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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Changing WIth Change: The Tomb Of The Prophet Ezra

Prophet Ezra's tomb in Iraq is now a Muslim shrine
By: Mohamed Ali
LOS ANGELES, United States

... His [ Ezra's ] shrine still exists in this predominantly Shiite district of Amarah province. Bashir Zaalan is the custodian of Ezra's shrine. Zaalan inherited the job from his blind 100-year-old father, who hobbles around on crutches. Iraq's once sizable Jewish population, which thrived in Baghdad, appointed him caretaker long ago. The capital is 268 miles away.

If the shrine was forgotten after the creation of Israel in 1948, when most Jews left Iraq, Uzair (peace be on him) has proudly embraced its cultural heritage. Like other prophets in the Bible, Ezra is a holy figure in Islam. And the wooden shrine and blue mosaics in the domed building are treated as sacred by visitors.

Visitors touch the wood out of reverence. People visit the shrine to hold classes and deliver sermons on Islam.

"Before, people had no idea who Ezra was!" Zaalan said.

Zaalan guesses the brick building is 150 years old and replaced a reed structure. Until now, Zaalan says the shrine has received no funding from the national government, but he plans on heading to Baghdad to request money. Once Zaalan and his father visited Baghdad's old Jewish community and informed them they needed funds for renovations. They were told a committee would be sent down to inspect the building.

No one ever came, but in 2000 a contractor showed up in the village and carried out some repairs. "We don't know who paid for it," Zaalan says.


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