“Nahum is not our prophet, but he is a prophet, so we must respect that. He’s a prophet, it is simple.”
Long before Christ walked the earth, Nahum the Prophet warned the world about the end of the Assyrian empire and the destruction of its capital, Nineveh. Now, more than 2,600 years later, his tomb, in the ancient Iraqi city of Al Qosh, may face the same fate, courtesy of ISIS.
“Smooth domes topped with crucifixes rise above the beige stone houses in Al Qosh, a modern town built on the ancient Nineveh plain. The town is rich of history from the Assyrian empire and the beginnings of Christianity. Less well known is the town’s Hebrew heritage, and the once-dominant teachings of the Prophet Nahum.”
The tomb underwent basic repairs in 1796. Then, when all Jews were compelled to flee Alqosh in 1948, the iron keys to the tomb were handed to an Assyrian man by the name of Sami Jajouhana. Few Jews visit the historic site, yet Jajouhana and his family continue to keep the promise he made to his Jewish friends to looks after the tomb.
Nahum was a prophet whose words are recorded in the Bible. His book comes in chronological order between Micah and Habakkuk in the Old Testament.
Asir Salaam Shajaa, an Assyrian Christian born and raised in Al Qosh, dusts off the green cloth that lies over the ancient tomb in the center of the run-down synagogue. He is adamant that resting under the heavy stones are really the remains of Prophet Nahum.
Like his father and his grandfather before him, Shajaa takes care of the site dutifully, fulfilling a promise made more than 60 years ago to the fleeing Jewish residents of the town. A family of Assyrian Christians has been guarding the tomb of Nahum the Elkoshi for generations. A tradition that may be ending soon.
Al Qosh’s Jewish population fled in the early 1950s when the Iraqi government began their sometimes violent effort to rid the country of Jews, to punish the faith for the declaration of an independent Jewish state. Between 1949 and 1953, about 3/4 of Iraq’s Jewish population fled, including the last Jews of Al Qosh.
“When the last Jewish people in Al Qosh left, they asked my grandfather to watch over the tomb, to keep it safe. I don’t know much more than that,” Shajaa explains, straightening the tomb’s cover.
Nahum is frequently referred to as “The Elkoshite,” adding some credence to the postulation that the tomb indeed belongs to the prophet.
The beige hand-laid walls of the old synagogue are crumbling, but many still stand. Some are adorned with legible Hebrew script carved into large stone plaques that remain firmly embedded.
With ISIS just ten miles away from Al Qosh, plans for refurbishing the crumbling walls of Nahum’s tomb are on hold. Shajaa, like many other Iraqi Christians wants to leave battle-scarred Iraq, yet he worries about the future of the synagogue and the tomb, a place that his family has taken care of for decades with little outside help.
“I’m not sure how long my family will continue to stay in Iraq, we want to leave, most of the Christians want to leave.”
According to Haaretz, Shajaa says:
“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.”
VIDEO: 2,700-year old tomb of Hebrew prophet in danger from ISIS