Iraq Plans Renovation of Ancient Synagogue Venerated by Shiites and Sunnis

Iraqi-American Haider Ajina forwarded the following article from the Iraqi Azzaman news service:

Antiquities Department to renovate synagogue holding Nahum’s tomb
By Ammar Imad
Azzaman, July 15, 2007

From 1930 onwards, the Jews throughout Iraq were subjected to increasingly oppressive laws, and in 1948 the last of the Jewish population left Al Qush, the rabbi handing the keys of the synagogue to the next-door neighbour of the synagogue. Al Qush now almost exclusively comprises Chaldean Christians. The Jewish Quarter of Al Qush, including the synagogue, is in a poor state of repair. The remains of this quarter are, in parts, more than two thousand years old. In the centre of the synagogue – on the edge of the quarter – is a simple plaster tomb topped by a green silken coverlet. This tomb is purportedly the tomb of Nahum himself. (Tomb of Nahum)
Azzaman reported:


The Antiquities Department has included an ancient synagogue where Biblical prophet Nahum is purportedly buried in its 2008 renovation plans.

“The Antiquities Department has added the tomb of Prophet Nahum, peace be on him, to its 2008 preservation plan,” said department’s chief, Abbas al-Hussaini. The synagogue and the tomb are situated in the northern Christian Iraqi town of al-Qoush, 40 kilometers north of Mosul. Al-Qoush, a major Christian center in northern Iraq, had a large Jewish community before the Jewish exodus to Palestine in 1948.

The renovation of the synagogue and the tomb, archaeologists say, is an urgent matter. Some scientists say the synagogue might be irreparably damaged. The department has put off the renovation of the tomb mainly because it lacked the right expertise and resources to have it refurbished and reconstructed.

Hussaini said his department was seeking foreign assistance to renovate the site.

Prophet Nahum is venerated by all faiths and sects in Iraq, including Muslim Shiites and Sunnis.

“The tomb is not important to Iraqis only. It is of an international character and can turn into a tourist attraction,” said Hussaini.

The start of renovation is bound to attract considerable media interest and perhaps reveal more information about the prophet of whom the Bible says very little beyond the fact that a reference to the town of al-Qoush from which he hailed.

Scientists accompanying the renovation team will examine the tomb to determine its age. The earliest traces of the synagogue itself are believed to be more than 400 years old.

There are inscriptions and plagues of varying antiquity whose readings are certain to shed more light on the tomb and the history of Jewish community in al-Qoush.

Al-Qoush is also the site of ancient monasteries; one those – Raban Hormus – dates to the 3rd century. It is perched like an eagle’s nest on the slope of the mountain at the bottom of which al-Qoush lies.

In the centre of the synagogue – on the edge of the quarter – is a simple plaster tomb topped by a green silken coverlet. This tomb is purportedly the tomb of Nahum himself. (Photos from Tomb of Nahum)

Haider Ajina has more on the outstanding developments in Iraq:

This article is very intriguing. Iraq while struggling is concerned about restoring its ancient Jewish heritage. Since the mid-east has spawned the three great religions, historical sights sacred to all three are intertwined. It is often almost impossible to clearly identify when one stopped and the other began. While respect and preservation of religious sights by locals is traditional in the mid-east, total disregard for them by militants in times of violence is sadly also true.

The restoration of the synagogue holding Nahum’s tomb, shows us what a budding democracy and rule of law can do, even under tough conditions. This also shows what Muslims who no longer fear their militant leaders and are free of their leader’s venomous rhetoric can and will do. This sparks tremendous hope.

Every time I talk to my father in Baghdad he also says how much security has improved in Baghdad and how strong security is in Nejaf, (a province under Iraqi provincial control).

The most significant development is that locals are feeding the Iraqi security forces information about terrorist and outlaws. The locals are taking ownership of their neighborhoods, fighting back and not tolerating outlaws and terrorist in there midst. Locals now know what is at stake and that the rule of law is here to stay.

This boost of confidence is thanks to our men and women participating in the surge, the Iraqi forces we have trained is having a grass roots effect on the security of Baghdad. This sprawling city of almost five million is proving a very tough nut to crack, but it is yielding as Baghdadis are joining in.

Haider Ajina

UPDATE: World Net Daily has a story on this project today.

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