A historic synagogue in Kurdistan region to be renovated 

The mighty structure of the synagogue has endured harsh weather conditions that the mountainous Shush village witnesses.
author_image Kurmanj Nhili
The gate of Ezekiel synagogue in Duhok province's Shush, May 12, 2022. (Photo: Kurmanj Nhili/Kurdistan 24)
The gate of Ezekiel synagogue in Duhok province's Shush, May 12, 2022. (Photo: Kurmanj Nhili/Kurdistan 24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Ezekiel synagogue in historic Shush village will be renovated and the Duhok antiquities directorate has signed a contract to start the work on the renovation.

There’s no more Jewish community living in Duhok province, but it’s still hoped that Ezekiel synagogue, one of the few remaining Jewish heritage sites in the Kurdistan region can be preserved and restored to its former glory.

Located in Shush village 20 km to the northwest of Akre district center in Duhok province, the 700 years old Ezekiel synagogue holds in its walls and stone columns, the history of the Jewish community that once lived along with Muslims and Christians in the area.

The mighty structure of the synagogue has endured harsh weather conditions that the mountainous Shush village witnesses. However, after years of being abandoned, it has been at risk of total collapse.

US consulate in Erbil has allocated 500,000 USD for the renovation of the Shush synagogue in 2020.

In August 2022, the Duhok directorate general of antiquities and heritage signed a contract for the implementation of the renovation project with the Czech Game Art organization in presence of ARCH international and KRG ministry of municipalities and tourism.

Shush was chosen to be renovated because it is considered to be the best among archeological sites that still has its original structure.’ Says Dr. Bekes Brifkani, director general of antiquities and heritage in Duhok.

The duration of the project is 12 months which will be supervised by the directorate general of antiquities and heritage in Duhok, once finished, it will be ready for visitors and tourists.

Shush is a significant historic place with the remains of multiple religious sites in close proximity to one another, including Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, demonstrating the diversity and pluralism of this area.

The village has been named after the ancient citadel of Shush located in the village, it has several shrines and other archeological sites.

This historical synagogue once belonged to the Jews of Shush who were mainly descendants of the tribe of Benjamin and who had come to the area with the other exiles from Israel at the time of King Shalmaneser of Assyria.

Dr. Bekes Brifkani, director general of antiquities and heritage in Duhok told Kurdistan 24 that as the first step and as planned in 2020, they will start with the opening of a spiritual and archeological park for ancient religions in Shush, for the preservation of archeological sites and attracting tourists.

It will be one of the biggest such parks in Iraq and the region.

Shush was first mentioned in a book by traveler Hakham Benjamin from 1130 to 1170.

In the 1880s a Jewish traveler Mordecai Edelman talks about the Jewish community in Shush and describes them as very devoted Jews.

He writes that up until 1884 around 50 Jews were living in Shush, but later most of them headed to big cities.

According to Dr. Brifkani, Jews traveled to the region in the 8th century BC and they stayed until the 1950s.

In 1915 a few Jewish families were still living in Shush, they too left at the beginning of the 1950s.’ he added.