A-Nabi Samuel is a tiny village located on a hilltop at the northwest edge of occupied Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries.1 Home to 250 residents, the village has been isolated from Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank by the Annexation Wall that encircles it, the Ramot Allon colony, and a national park which village residents are denied access to.2 Prior to 1967 the village covered an area of 3,500 dunums, but today, after land confiscation, only 1,050 dunums remain.
The village is the traditional location of the tomb of the prophet Samuel which is where the Arabic name a-Nabi Samuel comes from. The site has been a holy shrine for Muslims, Jews and Christians for centuries, and the a-Nabi Samuel mosque which sits over the crypt dates back to 1720. In 1099 the village was occupied by the Crusaders who also named the hilltop on which it was located The Mount of Happiness because it was from its peak that they observed Jerusalem for the first time. Later, Salah Edin's army conquered the villages, and the Byzantine castle was transformed into a mosque. The village's strategic location made it a point of contention as all invaders wanted to control it. In 1967, a-Nabi Samuel was home to over 1,000 Palestinians, but in the course of the war that year, most were forcibly displaced by the advancing Israeli occupation army. Many of the village's homes were subsequently demolished by the occupation authorities in 1971.4 After 1967 the occupation authorities used the religious pretext of the shrine to justify the confiscation and segregation of the village's land.
a-Nabi Samuel village is home to 250 residents and remains a major attraction for tourists. Hugging the slopes of the highest hill in Jerusalem, known by residents as Jabal al-Bahja, or the ‘Mountain of Happiness.’ The view of the sunset observed from a-Nabi Samuel is a breathtaking spectacle. One is taken aback by the serene atmosphere, the exquisite view of Jerusalem from atop the hill and the occasional cold spring breeze that kisses one’s face. The rich history of the village and its many antiquities such as the tomb and mosque adds a touch of divinity to the whole experience. However, it is this very beauty, richness, and strategic location which makes the village a target of Israel's colonial onslaught.
a-Nabi Samuel is deprived of the most basic services and infrastructure needed for daily life such as a clinic and a water network. Even the village's sole school is under imminent threat of demolition.
Residents, however, are attempting to overcome these conditions by making the village relatively self-sufficient. The Women's Center in the village is a great example of the efforts made by community members, particularly women, to develop the village despite Israel's siege and isolation. The forum aims at empowering women economically by helping them grow livestock and poultry. The forum also coordinates with other grassroots groups in the neighbouring villages of Beit Duqqu, Beit Iksa, Bir Nabala and al-Jib. The aim of this coordination is to create small, self-funded projects to develop the villages and break the Israeli siege and segregation imposed on them.
A number of a-Nabi Samuel's current residents were children when Israel demolished the original site of the village in 1971. Some still remember the scenes of people fleeing the village amidst its occupation in 1967. However, the threat of yet another displacement is still lingering. Israel has declared its intention to expand the national park which would effectively condemn the native population to imminent displacement.5
Land Confiscation and Home Demolitions
It was on March 24, 1971, when nearly 80% of the village's buildings were demolished by Israeli occupation forces and since then most of the village's original area has been confiscated to make way for the construction of the national park and Israeli colonies. The planned extension of the park threatens further land confiscation. Additionally, Israel systematically refuses to grant a-Nabi Samuel residents permits to build on their own land, and all but one of the village's homes are under demolition orders. Even the village's school, a one-room building, is subject to a demolition order.6 The residents inability to expand and build new houses makes this tiny village terribly overcrowded and restricts its natural growth.
Restrictions on Freedom of Movement
In March 2008, the road which provided this isolated community with access to the Bir Nabala enclave, from which they received most of their services, was blocked off and closed. This was part of Israel’s ongoing apartheid structure which closes the roads servicing settlements to Palestinian travelers, including access points to Jerusalem. A new road passes through a tunnel under Route 436 linking Bir Nabala to the North and Biddu to the East, but to access this road residents of a-Nabi Samuel must first cross the Ramot checkpoint at the entrance to their village.7
Additionally, occupation authorities have forbidden entry of Palestinian vehicles into the village unless their owners are listed as residents of the village on their ID cards.
Due to the military checkpoint controlling the entrance to the village, there have been several reported cases of occupation forces prohibiting residents from even carrying basic household goods into their village. Additionally, residents have to either rent cars with Israeli plates at a great expense in order to bring in purchases such as heavy flour sacks, gas canisters, and livestock fodder, or carry them by hand. The soldiers at the checkpoint often refuse to allow livestock and fodder to cross, preventing grazing. Most of the villagers were originally farmers but such restrictions and mass land expropriations have forced them to abandon their endeavours. This has significantly altered the lifestyle of the village and their ability to create an income.
Finally, the majority of a-Nabi Samuel residents hold West Bank IDs and so are prohibited from entering occupied Jerusalem without a valid permit. Even in cases when community members are granted a permit, they must first cross into the West Bank through the al-Jib checkpoint to the north and then go south through Qalandia checkpoint which now takes up to two hours longer than it did before the construction of the Annexation Wall.
Settlements and Colonisation
In 1967 a synagogue was built in the village by the occupation authorities, and in 1991 the Israeli Antiquities authorities began excavations in the village to bestow a religious pretext upon their attempt to confiscate the village's land. In 1993 a Jewish religious school was built in the village near the mosque and in 1995, a Jewish settler settled two caravans near the mosque on lands belonging to Issa Barakat. The villagers managed to have the settlers removed after winning a lawsuit against their illegal action. However, in 1996, the construction of the Har Shmuel outpost led to the confiscation of most of the village's agricultural land, leaving the residents of a-Nabi Samuel with very limited options to generate income.8
The ministry of Jewish religions has allocated 7 million shekels to renovate what they call “a-Nabi Samuel cemetery” which is now Burj al-Nawatir Mosque and its surroundings in occupied Jerusalem.9
In 1995 the occupation authorities transitions about 3,500 dunums of a-Nabi Samuel’s lands into what they called a “National Park” as a means to Zionize a-Nabi Samuel, displace its people, and exploit its lands. The “national park” attracts foreign tourists and visitors and it gives them written explanations about the “Holy Place” according to the alleged Zionist narrative that ignores the Palestinian and Arab history of the place.10
a-Nabi Samuel Mosque
The a-Nabi Samuel Mosque is one of the old Ottoman mosques. It is an Islamic waqf and contains large areas of agricultural lands. It was built in a strategic location which overlooks Jerusalem and the whole Palestinian coast.11 In 1993, the occupation authorities built a Jewish religious school near the mosque.
In January 2015, the Civil Administration closed the external gate leading to the mosque.12 It has been exposed to a chain of violations since the 90s such as burning, crashing, preventing the Athan call from being raised, breaking the loudspeakers, hitting of worshipers by settlers, surrounding the mosque with barbed wire and security cameras, as well as closing the second floor of the mosque and preventing the renovation of the third floor thus forcing it to remain deserted.
These violations are just a method used by the occupation authorities in order to achieve its goals which consist of obliterating the Palestinian Islamic monuments and turning the mosque into an archeological and tourist site and a national park.13