Where Iraqi Jews and Muslims Once Made Joint Pilgrimages

March 13 2019

For centuries, Iraqi Jews made regular pilgrimages to a shrine marking the supposed burial place of the biblical prophet Ezekiel in the town of al-Kifl, located on the Euphrates River. Alex Shams relates the history of both the town and the tomb, which was venerated by Gentiles as well as Jews:

Ezekiel’s Tomb is one of those rare, beautiful places where Arabic and Hebrew flow freely into each other, a reminder of the long Iraqi Jewish history on this soil. Inside the inner sanctum, Hebrew is engraved on wooden plaques and painted onto inscriptions on every side of the tomb. The coffin itself is covered in Arabic calligraphy wishing peace upon the prophet [Muhammad]. Ezekiel is mentioned in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptures alike. . . .

The tomb is thought to date back to the 500s [CE], when Jews lived in a land that was [populated by] a mix of Christian, Zoroastrian, Manichean, Mandean, and polytheistic communities. When Islam arrived in Iraq, Ezekiel’s Tomb, like other shrines, added Muslim visitors to the mix.

This was a pattern across the Middle East, where Muslims—both from the Islamic armies and from locals who converted later—continued to revere local holy places, especially the graves of figures from the Abrahamic tradition. The same phenomenon can be seen at holy sites in neighboring Iran, too, like Daniel’s Tomb in Shush or the Tomb of Esther and Mordecai in Hamedan.

The historian Zvi Yehuda notes that the famed Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela visited [al-Kifl] in 1170, and at that time Jews would make a pilgrimage in the fall between the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). . . . Yehuda argues . . . that the Jewish tradition of visiting Ezekiel’s shrine and prostrating before the tomb emerged after the arrival of Islam. . . . [Later on], in the 1800s and 1900s, Iraqi Jews made the pilgrimage—known by the Arabic term ziyara—to Ezekiel’s Tomb on the holiday of Shavuot.

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Read more at Ajam

More about: Ezekiel, History & Ideas, Iraqi Jewry, Mizrahi Jewry, Muslim-Jewish relations

Despite What the UN Says, the Violence at the Gaza Border Is Military, Not Civilian, in Nature

March 22 2019

On Monday, a UN Human Rights Council commission of inquiry issued its final report on last spring’s disturbances at the Gaza border. Geoffrey Corn and Peter Margulies explain why the report is fatally flawed:

The commission framed the events [in Gaza] as a series of demonstrations that were “civilian in nature.” Israel and its Supreme Court, [which has investigated some of the killings that occurred], framed the same events quite differently: as a new evolution in Israel’s ongoing armed conflict with the terrorist organization Hamas. Consistency and common sense suggest that the Israeli High Court of Justice’s framing is a more rational explanation of what occurred at the Israel-Gaza border in spring 2018.

Kites, [for instance], played a telltale role [in the violence]. When most people think of kites, they think of a child’s plaything or a hobbyist’s harmless passion. In the Gaza confrontation, kites [became] a new and effective, albeit low-tech, tactic for attacking Israel. As the report conceded, senior Gaza leaders, including from Hamas, “encouraged” the unleashing of waves of incendiary kites that during and since the spring 2018 confrontations have burned thousands of acres of arable land within Israel. The resulting destruction included fires that damaged the Kerem Shalom border crossing, which conveys goods and gasoline from Israel to Gaza. . . .

Moreover, the incendiary-kite offensive was an effective diversion from the efforts encouraged and coordinated by Hamas last spring to pierce the border with Israel and attack both IDF personnel and the civilian residents of the beleaguered Israeli towns a short distance from the border fence. . . .

The commission also failed to acknowledge that Hamas sought to use civilians as an operational cover to move members of its armed wing into position along the fence. For IDF commanders, this increased the importance of preventing a breach [in the fence]. Large crowds directly along the fence would simplify breakthrough attempts by intermingled Hamas and other belligerent operatives. The crowds themselves also could attempt to pour through any breach. Unfortunately, the commission seems to have completely omitted any credible assessment of the potential casualties on all sides that would have resulted from IDF action to seal a breach once it was achieved. . . .

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Read more at Lawfare

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Laws of war, UNHRC, United Nations