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September 21, 2012

The Tomb of the Prophet Jonah in Mashad

Mashad is said to be the site of the Prophet Jonah's grave and his birthplace (2 Kings 14:25), called Gath-Hefer in Biblical times, a village in the tribe of Zebulun (Joshua 19:13). Today it is an Arab town located 5 kilometers (3.1 mi) northeast of Nazareth in Israel's North District. The name Mash'had in Arabic means 'the grave of a holy man'.

The authenticity of Mash'had always correlates with its proximity to Gath-Hefer - the birthplace of Jonah. The earliest Jewish records are from the 6th century Midrash Genesis Rabba that identifies Gath-Hefer near Tsippori. The oldest Christian tradition is from the 4th century Church Father, Jerome, who mentions the tomb of Jonah in a place two miles from Sepphoris (Tsippori). The first Islamic record is from a Muslim Persian Pilgrim named Nasir Khusraw, who reports in 1047 AD about the tomb of Jonah in a hill south of Cana in Galilee. All these traditions locate Jonah's tomb in a place near Tsippori and Cana, which brings us into the modern village of Mashad.

On July 24, 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant destroyed the masjid containing the tomb as part of a campaign to destroy religious sanctuaries it deemed to be idolatrous (see here).