Tuesday, August 04, 2015

If ISIS takes the Sinai

LET'S HOPE IT DOESN'T COME TO THIS: ISIS Threat to Archaeological Sites in the Sinai: Would They Rip Up the Burning Bush? If ISIS gains the foothold it wants in the Sinai, unique sites from the Moses shrines of Mt. Sinai to the mosquito shelters of the south could be in danger (Marty Friedlander, Haaretz).
As Islamic State has spread in parts of Iraq and Syria, it has been destroying irreplaceable pre-Islamic artifacts going back thousands of years. Based on this track record, if ISIS gains a substantial foothold in the Sinai Peninsula,  unique sites in this remote desert that mark the last remains of great ancient civilizations could be in danger. ISIS might find them offensive, but like the ancient cities of Nineveh and Nimrud, which are finally lost forever - their destruction would be mourned by the rest of the world.

Not least among these is St. Catherine's Monastery:
Lying at the foot of Jebel Musa is the Monastery of St. Catherine. Considered the world’s oldest continuously operating Christian monastery, Santa Katarina, as it is known locally, is unique.

Unlike practically every other church in the Holy Land, the Persians did not sack and destroy it when they attacked the Byzantine Empire in 614. Consequently, it boasts the world’s oldest and richest collections of both manuscripts and icons. The former include the 4th century Syriac Sinaiticus (a translation into Aramaic of the four gospels) and an authorized copy of the original Achtiname of Muhammed, in which the prophet personally granted protection to the monks at St. Catherine’s. Over 1,000 priceless documents are housed in its library.

And almost as an afterthought, a remote corner of the monastery features the supposedly original (and still blossoming) Burning Bush, where Moses encountered God in their first one-on-one meeting.
More on the assault of ISIS on the past in the Middle East is here, here, and here, with many links. More on St. Catherine's Monastery is here, here, here, and links. The monastery has not had an easy time in the last couple of years.