Hanukkah celebration lights up Iraqi Kurdistan at prophet's tomb

Around 20 Kurdish Jews gathered in the town to celebrate the "festival of lights." Some came from Israel, but the majority were from the three provinces that make up Iraqi Kurdistan.

A fourth Hanukkah candle is lit at the Western Wall  (photo credit: WESTERN WALL HERITAGE FOUNDATION)
A fourth Hanukkah candle is lit at the Western Wall
(photo credit: WESTERN WALL HERITAGE FOUNDATION)
Kurdish Jews lit the hanukkiah and celebrated the Hanukkah holiday in the Christian majority town of al-Qosh bordering Iraqi Kurdistan for the first time in recent memory during the holiday last week, according to AFP.
Al-Qosh, located about 50 kilometers north of Mosul, is where the prophet Nahum is believed to be buried. Nahum is one of the minor prophets whose prophecy is recorded in the Tanakh or Old Testament.
Around 20 Kurdish Jews gathered in the town to celebrate the "festival of lights." Some came from Israel, but the majority were from the three provinces that make up Iraqi Kurdistan.

"It’s the first time we are celebrating Hanukkah in Iraqi Kurdistan," said one of the organizers, to AFP.
"Coexistence has always been one of the privileges of the Kurdistan Region," said Hemn Faraydun, a member of the Jewish community, said to Kurdistan 24 news at the ceremony. Faraydun stressed that the region stayed safe against ISIS attacks.

"The restoration of the tomb of the prophet Nahum started almost three years ago with a US grant of $1 million as well as funding from the Kurdistan Regional Government, and private donors. It is being implemented as a partnership between the US-based non-profit ARCH International and Czech company GEMA Art International, and is due to be completed by May."
The tomb has been guarded by a Christian family who reportedly promised the town’s long-departed rabbi to safeguard it.
In 2015, Dr. Mordechai Zaken, head of minority affairs in the Public Security Ministry, stressed that "there is no Jewish community in Kurdistan – no synagogues, no Jewish activity whatsoever."
Before the establishment of the State of Israel, there were about 150,000 Jews in Iraq.
The Kurdistan Region of Iraq has sought over the last several years to encourage coexistence and tolerance. It is in that framework that there have been more discussions about the history of the Jewish community in both Iraq and the Kurdistan region. In Mosul a historic Jewish school was recently identified and some Iraqis have sought to reveal the rich and ancient history Jews have in the region. The tomb of Nahum is a symbol of the coexistence between Jews, Muslims and Christians that once thrived in Iraq.
Tamara Zieve and Ariel Ben Solomon contributed to this report.