Islamic State Threatens the Tomb of the Prophet Nahum

The tomb of Nahum is one of many shrines in Iraq traditionally thought by local Jews to be the resting places of biblical figures. As Islamic State’s forces draw nearer, its fate is uncertain. Sheren Khalel and Matthew Vickery write (includes pictures and video):

The crumbling stone walls of one of Iraq’s last synagogues remain mostly standing, nestled in the center of the small town, against the backdrop of the Bayhidhra mountains. Inside purportedly lies the tomb of “Nahum the Elkoshite”—meaning, of the town of al-Qosh—the Hebrew prophet who vividly predicted the fall of Nineveh in the 7th century BCE.

Asir Salaam Shajaa, an Assyrian Christian born and raised in al-Qosh, dusts off the green cloth that lies over the ancient tomb in the center of the run-down synagogue. He is adamant that resting under the heavy stones are really the remains of Prophet Nahum. Like his father and his grandfather before him, Shajaa takes care of the site dutifully, fulfilling a promise made more than 60 years ago to the fleeing Jewish residents of the town. . . .

Before the Jewish exodus from Iraq, Nahum’s tomb was reportedly visited by thousands of worshipers every year, particularly during the Shavuot holiday.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Archaeology, History & Ideas, Iraqi Jewry, Nahum, Prophets

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship