Saving the Last Synagogue in Mosul

A century ago, the Iraqi city of Mosul—which encompasses the site of the biblical Nineveh—was home to Kurds, Arabs, and Turks and Sunni Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, and Jews. But the anti-Semitism of the mid-20th century and the more recent depredations of Islamic State have changed that. No Jews remain, although other religious minorities do—along with a historic synagogue. Rebecca Anne Proctor relates efforts to preserve it:

The graceful pointed arches and brickwork in muted earth tones—azure blue, burnt sienna, and yellow ochre—evoke a long-ago Jewish past in the now nearly ruined Sassoon Synagogue in the old Jewish quarter of this northern Iraqi city. It is the only surviving synagogue in Mosul, which, prior to Israel’s creation in 1948, was home to a thriving Jewish population of nearly 6,000. Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the synagogue has been used to dump garbage, its mikveh transformed into a barn for horses.

Now, an effort led by several Iraqi Jews is underway to preserve the synagogue, and with it the Jewish heritage of Mosul that is in peril of being lost forever. The effort comes as numerous international cultural organizations dedicate funds and manpower to rebuilding the city’s important historic landmarks, such as the Great Mosque of al-Nuri and its distinctive “hunchback” leaning minaret, both of which Islamic State blew up in 2017, and Our Lady of the Hour Church (al-Sa’aa in Arabic).

But for those . . . trying to save the Sassoon Synagogue, a significant roadblock has recently emerged, one that puts the effort squarely in the crosshairs of the complicated politics of the Middle East: . . . the Iraqi parliament passed a law in May 2022—“Criminalizing Normalization and Establishment of Relations with the Zionist Entity”—that has made it nearly impossible to move forward. The law forbids any Iraqi inside or outside the country from connecting with any Israeli, or any Zionist. Those who disobey face the prospect of life in prison or even death.

Read more at Jewish Insider

More about: Anti-Semitism, Architecture, Iraq, Iraqi Jewry, Synagogues

Why Saturday Was a Resounding Defeat for Iran

Yaakov Lappin provides a concise and useful overview of what transpired on Saturday. For him, the bottom line is this:

Iran and its jihadist Middle Eastern axis sustained a resounding strategic defeat. . . . The fact that 99 percent of the threats were intercepted means that a central pillar of Iranian force projection—its missile and UAV arsenals—has been proven to be no match for Israel’s air force, for its multilayered air-defense system, or for regional cooperation with allies.

Iran must now await Israel’s retaliation, and unlike Israel, Iranian air defenses are by comparison limited in scope. After its own failure on Sunday, Iran now relies almost exclusively on Hizballah for an ability to threaten Israel.

And even as Iran continues to work on developing newer and deadlier missiles, the IDF is staying a few steps ahead:

Israel is expecting its Iron Beam laser-interception system, which can shoot down rockets, mortars, and UAVs, to become operational soon, and is developing an interceptor (Sky Sonic) for Iran’s future hypersonic missile (Fattah), which is in development.

The Iron Beam will change the situation in a crucial way. Israell’s defensive response on Saturday reportedly cost it around $1 billion. While Iron Beam may have to be used in concert with other systems, it is far cheaper and doesn’t run the risk of running out of ammunition.

Read more at JNS

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Iron Dome, Israeli Security, Israeli technology