The government of Chechnya is constructing one of the largest and most magnificent mosques in Israel in the village of Abu Ghosh, near Jerusalem, in a project that both the villagers and the Chechen president view as renewing ties severed 500 years ago.
Construction of the mosque, situated near the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, began four years ago, at the private initiative of residents who had raised funds. Work stopped however when those funds ran out.
Through the mediation of a Chechen-born Jew, the villagers established ties with the Chechen government, which agreed to contribute more than $2 million to build the mosque as well as another $1 million to upgrade the approach road, says Abu Ghosh local council head Salim Jaber.
Jaber and other village notables reached the deal during a visit to Chechnya two years ago.
Today the building, about 4,000 square meters in area, is all but complete. A recent decision calls for the erection of four minarets, as is customary in the Caucasus region. The road already has two symbolic turrets, built by experts from Chechnya.
The links between the predominantly Muslim village, located about 10 kilometers west of Jerusalem, and the Islamic republic are scheduled to expand, and will include student and delegation exchanges. Recently a delegation, including Chechnyan Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov, members of parliament and the wife of President Ramzan Kadyrov, visited Abu Ghosh.
The Chechnyan government, led by Kadyrov, has been looking for ways to enhance ties with Israel. Abu Ghosh is one of the only Arab villages outside Jerusalem to have emerged from the 1948 War of Independence unscathed, due mainly to the residents' cooperation with Jewish forces. Today, Jewish Israelis flock to the village on weekends to feast on Abu Ghosh's well-known hummus and other culinary offerings.
Traditionally it is believed that the residents of Abu Ghosh trace their ancestry to the Caucasus region. According to Palestinian-born historian Aref Al-Aref, the first villagers came from a region called Ingusha, located between Chechnya and Georgia. They arrived here as soldiers in the army of Ottoman Sultan Selim I, who conquered Palestine in 1516. The name Abu Gosh, according to geographer and place names expert Yehuda Ziv, is a corruption of the name Ingush.
We always knew we had come from the Caucasian mountains," says council head Jaber. We welcome the renewed connection."
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