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Ezekiel’s Tomb In Iraq – Antiquity of the Bible Prophets

Crossroads of Antiquity Can’t Decide on New Path

Moises Saman for The New York Times A Muslim prays at the tomb of the Prophet Ezekiel in Kifl, south of Baghdad. Ezekiel, a Jewish prophet, is also revered by Muslim pilgrims. More Photos » By STEVEN LEE MYERS Published: October 19, 2010 RECOMMEND TWITTER E-MAIL SEND TO PHONE PRINT SINGLE PAGE REPRINTS SHARE

KIFL, Iraq — This small town, shaded by date palms on a bend of the Euphrates River, has been revered as a holy place for centuries — by Jews, by Muslims and, for periods of peace, at least, by both. “The old democracy,” as the local police chief put it. Multimedia

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The New York Times More Photos »

Kifl, in what was once Babylonia, has survived millenniums of war and natural disasters, exile and expulsion, the fall of empires and the ravages of a troubled modernity. It embodies Iraq’s rich, layered past and might yet represent its future — if the country’s leaders could stop quarreling over it and its religious provenance.

In the center of town — and in the middle of a dispute — is the tomb of Ezekiel, the biblical prophet who preached to the Jews in captivity under Nebuchadnezzar in the sixth century B.C. Somewhere near here is where, according to tradition and faith, he saw his visions of God.

Leaders of the town and the province now have a more earthly vision, too: tourism. Iraq remains a country at war, and the town, dusty and strewn with litter — and, the other day, the burned wreck of a car — lacks a single hotel.

Nonetheless, they dream of travelers of all faiths streaming through Kifl — Muslims, Christians and even the Jews, who lived and worshiped here until the last families left by 1951, “because of the problem of Palestine,” said one of them, Zvi Yehuda.

That has thrust the tomb, with its distinctive (and Islamic) conical dome, which dates from the 14th century, into a debate that mirrors Iraq as a whole as it emerges from dictatorship and war.

It is a debate between the competing aims of historic preservation and modern development, between a multifaith history and the increasing sway of Islam, particularly the Shiite branch, whose clerics have their own designs for the site.

“We can prove to the world that this place is one of the cultural places that promote civilization and peaceful coexistence between peoples,” said Qais Hussein Rashid, the director of the State Board of Antiquities, which oversees Iraq’s myriad ancient sites.

He did not say it would be easy.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/20/world/middleeast/20ezekiel.html?hp

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