Gabriel Nasir, the martyr

he (1) From the town of “Al-Haffa”, the center of “Al-Haffa” district in the Syrian province of Latakia. Once, he and two of his companions went on a trade towards “Jisr al-Shaghour.”(2)His two companions were Christians. They were accompanied by a Muslim groom. On the way, armed men confronted them and shouted at them: “Convert to Islam, you will be converted to Islam!”(3).

Those who were with him immediately converted to Islam, and one of them was from the village of “Shatigo,” which is about five kilometers from Al-Haffa, and perhaps he was from the Al-Badr family or Al-Qudsiyya. As for Gabriel, known as “Jabra,” he refused to announce his conversion to Islam and adhered to his Christian faith. The armed men threatened him, but he did not care. They beat him with rifle butts, but he did not surrender. One phrase he kept saying: “I am a Christian!” His attackers became more angry and violent towards him until his entire body turned black and his blood flowed. When he was no longer able to utter a single word, he placed the index finger of his right hand above the index finger of his left hand in the form of a cross, raised them to his mouth and kissed them. As his executioners continued to beat him relentlessly, his strength failed and he fell unconscious. They thought he had died, so they left him and left.

Then the groom, who witnessed what happened and heard what was said, and was good and trustworthy, returned to Al-Haffa and reported. So Nassim Hanna Elias, the martyr’s nephew, went out to some of his Muslim friends seeking help, so they hired him and accompanied him to where the incident occurred. When they reached the place, they took the martyr on a mule, tied him up, and returned to the town. When they got him there, he regained consciousness, but he was unable to speak a word to anyone. He only indicated to his relatives that they understood from him that he wanted to receive the body and blood of the Lord. So he brought the holy things immediately and the priest gave them to him after his sister called Afrosini Nasir Elias placed him on her chest. When he received the Holy Places, his martyrdom was completed and he surrendered his spirit (1918 AD).

This was buried (4) The martyr at the entrance to the town church named after the saint, the archangel, Michael. His prayers benefit us, Amen.

(On the Forgotten Saints in the Antiochian Heritage by Archimandrite Thomas Bitar)

The martyr's family had a comment on what was stated in the book, especially footnote No (4)We present it here as one of the brothers put it in the Orthodox Youth Forums

Martyr Jabra Musa Naseer
1862 - 1920 AD

We are Father Michael Naseer, the Greek Orthodox priest of the town of Al-Haffa and its outskirts, the sons and grandchildren of the martyr Jabra Naseer and all members of his family in the town of Al-Haffa, Latakia Governorate, Syria and the countries of exile. We present a detailed explanatory response to what was stated in the book “Forgotten Saints in the Antiochian Heritage,” published in 1995 AD and published on page No. 561 in Appendix No. 3 and footnote No. 4 located on page No. 562 of this book, which Collected and published by the venerable Father Archimandrite Touma Bitar from Douma Monastery - Lebanon.

Mother Antonina has spoken [1] She is the head of the Kaftoun Monastery - Lebanon. About the martyrdom of the late Jabra Musa Nusair [2]It omitted some historical facts and added others. Therefore, we present here through this article our deep regret for what was published in this book, especially in its footnote No. /4/ about this incident, and we explain it to all believers who want to know the truth accurately and honestly, in order to preserve the history of our church (St. Saint Michael’s Church in Al-Haffa) and the feelings of our believers in The town and its dependencies, and the children, grandchildren, and family of the martyr.

Jabra Musa Nusayr was born in the town of Al-Haffa [3] The year 1862 AD. One time he went to the Jisr al-Shughur area [4] With the intention of trading and retrieving his horse that was stolen from him in the town, he was accompanied on this journey by two friends, the first of whom was a Christian from the village of Ashtabogo. [5] He is from a “Qudsiyya” family and the other is a Muslim horse groom from a “Kulliyya” family. When they arrived in a densely forested area near the village of Al-Daribat in Wata Badama [6] A group of armed men (bandits) intercepted their way. [7] Raising their rifles in their faces, shouting and threatening, “Convert to Islam, you will be safe,” in order to deny their faith. The two companions immediately converted to Islam for fear of being killed, and were released. As for Jabra, he refused to announce his conversion to Islam and deny his faith. [8] He held on with all his might to his Christian faith, but the gunmen came back and threatened to kill him again, but he did not heed them. Then they beat him with rifle butts, but he did not surrender, and he kept repeating and telling them, “I am a Christian, I do not surrender.” His attackers became more angry and violent towards him until he fell to the ground covered in his own blood, his entire body blackened and blood flowing.

