Tomb of Ezekiel, Al-Kifl, Iraq

                                                                                              And I will give you a new heart,                                                           וְנָתַתִּי לָכֶם לֵב חָדָשׁ 

                                                                                              and a new spirit will I put within you,                                              וְרוּחַ חֲדָשָׁה אֶתֵּן בְּקִרְבְּכֶם

                                                                                              and I will take away the heart of stone out of your flesh,            וַהֲסִרֹתִי אֶת לֵב הָאֶבֶן מִבְּשַׂרְכֶם 

                                                                                              and I will give you a heart of flesh.                                                       וְנָתַתִּי לָכֶם לֵב בָּשָׂר   


Nevi'im (Prophets), Ezekiel 36:26


Ezekiel: Ezekiel was born to a priestly family in Jerusalem around in the 7th century BCE, At the age of fourteen Ezekiel was visited by God and through a vision, shown that he would become a prophet [1]. Prior to the first surrender of Jerusalem in 597 BCE, Ezekiel worked as a priest in Jerusalem , the capital of the Judah empire. The kingdom of Judah, at the time, was under attack by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. Ezekiel was among the Jews exiled to
Babylon after the first siege of Jerusalem. He began prophesying in 592 BCE until around 585 BCE. He reemerges in 572 BCE until 570 BCE when he
disappears from history [2].

Ezekiel's first prophecies revolved around the sinful nation of Judah. He believed that the reason for exile of the Israelites from Judah was the practices of idol worship and bad foreign alliances that occurred in the empire. He spoke fervently of the anger of God and subsequent punishments of the Israelites. In his later prophecies he began to talk about the eventual return of the Jews to Palestine and the reestablishment of Temple worship in the new nation [3].

Ezekiel’s is revered by all as one of the greatest, yet most unusual prophets of Judaism. His prophecies detailing the consolidation of ritual practices and moral righteousness, brought together the priest and prophet, as two equal parts in becoming a worshiper of God, foreshadowing an evolving, individualized Judaism [4]. Ezekiel’s unusual, mystical prophecies, detailing visions of chariots, evolved to become groundwork of Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism.

In Judaism, Ezekiel’s prophecies are found in the Nevi’im (Prophets), the second division of the Torah. In Christianity the Book of Ezekiel is found in the Old Testament after the book of Isaiah and Jeremiah. In Islamic tradition, Ezekiel is sometimes equated with the Iraqi Islamic prophet Dhul-Kifl [5].

The name Ezekiel (יחזקאל) derives from two Hebrew words: God (אֵל) and to strengthen (לחזק). Translated it means "God will strengthen", a message of hope for the Jewish people [6]. The name Ezekiel is a popular name for Baghdadi Jews, as families like to name their children after popular mystical figures in Iraq [7].



[1] Nissan Mindel, "The Prophet Ezekiel," Chabad.org, accessed July 21, 2015, http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/112374/jewish/The-Prophet-Ezekiel.htm.

[2] "Ezekiel: Hebrew Prophet," britannica.com, accessed July 21, 2015, http://www.britannica.com/biography/Ezekiel-Hebrew-prophet.

[3] "Ezekiel: Hebrew Prophet," britannica.com.

[4] Solomon B. Freehof, Dr., "Ezekiel," myjewishlearning.com, accessed July 21, 2015, http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/ezekiel/5/.

[5] Norman A. Stillman, "Ezekiel's Tomb (al-Kifl)," in Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, accessed July 21, 2015, http://0-referenceworks.brillonline.com.luna.wellesley.edu/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-the-islamic-world/ezekiels-tomb-al-kifl-SIM_0007520.

[6] John J. Parsons, "A Vision of Jewish Destiny: Further thoughts on Parshat Emor," hebrew4christians.com, accessed July 21, 2015, http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Parashah/Summaries/Emor/Haftarah/haftarah.html.

[7] Yona Sabar, "Names and Naming Practices - Kurdistan," in Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, by Norman A. Stillman, accessed July 21, 2015, http://0-referenceworks.brillonline.com.luna.wellesley.edu/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-the-islamic-world/names-and-naming-practices-kurdistan-COM_000688.



