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Saturday, April 07, 2007

 

Saturday of Light in Ramallah







The little girls in white participate in a Sabt el-Nur (Saturday of Light) procession circa 1951-55 in Ramallah.


The Boy Scouts (ca. 1966) on Sabt el-Nur. The Scouts are parading toward Manara Square where Ramallah's Christians waited for the Holy Light from Jerusalem.
Mayor Jaleel Harb in the center with the lit candle (1957) in front of the Orthodox Church in Ramallah.
According to Naseeb Shaheen in A Pictorial History of Ramallah "there is a church tradition that long ago, on the day before Easter, light broke forth from Christ's sepulcher."
Before Al-Nakba (the Palestinian Catastrophe), which divided Palestine, young men from Ramallah and other Palestinian towns went to Jerusalem to obtain the light. He says that while most of the time the young men from Ramallah won, often "serious" disputes "broke out over who would be first to obtain the light." The most serious were often between the young men from Ramallah and Lod. "Most of the time the delegation from Ramallah won," Shaheen writes.
The delegation from Jerusalem was met prior to 1901 in the area called El Sharafa. However, the delegation in subsequent years was met at Al Manara Square. Everyone waiting there lit their candles they brought with them and processed to the church. Muslims also took part in the procession. The young men "led the procession . . . chanting "as loud as they could":
The Saturday of Light we celebrate
We visited the sepulcher of our Lord.
Our Lord is Jesus Christ.
Christ came unto us.
With his blood he redeemed us.
There was no Sabt el-Nur procession in 1987 or 1988. "This was because the previous two or three processions were dispersed by Israeli troops when people from outside Ramallah and youths from nearby refugee camps attempted to join the procession and turn it inot a political demonstration," says Shaheen.
The Sabt el-Nur is "celebrated in a subdued manner" since the 1967 occupation, writes Shaheen.
Shaheen, Naseeb. A Pictorial History of Ramallah. Beirut: Arab Institute for Research and Publishing, 1992.

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