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  Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai has always been a place of refuge for those fleeing idolatry and persecution, a sanctuary for those seeking God.

Sinai, My Love!It was to Mount Sinai that Moses fled after smiting the brutal slave master. It was here that he married into the family of Jethro and settled down for 40 years as a humble shepherd. It was at the foot of the mountain that he was summoned by God from out of the Burning Bush. And it was here that he received the command to return to Egypt and set his people free.

After the trial of strength with Pharaoh and the flight from Egypt, it was to Mount Sinai that Moses returned with his people. It was here that he received the Ten Commandments and made a covenant between his people and God.

And when his people lapsed and worshipped the Golden Calf, it was here that Moses smote 3000 of them.

Awed and chastened, it was from here that they finally set off for the Promised Land.

Sinai, My Love!Moses was to die on Mount Nebo, leaving Joshua to conquer Canaan and David to establish a unified Kingdom. But the new kingdom was not to last long and soon fractured into the rival kingdoms of Israel and Judah. As Israel reverted to the worship of Idols, Mount Sinai was to become a place of refuge once again, this time for the Prophet Elijah battling with the apostate King Ahab and his pagan wife, Jezebel. It was here that God came to a troubled Elijah, reassured him and announced his successor, Elisha.

In the third century of the Christian era, the mountain became a refuge again as many Christians refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods and fled the resultant persecutions, a decisive moment for Christians when they came to see the world as vain and treacherous with heaven as the supreme reward for those who persevered in their faith.

As the external foe constituted by the pagan state was replaced by Constantine's dispensation and the establishment of Christianity as the state religion, many retained a distaste for this world and turned the external struggle into an internal one, fighting mental and sexual temptations, mortifying their bodies and starving themselves into sanctity. Mount Sinai was to be the arena in which the drama of the new asceticism was acted out, its community of hermits becoming the nucleus of the monastery of St Catherine.

When Islam became the religion of the Middle East, Mohamed issued a document protecting the Monastery from pillage, and on his night flight to heaven, passed by the mountain.

Today a mosque and a chapel grace the mountain top, while the monastery holds a mosque inside its walls for the use of its Muslim workers and guests.

(With many thanks to my friend Gordon of Yallajabaleya for his notes on Mount Sinai and the Monastery of St Catherine)
safari sinai bedouin

Copyright © Ramadan Abu Ghalaba