Thursday, July 19, 2007

Iraq to renovate biblical prophet's tomb


How much do you want to bet that they will turn the site into a mosque and bar Jews from visiting there?

Purported burial site for Nahum to be restored

Posted: July 19, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2007

The national Antiquities Department in Iraq has announced plans for the renovation and restoration of an ancient synagogue in al-Qoush, a short drive north of Mosul and the location of the purported tomb of the biblical prophet Nahum.

The purported tomb of Nahum

"The Antiquities Department has added the tomb of the Prophet Nahum, peace be on him, to its 2008 preservation plan," Abbas al-Hussaini, the department's chief, told the Iraqi newspaper Azzaman.

Archaeologists have said the work on the synagogue and the tomb is urgent, with some scientists fearing the structure already may have been irreparably damaged.

However, the agency has delayed the work because it lacked the expertise and resources to refurbish and reconstruct the historic structures, officials said. Hussaini confirmed his administrative team is seeking foreign help for the work.

(Story continues below)

Nahum, one of the Bible's minor prophets, is venerated by all faiths and sects in Iraq, including Muslim Shiites and Sunnis, according to the government agency.

"The tomb is not important to Iraqis only. It is of an international character and can turn into a tourist attraction," Hussaini told the newspaper.

Azzaman speculated that the beginning of work "is bound to attract considerable media interest and perhaps reveal more information about the prophet of whom the Bible says very little beyond the fact that a reference to the town of al-Qoush from which he hailed."

Among the questions expected to be addressed is the age of the tomb, as well as the age of the synagogue itself, which is believed to be more than 400 years old.

Al-Qoush is a major Christian center in northern Iraq, but it held a large Jewish population before the Jewish return to the new nation of Israel in 1948.

According to the recommendations of an organization called Tomb of Nahum, "it is advisable that the repairs to the site be undertaken hand-in-hand with an archaeological team, which may also provide the opportunity to examine the interior of the tomb (presently sealed) itself."

The organization noted that a structural survey already completed by an American civil engineer suggested the renovation likely will cost around $400,000.

"The cost … does include renovation of all the buildings and the perimeter wall," the organization said.

Officials also said such work cannot be launched without permission of the Kurdish Regional Government's Ministry of Religious Affairs, which also has authority to allow examination of the tomb's interior.

"[Officials with] the Ministry of Religious Affairs have previously stated their position that they will not countenance restoration of the synagogue without the written permission of the Jewish Council. Whether by this statement they mean the Chief Rabbi in Iraq or a body in Israel is unclear. As Iraq does not recognize the state of Israel, the permission of the Baghdad rabbi or the national board of Jewish deputies of the UK or the U.S. will probably be sufficient," the group said.

"The renovation of al-Qoush synagogue is a matter of great urgency if what is believed to be the tomb of a biblical prophet is not to be irreparably damaged or destroyed," the group said.

Officials note al-Qoush is one of three places that claim to house the tomb of Nahum, who prophesied in 655 B.C. the downfall of Nineveh, which happened in 612 B.C.

His writings are the 27th book of the Old Testament and the Talmud.

Historically, it is believed the Assyrian king Shelmanassar II brought thousands of Hebrews to northern Iraq about 727 B.C., and some settled in al-Qoush, where a population of pagans already existed. Christianity arrived later.

Part of the synagogue's roof has collapsed

In recent history, the Jews in al-Qoush, like the rest of Iraq, were subjected to increasingly oppressive laws starting about in 1930. In 1948, the last of the Jews left, with the rabbi handing the keys of the synagogue to a neighbor.

Some parts of the Jewish quarter are estimated at more than 2,000 years old, and in the center of the synagogue is a simple plaster tomb topped by a green silk coverlet, the purported tomb of Nahum himself.

Part of the roof of the synagogue has collapse, and other portions are described as in a "sorry state of repair."

The region also includes a monastery, Raban Hormus, which dates to the 3rd century. It sits on the slope of the mountain overlooking al-Qoush.

In a statement on the weblog Gateway Pundit, Haider Ajina, an Iraqi-American, noted the plan "shows us what a budding democracy and rule of law can do, even under tough conditions."

"This also shows that Muslims who no longer fear their militant leaders and are free of their leader's venomous rhetoric can and will do. This sparks tremendous hope," he said.

1 comment:

  1. i am a descendent of an iraqi jewish family immigrated to Israel during the 50'. I urge all persons involved to disallow the ancient jewish tombs to have become a muslim worshiping site.


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