually dry. When I responded to al-Hijazi that there was an old synagogue uphill [it is on a cliff over Simon's Tomb] with an old Hebrew inscription on it [see here], he claimed that the area had been a quarry before 1948. This was a ridiculous claim, although there is an adjacent plot where ground had been dug out for construction purposes. I believe that that plot was dug out only after 1967. When I said to al-Hijazi [we spoke Hebrew]: The Jews say that Jews lived here before 1948,
he answered: Not true [לא נכון]!!
So much for the credibility of Arab witnesses. I must say that al-Hijazi had the trimmed short beard typical of Hamas believers and most likely supported Hamas rather than Fatah.
What is most outrageous is that in much or most of the media coverage of the controversy over the Shim`on haTsadiq Quarter, it is never mentioned that Simon's Tomb was a focus of Jewish pilgrimage for centuries, especially on the Lag b`Omer holiday, like the tomb of Shim`on bar Yohai in the Galilee at Meron, which attracts much much larger crowds on Lag b`Omer. Here are three illustrated, illuminated tables of Jewish holy places in the Land of Israel that show that it was considered a Jewish holy place and a focus of pilgrimage centuries ago. These illustrated, illuminated tables were exhibited by the Israel Museum in a show in Winter-Summer 1996, two years before 1998 when Jews came back to live in some of the old Jewish homes from which Jews had been driven in December 1947 [one family stayed until the 8th to the 10th of January 1948. Their date of flight is uncertain to a surviving family member]. These tables show the long-standing Jewish reverence for this tomb.
The attack on Jewish history in general and Jewish history in the Land of Israel in particular is common in English-speaking countries, especially Britain and the United States, it seems to me. See my post on the Financial Times out of London [here]. The FT, a pro-capitalism, pro-free market newspaper, was trying to promote the asinine and wildly dishonest book of Shlomo Sand, a Communist on the faculty of the University of Tel Aviv. Sand claims that the Jewish people was "invented" in the 19th century. Nadia Abu el-Hadj, a degree-holding "anthropologist" ["palestinian" Arab by her background] appointed to the Columbia University faculty in New York, despite many objections, denies aspects of the history of Second Temple Times [here & here]. The assault is happening now. Among other venues of attack, Arab nationalists, Islamists, anti-national Israelis, American and other Western apologists for Arab terrorism have seized on the issue of the Shimon haTsadiq neighborhood in Jerusalem.
This endeavor to eliminate Jewish history is obviously an obstacle to peace.
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source of illustrations:
Rachel Sarfati, ed., Offerings from Jerusalem: Portrayals of Holy Places by Jewish Artists
(Jerusalem: The Israel Museum 2002)