Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ezra's tomb in Iraq is now a Shi'ite Muslim shrine

A quarter of all Biblical prophets are buried in Iraq. This fascinating photo-feature in the Los Angeles Times blog (17 August) on the tomb of Ezra the Scribe in Amarah reveals that since the mass departure of the Jews, the site is now revered by Muslims. The tiny Jewish community is thought to have paid for repairs in 2000.

Here on the plains of the Tigris River lies the shrine of Ezra, the Jewish prophet, who returned to Jerusalem at the end of the Babylonian exile. According to biblical scholars, Ezra died years later back in the Mesopotamia at age 120 in what is now called Uzair. Locals believe Ezra passed away while roaming through the area with his donkey.

His shrine still exists in this predominantly Shiite district of Amarah province filled with supporters of young cleric Muqtada's Sadr late father, a grand ayatollah assassinated in 1999. Bashir Zaalan is the custodian of Ezra's shrine. Zaalan inherited the job from his blind 100-year-old father, who hobbles around on crutches. Iraq's once sizable Jewish population, which thrived in Baghdad, appointed him caretaker long ago. The capital is 268 miles away.

If the shrine was forgotten after the creation of Israel in 1948, when most Jews left Iraq, Uzair has proudly embraced its cultural heritage. Like other prophets in the Bible, Ezra is a holy figure in Islam. And the wooden shrine and blue mosaics in the domed building are treated as sacred by visitors.

A picture of Sadr's father hangs in the room where men worship by Ezra's wooden shrine. They touch the wood out of reverence. People visit the shrine to hold classes and deliver sermons on Islam.


"Before, people had no idea who Ezra was!" Zaalan said.

Zaalan guesses the brick building is 150 years old and replaced a reed structure. Until now, Zaalan says the shrine has received no funding from the national government, but he plans on heading to Baghdad to request money.

Once Zaalan and his father visited Baghdad's old Jewish community and informed them they needed funds for renovations. They were told a committee would be sent down to inspect the building.

No one ever came, but in 2000 a contractor showed up in the village and carried out some repairs. "We don't know who paid for it," Zaalan says.

Read article in full


Anonymous said...

Peace activist Abie Nathan dies:;_ylt=Av6HX1QvddmEZ_13xWPoKoZvaA8F

Anonymous said...

Terry said...

This is a good site and words of comfort are that God established his covenant with Abraham concerning the Jews/Israel. I believe God he does not change and he will keep that covenant with Abraham so the people will not utterly perish.

ProfJMRood said...

In my travels in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) I've encountered Muslim school groups. They ask for information (I speak Arabic) about the biblical sites because they know nothing of the biblical story. Without Jews and Christians to tell the story, the Arabs--the children of Ishmael-- are forgetting that Allah is the God of Israel. The rabbis pointed to such a development as a sure sign of the end times!

Moshe Natan said...

I can't refute the claim that Ezra is buried in that tomb but we know historically and biblically from the Torah that Ezra and Nechemia went out of the Persian empire with the blessings of King Korush, amny Jews to go and rebuild the Holy Temple. So how did Ezra get buried in Iran?