Al Qosh, Iraq - Report: Fate Of Nachum Ha’Navi’s Tomb Uncertain As ISIS Advances In Iraq
Al Qosh, Iraq - More than 2,600 years have passed since Nachum the Prophet, also known as Nachum The Elkoshi, warned of the impending destruction of the Assyrian Empire and its capital of Nineveh in the 7th Century BCE.
For generations, Nachum’s tomb, housed in the modern Iraqi city of Al Qosh atop the ruins of Ninveh, has been cared for and guarded by a family of Assyrian Christians. Now, Ha’aretz reports (http://bit.ly/1RJzJzV ) the fate of the tomb is uncertain as ISIS advances further into Iraq.
Like his father and grandfather before him, Asir Salaam Shajaa is the site’s primary caretaker. He says maintaining the site is the fulfillment of a promise his grandfather made to the Jews of Al Qosh as they fled Iraq between 1949 and 1953. “When the last Jewish people in Al Qosh left, they asked my grandfather to watch over the tomb, to keep it safe,” Shajaa said. “I don’t know much more than that. Nachum is not our prophet, but he is a prophet, so we must respect that. He’s a prophet, it is simple.” His wife, he said, comes and sweeps the floors of the tomb every week.
Prior to the flight of Jews from Iraq, Nachum’s tomb was said to have been visited by thousands of worshippers every year, especially during Shavuot. Nowadays, Shajaa, who holds the sole key to the synagogue gate housing the tomb, said visitors are few and far between. “When we have a visitor who wishes to see or worship at the tomb, they are told to come to my house. I open the gates for them and let them in. We don’t get many visitors, though.” Despite safety concerns, Shajaa says he has never turned away a visitor.
With ISIS jus ten miles away from Al Qosh, pilgrimages to the tomb have been affected, and any plans to fix the structure’s crumbling walls have been scrapped. Like many other Iraqi Christians, Shajaa and his family are thinking of leaving the country. But he worries about what will happen to Nachum’s tomb which his family has cared for with little to no assistance for generations.
“My brother says he will stay though. If my family gets to leave Iraq, my brother and his children will look after the tomb. It will stay in the family, God willing.”
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