Rebuilding Bridges to Iraq's Jewish Heritage

Contributing to this cleansing were successive Iraqi governments from the monarchy to the Baath regime, in addition to brutal civil groups that took advantage of the political circumstances targeting the Jews to raid Jewish property and possessions in what was known as the Farhud operation.

Despite all this, the Iraqi elite remained nostalgic for Iraq’s Jews and kept them in their memory. That memory surged to the surface with the fall of the dictatorial regime in Iraq in 2003. On the other side, Iraqi Jews living in Israel and various countries yearn for their Iraqi roots, which feature prominently in their writings and public traditions.

Professor Shmuel Sami Moreh, the chair of the department of Arabic language and literature at Hebrew University, started writing a series titled “The Jews of Iraq, Memories and Abuses” on the Elaph website in 2006. The series ran for three years. Moreh’s writings triggered a wave of enthusiasm and nostalgia from the Iraqi elite. The Iraqi Masarat magazine, which specializes in Iraqi minorities, issued its 13th issue titled “The Jews of Iraq: Mass Emigration and the Impossible Return” in 2009.

Talking about the Jews of Iraq was taboo in the Iraqi press. Saad Salloum opened that issue of Masarat with an introduction about the prominent position of the Jews in Iraqi history, followed by numerous studies by Iraqi and Israeli authors on the various dimensions of the Jewish Iraqis. The Masarat issue was well received and was reprinted several times. In an interview with Al-Monitor, Saad Salloum said that despite the difficulty of returning the Jews to Iraq, they still have a significant presence in Iraqi memory through a culture that persisted over the centuries. This presence is maintained through language, memories of coexistence with their neighbors and personal records. Salloum found a very small number of Jews who still live in Iraq.

Iraqi academic researcher Haidar Saeed declared in a speech in the Iraqi parliament in 2011 that the expulsion of the Jews from Iraq was a major turning point in Iraqi identity. After the Jews’ expulsion, there were a series of expulsions of other Iraqis. Saeed demanded official recognition of the sin committed against the Jews, an apologetic feeling in the social consciousness toward them and for their rights to be reinstated.

Comments are closed.