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Hanukkah menorah removed from roof of mosque after Palestinians protest

Menorah installed by Nature and Parks Authority wardens at Nebi Samuel site, holy to both Jews and Muslims, moved to synagogue entrance instead

View of the tomb of Samuel the Prophet site at Nebi Samuel, northeast of Jerusalem, November 1, 2019. (Mila Aviv/Flash90)
View of the tomb of Samuel the Prophet site at Nebi Samuel, northeast of Jerusalem, November 1, 2019. (Mila Aviv/Flash90)

A large electric menorah installed on the roof of a mosque at a historical site near Jerusalem has been repositioned after the local Palestinian population protested the installation.

Israel Nature and Parks Authorities officials set up the menorah Wednesday on the roof of a mosque at Nebi Samuel, a site cherished by Jews as the tomb of the Biblical prophet Samuel. In the 18th century, a mosque was built at the site over the remains of a Crusader church.

Currently, a small synagogue exists in the underground tomb area beneath the mosque, which is inside an Israeli national park, just over the Green Line in the West Bank, north of the capital.

Palestinian residents of the adjacent Nabi Samwil village reportedly protested against the display after images of the menorah were shared on social media.

In a Thursday report, Nabi Samwil municipal leader Amir Obeid told the Ynet news site it was “unthinkable” for such a clearly Jewish symbol to be installed on the roof of a mosque.

“It clearly does not make sense and it provokes a lot of anger among us,” he said of the local residents.

Obeid said several months ago the Muslim community asked Israeli authorities for permission to light up a crescent on top of the mosque, and were turned down.

“We are facing severe discrimination,” he said. “It does not make sense to only celebrate Judaism here. If anything, let everyone celebrate in coexistence.”

Palestinian Authority Undersecretary of the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs Hussam Abu al-Rub called the menorah an “infringement upon the sanctity” of the site, the PA’s official Wafa news agency reported Wednesday.

By Thursday morning the menorah had been moved to the entrance of the building that gives access to the synagogue.

COGAT, the Israeli military body that handles relations with the Palestinians in the West Bank, confirmed in a statement that INPA workers had set up the menorah.

“After clarification of the matter, the menorah was moved to the site’s plaza as was the custom every year for the Hanukkah festival,” COGAT said.

Emek Shaveh, a nonprofit organization that strives to prevent the politicization of archaeology in Israel, criticized the incident, saying that “placing a religious Jewish symbol on a mosque is first and foremost offensive and it makes the archaeological site part of a religious conflict.”

The eight-day festival of Hanukkah, during which menorahs are traditionally lit every evening, starts on Sunday night.

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