Where Iraqi Jews and Muslims Once Made Joint Pilgrimages

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

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy