Rebuilding Bridges to Iraq's Jewish Heritage

Moreh added that Iraqi Jews had not taken such invitations seriously because successive generations have lived in Israel and feel that they belong to that country, and if they try to move to Iraq, they will be seen as part of a conspiracy, a fifth column. It is worth mentioning that Kazem al-Haeri, the radical Iran-backed cleric, had previously issued a religious edict calling for the killing of any Jew who tries to own land or a house in Iraq.

In such circumstances, the call to give back Jewish property in Iraq is a priority for both the Iraqi elite and the Jews of Iraq, according to Salloum, Ofra Bengio and Shmuel Moreh in their conversations with Al-Monitor. Alex Greenberg, a researcher at the Herzliya Institute for Policy and Strategy, told Al-Monitor that he would be the first person to visit Iraq if he gets the opportunity, regardless of all the ethnic, religious and political differences. There are questions and criticism from inside Israel as to why there has been no governmental welcome to the hand extended by the Iraqi elite to open a channel of communication with Israel. Iraq, given its important strategic location in the region, could be a key to the missing peace in the Middle East. This is especially true given that the Iraqi Kurdistan Region can represent the first link in forming expansive cultural and societal ties between Iraqi Jews and other Iraqis, which can develop into ties on other levels.

Finally, despite all the calamities of the past and all the difficulties standing in the way for a Jewish return to Iraq, the bridge of cultural and social communication between the Iraqis and their Jewish counterparts is increasing in breadth and depth, bringing the two parties closer together after more than half a century of no relations. Only time will tell where this convergence is heading.

Ali Mamouri is a researcher and writer who specializes in religion. He is a former teacher in Iranian universities and seminaries in Iran and Iraq. He has published several articles related to religious affairs in the two countries and societal transformations and sectarianism in the Middle East.

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