An Israeli visiting the tomb of the prophet Nahum at al-Qosh muses widely about Iraq's Jewish history, the plight of the Assyrian Christians in the vicinity and whether the suffering of Iraq's peoples will come to an end. Never give in to despair, Yael Mizrahi Arnaud concludes in International Policy Digest:
A new roof protects the tomb of Nahum from the elements (photo: Yael Mizrahi)
To the Jews, the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean
Sea is holiest; yet due to repeated exiles at the hands of conquering
empires, Jews became known as “a people without a land.” Jews adjusted
to this reality in these very hills—‘beyond the river’ or ever ha nahar,
the biblical Hebrew term that denotes the region along the Euphrates,
modern-day Iraq. After being expelled from Jerusalem, following the fall
of the second temple in 70 AD, Babylon would become the spiritual,
religious, and cultural epicenter of Judaism for more than a thousand
years to come.
Despite the perennial longing for Jerusalem, Jewish life
flourished here. Babylonian academics outshone their Galilean
counterparts, evident in the emphasis placed on the Babylonian Talmudic
texts. It is here that the Jewish Oral Law, torah she ba’al peh,
passed down throughout generations—the laws were not merely codified,
but the inhabitants of these cities were entrenched in lively and
contentious debate. Conversations from 450 CE that we are still engaging
in today originate from these cities– Pumbdedita (current day Fallujah), Sura, Nehardea—they housed the great Yeshivas that gave rise to the Bablyonian Talmud.
“Nahum,” in Hebrew, means comfort, and while reading his prophesy
during my ride to the village, I searched for consolation in his words.
For my own sanity, for the belief that one-day the Iraqi people will
find comfort themselves. Nevertheless, my optimism is tested in this
place. When you’re able to put face to face with the ugliest
manifestations of what humanity is capable of; how life is cheap. It has
now become impossible to find an Iraqi family that hasn’t been affected
by the violence. The international media barely reports on the
continued loss of Iraqi life; attacks which are weekly occurrences, and
have been for the past 10 years.
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