Saturday, January 16, 2010

Iraq Desecrating Ezekiel's memory


For centuries Jews, Christians and Muslims came to Al-Kifl, a small town south of Baghdad, to visit the tomb of the Prophet Ezekiel and pray.

The distinctive Jewish character of the Al-Kifl shrine, namely the Hebrew inscriptions and the Torah Ark, never bothered the gentile worshipers. In the 14th century a minaret was built next to the shrine, but the interior design remained Jewish. The vast majority of Iraq's Jewish community left some 60 years ago, but Shi'ites took good care of the holy site.

Until now.

Recently "Ur," a local Iraqi news agency, reported that a huge mosque will be built on top of the grave by Iraq's Antiquities and Heritage Authority, while Hebrew inscriptions and ornaments are being removed from the site, all as part of renovations.

..."I first heard the news of tomb desecration from a friend of mine who is a German scholar. After visiting the site he called me and said that some Hebrew inscriptions on the grave were covered by plaster and that a mosque is planned to be built on top of the tomb. He told me that he found the changes at the tomb disturbing and warned me that I'd better act quickly, before any irreversible damage will be inflicted...Then I saw the report from the Ur news agency, mentioning the decision of the Antiquities and Heritage Authority to build a mosque and to erase the Hebrew inscriptions and ornaments..." [Prof. Shmuel Moreh of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem] said.

...[Mr. Shelomo Alfassa, US director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries] believes that Iraq's Antiquities and Heritage Authority "has been pressured by Islamists to historically cleanse all evidence of a Jewish connection to Iraq - a land where Jews had lived for over a thousand years before the advent of Islam."

According to the Baghdad-born Moreh, many of the Muslims who visit the tomb today are unaware Ezekiel was a Jew.

Iraq, the biblical Aram Naharaim, is rich in Jewish religious sites. Not only Ezekiel is buried there, but also Ezra, Daniel, Nehemiah, Nahum and Jonah. (Another tomb attributed to Ezekiel is located in Dezful, in southwestern Iran.)

...the future of Jewish sacred sites looks grim in the intolerant current climate of post-Saddam Iraq, where only eight Jews are left, the Christian minority is severely persecuted by the fundamentalists and ancient Shi'ite mosques are blown up.

"Let's hope that the Jewish sites will be spared, but someone must intervene before it's too late," Moreh warned.
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