- Nabi Shu'ayb
Nabi Shu'ayb (also transliterated Nabi Shoaib, meaning "the Prophet Jethro") is the name used in English to refer to a site in the destroyed village of Hittin not far from Tiberias, where the tomb of the Islamic prophet Shu'ayb (Biblical Jethro) is believed to be located.
A central figure in the Druze religion, the tomb of Nabi Shu'ayb, has been a site of annual pilgrimage for the Druze for centuries. Sunni Muslims also used to make ziyarat ("pilgrimages") there as well, though on no fixed date in the year. Indeed, shrines dedicated to Nabi Shu'ayb are common throughout the Greater Syria region.
Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, and the subsequent transfer of sole custodianship of the tomb to the Druze community by the Israeli authorities, Sunni Muslims have largely ceased their pilgrimages to Nabi Shu'ayb. The Druze continue to make an annual pilgrimage there every April between the 25th and the 28th.
In Islamic and Druze tradition, it is believed that towards the end of his life, Shu'ayb took refuge in a cave outside Hittin, where he eventually died of old age. His followers buried him at the site and placed a tombstone at his grave. Another Druze tradition holds that Saladin had a dream the night prior to his battle against the Crusaders at Hittin. In the dream, an angel promised him victory on the condition that after the battle, he would ride his horse westward; then, where the horse would stop, the angel said he would find the burial site of Shu'ayb. The tradition holds that when Saladin's dream was realized, the Druze built a shrine for Shu'ayb at the site.
Nabi Shu'ayb has been expanded and renovated over time. The older section of the existing structure was built in the 1880s, after the spiritual leader of the Druze, Sheikh Muhanna Tarif from Julis, summoned an assembly of religious leaders in the community to discuss and collaborate on its construction. A delegation of high-ranking community members traveled to Syria and Lebanon in order to collect funds for new construction and renovations and the local Druze of the Galilee and Mount Carmel also made considerable contributions.
When Palestine came under British Mandate rule, a dispute broke out between the Druze and the Higher Islamic Council over who exercised custodianship over the site of Nabi Shu'ayb. After Israel's establishment in 1948, and the total depopulation of Hittin which had been a predominantly Muslim village, the Druze were granted full custodianship over the tomb, and an additional 100 dunams surrounding it. Under the leadership of Sheikh Amin Tarif, the shrine was then renovated and numerous rooms were added for the hosting of pilgrims. The Israeli government also paved the road leading to Naby Shu'ayb and provided electricity and water infrastructure services there.
The first mention of the tomb dates back to the 12th century CE, and the Druze have held religious festivals there for centuries. According to Druze tradition, the imprint of Shuaib's left foot (da'sa) can be seen on the grave. Pilgrims visiting the site pour oil into the imprint, and then rub the oil over their body in order to be blessed with good fortune.
The Druze customarily had no fixed date for their annual pilgrimage, which generally occurred sometime in the spring. When the Israeli government granted official recognition of the pilgrimage as a Druze religious holiday, the dates were standardized, such that the event now takes place between April 25 and April 28. During the festivities, mass celebrations are held at Nabi Shu'ayb, and Druze religious leaders gather there for ritual purposes and to discuss religious questions. Prior to Israel's establishment, Druze from Syria and Lebanon also used to participate in the festival, but are no longer able to do so today.
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