The crumbling stone walls of one of Iraq’s last synagogues remain mostly standing, nestled in the center of the small town, against the backdrop of the Bayhidhra Mountains. Inside purportedly lies the tomb of "Nahum the Elkoshite" – meaning, of the town of Al Qosh – the Hebrew prophet who vividly predicted the fall of Nineveh in the 7th century BCE.In historical terms, it is very unlikely that this is the actual tomb of the prophet Nahum, but it an important site in Jewish tradition and its loss would be a tragedy. The current situation is precarious:
Asir Salaam Shajaa, an Assyrian Christian born and raised in Al Qosh, dusts off the green cloth that lies over the ancient tomb in the center of the run-down synagogue. He is adamant that resting under the heavy stones are really the remains of Prophet Nahum.
Like his father and his grandfather before him, Shajaa takes care of the site dutifully, fulfilling a promise made more than 60 years ago to the fleeing Jewish residents of the town.
Shajaa is certain ISIS can't conquer Al Qosh, but the risk has affected pilgrimages. While barely a dozen Jewish pilgrims could be expected at the site each year, now with the threat of the Islamic State extremist group nearby that number has dwindled even further.Read the whole article for lots more details. Earlier posts involving the (traditional) Tomb of Nahum in Iraq are here, here, and here.
“There’s someone coming in July,” Shajaa says after a brief moment thinking about future pilgrims. “Mainly it is Peshmerga that have visited recently,” he adds, in reference to the Iraqi Kurdish fighters who have been staving off an ISIS advance around Al Qosh since August.
With ISIS just ten miles away from Al Qosh, any plans for the crumbling walls of Nahum’s tomb remain on hold. Shajaa, who like many other Iraqi Christians wants to leave battle-scarred Iraq, worries what the future may hold for the synagogue and the tomb, a place that his family has cared after for decades with little to no outside help.