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SAMARA ():

Babylonian river near which tradition has located Ezra's tomb. Many legends cluster round this sacred spot; and in former times both Jews and Mohammedans used to make pilgrimages thither for prayer and to procure relies. It was visited in the twelfth century (c. 1175) by Pethahiah of Regensburg and Benjamin of Tudela. According to the former, "there was a synagogue on one side of the tomb and a mosque on the other, both having been built by the Ishmaelites because of their great love for Ezra and, through him, for the Jews. But the keys to these places of worship were kept by the Jews, and by them were appropriated for divers charitable purposes of their own the various gifts collected there."

The best account of the manner of the discovery of the tomb is given by Al-Ḥarizi, who visited the Samara district about ten years after Pethahiah, and who identifies it with Ahawa (, mentioned by Ezra (viii. 15). According to him, a shepherd dreamed that in that neighborhood was the resting-place of a holy personage. After again dreaming about it several times he spoke of the matter to his friends and neighbors; and as a proof of the veracity of his statement he showed them that he could see with an eye which formerly had been blind. On digging at the place indicated an iron coffin was found on which were inscribed some unknown characters. These were interpreted by a Jew to mean. "Ezra the priest's grave." So they carried the remains across the River Samara, and placed them there; and since then a light shines over them every night.

The population of the Samara district increased considerably after the twelfth century, and AlḤrizi found there 1,500 Jewish families.

Bibliography:
  • Al-Ḥarizi, Taḥkemoni, ch. xxxv.;
  • Monatsschrift, 1860, pp. 217 et seq.;
  • Ritter, Erdkunde, x. 268;
  • Graetz, Hist. (Hebr. transl.), iv. 319-320.
J. J. S. R.
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