Folk-lore of the Holy Land, Moslem, Christian and Jewish, by J. E. Hanauer , at sacred-texts.com
A NUMBER of conventional tales, bearing a family likeness to those related concerning the Patriarchs at Hebron, are told concerning the prophet David, and his tomb (En Nebi Daûd) at Jerusalem. Here are examples:--
"In the reign of Sultan Murad, the Governor of Jerusalem, Mahmûd Pasha by name, was a just and upright man who favoured the Jews. As, however, Government appointments could be purchased by
anyone in those days, a worthless Arab, known as Ibn Faraj, succeeded in obtaining the post from the Pasha of Damascus, who was at the same time Governor-General of Syria and Palestine. Ibn Faraj proved extremely tyrannical and rapacious, and greatly oppressed the Jews in Jerusalem. One Sabbath day (Elul II. A.M. 5385, i.e. A.D. 1625) he attacked the Synagogue during the hours of divine service, and had fifteen of the most respectable Jews cast into prison. They were not released till they had paid 3000 ducats. Such events were of frequent recurrence, and the Jews were, in consequence, greatly impoverished. Many of them sought to flee, but were prevented by guards specially stationed for that purpose. At last, however, they succeeded in letting the Sultan know the state of affairs in Jerusalem. The Padishah was very angry when he heard of all this, and, on Kislev 22, 5386 (December 1626), he sent orders to the Pasha of Damascus to dismiss the unworthy official. Ibn Faraj, however, succeeded in bribing not only the Governor-General, but also the Agha, or Commandant, of the troops in the castle. He now raged without restraint, and many Jews languished in prison because they were unable to satisfy his rapacious demands.
Suddenly, on Tuesday the 12th of Kislev A.M. 5387, he took to flight, because, as is related in a document printed at Venice in the following year, and attested by all the chief officials of the Jewish Community then at Jerusalem, an aged and venerable personage, clad in a purple mantle, appeared
to him in a dream, and was going to strangle him. In his terror he asked why? and was informed "that King David wanted to avenge his subjects." Having begged long and piteously to be spared, his life was granted, on condition that he left Jerusalem and the Holy Land at sunrise next morning. 1
Another Moslem Governor of Jerusalem, being on a visit to En Nebi Daûd greatly, desired to see the tomb itself. He therefore went into the room immediately above it, and looked through a hole in the floor. While so doing a jewelled dagger slipped from his girdle: and fell into the vault. Concerned at the loss, he had one of his attendants let down by a rope to search for it. This man remained below so long that the others, growing anxious, pulled in the rope. They brought up his lifeless body. A second and third attempt to recover the dagger failed in like manner; till the governor, determined not to lose the pretty weapon, bade the sheykh of En Neb Daûd himself go down and fetch it.
The sheykh replied that it was clear the prophet did not like Mohammedans to enter his tomb; but, since he was known to be fond of Jews, the Pasha would do better to ask the chief rabbi. Accordingly, an urgent message was forthwith sent to that dignitary, who at once called the Jews together to fast and pray for deliverance from the anger of the Moslems on the one hand, and on the other from that of King David whom the Jews believe to be "alive and
active." 1 He begged for three days' grace in which to find a person willing to undertake so desperate an adventure. On the third day a Jew volunteered for the task, in hopes to save the community.
Having purified his soul and body he was lowered into the' vault in the presence of all the leading Moslems of the city. Almost immediately he asked to be drawn up again, and appeared alive and well, with the dagger in his hand. On reaching the ground he had found himself face to face with a noble-looking old man, clad in robes like shining lead, who had handed him the dagger the instant his feet touched earth and, with a gesture, bidden him be gone.
An old Jewess, a widow, pious and industrious, used to wash for one of the sheykhs of En Nebi Daûd. One day, when she had brought some clean clothes to his house, he offered to show her the sepulchre of David, and she followed him in great delight. Opening the door of a room, he made her enter, and then, locking the door, went straight to the kadi and told him that a Jewess had slipped into the sanctuary, left open for a few minutes for the sake of ventilation, and he, discovering the sacrilege, had locked her in that she might be punished formally, for a public example.
The kadi, with other Moslems, went at once to En Nebi Daûd, but when the room was opened, no Jewess could be found. The sheykh swore solemnly that she had been there when he locked the door. "I know her well," he said; "it was my washerwoman." "That it was not," said one who stood by, "for not a quarter of an hour ago my servant went to her house with a bundle of clothes, and saw her there hard at work." The inquisitors adjourned to the woman's house. There she was, at her washing, and ready to swear that she had been there since daybreak.
Convinced by her earnestness, the kadi charged the sheykh of En Nebi Daûd with perjury, and had him severely punished. It was not until the woman came to die, that she told the true story of her adventure. Then, having summoned the elders of the Jewish community, she confessed that the sheykh had locked her in the dark room, as he had said he did, but that a noble-looking old man, clad in apparel as of shining lead, had straightway appeared to her, saying: "Fear not, but follow me." He had led her by a path that wound through the heart of the earth to a door which opened on a dunghill in the Meydân. 1 There he ordered her to go home at once and get to work, and on no account to publish what had happened to her.
91:1 Rabbi Schwartz, "Das Heilige Land," footnote, pp. 402-403.
92:1 In the special prayer for the monthly blessing of the moon, these words occur: "David Melekh Israel khai va kayam" (David, King of Israel, is alive and active).
93:1 The Meydân is in the Jewish quarter, on the north-eastern brow of the traditional Mount Zion. The exact spot where the washerwoman came out was, till the early part of 1905, marked by a large octagonal stone, which has now disappeared.