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Shrine of Sidna Youcha at Sidna Youchaa, Algeria

The Tomb of Sidna Youchaa - The Tomb of Joshua in Sidna Youchaa, Algeria. 

Description

As deputy to Moses and then leader of the Jewish people, Joshua helped the Israelites enter the Promised Land. But, according to local legend in northwest Algeria, the biblical figure then ventured west and eventually died along the Mediterranean coast, not far from Tlemcen. Indeed, close to the Moroccan border is a small coastal village named “Sidna Youchaa” (or “Our Master Joshua”) that contains a shrine with the supposed graves of Joshua and of his father, Nun.

Many Berber tribes in the area have Jewish roots, and some have preserved Jewish names and even customs. These tribes include the Ait Daud (Sons of David) and Ait Arun (Sons of Aaron). Both they and Jews from the area venerated the seaside sanctuary of Joshua, which can be reached via a picturesque road that slopes down from the hillside to the water. The building – known as a “qubba” – sits in a valley surrounded by a stone hedge. At the beginning of the 20th Century, only one Berber family lived in the area, guarding the prophet’s tomb. Inside the courtyard is a long tombstone, explained by local legend to be necessary to account for Joshua’s large height. Further down the rocky slope is a white grotto, supposedly the tomb of Nun.

The historian Nahum Slouschz visited the site in the early 20th Century and learned that according to local tradition the Jews will one day return and reclaim the sanctuary that has been stolen from them. Slouschz also revealed: “One enlightened Arab who knows the country well told me the following: The Berbers are so deeply attached to this sanctuary , and they have preserved so well the traditions of their Jewish origin, that if the Jews were actually to return and retake the sanctuary, all the tribes of Beni Ichu, Beni Arun, Beni Daud, and Beni Chuaban would certainly become Jews again. The statement is perhaps an exaggeration, but it appears that these good Judeo-Berbers would be very loath to abandon their hero (Travels in North Africa, Jewish Publication Society of America, (Philadelphia, USA: 1927), pp. 341-342).”

Sidna Youcha, Algeria

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