Monday, November 03, 2014

Destruction of Jewish heritage in the Middle East

ISRAEL HAYOM: Jewish heritage sites in Arab counties face extinction Old Jewish synagogues and cemeteries in Syria, Iraq, Libya and the rest of the Arab world are being turned into mosques or completely destroyed • Several Jewish organizations are sparing no effort to preserve these historic sites (Ksenia Svetlov). This article reports some very disturbing developments. Except:
This chaos has made the fate of the Jewish sites all too predictable. While several synagogues are still standing in Baghdad, Ezekiel's Tomb has been turned into a mosque. Most of the ancient Jewish inscriptions there have been destroyed or covered with cement. Daniel's Tomb in Mosul was blown up by Islamic State, which opposes worship at tombs in general, whether they are the tombs of Jewish prophets or relatives of the Prophet Muhammad in Mecca and Medina. In other areas, Islamic State and other jihadist groups are destroying sites held sacred by Shiites, including magnificent mosques, as well as Christian churches.

The atmosphere destruction has reached Syria as well. Aleppo's historic market suffered severe damage recently, together with the Umayyad mosque in Damascus and many Jewish sites. The Jobar Synagogue in Damascus, also known as the Prophet Elijah Synagogue, was demolished in May 2014. The site is in ruins, and no one will do anything to save what remains of the beautiful building that the Jewish community constructed in the Middle Ages.

Almost 20 years ago, the manuscripts known as the Damascus Codices, books of the Hebrew Bible that were written in Tiberias in the 10th century C.E., were removed from the Hosh al-Basha Synagogue in Damascus and taken out of Syria in a daring Mossad operation. They are now in the National Library in Jerusalem, far from those who dream of the destruction of books and people alike.
I have been following reports about the (traditional) Tomb of Ezekiel for years (most recently here). Reports from several years ago about its fate were pretty positive, but if this latest report is accurate, recent developments have taken a serious turn for the worse. More on the destruction of the Jobar Synagogue and on those Hebrew manuscripts from Damascus is here and links. I had heard of the destruction of the (traditional) tomb of Jonah in Mosul, but this is the first I recall hearing about the destruction of the (traditional) Tomb of Daniel there, although I see now that it too has been included in the news reports.