The kever of Yechezkel Hanavi in Iraq still serves as a Muslim pilgrimage site and even the recent tension between Iraq and the United States hasn’t stopped pilgrims from flocking there, a recent Haaretz article reported.
Even after the elimination of Iranian general Kassem Soleimaini in Baghdad, the rockets that were launched by pro-Iranian militias at US soldiers in Iraq in response and the thousands of Iraqis on the streets since October protesting governmental corruption, the kever remains a small island of silence and comfort for visitors, according to the report.
“The navi Yechezkel is considered one of the 24 prophets who appear in the Koran,” said Ahmed Abdulerman, 31, who serves as a guide for visitors to the site. “This place is over 1,800 years old.”
Inside the kever is the “Gate to Eretz Yisrael,” a niche built into the wall and hidden behind wooden doors.
“They did something here with their books and candles,” the guide said, referring to the use of the niche to hold sifrei Torah when it was still part of a shul. “This was holy for them.”
Above the niche is a stone with a Hebrew inscription attached to the wall. According to local tradition, the stone used to be part of Yechezkel’s kever, before his burial place was enclosed with a tomb. However, the style of the Hebrew writing indicates that the stone is a relatively new finding and it’s possible it’s a replica of an earlier tablet.
— Bin Maymun (@BinMaymun) February 19, 2017
This is the only shul that still exists in Iraq that hasn’t been converted into a mosque. Jews lived in Iraq for thousands of years but almost no one is left now. Following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, 121,633 Jews left the country in the next three years due to persecution, leaving 15,000 Jews, most of whom left in the early 1970s.
A Jewish Iraqi woman who wishes to remain anonymous for safety reasons said that she used to go to the kever when she was a child. She added that Jews would dress like Muslims when they went to the kever so they wouldn’t draw too much attention when they went there on their annual visit. Jews only stopped visiting the kever when the country descended into turmoil following the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Yechezkel Hanavi passed away during the era of Galus Bavel after the Churban Bayis Rishon and was buried in the town of Kifl, in what was once Babylonia and is now modern-day Iraq.
Muslims view the site as holy as the tomb of Dhul Kifl, who lent the town its name and is widely thought to be the navi Yechezkel.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)