The tombs of Esther and Mordechai at Hamedan in Iran were in the news recently: Islamist students were calling for their destruction, having turned the Purim story on its head.
All the more amazing, then, that a black-hatted rabbi from Israel has just returned from visiting Esther’s shrine, bringing back precious footage.
The Rabbi, Yisrael Gubbay, has made it his business to travel the world restoring and repairing gravestones and praying at the tombs of rabbis and prophets – Daniel, Habbakuk, Jonah. He has made a particular speciality of visiting Muslim lands – he has been to Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Gaza – travelling on his French passport.
His latest venture was featured on Israel’s Channel 10 last night. The pictures he shot show the Hebrew inscriptions on the walls of the ancient shrine, and Torah scrolls. Jews pray alongside Muslims, who equally revere the shrine. The rabbi also filmed Iranian Jews inside one of their synagogues.
Apparently Rabbi Gubbay has never had any trouble gaining admission into these countries. He tells airport officials that his purpose is to pray at the holy shrine. “Pray for me too,” immigration officers say to him, waving him in.