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

Maintaining Security Cooperation with the PA Shouldn’t Require Ignoring Its Support for Terror

In accordance with legislation passed last year, the Israeli government has begun to deduct from the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) an amount proportional to what the PA pays to terrorists and their families. Last year, a similar law went into effect in the U.S., suspending all payments to the PA so long as it continues its “pay-for-slay” policy. The PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, has retaliated by refusing to accept any tax revenue collected by Israel—raising concerns that the PA will become insolvent and collapse—while insisting that payments to terrorists and their families are sacrosanct. To Yossi Kuperwasser, Abbas’s behavior amounts to mere extortion—which has already worked on the Europeans to the tune of 35 million euros. He urges Israel and the U.S. not to submit:

Abbas [believes] that influential Israeli and European circles, including the security establishment, view strengthening the Palestinian Authority, and certainly preventing its collapse, as being in Israel and Europe’s best interests. They will therefore give in to the pressure he exerts through the creation of an artificial economic crisis. . . .

[T]he PA leadership’s insistence on continuing wage payments to terrorists and their families, even at the price of an artificial economic crisis, shows once again that . . . the Oslo Accords did not reflect a substantive change in Palestinian national aspirations or in the methods employed to achieve them. . . . If paying wages to terrorists (including the many terrorists whose attacks took place after the Oslo Accords were in force) is the raison d’être for the PA’s establishment, as Abbas seems to be saying, . . . one cannot help asking whether Israel has to insist on maintaining the PA’s existence at any price.

True, Israel cooperates on security issues with the PA, but that serves the interests of both sides. . . . The short-term benefits Israel gains from this security cooperation, [however], are of less value than the benefits enjoyed by the Palestinians, and worth even less when measured against the long-term strategic damage resulting from Israel’s resigning itself to the constant incitement, the promotion of terror, and the political struggle against Israel carried out by the PA. Israel should not do anything to hasten the PA’s breakdown, because it has no desire to rule over the Palestinians and run their day to day lives, but it also should not feel more obligated to the PA’s continued existence than do the Palestinians themselves, thereby leaving itself open to continuous extortion.

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Read more at Israel Institute for Strategic Studies

More about: Israeli Security, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror