Nestled at the base of the first mountain ridgeline of the northern Iraqi highlands lies the purported tomb of the Prophet Nachum in the village of al-Qosh. 62 years after the last pilgrimage to this crumbling shrine, it draws few visitors. And yet Hebrew etchings, some barely discernible, still adorn the walls as reminders of its storied history.
Several thousand people–some sources say almost the entire Jewish populations of Mosul and surrounding villages–would arrive at the shrine to celebrate Shavout. The highlight of their elaborate pilgrimage, known as “Ezyara,” was a dramatic staging of the giving of the Ten Commandments at a local stand-in for Mount Sinai, and a play supposed to pre-figure the battle of Gog and Magog. This was an event that, according to a popular saying, was unrivaled in the happiness it conferred upon participants.
Modern civilization began right here in the Tigris-Euphrates river valley. Also known as the Fertile Crescent or Mesopotamia, this is the place where, six thousand years ago, agriculture, writing and mathematics were brought into widespread use.The term "Middle East" comes from the British navy, which used it to describe the countries on the trade route from Europe to India and China. Everything from Afghanistan to Morocco may possibly be classified as "middle eastern", depending on whom you ask -- and when.Only a partial list of past Empires in the middle eastern territory includes Sumeria, Babylonia, Persia, the Ottoman Empire and the Roman Empire!When northern Europe was still lurking about in slimy cold stone castles playing chess, the Middle East was enjoying the flowers of poetry, luxurious craftsmanship, music and literature. In fact, the Renaissance in Europe was partly inspired by stories brought back from the middle east by travelers along the trade route.Strategic location, religious history and the world's largest supply of crude oil have kept the Middle East at the center of world activity for centuries. The saga continues.Text by Steve Smith.