In this Issue:
Esther and Moredechai
Mosaic Portrait- Lilian Broca
QueenEsther and Mordechai
Keren Gush Etzion
Gush Etzion Foundation, USA
Fax: 860- 2160896
|For the Greatness of Esther and Mordechai
Amon Nezer - is a historian, an expert of The History of the Jews ( e.g.. he also wrote The Jews in Bukara in the 1930' ) but he also wrote about Israel and the Iranian Nuclear Bomb; he writes / wrote for The Monthly Review of the Israel Ministry of Defence.
This lovely article has been sent to us by our Sardinian
friend Francesco, who next May will be with us in Gush Etzion and Tekoa for a few days
Tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Hamadan - Source: The Jewish Society in Iran
The tomb of Esther and Mordechai is in the city of Hamadan, the site of Megillat Esther’s Shushan, about halfway between Teheran and Iran's western border with Iraq, Hamadan is in the west of Iran. The city used to have a large population of Jews, so that the Bazaar was known as “the Jewish market”.
The main reason for the Jewish presence in Hamadan is the tomb of Esther and Mordecai, which historically has been a gathering point for many Jewish people.
In the past the city had five Synagogues, but some of them are now being used by Moslems. Some famous doctors and artists of the Iranian Jewish community are from this city.
Nowadays there are a few Jewish families living in Hamadan. However, many Iranian Jews from other cities of Iran come during the year to visit the tombs, specially on Purim to read the Megila, the scroll of Esther.
Going to visit the tomb, one had to bow low to go inside its entrance, assuring that a pilgrim entered with an attitude of respect. Pilgrims would pray while walking around two large, ornately carved trunks, before they would back out of the tomb. By backing out, the pilgrims avoided showing disrespect to the great personages buried inside.
The burial sites of Mordechai and Esther are said to be in the cellar below, in the exact locations where the two trunks are placed on the floor above.
Architect Yassi Gabbay, who renovated the tomb about 25 years ago, said pilgrims used to light candles in an antechamber before entering the main room of the tomb, but said that custom was stopped as a result of a fire. Candles were particularly dangerous in the main room, he added, because of the pilgrims' custom of draping the ornately carved trunks with cloths as a remembrance of their visit.
The tomb itself dates back only to the 16th or 17th century, built over a deep pit in which the original burials are believed to have taken place.
Although the small Jewish community of Hamadan has mostly emigrated since the Islamic revolution, the tomb remains well cared for by the Islamic Revolutionary authorities.
There is a question about how it happened that Esther's and Mordechai's tomb is in Hamadan, rather than in Persepolis, which was the ancient capital of Persia (Iran).The answer is that after King Ahashuerus died, there was a king who did not know Esther.
Hamadan, which has far cooler temperatures than the desert city of Persepolis, was the summer capital of Persia. A story has it that Esther and Mordechai removed themselves from the palace to the summer resort, where they spent their final years.
In the shrine-and-pilgrimage-focused Middle East, Jews would often make the trek to pray at the tombs of Esther and Mordechai.
The tombs of Esther and Mordechai were the Jewish place to go and ask and pray and cry, especially when it was difficult to go to Israel and the Kotel HaMaaravi, the Western Wall.
Most Jewish ceremonies in Iran would be performed in the privacy of the home, or in the synagogue, to avoid attracting attention. But it is not unusual that people take photos and reporters make films of Jewish worship which occasionally are being shown on Iranian television.
ESTHER AND MORDECHAI, a Jewish shrine in the city of Hamadan, where, according to Judeo-Persian tradition, Esther and Mordechai are buried. This tradition is not supported by the Jews outside of Persia and does not appear in either Babylonian or Jerusalemite Talmuds. The earliest Jewish source on the tombs is Benjamin of Tudela, who visited Hamadan in the year 1067. According to him, there were 50,000 Jews living in Hamadan, where Esther and Mordechai were buried in front of a synagogue. And the earliest Judeo-Persian source on this tradition, describes the dreams of Esther and Mordechai and their departure to Hamadan, where they died inside the synagogue, first Mordechai, and then Esther, an hour later.
We have more detailed descriptions by the 19th and 20th century authors. Israel ben Joseph, known as the Second Benjamin, who visited Hamadan in 1850, reported that the tombs, separated from each other by a narrow path, were in a room in a magnificent building located inside the city close to a city walls. According to him, the Jews came here to pray once a month. In the feast of Purim (14th of Adar) they read the Book of Esther and from time to time hit the tombs with the palms of their hands. He estimated the number of the Jews in Hamadan as about 500 families who owned three synagogues. Yehiel Fischel Castelman, a Galician Jew from Safed, visited Hamadan in 1860. He praised the economic situation of the Jews of Hamadan and described the edifice and the tombs as magnificent. He reported that, according to the local Jews, it was "built by Cyrus the son of Esther," and that the date was written on the top of the dome. The first room had a low ceiling and on its walls were engraved the names of the visitors. In a nearby smaller room were two coffins made of oak, set two feet apart, on which were written the last passages of the book of Esther, the names of three physicians who had donated money for the repair of the tombs, and a date corresponding to 1309-10 C.E. Inscriptions on the walls gave the ancestry of Esther and Mordechai. A date corresponding to 1140 C.E. was found in the smaller room.