When he was no longer able to utter a single word and his strength failed, he placed the index finger of his right hand above his left index finger in the shape of a cross, raised them to his mouth and kissed them. Then his executioners resumed beating and kicking relentlessly until he fainted, believing that he was dead, so they left him and left. The two companions quickly returned to the town of Al-Haffa to tell his family members about this incident, and the groom had witnessed and heard everything that had happened. The martyr Jabra remained lying on the wild ground, unconscious and covered in his blood, on top of the accumulated snow, as the weather was very cold. [9] . While one of the women of the village of Anczek (Ghassaniya) [10] She collects firewood, and her name is Mutiaa Abboud. She saw the martyr and recognized him, lying in the snow, covered in his blood. She returned to the village and told the men who helped her, and they carried his envy and took him to their homes to take care of him, until one of his family came, and he remained in this state for two days.

A delegation from the people of the town of Al-Haffa arrived in the village of Anzik to transport him to his town. The delegation included Youssef Nusair, his older brother, and his two sons, George and Estephan Nusair, as well as Al-Mukhtar Yous Nimah Nusair and his sister Farusian’s son, Naseem Elias. They were also accompanied by two Muslim notables from the town of Al-Haffa, one of whom was from The “Al-Jindi” family and the other from the “Abu Suleiman” family placed the unconscious Jabra on a mule after covering him with sheep skins. Then they tied him to the mule and took him back to the town. When they brought him to his home, he regained consciousness but was unable to speak to anyone.

He remained lying motionless despite all the townspeople coming to meet him. His son George went to Latakia to bring a doctor to treat him, and during that time they were trying to talk to him, and he spoke a few words. [8+]His health condition became very bad, and he indicated to those around him that he wanted to partake of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. The priest of the town of Al-Haffa, Father Abdullah Nusair, came. [11] He handed it to him while it was lying in the arms of his sister, Frusyin Nusair. When he received the holy things, his martyrdom was completed and he surrendered his pure soul.

His pure body was buried in the courtyard of Saint Michael Church on January 27, 1920 AD, next to its northern wall near the northern door. [+9] . On May 3, 1942, his elder brother Youssef Nusair died and was buried next to him, and on April 2, 1962, the forerunner of the priesthood, Father Abdullah Nusair, was buried next to them.

The faithful people of the town, despite all the difficult circumstances they went through, did not waver in their faith in their land or leave it, and they remained true to their Christian faith, armed with their saintly ancestors and martyrs. We confirm here through this book to all those interested that the remains of our ancestors and saints were not scattered, as mentioned in the book, or swept away with the dust, but rather remained in place and only the upper part of the shrines was removed. We will explain in the following lines the reason for this.

A meeting of the townspeople was held in the church with His Excellency Bishop Ignatius Hazim, the pastor of the Diocese of Latakia, regarding the expansion and restoration of the church. Everyone agreed to this and His Excellency blessed the project. Work on the project began when the roof of the church was removed and the tiles and wood were removed. After that, the upper part of the shrines located near the northern wall of the church was removed in order to demolish the wall and remove it to expand the church. Then, before the demolition of the wall began, and at a special request from the Bishop, work on the expansion was stopped and the work was limited to Roof reconstruction. This is what happened. The church was roofed with reinforced cement, tile panels were planted on top of it, and the walls were repaired with the structure. All of this was done with the help of philanthropists and believers from the town’s people, with money, sweat, and continuous effort, and under the supervision of the church’s pastor, Father Michael Nusair. [12]Then, I expanded the square and built a large hall attached to the church. The works are still ongoing, including starting to build a memorial over the remains of our ancestors in the same place, with the blessing of their grandchildren. [13]Their prayers benefit us and forgive us. Amen.


Footnotes related to the biography as contained in the book “Forgotten Saints in the Antiochian Heritage”

(1) This information was provided to us by Mother Antonina, the head of the Monastery of Our Lady of Kaftoun in the Diocese of Mount Lebanon, and she is the daughter of Nassim Hanna Elias, who was concerned with returning the martyr to the town. Mother Antonina says that this is the story she has heard since childhood, and many in the town of Al-Haffa still repeat it to this day. However, investigating information among those who memorized the news, especially the elderly, may have helped uncover more useful information, such as the specific date on which the martyr died, for example.

