Saturday, August 18, 2012

Orphans and a Dead Guy

The bus full of expats descended the switchbacks down from Rabban Hormizd monastery and took us back to the town of Alqosh.  Our next stop was the tomb of an Israelite.

Alqosh has existed since at least the time of the Assyrian empire, and Hebrews lived there as far back as the 8th Century BC.  A Jewish community existed in Alqosh until 1948, when Muslims chased them out following the creation of Israel.  We visited a crumbling building where the Jews of Alqosh used to live and worship.


Inside the synagogue, the roof and  walls are falling down.  The building is relatively modern, but with the Jews gone, no one has been working on the structure's upkeep.

 If you can read Hebrew, take a look at this inscription:

At the center of the building, a green tarp covers  a sarcophagus.  This tomb is believed to hold the remains of the prophet Nahum, who wrote the Old Testament book that bears his name.  The Assyrian empire had visited great evils upon Isreal and Judah, and Nahum exults in the destruction of Nineveh, praising God's wrathful justice. 
Nahum 1:1-3
Oracle concerning Nineveh.  The book of the vision of Nahum of Alqosh.  A jealous and avenging God is the LORD, an avenger is the LORD, full of wrath; The LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries, and rages against his enemies; The LORD is slow to anger, yet great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.  In stormwind and tempest he comes, and clouds are the dust at his feet.
There are competing claims regarding the location of Nahum's tomb, but I prefer to believe that his tomb is in Alqosh.  For one thing, the place is named Alqosh, the same name as Nahum's hometown, and it's been named Alqosh just about forever.  In addition, the local Jews believed that the tomb in Alqosh is Nahum's, and guarded it for many centuries.    

The Sarcophagus:

After leaving the synogogue, we visited a girls' orphanage.  There are two orphanages in Alqosh, one for boys and one for girls.  Both are run by Sisters from a religious order, the name of which I cannot recall.  You can't adopt these orphans, but you might be able to marry one.  The orphanage is not a temporary residence, but the orphans' true home.  They live there until they are either married, often to someone from the the other orphanage, or discern a religious vocation.

Expats at the orphanage:
(Photo Credit: Matt Lenzen)

There is a chapel at the orphanage, dug out of the rock beneath it:

We were given a tour of the orphanage, where we saw nice dormitory style bedrooms and classrooms.  The kids at the orphanage receive a full education from the Sisters.  From what we could see, it looks like the orphans are blessed with a pretty good life. 

After paying a quick visit to the local Bishop the next day, our group rode out of Alqosh.  Our visit to Rabban Hormizd monastery, Nahum's tomb, and the orphanage made for the best trip I took in Iraq.  Visiting Alqosh is one of the most amazing experiences in my life.  I hope I can go back one day.


  1. I know a bit of Hebrew, unfortunately the picture isn't clear enough for me to make out all the letters.

    1. Well if I ever go back and get a clearer picture, I'll send it to you.