photo: Eddy van Wessel


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Saving Nahum’s tomb—Iraq’s last synagogue

Iraq’s last remaining synagogue was saved first from the Islamic State and then from neglect and collapse. It is a success in a country where national heritage is often destroyed or looted and widely viewed as primarily a source of income.
The Nahum tomb, after the work to stabilize it, in Al Qosh  PHOTO JUDIT NEURINK
by Judit Neurink

“The Iraqi government was against everything Jewish after the Jews left in the '50s,” said Father Araam, a young Chaldean priest serving in the predominantly Christian town of al-Qosh, in northern Iraq. That, he explained, was why it has been indifferent to the fate of the sole remaining synagogue in Iraq, here in al-Qosh. “That’s why it almost collapsed.”

Al-Qosh, on the Ninevah Plains, is home to several historic monasteries and churches as well as the synagogue, which houses the tomb of Nahum, the prophet who in 615 B.C. correctly predicted the downfall of the Assyrian kingdom. While the town's churches have been well maintained due to the efforts of the Christian community, the synagogue — despite Nahum being regarded as a prophet by the three major monotheistic religions — was allowed to crumble after the last Jews left town for Israel in 1951.

The good news is that after years of aborted attempts to save the building, a US organization — ARCH, the Alliance for the Restoration of Cultural Heritage — was finally able to send a team of engineers to secure the building in January before it fully collapsed. Some of the walls and part of the roof had already collapsed, and columns with Hebrew inscriptions are barely standing, endangering the tomb, which lies beneath a green covering.

Father Araam gratefully points out that the engineers' scaffolding, ropes and support beams are now holding the remains together. “Our history is built from different civilizations, and all of it is equally important,” he remarked. “We should care for it all.”

Read the whole story here

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