The shocking news that the Iraqi authorities have or are planning to erase the Jewish character of the ancient shrine of Ezekiel at al-Kifl, Iraq, first broken on Point of No Return, has reached the ears of Jerusalem Post. Ksenia Svetlova spoke to Professor Shmuel Moreh, who says that millenarian Hebrew inscriptions are now hidden by plaster:
For centuries Jews, Christians and Muslims came to Al-Kifl, a small town south of Baghdad, to visit the tomb of the Prophet Ezekiel and pray.
The distinctive Jewish character of the Al-Kifl shrine, namely the Hebrew inscriptions and the Torah Ark, never bothered the gentile worshipers. In the 14th century a minaret was built next to the shrine, but the interior design remained Jewish. The vast majority of Iraq's Jewish community left some 60 years ago, but Shi'ites took good care of the holy site.
Recently "Ur," a local Iraqi news agency, reported that a huge mosque will be built on top of the grave by Iraq's Antiquities and Heritage Authority, while Hebrew inscriptions and ornaments are being removed from the site, all as part of renovations.
Prof. Shmuel Moreh of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, winner of the 1999 Israel Prize in Middle Eastern studies and chairman of the Association of Jewish Academics from Iraq, speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, confirmed the report.
"I first heard the news of tomb desecration from a friend of mine who is a German scholar. After visiting the site he called me and said that some Hebrew inscriptions on the grave were covered by plaster and that a mosque is planned to be built on top of the tomb*. He told me that he found the changes at the tomb disturbing and warned me that I'd better act quickly, before any irreversible damage will be inflicted," Moreh said.
"I had contacted Mr. Shelomo Alfassa, US director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, and told him about this situation. Then I saw the report from the Ur news agency, mentioning the decision of the Antiquities and Heritage Authority to build a mosque and to erase the Hebrew inscriptions and ornaments," Moreh said.
He asked friends to check out the developments at the site. The most recent to visit the shrine said that some of the inscriptions are now hidden by a layer of plaster.
Iraqi press reports claim that the building must be destroyed because of its poor condition. However, Alfassa believes that Iraq's Antiquities and Heritage Authority "has been pressured by Islamists to historically cleanse all evidence of a Jewish connection to Iraq - a land where Jews had lived for over a thousand years before the advent of Islam."
According to the Baghdad-born Moreh, many of the Muslims who visit the tomb today are unaware Ezekiel was a Jew.
* Pictures circulating on the Internet show that loudspeakers to call the Muslim faithful to prayer have been attached to Ezekiel's tower.
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Protest to the Iraqi embassy: if what is happening to Ezekiel's tomb disturbs you, please register a protest here. Only international pressure might persuade the Iraqi authorities to stop altering the Jewish character of the shrine.
Stop press - the rights of the Jews of Iraq could be a vote-winner: Mr. Ibrahem Alsumaydai, an Iraqi journalist and politician, is a candidate to the new Iraqi Parliament. He is promising his voters that if elected a member of the Iraqi Parliament he will return to the Jews of Iraq in Israel their national identity and full rights. He will also conpensate them for hardship and grievances.
Iraq wants to build mosque on ancient Jewish tomb: Ynet News