History and Archaeology

Where is Mount Sinai?

The most important event in the history of mankind – the giving of the Torah – took place at Mount Sinai. So far, so good. And yet, the exact location and identification of this mountain has never been preserved. It turns out that even in the time of our sages they were unable to point to the exact location of the mountain.

But this should not come as a surprise, since Mount Sinai is located in the heart of a desert wasteland, far from any civilization. And without consistent human presence, there was never anyone to preserve the tradition. Aside from that, the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, was the only event that has given the mountain its significance. The holiness was never retained in it once the Jewish people had left it and moved on.

However, throughout the ages, many efforts have been made to try and identify Mount Sinai as one of the mountains located in various parts of the Sinai Desert and its outskirts. The most famous mountain that has been identified is Jabal Musa. Before turning into Jihadistan, many Israeli travelers were spotted in the region pounding their feet on the 750 steep stairs leading up to the peak of the mountain. It seems like these travelers weren’t aware of the fact that their hard work was done in vain. The likelihood of it being in Jabal Musa is just about the same as it being on Jabotinski Street, corner of Hashomer.

Dr. Avigdor Shachan, an expert on Israeli studies, explains that it was an old Christian woman named Helena 1,500 years ago, who created the link between Mount Sinai and Jabel Musa. Helena was the mother of Emperor Constantine, of the Byzantine Empire, says Shachan. At the end of her life she decided to visit Christian sites in Israel, so she joined a camel caravan that made its way from Egypt to Israel. One night, she became impressed by the beauty of the nearby mountain and resolved in her heart that surely this is the mountain on which Moses received the Torah, and since then its been referred to as, Jabal Musa (Mountain of Moses). This is the source of the legend, which claims that this, and no other mountain is the authentic Mount Sinai. The Caesar, Helena’s son, ordered the construction of a monastery in that region.

It turns out that this same Helena had also originated the practice of dumping trash on the Temple Mount as a way to conceal the ruins of the Western Wall.

In short, she was no fan of the Jews, and yet somehow her opinion of Mount Sinai is perceived as authentic and true.

But if Mount Sinai is not in Jabel Musa, so then where is it?

There are countless suggestions: The Mountain of Saffron in the southern Negev; Serabit el-Khadim in eastern Sinai; An extinguished volcano in western Saudi Arabia; A mountain located in the northern Arava, in the area of the Dead Sea.

The original proposal undoubtedly belongs to Avigdor Shachan himself, who believes that Mount Sinai is none other than… Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.


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