Two Israelis were involved in Nahum restoration

Good news from Iraq : a project to restore the Jewish character of  the tomb of Nahum at al-Kosh, funded at a cost of $2 million by the US, Kurdish and Czech governments,  has been completed by the ARCH NGO. The shrine miraculously escaped obliteration by Islamic State in 2014.This  long Times of Israel feature by Tal Schneider focuses on the involvement of a US Jewish army vet and two Israeli engineers, specialising in synagogue restoration, who were given special permission to visit the site. Point of No Return has documented the failure of UNESCO to save the derelict site and earlier proposals for its reconstruction.   We have also posted the accounts of foreign visitors (here, here and here ) to the shrine. (with thanks: David, Lily)

Yaakov Shaffer and Meir Ronen, the two Israeli engineers involved in the restoration of the tomb of Nahum.

On a spring day in April 2017, two jeeps, their windows blacked out, sped down a sandy highway in Iraqi Kurdistan toward the small Christian village of Alqosh.

In the cars sat two Israeli engineers, one in each, for security reasons. They had entered the country holding the only passports they had — Israeli — to take part in an extraordinary reconstruction mission.

The two, Yaakov Schaffer and Meir Ronen, watched through sealed windows as they drove past scenes of ruinous destruction left by nearly two decades of war. Some 15 miles away, fighters from the Islamic State terror group were battling the Iraqi army.

As they approached the village, the jeeps pulled over and Schaffer and Ronen got out, accompanied by their Kurdish security guards. On foot, they climbed into the town and made straight for the antiquities site at the northern part of the ancient city: the Tomb of Nahum, the Old Testament prophet.

For decades, the people of Alqosh, members of the Chaldean Catholic Church, guarded a shrine once revered by local Jews as the final resting place of Nahum of Elkosh. But on that day, the structure that lay before them was crumbling around a caved-in roof.

“The walls and pillars were cracked and crumbling. It looked like the rest of the building would collapse at any minute,” recalled Adam Tiffen, an American entrepreneur and project manager who had visited the site a year earlier and was there that day with the Israelis.

The three of them entered. As they began to examine the structure, they unfurl the options that lay before them to save the ancient shrine.

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