The Remnants of Mosul’s Jewish History
Last month, Iraqi forces in Mosul liberated from Islamic State (IS) control the site traditionally considered the tomb of the biblical prophet Jonah, famously sent by God to call on the people of Nineveh—located across the Tigris from Mosul—to repent. The tomb was venerated by Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. Hannah Lynch writes:
[T]he Nabi Younis mosque, [located at the tomb], was first built as a synagogue and then was an Assyrian [Christian] church before being converted into the mosque. . . . Islamic State militants blew it up on July 24, 2014 as part of their campaign to destroy sites they deemed idolatrous. When . . . Iraqi forces took control of it, they found only ruins. . . .
Even before IS arrived, Mosul’s Jewish history was neglected. Rabbi Carlos Huerta, [a former American army chaplain who was stationed in Mosul in 2013], was able to explore the city during his time there and discovered five ancient Jewish synagogues, “all destroyed, some being used as garbage dumps.”
Sherzad Mamsani, the Jewish-affairs representative to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), confirmed that Jewish historical sites in areas under Iraqi control are in terrible condition. “I can say about 60 percent of them have been turned into garbage areas.” He is worried about the sites, pointing out that they will not have fared well under IS. “We see that IS is destroying Sunni mosques. Imagine what they will do to [Jewish] sites—certainly much worse.”