(2) Jisr al-Shaghour district was, in the past, one of the second parishes of Syria and was known as Seleucobelos. Its oldest bishops mentioned in history books are Aristonicus, who participated in the Council of Antioch (363 AD), and Marcian, who participated in the Council of Constantinople (Second Ecumenical Council, 381 AD). Among its bishops, too, was Kyriakos, who lived during the days of Emperor Justinian (6th century), and who participated in filing a petition against Severus of Antioch, along with Paul of Apamea, Severian of Artuz, Stephen of Caesar (Larissa), Sergius of Hama, and others (see Devresse, R. in Le Patriarchat d'Antioche p. 74, 183).

(3) We found this expression to be common among people, as if many incidents echoed in popular memory were occurring, here and there, at the hands of groups who thought their behavior was jealous of Islam or exploiting it for personal ends.

(4) It is unfortunate that the people of the town were ignorant in the past of the value of the martyr’s remains. When they wanted to expand the church, they swept the remains along with the dust in front of the church indiscriminately, and threw them away. Do you think that if a person explores the matter, will he be able to find out what benefits him in this regard? We don't know! We only know that this is a sample of ignorance, neglect, and indifference left by centuries of oppression and alienation. Do you see that we trample the relics of saints, sometimes, and we do not know it? This is neither far off nor surprising! It is attributed to Saint Father Paisius of Athos (July 12, 1994) One time, while he was on a plane trip, his soul suddenly shook and he asked: Where are we? He was told: Above the Syrian country. He replied: This is a land filled with the remains of saints!

Notes to the commentary:

[1] Her name is Lamia Naseem Elias. She is the granddaughter of the late Frosin Nasir, sister of the martyr Jabra. She left the town of Al-Haffa more than 50 years ago.

[2] All the townspeople know the martyr by the name Jabra and not by the name Gabriel, as stated in the title of the article, according to what was published in the book. He has a grandson with the same name, the late Jabra Estephan Nusair, and another is the late Jaber Girgis Nusair.

[3] This town is located east of the city of Latakia, about 25 km away, on the western coastal mountain range of the Levant. At an altitude of about 350 meters above sea level.

[4] The town of Jisr al-Shughur is located on the Orontes River, which flows within the Al-Ghab Plain. There were mutual trade relations between the two towns of Al-Haffa and Jisr Al-Shughour.

[5] A village near the town of Al-Haffa, 2 km away, is inhabited by Christians only, and there is another near it inhabited by Muslims, and its name has now been changed to Al-Nuzha Village.

[6] This village is located on the road leading to the city of Jisr al-Shughur. Travelers used to cross from the west towards the village of Kinda, then al-Najiya, to Wata Badama, to the village of al-Zeiniya, which is located west of the village of Inkzik. These villages are located on a series of beautiful and densely forested mountains.

[7] In the past, they used to call bandits “the wanderers.” They used to steal money and livelihoods.

[8] [8+] One of his Christian friends who was with him said to him when he visited him after he returned home and he was dying, “What were you saying? Speak to me!!!... What were you saying and you will be fine?” He opened his eyes and shouted at him, “Get off my face, I don’t want to see you.”

[9] [9+] Information written by the cantor Hanna Al-Khoury Abdullah Nusair on one of the volumes of the church’s books, “The Book of the Comforter,” written in 1858 AD: “By the command of God Almighty, a great snow fell on Monday, January 27, 1920 AD, and remained for three days, and with it occurred the death of the late Jabra Nusair.” The date of death is written on the page. The books in the church library and on the stele were found on his grave.

[10] The ancient village of Al-Ghassaniya (Ankzik), a village located high in the coastal mountains of the Levant and overlooking the Al-Ghab plain. It was inhabited by Christians and located near the city of Jisr Al-Shughur.

[11] Senior priest, priest of the town of Al-Haffa and its environs. He was born in 1880 and was ordained a priest in 1912. He died on April 2, 1962 AD. His Beatitude the late Archbishop of Latakia, Arsanius Haddad, participated in his funeral.

[12] Priest of the town of Al-Haffa and its environs. He was born in 1929 AD and was ordained a priest in 1960 AD.

[13] The late lawyer Musa Nusair bin Girgis, the son of the martyr Jabra Nusair, born in 1924 AD, Wahiba Nusair, daughter of Estephan bin Jabra Nusair, born in 1924 AD, Fouad Nusair, son of Ibrahim bin Youssef, born in 1925 AD, the late Jad Nusair, son of Estephan bin Jabra, quoting his mother, the late Reda Nassar, wife of the late Estephan bin Jabra Nusair. .

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