Interview with Andrew who grew up near the Shrine of Nahum. The keys to the Shrine were entrusted to Andrew’s family when the last Jews left Alqosh.
On this occasion I was in the Nineveh region of Northern Iraq on assignment for ARCH International. ARCH is restoring the Shrine of Hebrew prophet Nahum in the center of Alqosh. This interview is with Andrew, grandson of the first Guardian of the Shrine. The last Jews to leave the town left the care of the Shrine to his family. It had passed from father to son for a few generations. Andrew left Iraq to emigrate to the U.S. and the Shrine is no longer in the care of his family.
Ultimately the Shrine fell into disrepair. The roof collapsed and it was exposed to the elements. The mortar which held the stones together all those centuries was water soluble and began disintegrate. The Shrine was on the verge of complete and irreversible collapse when ARCH stepped in.
The hope is that the restored Shrine will bring tourists and Jewish pilgrims back to the town and in so doing help the economy.
You can read more about my trip on an ARCH blog post. Here is an excerpt.
“‘Are you still in touch with anyone?,’ I asked her. Facebook turns out to be a nice way to stay in the loop. She sent her congratulations to Sarmad and his wife on the birth of their first child. Sarmad had acted as her driver while she was there. She met his mother and wife one afternoon when the family invited her to their house for tea. Despite the language barrier she learned of a family separated by great distances now that two of Sarmad’s siblings live in the U.S. She also recalls one of her interviews with Andrew, now from Michigan, who was visiting his hometown. His profound joy was evident when he remembered how he was lighting candles with his father at the tomb of the Prophet Nahum, and he was thrilled to see the restoration work on the shrine. Members of the audience during the November presentation were surprised to see how close to collapse the shrine was before we intervened.”