After the Depredations of Islamic State, an Unlikely Alliance Restored the Tomb of the Prophet Nahum

Sept. 20 2021

This spring, the restoration of the shrine in the northern Iraqi city of Alqosh that houses—according to tradition—the tomb of the prophet Nahum was completed. Also restored was the adjacent synagogue, which dates back at least to the Middle Ages and whose walls and columns bear extensive Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic inscriptions. The project, led by Israeli experts, has its origins in 2016, when, shortly after the area was liberated from Islamic State control, a Jewish officer in the Maryland National Guard saw the tomb, robbed of its former glory. Tal Schneider tells the story, the details of which have been kept secret until now:

[This] story . . . includes sneaking Israelis into Iraq to assess the damage to the building’s roof and the best way to restore it. It also involves tapping into the deep knowledge of the Kurdish-Jewish community and its unofficial doyen Mordechai Zaken, a scholar who was instrumental in planning the restoration of the tomb and who passed away just a few months ago.

It features the [Chaldean Christians] of Alqosh, who safeguarded the tomb after the area’s Jews fled the pogroms that followed the creation of the state of Israel, along with the tomb’s modern benefactors: a small group of donors, including oil and energy companies from Norway, the local Kurdish government, the U.S. embassy in Iraq, and a few private donors who raised $2 million.

The book of Nahum, the seventh of the twelve minor prophets found in the Hebrew Bible, tells of the destruction of the great Assyrian capital Nineveh, located on the outskirts of modern-day Mosul, an event that probably occurred circa 612 BCE. “And it shall come to pass, that all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee, and say: ‘Nineveh is laid waste; who will bemoan her? whence shall I seek comforters for thee?’”

While some scholars place Nahum’s Elkosh in the Galilee, many others identify it with the Assyrian city of Alqosh. Jews in the area have identified the Alqosh shrine as Nahum’s tomb for centuries, if not millennia, and built a synagogue around it to host the many pilgrims who came there.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Iraqi Jewry, ISIS, Kurds, Nahum, Synagogues

Gaza’s Quiet Dissenters

Last year, the Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya, the Times of Israel, and several other media organizations worked together to conduct numerous interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip, taking great pains to protect their identities. The result is a video series titled Whispers in Gaza, which presents a picture of life under Hamas’s tyranny unlike anything that can be found in the press. Jeff Jacoby writes:

Through official intimidation or social pressure, Gazans may face intense pressure to show support for Hamas and its murderous policies. So when Hamas organizes gaudy street revels to celebrate a terrorist attack—like the fireworks and sweets it arranged after a gunman murdered seven Israelis outside a Jerusalem synagogue Friday night—it can be a challenge to remember that there are many Palestinians who don’t rejoice at the murder of innocent Jews.

In one [interview], “Fatima” describes the persecution endured by her brother, a humble vegetable seller, after he refused to pay protection money to Hamas. The police arrested him on a trumped-up drug charge and locked him in prison. “They beat him repeatedly to make him confess to things he had nothing to do with,” she says. Then they threatened to kill him. Eventually he fled the country, leaving behind a family devastated by his absence.

For those of us who detest Hamas no less than for those who defend it, it is powerful to hear the voices of Palestinians like “Layla,” who is sickened by the constant exaltation of war and “resistance” in the Palestinian media. “If you’re a Gazan citizen who opposes war and says, ‘I don’t want war,’ you’re branded a traitor,” she tells her interviewer. “It’s forbidden to say you don’t want war.” So people keep quiet, she explains, for fear of being tarred as disloyal.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian dissidents, Palestinian public opinion