Over 2,500 years ago, Yechezkel preached to the Jews who had been exiled from Israel to Babylon. Some believe that al-Kifl is the site of the great Yeshiva Academy of Sura, where the Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) was that codified.
The Diarna website recounts its history as follows:
The famous traveler Benjamin of Tudela visited Ezekiel’s tomb in the 1170, the earliest written account of its existence. His trip report states that the synagogue attached to the tomb contained a torah scroll written by Ezekiel himself along with books from the period of the first Temple in Jerusalem. In the 1300s, Muslim officials turned the synagogue on the site into a mosque, which was ruined by flooding in 1778 (though the minaret still exists). Until the 1820s, Jews were banned from passing through the external courtyard to the tomb.Adorning the room of the tomb, was the following Hebrew inscription.
In the 1840s, Jews reclaimed control of the site after appealing to Ottoman authorities. A yeshiva with scholars from Baghdad was established, and craftsmen from nearby Hilla and other cities settled there. Disputes over the site flared up again in 1860 and the 1930s, when the synagogue was taken over briefly by Muslims. To try to resolve tensions, Jews and Shi’a had different prayer times inside the shrine.
The shrine is located off a covered market established by local Jews. In fact, many stalls owned by Jews who left in the early 1950s remain empty. Decayed Jewish homes and store rooms also remain along the back side of the shrine. The entrance from the market opens onto a courtyard of mud buildings with olive, palm, and fig trees growing in the center. The small rooms surrounding the courtyard were used a guest rooms by Jewish pilgrims, who would come in large during important holidays, including Passover, Sukkot, Shavuot, and the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Past tense, "was". Two weeks ago, the Jerusalem Post reported:
Recently "Ur," a local Iraqi news agency, reported that a huge mosque will be built on top of the grave by Iraq's Antiquities and Heritage Authority, while Hebrew inscriptions and ornaments are being removed from the site, all as part of renovations.And now, IDF Radio reported today (though this could be the same report, but its very specific) that famous inscriprition reading: "הנביא בן בוזי הכהן - זכותו תגן עלינו ועל כל ישראל אמן -- "The prophet, son of Buzi the priest, may his merits protects us and all of Israel, amen" -- is now definitely plastered over. This photo shows what it used to look like:
Prof. Shmuel Moreh of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, winner of the 1999 Israel Prize in Middle Eastern studies and chairman of the Association of Jewish Academics from Iraq, speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, confirmed the report.
The most recent to visit the shrine said that some of the inscriptions are now hidden by a layer of plaster.
The IDF Radio report says the the Iraqi government claims it was a "misunderstanding."
However, the JPost's take on the situation was:
But the future of Jewish sacred sites looks grim in the intolerant current climate of post-Saddam Iraq, where only eight Jews are left, the Christian minority is severely persecuted by the fundamentalists and ancient Shi'ite mosques are blown up.The following 5 minutes video about an Iraqi's thoughts of the Jews of Bavel as the interviewer goes to al-Kifl is also enlightening.
Pictures from here.
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