Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Canon White confirms: Ezekiel's shrine is safe
Breaking news: Point of No Return exclusive! (With thanks: Sheila)
Canon Andrew White has confirmed that original Hebrew inscriptions and decoration at the Prophet Ezekiel's shrine remain intact.
Canon White, the vicar of St George's Anglican Church in Baghdad, made a special journey to inspect the shrine at al-Kifl in central Iraq following recurrent rumours that the Shi'a wakf, in charge of restoration works, was planning to convert the shrine into a mosque.
Before making the three-hour drive from Baghdad, Canon White requested a 30-soldier escort. During his visit to the tomb, he took pictures and spoke to the local mullahs. Al- Kifl is close to the Sh'ia holy city of Najaf, a frequent target of terrorist attacks, and Canon White himself has had several lucky escapes when his church in Baghdad was bombed. About 1,000 Christians have been killed in Iraq since the US invasion of 2003.
Canon White 'phoned news of the state of Ezekiel's tomb to Sheila Raviv, a longstanding friend in Jerusalem, as she was sitting in a traffic jam. Sheila was so overwhelmed with emotion that she almost bumped into the car in front.
It was reported some months ago that workmen had done 'irretrievable damage' to the shrine when they 'covered over' the inscriptions by accident.The photos taken by Canon White show that the layer of whitewash or plaster covering the lower walls, a feature of the shrine even in Saddam's time, has been stripped back to reveal the original mosaics, floral ornamentation and Hebrew inscriptions. Below, the 'before' photos taken in 2003 show far less of the original character of the shrine than do the 'after' photographs taken by Canon White of the shrine today.
It seems that the authorities, possibly reacting to outside pressure, have made a deliberate effort to strip back plaster and whitewash to reveal the original character of the shrine, and that the damage has not been as irretrievable as first feared.
Canon Andrew White (right) and a Mullah stand in the synagogue, which houses the tomb of Ezekiel and a distinctive ark.
Before... This is what the tomb looked like in 2003 (photo: Tim Judah)
After... this is what the tomb looks like today (photo: CAW)
Before....in 2003, a layer of whitewash obscured the bottom of the Hebrew plaque (photo: Tim Judah)
After...The whitewash has been removed to reveal delicate floral wall patterns; the ugly strip lighting has gone (photo: CAW)