Tomb: Surrounded by the bustling life of the desert village of al-Kifl, the tomb of Ezekiel stands tall, welcoming worshipers to a sacred site for Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. The tomb contains pieces from different faiths, like the Hebrew and Koranic inscriptions surrounding the interior of the tomb. The tomb is situated next to the Euphrates river, and is about twenty miles south of the town of Hilla. The name of the town, al-Kifl, comes from the name Dhur al-Kifl, an Iraqi Islamic prophet, thought by many scholars to be Ezekiel. It contains not just the body of the prophet Ezekiel, but also five ancient major
leaders of the Jewish community, and the body of Menahem Ṣāliḥ Daniel, a philanthropist and former communal leader from the town of Hilla [1].

Sherira Gaon, the head of an Iraqi yeshiva, was the first to reference the site in the tenth century. Benjamin of Tudela, a famous Spanish Jewish traveler, came to the tomb in 1170. He wrote that on Yom Kippur the people of al-Kifl read from a Torah scroll thought to have been written by Ezekiel.

The tomb has always had a long history of being in the center of a power struggle between the Jewish and Muslim community of the village. In the early 14th century the tomb’s synagogue was not allowed to function, and a mosque was built next to the tomb. Around the 19th century excessive flooding destroyed the mosque, and only a solitary minaret still remains. During the Ottoman occupation, around the 1840’s, the Jews were allowed to reestablish the synagogue and to continue worshiping at the site. However in 1860 the local Muslim population tried to take the tomb from the village Jews, due to the
mosque previously located next to the tomb. The Baghdadi Jewish community intervened, sending a message of help to the British ambassador who then ruled that the tomb belonged to the Jews. Again in the 1930’s, the Muslim community tried to overtake the synagogue next to the tomb, but was forced to retreat after an order from the local government [2]. Due to the various shifts in power the synagogue has been renovated several times: once in the late 1850’s, 1898, and finally in the 1920’s [3].

The tomb used to be a common pilgrimage site for Iraqi Jews. The most popular time to visit the site was a week after the conclusion of Passover. Thousands of Jews traveled from all over the Middle East. By the 1950’s, around five thousand Jews visited the shrine. However by 1967 the numbers of pilgrims severely dropped as it was too dangerous for a Jew to travel so openly. Only twenty or so Baghdadi Jews visited the tomb in 1987 [4]. Nowadays the tomb is cared for by the Muslim inhabitants of al-Kifl as thereare no more Jews living in the village [5]. Muslims pray at the tomb as well, as the prophet Ezekiel is revered a prophet in Islam. In 2003, the Torah scrolls belonging to the synagoge along with other books were stolen from the synagogue and have not yet been recovered [6]. In 2009, the Iraqi government began to renovate the interior of Ezekiel’s shrine to make the place available for all visitors of any faith to be able to worship at the tomb. This project is the first of many by the Ministry for Tourism and Antiquates to repair Iraqi Jewish sites [7]. In 2010, a Hebrew inscription was erased by Iraqi workers who were renovating the neighboring mosque [8].

                      A brief tour of Ezekiel's Tomb



[1] Stillman, "Ezekiel's Tomb (al-Kifl)," in Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic.

[2] Stillman, "Ezekiel's Tomb (al-Kifl)," in Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic.

[3] Stillman, "Ezekiel's Tomb (al-Kifl)," in Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic.

[4] "Passover Pilgrimage to Ezekiel's tomb in Iraq," blogspot, entry posted April 11, 2006, accessed July 21, 2015, http://jewishrefugees.blogspot.com/2006/04/passover-pilgrimage-to-ezekiels-tomb.html.

[5] "Ezekiel's Tomb in Iraq," video file, 3:38, NYTimes.com, posted by Stephen Farrell, October 20, 2010, accessed July 21, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/video/world/1248069187877/ezekiel-s-tomb-in-iraq.html.

[6]  "An Israeli visits Ezekiel's tomb," Point of No Return: Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries (blog), entry posted August 26, 2013, accessed July 28, 2015, http://jewishrefugees.blogspot.com/2013/08/an-israeli-visits-ezekiels-tomb.html.

[7] "Iraq launches project to renovate Ezekiel's shrine," Jerusalemn Post, January 5, 2009, accessed July 21, 2015, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iraq-launches-project-to-renovate-Ezekiels-shrine.

[8] Haaretz Service, "Report: Iraqi workers erase Hebrew from Prophet Ezekiel's tomb," Haaretz, January 24, 2010, accessed July 28, 2015, http://www.haaretz.com/news/report-iraqi-workers-erase-hebrew-from-prophet-ezekiel-s-tomb-1.261985

Al-Kifl, Iraq

© Mapbox, © OpenStreetMap